Flagship Studios Interview

Several of the creators of the popular Diablo franchise have left Blizzard Entertainment and started their own development company called Flagship Studios.  To learn more about their current project, and what’s in store for the future, we tracked down lead man Bill Roper and fired several questions off to him.  His answers to follow:

GB: How is your first game under development coming along? Do you think it’ll be quite awhile before we may get a first glimpse of it?

Bill: The game is coming along at an amazingly fast pace. I was very impressed by how quickly the guys got an initial engine up and running, and how quickly they have established certain aspects of the tools and the graphics pipeline. The ideas for the game are streaming out at a furious pace, and we’re getting them prototyped either in the engine or in other forms almost as quickly as we come up with them. The whole team is really energized and excited about the process, and it shows in what we’re doing.

As far as when we’ll be showing the game, that is probably something we will have to coordinate with a publishing partner, as well as when we think its really best to let people see and play it for the first time.

GB: Have you heard from anyone at Vivendi since your departure from Blizzard? Do you stay in touch with any former co-workers that are still at Blizzard?

Bill: We haven’t heard from the folks at Vivendi, but we are close friends with a lot of the people at Blizzard and Blizzard North. When you spend as many hours and years working on a project, you develop relationships that are much stronger than mere co-workers, so we have definitely maintained our friendships.

GB: Are you taking any measures in the development of your first game to somewhat distance yourselves from your previous work at Blizzard?

Bill: The concept for our game is different than what we’ve done in the past in many regards, so in that way, I suppose it will distance us from the games we did at Blizzard. We certainly are not using anything we ever did while we were there, and we think that gamers will be very excited by the new concept we have. That being said, there are certain philosophies of game design that we would incorporate into anything we did, and I also think that fans of our past games will see that thread and appreciate it.

GB: Just out of curiosity, how did you come with the name “Flagship Studios”?

Bill: When we started speaking with publishers about the game we wanted to make, they kept referred to it as a real (flagship title.) That is definitely the kind of quality and effort we wanted to pour into the design, and I think the phrase just started to stick out in our minds. It seemed like such a great goal to set for ourselves and for our game that we might as well use it as our name as well. It reminds us that we have a lot of personal and external expectations to live up to and it also shows that we have a lot of experience as developers. Also, it has some bizarre scourge of the high-seas connotations for us, but that may be due to the fact that we saw Pirates of the Caribbean around the time we chose the name.

GB: Looking beyond the first game you’re developing, what types of games would you like to see Flagship Studios creating? Any particular genres that interest you more than others? Would you be more interested in creating PC titles or console titles?

Bill: We are currently focusing all of our energies on creating a great game for the PC and haven’t really discussed any long-range plans for developing for the console systems. We think an adaptation of the idea we have would play very well on a console, but we’re staying true to where we believe our strengths lie as a team.

As for genres, we like a LOT of different games, so I think that there are almost none that we wouldn’t consider.

GB: We’ve read that your first game will offer quite a bit of multiplayer support. Have you considered creating an online network similar to Battle.net to help support the multiplayer aspect?

Bill: We’re spending a lot of time looking into how we want to approach this specific aspect of the game, and that may include creating our own online multiplayer destination. No matter what we do, it has to be simple to use and offer something towards the game play experience and the way the community interacts. Multiplayer gaming is something that is in our blood, and there’s no way we would ignore that.

GB: Would you say that the Flagship Studios members are fans of MMORPGs? would you ever consider tackling an MMORPG yourselves?

Bill: We do have a lot of MMORPG players here, and we certainly would consider taking on this type of game. I think that, as developers, you need to be open to playing anything and everything, and you should also think about how you would approach the creation of a game in that genre, if for no other reason than to keep your design chops sharp.

GB: What kind of feedback have you received from fans, publishers, and even other developers since your departure from Blizzard? Would you say it has been more positive or negative than you expected?

Bill: It has been amazingly and heart-warmingly positive. After we publicly announced the studio, we received hundred of emails from gamers and people in the industry, all wishing us the best of luck and supporting our dreams and goals. Publishers have been great to talk to, and learning about this aspect of the business of games has been invaluable to us. We are grateful that so many people have played the games on which we worked, and we hope that they will continue to be as excited and supportive of what we’re going to be doing next with Flagship Studios.

We’d like to issue a sincere thank you to Flagship Studios, especially Bill, for making this interview possible!

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