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An open letter to Bill Roper

Customer Support | Sunday, January 6th, 2008 | 9 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Roper,

Longtime fan, first time writer.

Executive summary – I’m writing to inform you of my dissatisfaction with your game, Hellgate London, and with your company, Flagship Studios.

I wish I could start this letter by saying “nothing personal, Bill.” Having played your games for about a decade and having “met” you and your team on the making-of DVD bundled with HG:L Collectors Edition I feel like you’re one of the guys. You speak earnestly and enthusiastically and have a career-long portfolio of work to be proud of. You live in a modest but beautiful home with all kinds of awesome nerdy knickknacks and happy children naughtily peeking into the shot while you record commentary. In many ways you’re living the dream life of many gamers, myself included. Because of this your fans expect that much more of you.

I’d been looking forward to HG:L for a long time. Years. Since you left Blizzard I couldn’t wait to learn what you next had in store for me. When I read a preview of the game in PC Gamer magazine I loved your concept of a synergy between my favourite PC genres. I read interviews and avoided screenshots since. I exclaimed to my friends my impatience for October 31st to arrive so that I could stay home all evening. I wondered aloud in my blog, regarding the new, heartless Blizzard, whether “the soul of the company was extinguished forever when Bill Roper … jumped ship.” (hellgatelondon.com even quoted me and linked to my blog – sorry, can’t find the link on your site now)

I wasn’t accepted into the beta but I kept abreast of testers’ reports. Word on the street was that the game wasn’t ready for gold. I played the demo. Regardless of my opinion of it I still bought the CE (thanks for that 8.3-named WAV soundtrack) on opening day.

I’d recently watched an interview with you on the PC Gamer video podcast. You absolutely plucked my heart strings when you said: (and I paraphrase)

“Some people celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Halloween. We take pleasure in the mental image of your children standing sadly by the door as they wait for you to stop playing Hellgate London.”

I played online for about 10 minutes on Halloween. It was down the rest of the night, on opening day, because your team wanted to enable some optional content. Then your website went down. By the time things were running again about 24 hours later I had little to look forward to.

The game is unfinished. It is laggy, crashy, textures disappear, the game lags while the hard drive churns leaving the game fully unresponsive for many seconds, I get hopelessly stuck between objects all the time, my inventory sometimes disappears, and much more. This in itself is shameful, but that’s not all I’m disappointed with.

On my third day of owning your game I loaded it up after coming home from a hard day of work. I walked through a subway station for about 5 seconds before my computer locked up, a strange sound came from the speakers, my computer made a loud TICK, and it hard rebooted to the BIOS. My hard drive was no longer detected. Long story short, efforts to back up my year-and-a-half-old 300GB hard drive failed. I performed stress tests on all my other components and they all worked fine. Other games worked fine. I uninstalled Hellgate London immediately.

I emailed Flagship Studios tech support. The website said I’d hear from someone within 6 hours, and an autoresponse email said I’d hear from someone in 24. About 30 hours passed before I emailed them again. Someone responded shortly thereafter and suggested some FAQ articles. They were largely unrelated.

Your support department later emailed me saying my ticket had been escalated to the next level of support and that I should reply if I didn’t hear from anyone in 72 hours. 3 days passed so I replied. 1 more day. Another. Another. A week. Two weeks. No one would reply. I left a message on the forums posting a quick summary of my problem and my ticket number, pleading for someone to continue assisting me before I involved the Better Business Bureau. The forum post was deleted quickly and no one replied. I tried to send an email to sales on the Flagship Studios website but the web form was broken. I had no other choice.

I submitted a BBB complaint on November 13th. Your company didn’t bother responding until December 6th, 3 weeks later. Flagship’s reply suggested I return this month-old, opened game to the point of purchase, Future Shop. We communicated back and forth once more before I resigned, forced to accept your company’s baffling declarations that you did not develop the game, you only manage the online play aspect of the game, and that I must take up my grievance with EA and not with Flagship Studios.

And now I’m writing this open letter to you, Bill Roper. I congratulate your Technical Support department on successfully ignoring me, disavowing any responsibility, and pushing me to exhaustion so that I am no longer willing to fight for a refund or even technical support. Dealing with your company is more of a grind than your game, but I don’t get any reward for the privilege. Quite the opposite. I’m out $60 for the game, 300GB of data, and $120 for a new hard drive.

The game has sat on my shelf since, right next to me. The outlandish, foam-filled box kept calling to me, reminding me of the game I’d hoped for all along. Anticipation got the better of me so I installed it on Vista yesterday. I played for 30 minutes. I uninstalled it. Buggy. The envelope full of collectors extras even fell off the box.

I found a post on your forums, posted this week, entitled “i haven’t played since the week of launch…is it safe to come back?” The first reply states, “Not just yet. Stay back in your bunker a bit longer. 1.0 is on it’s way apparently.

My point for telling you all this, Mr. Roper, is to make you aware of my experience in dealing with Flagship Studios. I’d wager that the terms of the release of HG:L were out of your control, as I don’t believe you’d so proudly and frequently laud such a mediocre product on purpose, but in my opinion your credibility is destroyed because of it. I cannot recommend your company nor your game to anyone, and I even felt too guilty to give the thing away which is why it’s still sitting beside me, unused.

Your unfinished product has failed to work, damaged my property, and is responsible for a huge, catastrophic loss of my personal data. Every time I’ve dealt with your company its representatives always waited until the deadline had been exhausted or exceeded before giving me less than the bare minimum of service. My experience with Hellgate London could not have been worse.

This is the worst experience I’ve had with a video game in the 25 years I’ve otherwise enjoyed this hobby. No one at your company cares. This is the way Flagship Studios markets the name Bill Roper.

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