It's one of FiringSquad's most anticipated PC games of 2007 and we got a brief chance to play Flagshp Studios long awaited action RPG Hellgate London at last month's CES. Today we get some more info on this title via an interview with Flagship co-founder Bill Roper.
FiringSquad: First, Hellgate London has a rather unique fictional backstory for its setting. Why pick London dealing with an interdimentional rift as the setting for the game?
Bill Roper: London is such a great setting for a game, and to be honest, we were a little surprised it really hadn’t been used more. The architecture is a fantastic mix of everything from Gothic to Edwardian to Victorian to modern. The streets of the city itself are wonderfully winding and lend themselves to our style of dynamic level generation.
London also has an incredibly mystic history, from being founded by Druids through the Arthurian legends to the wonders of the British Museum. And the constant attention of aggressive parties (from the Norse to the Blitz) made us think that there was definitely something there that people wanted. So, why wouldn’t an invading force of demons be interested in such a nexus of power, as well?
Finally, the city beneath the city was also a huge attraction to having London as a setting for the game. The vast array of places that lie beneath the city are incredible – Victorian sewers, World War II bomb shelters, the Underground system, the sister rivers to the Thames, and more!
FiringSquad: How hard is it to develop a game that has so much content as well as having randomly generated environments?
Bill Roper: Creating dynamically generated levels is very difficult, and the greatest compliment we get is when people tell us they don’t look random. There is a massive amount of planning and work that goes into the algorithms that drive the level creation, as well as the way that background artwork needs to be constructed and divided. On top of this foundation we layer props that differentiate the layouts even more. So while we do create a large amount of content, we then get an impressive amount of variations that are both crafted and random all at the same time.
FiringSquad: From playing the build at CES it’s clear that there is a lot of stuff to pick up in terms of randomly generated items and weapons. How do you balance how much the player has access to while playing the game?
Bill Roper: Balance is an ongoing process that we start on as early as possible in the development cycle. This is especially important in Hellgate: London since collecting a wide variety of items is a huge part of the excitement of playing. But since items are also randomly and dynamically generated, we do get a bit more leeway in terms of every item not needing to be perfectly equal to another. We spend a great deal of time not just tuning the relative power of items, but also tweaking the drop rates. This is both in terms of total number of items and their rarity.
FiringSquad: In terms of the game's combat, the CES version seems to sometimes have a ton of monsters at any one time in the game. Will the full version of Hellgate London have that kind of overwhelming number of creatures to deal with?
Bill Roper: We’re currently playing with the number of foes you face at one time, but the design is to battle large groups of demons at once. We like having our heroes wading through throngs of enemies as opposed to pulling one at a time. It just feels more heroic!