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Cryptic Studios - Bill Roper Interview

Interviews By Garrett Fuller on May 04, 2010

Cryptic is fresh off the heels of Champions Online and Star Trek Online, do you have plans to continue with patches and expansions for these franchises?

Bill Roper:

Absolutely! We have very dedicated and zealous communities for both games that are excited by the updates and ongoing content we're providing. Champions Online has the Super Power Patch currently in test which addresses numerous game play and balance concerns with the Melee and Supernatural Set, as well as some quality of life fixes to several missions, the Tailor, and overall UI. Star Trek has just launched the Season 1.1 update which adds a difficulty slider and injury system for advanced players, an optional auto-fire system, and new high-end ship weaponry. More updates and content is planned for the upcoming weeks and months, and the vast majority of what we're doing is being driven by player desires and feedback.


How hard is it to maintain end game content for MMOs? Is the studio in full support and expand mode for both games?

Bill Roper:

MMOs are hungry beasts in that you constantly have to keep feeding them with new content. This is especially true for players that have reached the level cap and want more to do with the characters they have built up. With Star Trek we've been releasing Special Task Force (STF) missions that are designed to be a challenge for groups of five top-level players. We're also creating a lot of new goals for players of all levels to reach that will be unveiled in the coming weeks, and of course, new content for both our Federation and Klingon players. In Champions, we're publically testing our UNITY 2 missions that are end-game content found in Vibora Bay and we're internally testing our first Adventure Pack titled Serpent Lantern. The Adventure packs are designed to be playable by heroes no matter what level they are (above a certain minimum) and will be a great addition to both end game and providing alternate leveling paths for newer heroes.

Checking out your concept art under the In Development tab on your site there is some interesting stuff there. Lost City, grave robbing, Indiana Jones kind of work. Can you talk about the art and what project it is for?

Bill Roper:

That was a slew of art we did for a project that was being pitched a couple of years ago that never took off. But we love the look of the artwork so much, we've left it up. I think it's probably time to add some of the amazing things we've generated over the past several months to fuel more speculation as to what we may be doing next!

Champions and Star Trek were both popular IPs when being made into MMOs for Cryptic. Are there plans to do an original IP game?

Bill Roper:

We're very fortunate to have some great franchises to work with, but we're also very interested in creating our own new worlds and universes for players to explore. One of the great things about being able to create within the Star Trek and Champions franchises is that there is such a massive body of work to draw from, but still room to be creative and innovative within it. It's my hope that in the future we can have a mix of established and new universes with which we can create more and more games.

Of all the genres you have worked on, what is your personal favorite?

Bill Roper:

Champions Online was the first time I was able to step outside the fantasy and sci-fi universes, and it was a great challenge and a lot of fun. After being away from it for a while, I'd love to get back to a more fantasy-driven world - but with some kind of twist. Warcraft was high fantasy, Diablo was gothic fantasy, and Hellgate: London was a fantasy/sci-fi mashup. I'd love to be able to create another world that has a fantasy element, but tries to bring something else to the genre at the same time.

Do you think there is room for an intense Isometric View MMO? Or should everything be in third person?

Bill Roper:

As an industry we need to keep trying new things, so yes, I think that a massively multiplayer isometric game could be very successful. In fact, there have been several in Asia that have done extremely well. I'm excited to see what the team at Petroglyph pulls off with End of Nations. If Champions and Star Trek has shown me one thing, it's that we need to be branching out from what has become the standard MMO model and focus on creating fun online experiences that aren't concerned with crossing off checklists of expected genre-specific features.

Is Cryptic looking at Facebook games? ...along with everyone else.

Bill Roper:

While the casual game space that is attracting a lot of players via social outlets like Facebook are definitely interesting on many levels (I play a few myself), that style of game doesn't fit well with Cryptic's core competencies. We have an amazing toolset that ability to produce large amounts of solid multi-player content in shorter timelines. We also have a very stable publishing, billing, and support infrastructure that is integrated into our games. We are looking to build from this foundation while looking at new game styles, scope, and quality.

How can you make a casual game appeal to hardcore players?

Bill Roper:

I don't know if you can make a really casual game appeal to a hardcore gamer. The real goal is to create a game that is simple to learn but difficult to master so that players of different levels of expertise can enjoy the game. It's obviously an incredibly difficult balance to strike. There are certainly design principles to follow, but in the end, it comes down to making a game that is fun and easy for players to get into from the beginning. Extensibility is also key - making sure that there is always something just around the bend that a player of any level will want to achieve or collect. The Pokemon games are a great example of this, as are the Diablo titles.

Do you have anything to say to the D&D Forgotten Realms MMO rumors?

Bill Roper:

I can't speak to the specifics of what we're doing, but it's true that we have another game in the works. We won't be making an announcement until late summer, and we're still a ways off from launch. I can say that this is a game and a franchise we're very excited about. I think people are going to pleased and a bit surprised with what we're doing in terms of the game, how we make it, and even how we sell and support it. The game is being developed around new design principles merged with Cryptic's community-first approach to ongoing development.

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