Flagship hopes to "put a dent" in MMO rivals
Co-founder Max Schaefer admits Hellgate: London was rushed, but follow-up can take on the giants of the MMO market
Flagship Studios' co-founder Max Schaefer has admitted that the developer took on too much with its first project, the EA published Hellgate: London.
But the team has learnt a lot from the rushed project of Hellgate, and hopes its latest title – free-to-play MMO Mythos – will attract enough of an audience to make a dent in some of the big titles currently hogging the massively multiplayer market.
"If we made a mistake with Hellgate, it was trying to do too many things for too many people,” admitted Schaefer, in an interview with our sister site Eurogamer.net.
"We wanted a cutting edge graphics engine, we wanted multiple business models with subscriptions and free play, and single-player, we wanted to combine third-person play with first-person play, we wanted to do random 3D levels, and when you're starting with a brand new game studio with very limited budget and no existing technologies, that was probably biting off too much.
"We ended up rushing it to market and not keeping it in the oven long enough, just out of necessity."
Schaefer said that the studio has adopted a more realistic approach to game development, and rather than trying to appeal to all people, will focus on core features and a more refined business model.
"We learned from that, and going forward as a studio, it's a new emphasis of ours to do things that are more efficient and better-planned, and smaller teams on smaller projects so we can get more ideas out there.
"With Mythos we're definitely taking our time, we're well within our budget and our means to make it. It's a little bit of a turning point for us - don't try to do everything for everybody. Just be more realistic about your design goals. Bring it back to nine tenths instead of ten tenths and things will go much sooner," he detailed.
Mythos will be free-to-play, with players paying for in-game items. The game will be available as a digital download via Flagship's subsidiary Ping0, established in 2006.
While the hardcore market for massively multiplayer online games is dominated by World of Warcraft, other fantasy titles such as Codemasters' Lord of the Rings Online and Funcom's Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures have managed to carve out a respectable niche.
This is something Schaefer hopes Mythos can also do, with its free-to-play business model an alternative to boxed sales and subscriptions.
"We're under no illusions. WOW had ten times the staff we did, took three times as long, had twenty times the budget - and those are pretty talented, hard-working guys as well, so to think that we could go straight head to head is probably unrealistic," he said.
"However, what we can do is target it better and we can find out what the core gaming experience that people want is and really try to hit that. I think that the free model and the item sales model give us the potential to capture a lot more of an audience than if we had gone with a boxed product and subscription model.
"Can we take down the big boys? I think we can take down some of them. And I'd like to put a dent in the others."