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July 15th, 2013, 02:10
Edge-Online takes a look at the rise and fall of Flagship Studios during the development of Hellgate London.

In July 2003, Max Schaefer, his brother Erich and David Brevik – creators of that most revered brand of action-roleplaying, the Diablo series – resigned from Blizzard Entertainment, along with vice president Bill Roper. Amid a frenzy of press and gamer inquiry, the newly free agents sat down in Brevik’s house and tried to work out what they were going to do with the rest of their lives. “And we realised all we knew how to do was make games,” Schaefer laughs. “We didn’t really give it a lot of thought at the time. We didn’t want to get regular jobs, so, obviously, we had to make another company. So we sat there just talking about ideas, before we hit on what we wanted to do. It only took a couple of days, really.”

The new freedom – and responsibility – was daunting, but the group preferred that to the deal they were getting at Blizzard. So it was settled: the new company would be called Flagship Studios, and the idea they hit on at Brevik’s house was what would become Hellgate: London. According to Roper, London was chosen for its association with the Knights Templar and its extensive Tube network. And, initially at least, their goal was fairly straightforward and sensible.

“Our fundamental, primary idea,” Schaefer says, “and our most crystallised thought, was to introduce firstperson shooter elements into a proper MMO. We wanted to make an MMO world where you could play it like you were playing Counter-Strike, or any firstperson shooter. That involved some cool mechanics – the immersiveness of the worlds, that camera mechanic – and just working that into the MMO.”

Flagship had been attracting unpleasant rumours for some time, but in August 2008 the company officially closed its doors. Hellgate’s concept artist, Jason Felix, remembers: “Someone from upper management had a brief talk with some of us, saying: ‘Just hear what they have to say, but everything will be fine’. It was weird because at that moment, it was a statement of reassurance – but yet it forecast a negative feeling. I expected the following day that perhaps half the company would be laid off, but to have the entire staff unemployed was shocking.”

Hellgate: London was simply a case of trying to do too much with not enough, but can you really blame them? Coming from Blizzard, the development land of milk and honey, to a new studio and limited funds was always going to be a shock, and it’s commendable that they tried to create something unique. Flagship has been punished for its ambition in accordance with history. You have to hope that future games from the fractured team will lead them to the glory some of them once knew, and they all deserve.
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July 15th, 2013, 02:10
Their only fault was going MMO.
That game, if made as singleplayer, could have been turned into a longgoing franchise. But then again, it's better this way. At least they didn't ruin singleplayer games by turning them into MMO like KoToR. Or like TES online will be.
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July 15th, 2013, 02:32
Hellgate is hardly an MMO. It's a non-persistent world multiplayer game with hubs to chat and group up with other players. It's no more a traditional MMO than the Diablo franchise. I think this is part of the reason many people didn't even try the game at launch: they were being charged a subscription fee for what was essentially free with Diablo, free with Guild Wars.

Nevertheless, I feel the real issues with the game stemmed from its underdeveloped skill trees and inane quest dialog. And these issues could almost be forgiven for the sake of the fresh and original setting if it wasn't for the monotonous combat (brought on by, in part, the underdeveloped skill trees).
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July 15th, 2013, 02:45
Let's not forget the many, many bugs.
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July 15th, 2013, 03:18
And the fact that there was a clear lack of booty in the game, in comparison to the adverts.
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July 15th, 2013, 03:34
This game was garbage. It deserved to fail. This is one where the game turned out to be nothing even close to the pre-release talk from the developers.
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July 15th, 2013, 07:43
I hadn't heard much pre-release talks nor did I encounter any glaring or game-stopping bugs. However, I couldn't play too long of this game. I couldn't pinpoint anything but it was horribly boring and I really tried to like it too. It had potential but that was never realized. Several times I found myself nodding off mid combat
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July 15th, 2013, 08:06
There were so many bugs that were constantly being brought to the attention of the developers by the beta testers that they just ignored. They did it to themselves and they deserved to go out of business because of their sheer incompetence. My most favorite class is the engineer and during beta it was pretty much broken and there were long topics on a major bug from before I entered the beta but they just ignored it and released the game anyways.
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July 15th, 2013, 19:57
this game should be buried and never "retrospected" to rewrite history. moving along now..
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July 15th, 2013, 20:03
Game had quite strong moment-to-moment gameplay, and brought several innovations to the genre. Too bad about the marketing disaster and the atrocious launch state.




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July 16th, 2013, 00:02
It was fun to return and play again-up until level 25 when you found out they turned it into a tremendous grind-fest-then not so fun.
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July 16th, 2013, 03:55
I had to hunt my old review:
- The hype of the media and hubris of the developers set expectations to 'redefine the genre'
- The tiered 'pay to play' system that was unveiled soon before launch was a disaster
- The launch state of the game was atrocious
- Patches helped, but to diminishing returns

I said "this is a RPG that is full of eye candy and as deep as a mid-summer puddle after a sun-shower" … but also noted "combat is absolutely thrilling at times".
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July 16th, 2013, 04:44
Despite all its flaws, it's one of the few games to try taking Diablo gameplay into the first person perspective. If I'm wrong on this, feel free to chime in with some recommendations for what I feel is a lacking subgenre (though jumping into a room of 20 super mutants w/ Mart's mutant mod running in Fallout 3 had its moments).
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