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MMORPG | Genre:Super-Hero | Status:Final  (rel 09/01/09)  | Pub:Atari
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Champions Online Interviews: Bill Roper Q&A

By Jon Wood on May 29, 2009

MMORPG.com:

Why was the decision made to push back the launch of Champions?

Bill Roper:

We had the opportunity to take a few more weeks to really focus on fine-tuning, balancing, and polishing the game and we took it. It also lets us get in a few last things that were on the bubble, like Crisis Zones for Monster Island and Millennium City. It's fantastic to have the support of Atari to make Champions Online the absolute best day-one experience we can.

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MMORPG.com:

There are some who believe that pushing back the announced launch of a game is a precursor to player disappointment when the final product is launched, can you speak to that?

Bill Roper:

Really? That runs counter to everything that players say in any game I've ever worked on. Beta players are always wanting the developers to take the time needed to make the game great - to kill those last bugs and put as much shine and polish on the game as possible. I've never heard anyone say, "You guys should have taken less time getting the game done." In fact, the disappointment stems from when a team doesn't have the time required to do what they need to for the game.

MMORPG.com:

There are those who believe that because of Cryptic's other major IP game, Star Trek Online, that Champions hasn't received as much attention as it needs both on the development and marketing fronts. Can you speak to that?

Bill Roper:

Star Trek has its own development team and marketing efforts apart from Champions Online, so there's no lack of attention in either area because we run multiple projects. The benefits are huge, in fact, on the development side because of our integrated core technologies and the fact that both teams have peers within the company that can offer incredible feedback in terms of design and technology. Being able to have high-level, expert cross-team communication is something that games like StarCraft and Diablo benefitted from during my time at Blizzard. It's very much the same here at Cryptic.

MMORPG.com:

Your letter to the community made mention of a dialogue with testers that contributed to the decision. Can you tell us a little bit about what players were specifically saying?

Bill Roper:

We get tons of feedback from our beta testers about everything from bugs to mission flow to power balance to UI - and even elements like story and wording to make the game feel truer to the comic genre. We've been working closely with our beta community to address these issues and communicate what's being done. The opportunity to keep the game in their hands for a while longer before releasing it to the world is really great.

MMORPG.com:

In a recent interview with Gamasutra, you talk about the fact that WoW is the only Western MMO to reach numbers neat where they are today:

"No, that's one. That's one game that's done that. No one else in the West has been even close. And I think it's challenging from the standpoint that gets looked at as an expectation or a goal to hit. It's a totally ridiculous goal to try to be hitting. "Oh, we're gonna go build an MMO that's going to compete with that."

This response has garnered a lot of attention from MMORPG readers. Are you saying that no MMO company should aim for WoW's numbers?

Bill Roper:

What I am saying is that expecting these numbers as "an expectation or goal to hit" is unrealistic. We all strive to reach as many players as possible with our game, but Blizzard didn't have the numbers they've reached as their goal when we were making WoW. Aiming to do well, hoping to hit huge numbers, is admirable and what every developer and publisher does. Expecting it to happen isn't.

Champions Online Screenshot

MMORPG.com:

So do you believe that publishers and fans have an unrealistic definition of what makes a game a success?

Bill Roper:

I'm pretty sure that's what I said. Yes. Some do. Not all, but some get blinded by the aberrant hit and then place that same criteria of sales or features on every game. That would be like saying, "Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in a single season. We're just expecting you all to do the same."

MMORPG.com:

What, in your opinion, categorizes an MMO as a success?

Bill Roper:

Creating a game that is fun, challenging, and engaging, takes the community into account, works to grow their world, and offers excellent customer service. From a financial standpoint, there needs to be enough players to support the continued development and upkeep of the game and the online service. Puzzle Pirates, as an example, is very successful but doesn't have the size of a player base as many other MMMOs that are less "successful."

MMORPG.com:

Has World of Warcraft's success made it more difficult for games with modest (or even honest) subscriber expectations to get outside funding?

Bill Roper:

World of Waracraft has obviously made it easier for MMOs to get funded because of the hope / expectation that they can catch the same lightning in a bottle. Any game, much like a movie, that is a smash hit is going to spark huge numbers of similar projects. It's a common trend in the entertainment industries. We've seen it with FPS and RTS games in the past, and now its MMOs - and where the potential for players are, the funding follows.

MMORPG.com:

What are your expectations specifically for Champions Online? What is the minimum it would take for you to consider that game a success?

Bill Roper:

I want us to deliver a game that has players happy and excited to come back and play every day. A game that has them telling their friends and getting them to come join them in saving the world. The minimum is us delivering a fun and polished game experience and having gamers say, "I'm really enjoying this." And coming along for the ride as we just continue to make the game bigger and better.

 

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