When we last left Bill Roper’s Flagship Studios, the team was just wrapping up a development push in October 2005, and had recently implemented a number of interesting new monsters, items and skills. While talking at length about the game, Roper talked about a number of key gameplay mechanics, not the least of which was the fact that despite the game’s appearance it is an RPG, and not a FPS. This means that hits during combat are determined by stat roles behind the scenes and not by twitch gameplay – a sticking point for many players expecting a game more in the vein of Quake or Unreal.
Hellgate, instead, with its random dungeons and numerous items, has more in common with Diablo and its sequel. Appropriate that, since Roper and his team trace their roots to Blizzard North. Now, with E3 on our doorsteps, we’ve taken the opportunity get a jump on our coverage of the game by speaking with Bill Roper again about his team’s ongoing project, especially considering the recent unveiling of the game’s second character class, The Cabalist.
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us again regarding Hellgate: London. The game really looks like its coming along. When we last spoke the team had just implemented a lot of exciting new things in time for Halloween, and you commented that there were a ton of new things flowing into the game at that time. Is the game still in a similar state of flux, or have things settled down by now?
Heh, things never seem to settle down. That’s what makes game development so exciting. There are a lot of new content we have put in for E3. We have also made some changes to the gameplay and minor directional changes to the game. This is part of the development process for us. We put things in and determine how fun it is. We will change it if it turns out to be bad. Things don’t always turn out like you imagined or designed. We have a very flexible process.
Is there anything the team has recently implemented specifically that you’d like to talk about?
Well, we added the Cabalist class and finished a few things to enable multiplayer. These are the biggest two features we are showing off at E3.
Is this the class you alluded to in our last interview which focuses on the use of arcane powers and related abilities? What does this class bring the game?
Yes, this is the class we hinted at last time. What it brings to the game is a new game experience. When we create character classes, we aren’t satisfied with different stats as so many RPGs are, instead we want the game to play fundamentally different with the different classes. With the Cabalist, she has blasting spells and pets. She can sit back and let her pets do some work while she helps from the outside. The game feels much different than the Templar who runs into the thick of things and swings away.
How does the Cabalist’s ability to summon creatures and control primal forces affect the game? How are these abilities accomplished in-game?
This is all through the pet system. The Cabalist can have one major pet and several minor pets at once. The pets run around and occupy monsters while the Cabalist boosts her pet or directly helps kill the monsters.
What are Spectral Spells? Can you give us some examples of your favorite spells?
There are different element types in Hellgate. One of the elements is Spectral. We also have poison, fire and a few others. Spectral energy at its core is a dimensional energy. The energy phases you between hell and Earth.
Let’s say I’m jumping into the game for the first time. Why would I choose to play as a Cabalist over the previously announced Templar, and how would I approach the game experience differently using this newly announced class?
Well, the Cabalist has many cool abilities and looks. They are fun to play, and mostly because the gameplay experience is so different than the Templar. The approach is finding weapons to enhance your pets and spells. They use focus items to cast their spells. Finding new focus items and using two at once (!) really make for interesting dynamics. You can choose to be just a blaster without pets, or pet heavy. There are many variations and combinations therein. Cabalists will be different from each other so there is no one single approach. I believe that is one of the keys to making our games massively replay-able.
When picking a character class, will players be able to select their gender, and will this have any effect on their character’s characteristics?
Yes, each character class will have a male and a female option. There will be no gameplay differences between male and female, however NPCs will address you differently depending on your gender, along with class and faction status.
Have you and your team decided on how many classes will be available in the game out of the box at launch? Are you leaving it open for other classes to be introduced in the future, either downloadable or through retail expansions.
We haven’t announced how many classes will be available at launch and we are definitely leaving it open for expansion classes.
When played from the third-person perspective, how does the camera work? Is it able to be freely manipulated by the player, or is positioned from a fixed isometric perspective?
You have camera control as you move around. You can pitch the camera up and down and rotate it left and right with the mouse. The mouse wheel zooms in and out, and will enter first-person perspective if you zoom in all the way. The game can’t really be played from a traditional isometric perspective. It plays with A