It’s very fashionable to hate Bill Roper these days. After the underwhelming performance of Hellgate: London and Champions Online, folks are pegging him as some development villain out to rape their wallets and soil the good name of gaming. I wonder though if someone else who wasn’t so highly admired by fans of the Diablo series (which Roper helped refine) would be receiving the same backlash that Roper has endured over the past couple years.
Maybe my standards are simply lower than most, but I greatly enjoyed both Hellgate and Champions. I still play the latter now and again, and I’m anxious to see how Hellgate is resurrected under new direction later this year. I agree with the general consensus that Champions was certainly light on content at launch, and I still wish that there was more than one path to take when leveling, but the gameplay itself is entertaining. The same can be said of Hellgate. Whatever flaws the game had, I found the combination of FPS and Action RPG really compelling. Gearbox later took the concept and perfected it with Borderlands, but Hellgate is still the first game to try it.
Is the immense hype and subsequent letdown behind both titles due to Roper? I don’t think so. Hype is a willfully engaged-in practice by consumers. Sure enough advertisers help push it along, but we’re the ones that fall for it time and again. I’m dying to see Kick-Ass next month, largely in part due to the previews and online marketing campaigns… if the movie sucks, I’ll definitely be upset (especially since Mark Millar actually helped write this adaptation). Also, if you don’t what I’m talking about go forth and Google.
So now months after release, Bill Roper is leaving his role as executive producer on Champions Online in the capable hands of Shannon Posniewski who has been with the company since Cryptic’s CoH days. Champions itself seems to be headed in the right direction both as a game and as a service with a focus on communication and smaller content releases for the title. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wonders just how much Revelation will bring to the game when it launches at the end of the month. And with Champions on a fairly steady path towards improvement, Mr. Roper is moving on to “other design responsibilities” within Cryptic.
But what exactly does that mean?
The state of the game in which he announces his departure doesn’t specifically say where he’s headed and I think he would have said so if his intent was to join the development of Star Trek Online. This is likely a sign of things to come from Cryptic. We’ve known for a while now that they have multiple titles in development outside of their two recently released games, we just don’t have any concrete info on what said titles are. One unsubstantiated rumor is that the next project from the studio could be a Neverwinter Nights MMO.
If such a game is actually in development, will it be similar to Champions Online and Star Trek Online in format and design? A charge folks are laying against Cryptic is that all three of their titles thus far have basically been the same product with minor veneer changes. I wouldn’t go that far, but the similarities are certainly there and I’m not sure the same features would be well-suited to a Neverwinter Nights MMO. I think such a game would wind up being a little too much like Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online, and we all know that DDO needed to move towards a Free-to-Play model to find success.
A better indicator of what Bill’s now working on might be the images found on the studio’s In Development Page. The images there seem more along the lines of supernatural, post-apocalyptic, and steampunk-themed titles. But hey, it’s convention season in the gaming world again. Maybe we won’t have to wait too long to find out what’s coming next from Cryptic. Who knows… maybe there will be nothing MMO about the new project. And despite the bad rap he’s been seeing of late, I’m still curious to see anything Roper puts his hands on. After all, I still have him to blame for many lost hours making boss runs in Diablo II. That allows me to cut him a little slack.