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Roper opens up about Flagship demise

Firing staff was hardest day ever.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Bill Roper, co-founder of the all-but-extinct Flagship Studios, has said there are no secret piles of money to rescue Hellgate, and that firing the majority of staff at the developer was his "hardest professional day" ever.

"I understand that, unfortunately, the Internet seems to be a haven for people who like to just get out there and throw out the most vitriolic and aggressive stance they can. But there are no secret piles of money that the company's somehow magically making," Roper told 1UP. "I haven't been paid in almost two months, and I've been putting money out to try and get people taken care of. That's the flip side.

"It probably goes against popular belief, but just because we all used to work at Blizzard doesn't mean that we're all millionaires, although that sure would have been great."

Roper said he had to liquidate USD 400,000 to pay salaries because he felt responsible for his flock of sheep.

"As anybody could tell you, during the last days of Flagship, I was pretty much a wreck," he added.

Hellgate is now owned by the bank, Comerica, and the servers are being kept open as a joint effort between Namco and EA. However, neither videogame company can develop the game until the rights to the IP are bought back.

On reflection, Roper said Hellgate would have been better for being simpler and with a less confusing business model; he claimed he knew the the online multiplayer paid-for and free idea was a mistake before the game even launched.

"Hellgate came out, and it wasn't as good as it should have been. There's a myriad of reasons for that. Some of them were just bad timing in the PC market. The PC market was lousy last year," said Roper.

"Some of it was the fact that we were an independent studio. We didn't have unlimited money, and we had to ship when we had to ship. Part of it was because we overreached, and that was a design problem that was totally our fault. We tried to do too much.

"We tried to be a standalone game and a free-play game and an MMO and an RPG and a shooter. We were trying to be something for everybody and ended up really not pleasing many people at all. I think we should have picked one or the other."

Mythos, a free-to-play MMO, was the other game in development at Flagship. Korean developer and publisher HanbitSoft had originally approached Flagship with an offer of help.

Roper and team tried to negotiate with HanbitSoft but eventually found themselves in a deal-or-no-deal situation, with Mythos bargained in as collateral on the resulting agreement.

So, Mythos is in HanbitSoft hands. But the team working on it is without many of the key staff that created the MMO, something Roper feels has been underplayed so far.

"The challenge they face is like if somebody says, 'Hey, I made you a loan against your Ferrari, [and] now the loan's due, so I want the Ferrari.' And I say, 'Great, here's a box of parts, because I didn't actually finish building the car yet.'

"So they have it, but it's not done, and they don't have any of the engineers that were there that know how to build the game or use the tools or use the tech or anything."

Thankfully Roper is optimistic about his future in games; he doesn't regret the experience, just the outcome.

"I've always loved games. I've always been playing games, and I want to keep working in games. I'd hate to think that all the trials and tribulations of the past five years, and all the upside, all the great things that happened, would be the end of this," he concluded. "I want to be able to build off all of this."

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