Hellgate Q/A Feature - The Next Level

Hellgate Q/A

GN chats with Flagship Studios CEO, Bill Roper.

Article by Ross Fisher (Email)
June 27th 2006, 09:25PM

1. Now that Flagship Studios has announced the mage-like Cabalists we find ourselves wondering about news that this class can "display the traits of their enemies." Just how inhuman can the player's avatar end up looking by using "black magic?"

Bill Roper: We're still looking at how far we want to push the look of the characters, but we have some absolutely wicked designs on the table. We envision the extreme, high-level Cabalist actually tattooing or ritually scarring their bodies – perhaps even implanting or grafting parts of demons to themselves to tap as directly as possible into the dark powers. The fine line that the Cabalist walks between good and evil should become more and more apparent as the character progresses. Just how far we think players are willing to go in representing that is what we're keeping an eye on.

2. How is magic in Hellgate: London going to be handled compared to Diablo; i.e. mana pools and skill-tree based learning of new spells?

Bill: Very similarly. Right now we are representing the inner power that characters draw upon as power since not everything they do is magical. Whether that power is "mana" or "chi" or "focus" or "divinity" – it is the raw power they use to cause their specific effects. The skills and spells that characters use (depending on their class) are divided into different schools. Some of them will have dependencies upon other skills, while others will not. They may also have differing amounts they can be increased. In game terms, some may have 3 levels, while others could have 20. It will all depend on the skill or spell.

3. The main objective in Hellgate: London is all about shutting down "the means of demonic invasion." If players are going to journey to the gate itself does this mean that they will have an opportunity to step through it and take the fight to hell itself?

Bill: At first, we said no. Then, we went ahead and did it for E3 this year. So my guess is that we just may let you venture further into Hell than we first thought. How far – and for how long – isn't defined, but since we've taken the first step down that road, I doubt there will be any turning back.

4. In the Diablo series NPC's always seemed rather out of the loop about evils the world faced. Will NPCs in Hellgate: London have a clear understanding of what's happening, or will some refuse to accept that demons are real?

Bill: Oh, everyone knows the demons are real. The setting of Hellgate: London is 18 years after the invasion, and unlike in Diablo, the minions of the underworld weren't very subtle in their coming. We're also working to make the NPCs in our game more interesting and meaningful to the story than we did before. Some of them just may surprise you…

5. Will demons stop chasing the players when they duck into a "safe zone" or will NPCs leap into action to help the player secure a town from chasing demons?

Bill: Demons will follow you wherever they can. They can't get down into the sanctuary of the Underground stations (usually) but if there NPCs out adventuring – and there are – they will help you fight. We are striving to make the world a much more interactive and "live" place than we did in Diablo. There, it always felt like no one else from the cities were doing anything, and all the monsters stood around and waited for you to show up. We already have chance encounters with other character classes, events, different monster behavior and so forth in Hellgate: London. It really makes the world come alive.

6. Flagship studios chose London because of its many "natural dungeons" such as the London Underground. However, London is also home to many beautiful parks such as the Kensington Gardens. Will players ever get to traverse above ground areas such as forests or parks?

Bill: We're actually working on parks right now, although unfortunately they aren't quite as beautiful in our game as they are now in real life. We have a rich variety of settings within London to choose from, and we're trying to take advantage of as many as possible.

7. Lately we've enjoyed swinging swords at skeletons in Elderscrolls 4: Oblivion, which we hope you've had a chance to play. How is sword-combat in Hellgate shaping up at this point? Are things still leaning towards a Jedi Knight style? Or will there be an option for first-person sword play?

Bill: Right now we really like the feel of our third-person sword combat. We have a lot of special maneuvers and skills associated with melee combat that probably wouldn't feel right in first person. We do revisit the idea from time to time, but for now we like hacking up zombies the way we're doing it.

8. The name "Hellgate" seems to imply that hell is indeed a real place, in the game anyway. We find it interesting that while many developers are ok with showing hell and demons, God is rarely shown or spoken of. Why is this?

Bill: Hell is a universally accepted adversary to humanity. In other words, it is seen as bad, as something to be fought against. The concept of "God" is one that is usually more fragmented and varied greatly depending upon culture, religion, and so on. I think that there are far fewer emotions in people concerning how Hell or its minions are depicted than those who would take issue as to now heaven or God was shown. In Hellgate: London, we do deal with issues such as the spirituality of mankind, but we choose to leave the acceptance of any specific religion or deity to the interpretation of the player. Demons and Hell, however, we reflect as being those that would be appropriate to the region where the game is set – namely London.

9. Do you have any intentions of showing/referring to heaven's response to the end of the world in Hellgate: London?

Bill Roper:We're not delving too deeply into a response from "heavenly" powers in the game, although the player who is into deep storylines and the backstory of the world will find fragments woven into the overall tapestry of the world.

10. What are the chances that the collaboration with WETA could grow to include more than just polystone figurines; perhaps such things life-sized gun and sword replicas?

Bill Roper:We would love to do as much with the extremely talented folks at WETA as we can. When we had the opportunity to visit their workshop in New Zealand at the beginning of the year, we spent a handful of days discussing all kinds of great and grand projects we could collaborate on. Who knows what will come of it, but I know I'd love to have some life-sized Hellgate gear in my office, and the folks at WETA certainly know how to make weapons and armor!

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