taultunleashed logoRunic Games' Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree : FPS / MMORPG / RTS Discussion
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Runic Games' Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree : FPS / MMORPG / RTS Discussion

Posted: August 19th, 2008, 10:03 pm

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[url=http://hellgateguru.com/2008/08/runic-games’-max-schaefer-and-travis-baldree/]Image[/url] [url=http://hellgateguru.com/2008/08/runic-games’-max-schaefer-and-travis-baldree/]Runic Games' Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree[/url]
While not strictly related to Blizzard, we've been following the progress of the former Flagship Studios' developers, so this is relevant.
GameCyte has a new interview up with two of them who have started a new studio, Runic Games, who are Max Schaeferand Travis Baldree. The interview delves deep into why the company moved, why they [...]

Author: Sp3tSnAz
Category: General Interviews flagship studios interview Mythos runic games travis baldree
Publish Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2008 09:28:14 +0000

While not strictly related to Blizzard, we've been following the progress of the former Flagship Studios' developers, so this is relevant.

GameCyte has a new interview up with two of them who have started a new studio, Runic Games, who are Max Schaeferand Travis Baldree. The interview delves deep into why the company moved, why they think FSS failed like it did. It specifically mentions the current state of FSS right now as well. Specifically Max makes an emphasis on the fact that for all intents and purposes Flagship Studios is closed down, and Bill is just there to finish off the closure.

Max then goes on to talk about his brother and his involvement with the team. It then goes on to talk about if FSS had any chance of staying open. They then talk of the sorts of games they want to make with the new studios.

Next they talk about the game's (Mythos) differentiation with Diablo 3 and Sacred 2, as well as the whole colour issue in Diablo 3. Lastly they mention that Namco at the moment is just handling the box sales of Hellgate London, but there is no current knowledge of what they plan to do with the game later.


GameCyte: And you say Flagship Studios did close?

TB: Max, are they still kind of open?

MS: It's barely open. It's just open enough to take care of the final affairs, but for all intents and purposes it's closed down.

GameCyte: We'd figured as much, but all we'd had was a press release saying "We're still open!" "We still have our IP!" It's hard to tell what's actually going on.

TB: It's a little bit of a new experience for all of us. (chuckles) We don't exactly know the 'proper' way to close down a company. First and foremost, we're just trying to take care of the debts and the employees in an orderly fashion, so Bill [Roper, CEO of Flagship Studios] and one or two other people have stuck around and are doing their best to get that done before we move on in different directions.

GameCyte: (to Max) What happened to your brother, Erich Schaefer? We noticed he's no longer with Flagship.

MS: Well, for one thing he's here in Michigan with me... and for another, he is one of the initial investors in Runic Games. He will be onboard with the company in one way or another from here on out. He is also a big fan of Travis and the Seattle guys and was more than happy to be able to contribute.



MS: We knew there was a possibility, but we were in very advanced negotiations with a couple of people for deals that would have kept Flagship open and would have kept everything running. And in fact, for a good while it was looking like a near-certainty that one of those would have come to fruition.

When they didn't, we were far enough along that we were kind of even going past the point where we should have closed down the company, because it looked like such a surety that something was going to be closed, but there were a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations occurring with multiple partners around the globe, some of whom were less than... ethical or honest, and it was just a very complicated mess. In the end, it was just too entangled to get a good deal in place, and so we had to close down. It was really kind of a wrenching, horrible period actually, and we learned a lot from it. We'd do things differently next time for sure.

We all were up all night, every night, not getting any sleep, working every day trying to get it to work out for everyone, and in the end it just didn't.



GameCyte: I'm curious what kind of cues you might be taking from Blizzard on your next titles. Bill Roper once said Mythos was the most genuine Diablo title; but as Blizzard North becomes further fragmented, will you be able to make that kind of claim again?

TB: I think we're kind of moving toward making a slightly different kind of title at this point. Diablo III is coming down the tracks, and I'd rather be on the tracks alongside them rather than directly in front of them when they come rolling through. What we really started to do with Mythos was make it more of a social action-MMO, where there was a shared overworld where people spent a lot of time interacting, and I think it's important for the free-to-play microtransaction market for people to be able to spend time interacting face to face in larger groups, rather than "I only see you in the lobby and then I'm off with my party for the remainder of the time."

TB: We still want the random, fast play experience that we had, but it's important for us to differentiate ourselves from Diablo III and Sacred 2 as they come down the line by having that sort of shared community feel to the game. Auction houses, crafting, more traditional MMO trapping within the context of a game that's much faster paced and doesn't require the same sort of time commitment.

MS: Diablo III is not shaping up to be an MMO at all; Diablo III is in the vein of extending what Diablo II did. What we're doing is taking the Diablo-style action and moving it into the MMO space, and not into the casual games space. The missions are different, and we're really excited about Diablo III. We can't wait for it to come out, just so we can play it, and we have nothing but respect for the Blizzard guys. They're incredibly talented, and I know that Diablo III's going to be a top-notch game. But, fortunately for us, we're going in a slightly different direction.

GameCyte: I wanted to ask about the use of color in Diablo III. I know you've both spoken to interviewers about the art direction, and praised it for what it does, and since you've said you want to be on the tracks aside Diablo III instead of risking being... in front of it...

TB: (laughs)

GameCyte: Is there pressure to move in the same direction, and go for that bold, colorful style, or do you perhaps think that there might be an unserved market for dark action-RPG titles like the ones zealous Photoshop enthusiasts were making 'screenshots' of?

MS: I'm loving this controversy, by the way. The same thing happened when we were making Diablo and Diablo II - there was a lot of criticism that it was just too gray and too dark, and that people wanted brighter colors. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't with these sorts of games. I think that the team that's making the game should set the tone of the game, and shouldn't try to make it something that someone else did... really, they have to create their own vision for the game, and be true to that vision.

Now, I love the really super-gritty, super-dark look of the original Diablos, but I also like what I've seen of Diablo III so far. I think both can be wonderful games. What we were doing with Mythos was even more bright and colorful than what Diablo III is shaping up to be, just because we were aiming at a little bit different market; it was going to be a global game, and in Asia they're very much into the brighter colors and lighter atmosphere. I think also, since Mythos was a social game, something that you're going to be spending a lot of time not playing, it's something that you probably want a little bit more inviting atmosphere for.

TB: It also allows us a little more latitude in item sales; if people want to be heavily customizing their characters, there's someone who always wants to walk around carrying a fish in a floppy hat.

MS: In Diablo I we had naked corpses stuck on stakes and it was really kind of gruesome... not where you'd want to meet your girlfriend and get married.



GameCyte: Regarding Namco, do you know what's going on currently with the Hellgate: London forums and servers? It seems that Namco Bandai has taken over the forums, and may be moving towards the servers as well.

MS: They are continuing to operate it, and they are still participating in the boxed sales portion of Hellgate and obviously have an interest in keeping it going. So they are taking it for now, but I really don't have much visibility into what their plans are.

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