F— Bill Roper

1Up.Com has an interview with Bill Roper on the demise of Flagship Studios and the gigantic turd that was the Hellgate: London launch. Roper tells 1Up,

At Blizzard there was always the freedom, where if you could make your case, to whoever it was — Cendant, Davidson and Associates, Vivendi — whoever it was at the time: “This is why we need this much more time, [and] this is the benefit you’re going to get out of it.” And they would say, yeah, that makes a lot of sense — take the next six months or whatever it would take. And that’s great when you’ve got the financial backing that allows you to do that, but when you’re an independent studio, you don’t. Even when you realize, wow, we need more time, if you don’t have the budget for it, and you can’t get the money for it, you just can’t do it. So you’ve got to ship the game.

A lot of it, too, is the fact that we set a date; we all agreed that we’d be able to hit that date; hitting that date was based on our past experience with Blizzard in terms of how long it took us to fix bugs and complexity and things like that. The marketing money got spent to do that. Once marketing starts happening, if you change the date, you’ve flushed that support. We said we’ve got to ship. As we started down that path, working on the bugs and things, there was so much more there, and it was so much more complex than we’d ever imagined, certainly far more than our experience had taught us. I think that’s another area where maybe, indirectly, the Blizzard experience hurt us, where we based our expectations off, well, this is about how long things took there. Then we go there and realized not only do we have all the game stuff to debug, but we have all the online stuff to debug because this is our first title we’re shipping with that, too. And we’ve got all these other things, different platforms to support. We’re supporting XP and Vista. We’re doing all these different languages. It all came together. We just couldn’t get everything…

In other words, Roper admits what anyone who got suckered into buying Hellgate quickly realized — not only was the game-as-shipped buggier-than-hell, but Flagship knew it was buggy but shipped anyway to hit their announced ship date.

Instead of “we’ll ship it when it’s done,” Flagship’s motto was “we’ll ship it and then finish it at some date TBA.”

I wish he’d given interviews to that effect before I and others spent $60-$70 on that piece of shit game. Or before some morons went out and bought lifetime subscriptions to the online portion of the game (actually my sympathy for the fanboys who were still signing up for subscriptions weeks after launch and posting how wonderful the game would eventually be isn’t all that great).

Flagship even tried to sucker other people into buying the game through one of the most hideously anti-customer policies I’ve seen — they closed the discussion boards to non-customers so that people thinking about buying the game couldn’t go to the Hellgate: London forums and see all of the complaints about the bugs in the game.

So, frankly, I was happy to see Flagship go down in flames. Roper says in the interview he liquidated his 401(k) to pay for employee salaries at one point. Well, he can send me my $70 refund any time.

The next time Roper’s attached to a game, I’ll remember to pirate it rather than buy it at retail. Oops. I mean, I’m going to ship it to my computer on a specific release date regardless of whether or not I have the resources to actually complete the retail transaction.

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