Flagship Studios is bringing us one of our most anticipated PC games for 2007 in Hellgate London but a separate team in Seattle is also planning to release a action-RPG for the company called Mythos. It's a game that is designed to test the online network that Hellgate London will use as well as be an entertaining game in its own right and it will be completely free when it is released. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with Flagship Studios co-founder and Mythos creative director Phil Shenk to find out more about their plans for the game.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea come about to form a separate Flagship Studios team in Seattle?
Phil Shenk: Travis Baldree, and the rest of the team were all based there already, and they had worked together in the past. It seemed like a good idea to keep them there, since they were already settled with their friends and family. It also has worked out well to have them somewhat insulated from the core Hellgate development, just avoid any problems with focus. We know from experience that when the schedule gets tough, and crunch schedule starts, it’s hard to resist the temptation to pull folks over onto the project that’s feeling the heat. Having them up there avoids that temptation.
They also have developed an intense pride in what they’re doing, and there’s a very friendly rivalry between the teams. Ideas that show up in one game will often make it into the other. Having them up there helps them feel like they’re doing their own thing, and building something that will stand on its own.
Finally, having a Seattle office means that we can hire talented people that don’t want to move out of Seattle. It gives us access to a wide variety of candidates! There’s a lot of good reasons to have them up there… it’s one more step on the path to Flagship World Domination.
FiringSquad: Why was the decision made to create a game that would be developed in part to test Flagship's online network?
Phil Shenk: The decision came about on two fronts, and they both kind of came together at the same time. I’ve known Travis for a long time, and knew how insanely talented he was… just a powerhouse of drive and talent and creativity. When he showed me Fate, and said that he’d be interested in doing something on a larger scale, the wheels started turning in my head. We tried to get him to move to San Francisco, but it just didn’t work out. We kept throwing ideas around though, and we knew we wanted to work together again.
At the same time, people here were thinking about this massive online network we needed to build, and that it would be a very good thing to launch Hellgate on a platform that we were confident in. We know we have the experience and knowledge to make it work, but anyone that has ever done this will tell you that there are dozens of things that can go wrong on launch day, and there’s just no practical way to be 100% sure that your system is bulletproof. If we had a small game that we could build quickly, and get a LOT of people playing it, this would help us iron out many of those issues. I’m knocking on wood here, but we’ve already been able to work out a lot of things that would have come up eventually… and it’s so much better to find them now, when we have more time to deal with them.
So, both of these ideas concepts happened in parallel. I still remember the meeting where the idea to test the networking came up, and I was like “well, Travis could do it!” The rest is proverbial history.
FiringSquad: How would you describe the gameplay in Mythos?
Phil Shenk: Mythos started with the idea (obviously) that the core mechanics of Diablo are insanely fun, polished, and addictive. We all love that brand, having created it and all J That game is so much at the core of what we believe in as developers that it informs everything we do. That said, we wanted to take it a step further, much like we’re doing with Hellgate. We wanted to add more persistence to the world, to make it feel like a living, breathing place. We also wanted to just have fun, crank up the leaf-blower of crazy ideas, and see what comes spewing out. It’s a much “lighter” world, and that lends itself to trying weird things. We have tons of things planned, and lots more we’d like to try once we get the core game fleshed out. It’s a great project to experiment with, since it’s pretty easy to add new things.