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Tyler Thompson on Hellgate: London

"The AI isn’t meant to beat you at Chess" [PICTURE]

Tyler Thompson is the Technical Director for Hellgate: London. Like many employees of Bill Roper’s Flagship Studios, he was working on the Diablo series at Blizzard. We’ve talked to him about the AI of Hellgate, about the storyline and why you can’t switch to 1st person view with some characters.

GG: Tyler, what is it a Director of Technology actually does, apart from saying No to ideas that would cost too many resources?

Tyler Thompson: I oversee a lot of how we do the graphics programming, as well as the gameplay coding. So I do a lot of things from shaders to monsters’ AI, weapons and skills. And as you’ve already pointed out, I say No a lot to the crazier ideas.

GG: Before joining Flagship Studios, you’ve been working on Diablo 2.

Tyler Thompson: Yes, I was a programmer on Diablo 2 for a couple of months, than I became the project lead for the expansion pack, Lord of Destruction.

GG: The Diablo series is all about the “magic flow”, of players not being able to stop playing because they just want to kill one monster more. Playing Diablo can resemble a kind of trance, where an experienced player may click and fight for minutes without really thinking about what he does. It must be difficult to bring this “flow” over to Hellgate!

Tyler Thompson: What makes you think so?

GG: It’s 3D, you’ve got different angles of the camera, players do not only to worry about whom to attack, but also what perspective to use. Things are going on not only in front of you or behind you, but also above and sometimes below you.

Tyler Thompson: Well, I can still do a lot of melee fighting by just holding the mouse button down and not even looking at the screen! [laughs] Yes, 3D has it’s challenges to it, but at the same time, we’ve done a lot to make this game easier to play. For instance, the Shift skill: We have a context sensitive button that shows the skill the program thinks would be the most appropriate right now, like running or throwing a grenade or going into tactical stance. You activate it by pressing Shift. And there’s a similar thing to the CTRL key. So you do not need all those number keys anymore or at least not all the time. And all those things that made Diablo 2 addictive, like getting that next item, beating that next monster, leveling up again, is still in there. We call it the slot machine effect. A small reward every couple of seconds, a bigger reward every couple of minutes. So Hellgate has this kind of feel to it. On top of it we have, like in Diablo, random items, random monsters, random levels. That keeps it different all the time.

24 EXP -
October 23, 2007 - 22:49 #

Well, not many details on the game itself, but it will be out next week, so who cares? I liked what he said about the monsters AI and 1st person versus 3rd person. Anyway, thanks for the interview. How about a review next week, btw?

Greg Hutton (not verified)
0 EXP -
October 24, 2007 - 00:35 #

<<Well, I can still do a lot of melee fighting by just holding the mouse button down and not even looking at the screen! [Laughs]>>

Hahaha. Indeed, the Flagship guys must be laughing their a... off, when their game basically is about holding down a button, and everything else is just show for people who cannot grasp real gameplay values!!

5433 EXP -
October 24, 2007 - 13:09 #

Well, it's not my job to defend Flagship, but do you honestly believe what you're writing? There's so much more about the game, which I have been playing for many hours in the last two weeks.

Anonymous (not verified)
0 EXP -
October 25, 2007 - 20:58 #

Goes to show that people just dont get it. Anything different from what they're used to, they lash out at.

Bottom line: this game is a blast to play and it's a casual hack and slash and shoot game. You hop online kill some crap with friends for 30 min then hop off.

But the QQers out there just dont get it. I laughed my ass off when Tyler said you could kill holding down one button and not even looking at the screen... and that's exactly what one guy was complaining about like it's a mistake in tuning the difficulty of the game. It's BY DESIGN.

Hellgate London is an easy game any way you look at it, but it's fun. Certainly it doesn't take the reactions of a FPS and on the default difficulty the monsters are not hard. But Tyler is right, there is a huge difference in the choices you make versus each monster (even if it's simply a matter of finishing the level quicker rather than whether you die). in that way the monster AI does its job perfectly.

Obviously this game is "easier" than playing a balls out game of CS, where you're playing equal skill HUMAN BEINGS. But from the beginning Flagship has stated they're making a game you could play with 2 mousebuttons and they've delivered that. Personally I've been impressed how much fun they could pack into such a simple concept and the stuff like the context modulated shift key is pretty impressive

jd-ism (not verified)
0 EXP -
October 26, 2007 - 01:12 #

This game isn't about the AI or graphics or any other typical 'icing on the cake' aspect to games that the majority of casual gamers are searching for to critisize. I just hope they really nail the loot system like upgraded version of diablo 2. Look how many people play(ed) diablo 2; if the game toned down graphics by 50%, 90% players would still play. If they took out the item system or made it minimal, 90% of players would STOP playing.
Its all in the mechanics, people that don't get that, I'm glad I won't be playing with them when it releases

jd-ism (not verified)
0 EXP -
October 26, 2007 - 01:13 #

Damn right :)

1470 EXP -
October 30, 2007 - 16:37 #

jd-ism nailed it, it's about the mechanics behind the scene.

0 EXP -
March 15, 2010 - 16:47 #

I like the guardian also the armour is much better so you can just go in hell for leather and have much better protection than other players. You don't always live as long this way, but its much more fun and that's what the game is all about.