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Flagship CEO Admits Hellgate: London 'Wasn't Great,' Details Studio Closure

by Aaron Linde, Aug 19, 2008 8:00pm PDT

Speaking on the demise of Flagship Studios, CEO and founder Bill Roper attributed the closing, in part, to lackluster performance of the action-RPG Hellgate: London (PC), which he admits was "not great."

"The Hellgate game came out, and it wasn't great," Roper told 1UP. "We also had a lot of players who enjoyed the game. And it's not like the game didn't sell at all. But it should have been a lot better. We really take responsibility for not being better. But we can just sit around saying that really sucked, or we can do something about it, and so we were working really hard."

Roper added that he felt like the studio was "on that verge of turning a corner," and further noted a number of reasons for the game's poor performance including a "lousy" PC market in 2007 and limited funding.

"Part of it was because we overreached, and that was a design problem that was totally our fault," Roper explained. "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."

During a difficult financial period following the launch of Hellgate: London, Flagship sought additional financing from Comerica Bank, placing the Hellgate property up as collateral for the loan. Earlier this month, the studio confirmed massive layoffs while rumors circulated that HanbitSoft, Hellgate's Korean publisher, claimed rights to Flagship's IPs Hellgate: London and Mythos (PC).

The game's status was mired in contradictory information, but Roper explained that—per the terms of the loan agreement—the Hellgate property, code, and development are now held by Comerica Bank.

"We've been working with Comerica... to try to identify people that might be interested in that. Even if this means that we can't work on it anymore, which is pretty painful. You spend four years working on a game and then to not even be able to do anything with it—it's pretty rough," Roper said.

The company sought assistance from a number of possible investors, including Hellgate's original North American publisher Namco-Bandai, among others.

"We were looking for other companies that had that same mindset to work with, and ultimately, we found a couple that we were really interested to talk with, and [we] actually entered into fairly lengthy negotiations with one particular company. Ultimately, that didn't work out."

Flagship is currently "barely open," operating with Roper and a few other employees to handle some of the final affairs of the company. Most of the Mythos development team have since reformed as Runic Games, which hopes to continue building action-RPGs.

"We're working hard on how to end gracefully... I would do a lot of things really differently [in future efforts]. I think that maybe part of the silver lining in all this—and there isn't a lot in a very dark cloud—but personally, I learned a hell of a lot that I think will make me a better developer, a better executive, manager, whatever. It's a pretty tough learning experience."





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