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E3 2006: Hellgate London Rocks Your Socks
05.10.06 - 7:33 PM

We had a chance to sit down with Bill Roper, formerly of Blizzard and president of Flagship Studios, developers of Hellgate: London to talk about their upcoming PC RPG. Our demo had two of the classes available, the magic-oriented Cabalist and the melee Templar. After completing character customization that rivals City of Heroes. Well, not quite, but it's certainly close.

Bill took us through the orientation of the worlds, where subway stations work as safe houses between areas swarmed by demons. These stations are home to NPCs and will be used in multiplayer games as party hubs. There are two other parts of the game, landmark locations, which are randomized, save for the landmark themselves, and the generic areas, which will be randomized not only in the way that you will take, but will provide multiple paths among different tilesets. While the dungeons are random, their connections and the hub worlds are static. Say a player wishes to go through an area again, it will randomize not only the areas and loot, but the tileset in the case of some areas.

There are three types of quests to undertake in the world of Hellgate: London, Quests, Tasks, and Chance Events. Quests advance the main plot and are set in stone. Tasks and Chance Events are a bit more lenient, with Tasks being quests taken from stations with random components and Chance Events being randomly scattered about the world. The interesting thing about Chance Events is that they are found in certain tilesets. Bill was extremely adamant that despite the fact that these events will have ph4t l00tz, it will never be to the point where people will go, "you never got that event? You're screwed!"

Skills in Hellgate: London are improved through their five scales by usage. While they're learned through skill points on the skill tree at level-up, they'll only ever stay at rank 1 if you don't use them. Additionally, skills are context-sensitive. This goes far beyond "A is attack versus an enemy, but speak versus an NPC!", but players are able to customize in great depth. For example, while moving forward, you can set shift to be dash, but when you're moving backward, it may be sidestep or block. Additionally, you can switch between three contexts and sets of weapons, which can be individually set.

Some of the content will be scalable by level, but Flagship is content on having a risk vs reward system for players. Say a level 80 player goes through a level 20 area slaughtering every monster. There's absolutely no risk for the level 80 player, so there will be absolutely zero loot. Not a single drop, money or items. Additionally, Roper mentioned that players will have AI companions both in single and multiplayer for scripted events.

Players who play online will be happy to know that they are able to find random parties with ease, and are able to set the types of people who can join their games, be it only cabalists between level 2-5 and only three of them, you can do it. Saving of data will be server-side for online characters, and they will be different from offline characters. Flagship and Namco are prepared to supply 24/7 customer support and ongoing content like an MMO. However, it's not yet been announced if there will be any kind of pay-for-content plan. Roper mentioned several models, including subscription, ala World of Warcraft, Micropayments for content, like Oblivion, and constant expansion content, similar to The Sims. Roper did say, however, that he liked having "some kind of free content", and that the game would receive much more post-game support than his previous title at Blizzard, Diablo II.

Hellgate: London looks again like one of the best RPGs on the floor. Chances are you'll be seeing it in our awards again this year, or my name isn't John McCarroll.


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John McCarroll





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