It was a genuine shock when the creators of Diablo, otherwise known as Blizzard North (or Condor before Blizzard purchased the company six months before Diablo's release), announced their departure from Blizzard Entertainment back in November 2005. To many, however, opportunity was a high probability for these guys to do something brilliant on their own. When the majority of them formed Flagship Studios some months later and announced a project that they promised would be something new, there were few who even cared to pay attention. However, from their newly-born company to the days of when that project was given a name, I was there, waiting, watching, and teeming with excitement for what they would have to offer. Those were the days when Hellgate: London was on the top of my "looking forward to" list. Notice how I speak in past tense.
Joy could not have come at a better time when I was whisked in to the alpha in August. Like a little girl on Christmas morning, I squealed in delight at the opportunity to get a first-hand taste of what Hellgate had to offer. However, by the end of beta, that taste had turned sour. Despite the numerous lists of criticisms numerous alpha and beta testers posted on the official forums for suggestions to fixing the game, nothing was said or done. Instead, suggestions fell on deaf ears as developers continued to act like nothing was wrong. A great number of people, including me, told the doomsayers that "Oh, it's only alpha/beta content. There is surely more to the full game."
Now I know better.
That fateful day came on October 30th when my collector's edition pre-order came early. I was reluctant to take out the CD and install the game for the fear that my horrors may be confirmed. Instead, I took advantage of the comic book and the commentary DVD that came along to calm my nerves and to get a thorough grounding in the developmental process of the game. And then came the next day where I installed the game and thought I was still playing on the alpha client.
People were in an upheaval. Subscribers were getting empty promises, with founders and elite members publicly vowing to never to return to this game and regretting the decisions they made. Critics followed. There wasn't a single review that didn't have more bad things to say about Hellgate: London than good things. And so after reaching level 9 on my Marksman and getting tired of doing what I did in alpha/beta about 12 different times with 12 different characters, I decided that I would set down the game and come back in a week or two when a patch had been brought up to speed.
That patch didn't come in a week. It didn't come in two. It didn't come until December 19, 2007, and it was only labeled as 0.7, a foreshadowing of the amount of time and effort Flagship Studios put into trying to fix their game. I watched as the posts for the bugs board piled up to an insurmountable number. I watched as numerous fan sites dropped their support with only Hellgate Guru sticking in the thick of things. I watched as numerous unsatisfied customers blasted away at the game, warning others of the product. I watched how the fans of the game went from the majority to the minority.
And now here we are, three months later. It is, after all, my grace period to give a game its last chance to make an impression on me. Despite the fact that the criticism clearly outweighs what ever positive light this game might have, especially with sites such as flagshipped.com becoming increasing popular, or how the term "flagshipped" is synonymous with "pranked." So here I am, about to embark on a journey that I may indeed regret taking.