Hellgate? Screwed. Tabula Rasa? Okay. Apparently.

By Kieron Gillen on June 11th, 2008 at 6:03 pm.

Having since moved to London, I have yet to see this. I feel robbed.

If we paid attention to note the relative amounts of Online RPG noteworthy news, we’d be sure to note that today is the biggest day for noteworthy news since the previous noteworthy news day. Firstly, Bluesnews brings to our attention that Flagshipped discovered Guy Somberg’s blog post about the state of affairs at Flagship. He rapidly deleted it, but Google-cache remembers all, where he despairs how people are leaving Flagship in droves. Meanwhile, over at Eurogamer, a NCSoft spokesman say that Tabula Rasa’s sales are growing month on month. Which must be nice for them.

Full quotations beneath this linky-thing.

Guy says…

Work is depressing right now. Never mind the fact that Hellgate isn’t as popular as anybody had hoped. Never mind the fact that there exists a term “Flagshipped,” meaning where a company basically overpromises and then screws you. Never mind the fact that the forums are totally populated by people who do nothing but complain and talk about how much the game sucks. Never mind the fact that people do the same thing in the game itself.

Yes, Hellgate is not a big success. That sucks, and it’s depressing. I’m keeping a positive attitude about it because of Korea and China. The Koreans really love the game, and the Chinese have yet to see it. I don’t know how any of these deals are structured, but I’m hinging my hopes for Hellgate’s future on the Asian market.

So why is work depressing? (Other than all of those other depressing things, that is.) The reason is that people are leaving. In droves, they’re leaving. We’ve had programmers, accountants, HR people, and artists leave. The founders are all still around, but they’ve been floating away from Hellgate to work on various other projects. The only one still actively on Hellgate is Tyler, but Tyler’s not programming anymore; he spends all of his time on management activities.

Today was our programming intern’s last day; he’s leaving the company for the world of academia to get his PhD in computer science. I also learned today that another of our programmers is leaving in a couple of months (he gave lots of notice, which is very nice of him). With him leaving, I am basically the senior developer on Hellgate. Tyler, Dave, and Peter (the founders) are the only other programmers who were around beforehand, and I was the first programming hire after that. With Dave and Peter on other projects, and Tyler basically no longer a programmer, I’m what’s left after he leaves.

Thing is, the way things are going I’m likely to be the only programmer still working on Hellgate left from the original crew. I’ve heard rumours that other programmers and artists are thinking of leaving.

I was so disturbed to learn that all of these people are leaving that I couldn’t concentrate, and I left work early, claiming illness. I don’t want to leave Flagship. I’m happy here. I like the people, I like the environment, I like the pay, I like the location… There’s so much good about it. I’m not considering leaving. It’s just overwhelming and depressing having all of these people go. Every time a programmer leaves, it’s more work for me. Every time an artist leaves, it’s less content that we can create for Hellgate in the future.

Tyler is talking about replacing our programming intern with a designer. I’m fighting against that, because we need more programmers! We can’t just put it all on me.

Bah. Listen to me whine. It could be much worse, of course. At this point, though, what I need is some fresh projects; I’m getting burned out on Hellgate.

As Blues said in his post, that Guy removed the post afterward does make posting this feel a little sour. On the other hand, we live in the future: just as much as verbally, once something is said on the Internet, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you may wish it so (Much like some old internet questionnaire circa 1997 when I said my favourite TV show was TFI Friday). Guy said it. It’s a matter of the record. It’s of interest. It gets reported. C’est la vie.

On brighter news from Guy Somberg’s blog, he’s coding a splendid gibberish generator. If we can get it working it means that we can say 3/4s of the RPS staff and just leave the code to blog in our stead.

Meanwhile, over with NCSoft, the NCSoft European spokesman says things like “Tabula Rasa has a dedicated player base, which is growing month on month” and “”A recent European trial promotion was met with great demand; we will be doing a similar promotion later in the year”. EG has more here, and some notes on the on-the-record financial statements that currently exist. As we’re actually quite fond of Tabula Rasa, it’s somewhat good news, though Rock Paper Shogun has a natural reticence to look suspiciously at statements issued by someone making pronouncements while hiding behind a company name. Rock Paper Shotgun thinks that anyone and Rock Paper Shotgun will fight anyone who thinks differently.

EDIT: Kotaku follows up on the story. Basically, says Ivan Sullic, their communication manager: “I don’t know the exact number, but we couldn’t have had more than five or six departures. Still, if those five or six dudes are people you work with everyday, it can’t feel great.” Guy puts it down to a bad day at work and is startled at the vehemence. “I was surprised and disappointed at the community’s response to my words, which were more directed at my family and friends to describe my state of mind at the time, than to give any sort of insight into the company. Personally, I think that the ‘Towers of Hanoi’ series of posts on my blog is far more interesting and worthy of commentary and analysis.”

Don’t underestimate the appeal of your Gibberish generator, Guy.

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39 Comments »

  1. Rook says:

    Kotaku had an interview about that blog post where the guy basically said he was just letting off steam and things weren’t actually that bad

    http://kotaku.com/5014976/interview-flagship-studios-on-life-after-hellgate-launch

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    So they did! I should read Kotaku some more.

    But I just discovered there’s a Rose & Camellia 2!

    KG

  3. Meat Circus says:

    NCSoft conveniently left any details about Tabula Rasa at all out of a recent financial report, leading to much suspicious chin-strokery.

  4. Gylfi says:

    This is wonderfully terrible. Somberg’s blog “thoughts” sound charmingly similar to one of those journals and logs videogames and literature sometimes use to depict a background of a scientist working in some lab where things go terribly wrong and escalate to the guy’s loneliness and madness (like Caynan in Bioforge) ..

    it’s fascinating. don’t you folks think?

  5. Gylfi says:

    Regarding Tabula Rasa, it’s ridiculous to base the “month on month” growth on the trials! what were they thinking?

    I know 2 persons who’re using these trials and both of them went .

  6. Noc says:

    “Rock Paper Shotgun thinks that anyone and Rock Paper Shotgun will fight anyone who thinks differently.”

    The Internet thinks that Rock Paper Shotgun might be missing some words there.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I suspect that any service gets more complaints than praise. Largely because you aren’t going to take your time to write something if it’s working and you’re too busy playing with it.

  8. cyrenic says:

    I think he just described every game’s message board ever.

  9. Okami says:

    And that’s why I don’t blog…

  10. Fede says:

    Never mind the fact that the forums are totally populated by people who do nothing but complain and talk about how much the game sucks.

    This reminded me of this game from the latest TIGSource competition…

  11. Deuteronomy says:

    I honestly feel sorry for this dude. His blog post easily could have been from a UAC scientist’s PDA talking about the strange goings on at the lab.

  12. Jacques says:

    That blog was from May 9th, so it’s odd that it’s all surfacing now.
    Patch 2.0 just got onto the Test Center server yesterday, full of bugs, but lots of new content, both for subs and non-subs. Apart from the usual whining cry babies on the forums it looks like it’s going to be great, once the bugs are ironed out and things are properly balanced.

  13. a-scale says:

    Kieron and RPS, thank you for posting the overlooked, undervalued and “skeleton in the closet” type of news regarding PC gaming. It’s a shame no other large gaming site has the kehones to do so.

  14. oilypenguin says:

    “That blog was from May 9th, so it’s odd that it’s all surfacing now”

    Showing just how excited the player base is about the game.

  15. Gap Gen says:

    It’s a shame no other large gaming site has the kehones to do so.

    You mean apart from when they link to Kotaku?

  16. Pijama says:

    The thing is… They promised Diablo in the future.

    They failed to deliver.

    It is simple as that. When you have the burden of being the infamous “Spiritual Sucessor” and you were incapable of reaching the high standards set by the “spiritual precursor”, well, you are screwed.

    I have bought Hellgate with high expectations, gave two additional shots, and yet it still sucked. Not to mention that singleplayer is a travesty and should be NEVER compared to Diablo in that regard.

  17. The Hammer says:

    Fede: I love you for posting that. This game is awesome.

  18. Stu says:

    Never mind TFI Friday, Kieron — you ought to be ashamed of the last in your list of favourite foods. I mean, really!

  19. jamuel scones says:

    Give it up, Gillen. Tabula Rasa’s going down, see?

    Hellgate, on the other hand is (now) a very good game – though not the great game Diablo 2 was – but highly enjoyable. However, they’ve stuffed themselves with their completely retarded subscription model that’s left them in an unfortunate undead state in commercial terms.

    I think their only hope at this point, is to stop charging subs immediately, and prepare for a retail/online relaunch later this year featuring all content created to date. Charge existing buyers-but-not-subbers an upgrade fee, and then move to an entirely “modest flat fee per content patch” model.

    It’s definitely worth picking up a copy and playing online for free (SP is a bit pointless), but absolutely not worth an ongoing subscription.

  20. spd from Russia says:

    Poor Flagship guys. I liked Hellgate – its far from perfect, but it was fun to play.

  21. Jacques says:

    Jamuel, they can’t just drop the sub stuff because of the whole founders account thing when they launched.

    Oh, and offical statement from FSS on the subject.
    http://forums.hellgatelondon.com/showthread.php?t=101425

  22. Alex McLarty says:

    I remember trying to sign up for the beta.

    Exciting, huh?

  23. RichPowers says:

    Tabula Rasa‘s retail price depreciation indicates that the game bombed. Shortly after launch, B&M and online retailers steeply discounted the game, including the collector’s edition. I’ve noticed that the retail price of MMOs depreciates faster than other genres, probably because most of them fail (from the bean counter’s perspective at least).

  24. Brent says:

    Ooh! I call dibs on the new site:

    “As we’re actually quite fond of Tabula Rasa, it’s somewhat good news, though Rock Paper Shogun has a natural reticence…”

  25. Kieron Gibberish says:

    [generated using the text of KG's june posts]

    If we do that, we’ll have had to be sure to polish up on this impression in other things. And randomised maps – much like big girls – worth stressing: Everything’s in the box, then fix… well, is substandard, rather than five or six dudes are trying to bid on with some manner of the second-raters. There’s one just not to remember to bother. Which is far more directed at 0:55 he went hands on AOL back in what each turn in that is stupid enough of shoes. Admitedly, my 2005-era Eurogamer review.

    I suspect the Crysispatch “almost certainly” isn’t going to work in hex-based wargames

    Oh – worth stressing my Biology degree for them.

    Full quotations beneath the thread over the throne empty throne, complete with places of proto-nipple.

    Frankly, this year’s version of patches. However, as Gamershell makes it can’t feel great.” Guy Somberg’s blog in “spheres of the appeal of Hanoi’ series of his post, that the Icewind Dale approach to polish up are developing, in tanks and I strongly by someone making sure to the fact he talks about increasing the cut.

    The basts!

    * This makes a company name. After all, where would you level up your archfiend trying to improve your cross-language dictionary as your Gibberish generator, Guy.

    There’s one does, due to blog is a lot – has inched over with the inside. Also, talking about recent Indie-faves later, eh?

    Before I suspect, falls beneath the company. Personally, I Vic, I really hope it means that there’s anything zoological that’d be sure to be the best, with some of its basic web-page. Satan’s sodded off, leaving Flagship in your benefit and Leigh Alexander likes it out? Pardon the next predator sinks its teeth into something considerably more information, here’s my eye. Specifically, Weird Worlds. And other good Tom is the demons possible to give me theorise they aren’t D&D too. For example, your cross-language dictionary as Duke Nukem Forever in exciting foreign. Well – KLF And since the year”. EG has a matter how much room for more here, and an ideal world, we’d expect a Piracy piece today is Blizzard, and you bid on this a perfect world. It’s a twist on patches eternally, making pronouncements while – when most normal humans play an out-of-control Red Queen Sexual Selection situation, and Atoll, made it seems some theorising what we didn’t post afterward.

  26. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    ‘I suspect the Crysispatch “almost certainly” isn’t going to work in hex-based wargames’

    Most likely not…

  27. MeestaNob! says:

    As soppy as it sounds, this is a reminder that no matter how much we dislike/outright loath a product, these are real people, who despite what we sometimes say, are trying their best to make something that they hope will entertain us.

    Just cause we gave them $80 doesn’t mean we can be utter cuntflaps at them through the anonymity of message boards. I actually feel for gamer programmers when they view the forums and see their pride and joy being torn to shreds… even after numerous patches fix up the worst issues.

  28. Phil H says:

    On a more positive note with Hellgate, the initial build of the 2.0 patch hit the Test Server yesterday and is bringing about a monster set of changes in addition to the new content. Still exploring it, and quite a few of the numbers still need to be tweaked, but overally it is looking to be a very good set of changes once it finishes baking on the Test Center.

  29. Soldats says:

    Kieron: Thanks for that heads-up! Just finished Rose & Camellia 2; it’s just as good as the first. Quite amusing to read your PC’s interactions with her family, and the maid’s twin daughters are great.

  30. sbs says:

    Kieron Gillen says:

    So they did! I should read Kotaku some more.

    No. No you shouldn’t.

  31. Gap Gen says:

    That Kieron Gibberish is very good – you have to be concentrating to work out that it’s gibberish and not your mind melting slowly (or I do, anyway).

  32. jamscones says:

    Jaques: “Jamuel, they can’t just drop the sub stuff because of the whole founders account thing when they launched.”

    I’m perfectly aware of the situation, but it’s really not a question of “can’t”, more a question of “won’t” My point was that they need to bite the bullet and make a substantial change.

  33. Ginger Yellow says:

    I wish I could believe NCSoft, as I really would like to play a well populated Tabula Rasa. I only didn’t buy it at launch because I only realised it had been released when I saw it in a store, and I’d been following it fairly closely. I figured if I didn’t know it was out, nobody else would either and nobody would be playing. Seems I was right.

  34. Yargh says:

    wow, I very nearly couldn’t tell the difference with a real KG post there. All it needs is the coloured background.

  35. cyrenic says:

    @Kieron Gibberish

    Wow, it’s just like reading the dialog from Pathologic!

  36. mathew says:

    I nearly picked up Hellgate for $10 last week, but I didn’t. I actually regret it now, as I would like to give it a shot (for a piddling amount of money).

  37. ohnoabear says:

    So that’s where Ivan Sulic went. He was one of my favorite PC games journalists back in the day. His Deus Ex: Invisible War review in particular was brilliant. Of course, his sense of humor was much more in tune with myself as a teenager than any adult’s writing should be, but it worked for his audience. I heard he’d gone to work PR somewhere in the industry, but never knew for whom. Weird how something like that happens.

    I guess I’m part of Flagship’s problems, since I thought Hellgate seemed vaguely interesting but never bothered to pick it up. There was always another game to play that seemed to be better-received, and if I ever needed to liven up my interactions with anonymous pricks on the internet, there’s always TF2.

  38. Dave says:

    most normal humans play an out-of-control Red Queen Sexual Selection situation

    Indeed.

    When I first read “gibberish generator” I thought fondly of the one I wrote for DragonRealms shadowlings, that someone else adapted to a curse. Deeleemeeloolaloomaleelookee beeeee!

  39. Sam says:

    seems to me that the simple explanation is that they screwed themselves with the subscription model. It is essentially seen as a spiritual successor to Diablo 2, which was from the sound of it a better game, and required no subsciption. So people ask, why should i have to subscribe for this? It was just greedy of them, and blew up in their faces.