It’s a bit of a rarity these days to hear of someone departing a game development company straight from their own mouth (or, er… keyboard, as it were). Usually, the news comes from an observant, Deep Throat-esque source, or fellow employees that let the leash slip before the person being fired even knows that they have been yet. When people talk about video games and immaturity, the discussion inevitably veers towards the size of Lara Croft’s boobs or Duke Nukem’s guns (old references, I know, but still oddly prescient to people who enjoy making outdated arguments).
Allow me to take another tack on the issue, though: there continues to be a major, major disconnect between the people running the business and the ones making the games — more often an abusive father-stepson situation than a cohesive unit moving forward. As in many industries, the quest for cash usurps the pursuit of creativity and experimentation, but the video game industry seems to slathered in an extra-thick layer of vitriol and disdain. The immaturity comes not from the content of the games, but in the way the creators are maligned and herded like sheep. Cog. Machine. I know.
But things used to be worse.
There was a time, especially in the Japanese gaming industry, when the people who worked on some of the all-time classics couldn’t even attach their real names to a project. Likewise, things are getting better, and the more business-savvy gamers and industry vets vault into positions of true authority. Because they care, the industry is pressing onward. Bioware. Valve. Blizzard — and perhaps that’s why their alliance with the Kotick-led Activision was viewed by many in the community as unholy. It was like the Rebel Alliance hooking up with the Empire!
Now, depending on how long you’ve been playing computer games, you might recall that Mr. Roper was once the face of Blizzard Entertainment. Not only did he fill the position of Blizzard North VP (amongst other roles), but he was the man on the front lines, promoting and marketing the company’s franchises to the masses. The golden touch did not follow him when he left the company in 2003 to form his own venture, Flagship Studios. Out came Hellgate: London, which quickly destroyed the start-up’s reputation (often considered a shame since their unreleased Diablo-kin, Mythos looked to fare much better).
Roper later admitted the game wasn’t up to standards, and went on to accept a role at Cryptic Studios, working on Champions Online (and later overseeing some of their other properties). Needless to say neither Champions nor Star Trek Online has fared well on the market, leading some to believe that Roper may have a poisonous aura about him. That’s not to say he’s a bad guy — in fact, he often shows a lot of genuine enthusiasm for his creations. While his departure may be linked to bad sales, the reasons he’s provided are about as mysterious as the company’s namesake.
Of course, we’re part of the media, and this is the internet. We are practically obligated to extrapolate, especially upon this bit:
Over the past few months my entrepreneurial spirit has become restless, and I’ve made the difficult decision to move on and look for new opportunities… In the months and years ahead, I hope to be able to apply that knowledge and continue to create worlds and games that entertain.
The easiest conclusion to make is that the man’s headed out to form yet another venture, because he certainly doesn’t act like he plans on leaving game development anytime soon. Though, in his own words, it isn’t becoming of his normally “verbose” self, you can read his entire post here.
Despite his mixed history, we here at Lore Hound think Bill’s a pretty cool dude and wishing him (and the folks at Cryptic) the best as they part ways. Whatever comes of it, we’re eager to see what rabbit Roper plans on pulling out of his hat next.