Pub­lisher Elec­tronic Arts De­vel­oper Flag­ship Stu­dios For­mat PC Re­lease 2007


“We were work­ing on a project nick­named Star­blo for six to eight months at Bliz­zard North be­fore we left, but it never came to fruition.

I wanted to make a kind of sci-fi ver­sion of Di­ablo and, even though play­ing them makes me feel sick, I love first­per­son


shoot­ers. FPS makes sense for a sci-fi [set­ting]. I wanted to move the FPS genre for­ward by putting RPG el­e­ments in it. Not just RPG, but ran­dom RPG. I wanted that mix of ran­dom items, ran­dom mon­sters and ran­dom lay­outs mixed in with the ac­tion of a first­per­son shooter. That was my pitch to the team, and ev­ery­body liked it.

I’m re­ally proud of the game that we made in the end. [ Hell­gate] was flawed, just as flawed as Di­ablo II was – maybe more so – but it ended up break­ing even. The hype was re­ally, re­ally high, and it didn’t re­ally live up to those ex­pec­ta­tions, be­cause there were a lot of bugs.

We signed a deal with Namco to be the pub­lisher, and about six months af­ter­wards all those peo­ple [we dealt with] were gone. Namco were like, ‘We don’t know any­thing about this; we don’t make PC games; we’re not sure where you fit in our port­fo­lio. We’ll hon­our our agree­ment, but good luck!’ [And we had to say,] ‘OK, so that’s not go­ing to work out.’

We didn’t have enough money to com­plete the project, so we cre­ated a net­work­ing com­pany with an­other Korean com­pany called Han­bit­soft. And so the net­work­ing was kind of like Bat­tle.net, and it was called Ping0. So we had that group, which was a sep­a­rate com­pany, but we needed a pub­lisher and a dis­trib­u­tor for the game, and so we [also] signed with EA. Then we had deals with Mi­crosoft for DirectX stuff, then Havoc for physics, and like 18 ven­dors of joy­sticks – all sorts of crap we had to sup­port as a re­sult of sign­ing all th­ese deals. In the end, we did 8,000 jobs, and had all th­ese ven­dors pulling us in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. We fo­cused on the wrong things. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on mak­ing a great prod­uct, we had to ser­vice th­ese 27 dif­fer­ent masters, and it cre­ated chaos.

Also, we were go­ing from a sit­u­a­tion where [we’d been part of a com­pany that] had made War­craft, War­craft II, Di­ablo, Star­Craft II – just hit af­ter hit – where you could af­ford to take your time. We had al­ways been do­ing our best for the project; we kind of for­got how to man­age time and money. So we’re get­ting to­wards the end, run­ning out of money, and no one’s go­ing to give us any more. And so we worked and we re­leased it even though we knew it wasn’t ready.

We had it ‘easy’ at Bliz­zard even­tu­ally, be­cause of our suc­cess in the past. The first games were a lot of work and we worked re­ally hard to get those things done. There were dead­lines and we met most of them. But since we had suc­cess, we could af­ford more time. But com­ing from a cul­ture where we could have time as we needed to where that wasn’t a re­al­ity was kind of a shell­shock in a lot of ways. And we did a poor job with that.

But in the end I think that Hell­gate was a lit­tle ahead of its time. That game [we wanted to make] is still go­ing to ex­ist some­day – there will be the first­per­son shooter with the ran­dom­ness and depth of a Di­ablo. Border­lands kind of comes close, they did a good job with that, but I still don’t think any­body’s found the ex­act for­mula yet. But some­body will. Try­ing to make some­thing brand new where there isn’t an­other ex­am­ple out there is a dif­fi­cult thing to do, and some­times you suc­ceed and some­times you don’t. I thought that we suc­ceeded in many ways, but in the end the game wasn’t ready and we had way too many masters. Those were tough lessons to learn.

ABOVE CEN­TRE Di­ablo II is a clas­sic, but it suf­fered from prob­lems at launch.

ABOVE + MAIN Ac­tion-RPG Hell­gate:Lon­don cribbed ideas from Rogue­likes, ran­domis­ing its drops and lev­els. It can be played in first- or third­per­son

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