Hellgate: London is an action RPG played in the first, and third person perspective. It is the first project of Flagship Studios, which mainly consists of former Blizzard Entertainment employees, hugely responsible for the award winning and best selling Diablo franchise. Hellgate: London has already received several nominations and awards for its outstanding performance at E3 2005.
First off, I’d like to thank Flagship Studios’ Bob Moseley for making this interview with Flagship CEO Bill Roper possible. At the moment, we don’t know much about specific details in Hellgate: London beyond the scant amount of information that has already been released to the press, so this interview gives Flagship Studios a chance to shed some light on some of the finer details of the upcoming action RPG. Read on!
What’s the difference between spells and weapons? You have previously described weapons as ‘spell delivery systems’, so we’re curious to what extent the weapon’s damage output is dependent on the weapon, and how the player’s own skills and spells come into play in conjunction with his equipment.
Bill Roper: In relationship to weapons, skills currently modify the way players use them. For example, the Circle Slash skill (not the real name, but it gets the idea across) allows a character wielding a sword to strike at any demons within a 120 degree arc in front of him. The Speed Slash would slightly reduce damage, but do a flurry of hits.
While some spells may be their own damage types, others will affect demons by reducing their abilities, slowing them, and so forth. Please note that this is an AMAZINGLY early and HIGHLY incomplete list of ideas and are presented for demonstration and comparative purposes.
Now here’s a question everyone’s been dying to ask: It has been previously stated that in-game items will be randomly generated, will there be special items like set items, unique items and even unique artifacts and weapon mods? To what extent will special weapons and armor be moddable?
Bill Roper: Just like randomization, we’re applying the concept of rarity to everything we can in the game. That means we will have normal items, rare items, epic items, legendary items and so forth. We also love collectability, so things like item sets and unique items fall into that category. We apply all of these elements to weapons, armor, mods, and any other types of items we create.
As for how special items can be modded, it depends greatly on the base item type as each of these have a maximum amount they can be modified with specific types of mods. Not every type of weapon, for example, can use relics.
Besides swords and guns, will there be any different types of weapons in the game, or weapons dependent entirely, or exclusively on a class? For instance, in Diablo 2, the Amazon used bows and javelins, while the Assassin used claws. More to the point, will there be any class specific items?
Bill Roper: We will have a few other weapons sneak in, but swords and guns comprise the vast majority of what characters be wielding. Of course, our guns are amazingly varied in the kind of damage they deals and how they deliver it, so we hope players are going to be drooling over the amazing variety of choices they’ll have.
We aren’t planning on any class-specific weapons, although the skills of each class may push players towards using certain types of weapons. We may have some items that are designed for the different classes, but we are trying to very conscious of not having lots of things drop that players can’t use. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an incredible piece of armor drop that you CAN’T use instead of choosing not to use it.
In melee (3rd person) combat, to what extent will the player be able to perform martial arts and special moves? Will melee combat be limited to special moves akin to Guild Wars, or will we be treated to a more verbose 3rd person combat experience, like in Jedi Knight 2, which offers a far more fluid, and dynamic gameplay in third person combat.
Bill Roper: We are working on making the 3rd person combat fairly fluid, although it won’t necessarily be a fighting game. That being said, we are toying with the idea of combination moves for the Templar, offering almost a “lite-fighter” gaming experience. For example, you could assign a different combo maneuver to each mouse button and then landing a L-L-R-L click combination would trigger a devastating combination attack.
Can you perform acrobatics in-game, like the ones in the trailer?
Bill Roper: Obviously the pre-rendered cinematics are the idealized movie version of the game, but we are hoping to have some movement skills that look pretty cool.
We won’t be doing anything as intense as bullet-time (almost impossible to really accomplish in a multiplayer game) but we will give certain characters different fun ways to move in and out of combat.
Are you using a skill tree system like Diablo II or something similar? If so, about how many different specializations will there be for each class?
Bill Roper: We are currently working on more of a Skill Menu as our model. Just like when you go to a restaurant, you can get anything you can afford, so players should be able to build exactly the character they want in regards to the skills they choose. This means that really there are as many specializations as players can create within the available skills.
An important note is that just like the rest of the game, we’re looking to bring the randomization and rarity elements to skills in Hellgate: London.
This means you may randomly find a skill during your adventuring (as opposed to training it up in the usual way) and there is also a chance it will have some random, rare property about it. For example, instead of just having a Fireball, you might find an Exploding Fireball, or a Homing Fireball, or perhaps a Toxic Fireball. This will mean that characters that have followed the same skill path may still be quite different and unique.
You said FPS players enjoyed this game (at E3) , does that mean that damage will increase if you hit certain weak points. (E.g. the Shulgoth’s neck.) To follow up, can you disable enemies? Perform a hamstring, or even remove an arm?
Bill Roper: We don’t have any special damage points implemented, although we’ve thrown the idea around the office, perhaps tying them to specific weapons. We are building an RPG that FPS gamers find very accessible since it looks and feels in many ways like the games they usually play. We want your success in the game to be tied to how well you’ve built up your character and the strategic choices you make in battle. We do realize that FPS players have some things they really want from games, and if there was a simple way we could appeal to that in some ways without making it unbalanced for the core RPG players, we’ll give it serious consideration.
As for disabling enemies with hamstrings or limb removal, it’s something that is really cool that we probably just won’t have time to implement.
We’ve got a huge list of incredible game play elements in the pipeline and we simply can’t do them all. However, we do intend to extensively support Hellgate: London after it launches, so we like to believe anything is eventually possible.
Will Hellgate: London feature the very popular Hardcore mode, also known as Ironman to RPG fans, as in Diablo 2, roguelikes and other RPGs?
Bill Roper: We enjoy creating and playing alternate play modes within a game, which is where the Hardcore idea came from. We have a few of these in the design, so it’s just going to be a matter of how many are fun and we can get done.
Hardcore is a really great challenge for players, though, so it is at the top of our list.
Will the difficulty of the monsters be based on and scale up with the character level, or will it just progress from the start of the game without a dynamic difficulty scale?
Bill Roper: We will actually do both. Obviously as you progress through the story and geography of the game, we’ll need to introduce new demons to fight, and they will need to be tougher. However, we certainly can scale up challenges in any area to suit the level and number of players there, so we can mix things up in regards to challenge and location.
To what extent will be able to interact with the environment and its object within the game? Can walls and barricades be demolished? Can you jump over obstacles, climb ladders and pick off targets from a higher platform?
Bill Roper: We LOVE breaking stuff, so we’ll definitely have a bunch of things to smash.
To be honest, this is something we probably won’t get in for a while because it isn’t particularly challenging to implement, and it isn’t something that is currently core to our design, like refining melee combat or making a hundred different weapons.
We’ve already implemented jumping over obstacles and fighting enemies on different levels. We have both hovering and flying characters in the game, for example, as well as the ability for characters to get on top of some debris and shoot down at unfortunate demons.
One of the classes that we know of in Hellgate: London is the Templar. Besides the Templar, can you reveal any of the other classes in Hellgate: London? Will their roles be similar to that of the Templar, or will they be different, like assassins are to barbarians in Diablo 2?
Bill Roper: While we aren’t quite ready to reveal any of the other character classes, we can say that they will all be quite different in how they play. The Templar is our big bruiser, jumping into the fray and dealing damage in close combat. All of his skills are focused on rewarding players who dive their Templar into the thick of the battle, so the class is definitely suited for anyone who likes to dish it out up close and personal.
To what extent will you be able to customize the looks of your weapons and armor? Can colors on armor be changed, sword hilts modified? Will there be special guild emblems emblazoned onto armor or cloaks for guild members in the multiplayer game?
Bill Roper: We haven’t delved too much into this area since we’ve been spending the bulk of our time creating the massive amount of different armor and weapons looks. We know that further customization of look is important, so we’re talking about all the things you mentioned.
You have mentioned ‘skill nodes’ locatable within the world environment. To what extent will we be able to modify our skills, and how will this affect the weapons we use? Please tell us more about them.
Bill Roper: The skill nodes are basically ways for players to “find” skills, in addition to training them up. They are like anything else randomly created and dynamically placed into the world in that they have levels of rarity associated with them. We want players to experiment with their characters, and currently we allow players to swap lots of things in and out as they please. That means they can pop a mod into a weapon, try it out, and then remove it with no negative effect. We also don’t remove a skill from a player’s list so that they can get new ones, try them, and find the mix that works best for the situation. We want our system to be fluid and not restrictive whenever possible.
We know that maps within the game are randomly generated, as such, we are curious to know if there will there be any discernable London landmarks within the game, like the London Eye, Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral (seen in the wallpapers and trailers), the Templar Round Church, Buckingham Palace, the foreboding Tower of London?
Bill Roper: We definitely have some landmark locations in the game. We’re being mum about them right now, but they’re in the pipeline.
For my last question: we’d all like to know how far the game is into development, and when can we expect to see a playable alpha/beta of the Hellgate: London?
Bill Roper: We’re in the phase of development where we are generally dumping in lots of content. We’ve defined the “acts” of the game, roughed out how we’re moving the story along through those levels, and have huge lists of tasks we’re ticking off one by one. As for timing on an Alpha and Beta – stay tuned!
My thanks to Bob Moseley, Bill Roper and the Flagship Studios crew for their time and assistance in making this interview possible and for keeping us in the loop, and up to date with the game’s development. Everyone at the Hellgate Guru community is looking forward to playing this great title.