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Creative Minds: Bill Roper

Article: Flagship's CEO on Blizzard, WoW and ventures new

Bill Roper's big break into the world of videogame development came when he was called in to write music for the PC port of Blizzard Entertaintment's game, Blackthorne.

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Following that, he went on to work on Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and was eventually to become a Blizzard figurehead, forming part of the Blizzard North team which was responsible for the critically acclaimed Diablo series.

However, in 2003 Roper, along with other key Blizzard North members, chose to quit the studio and start up new venture Flagship Studios, where he's now CEO.

In our latest instalment in our Creative Minds series, we quiz Roper on life at Blizzard, World of Warcraft, his industry highs and lows and what he hopes to achieve with the studio that's just brought us its debut game Hellgate: London...

You've been involved with the games industry for a number of years. What are the best and worst things that have happened in the industry during that time in your opinion?

Bill Roper: From an industry perspective, the general acceptance of gaming as a "real" form of entertainment is staggering. From console sales to internet penetration to MMORPG community sizes to seeing games like World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero featured on television and in movies - we have become an acknowledged global industry that has come a long way from being just "something for kids."

The worst thing is the sheer immensity of the industry, which I suppose goes hand-in-hand with the success. It takes an incredible amount of money to put out a game like World of Warcraft or Guitar Hero, especially when you take marketing into account.

This means that larger budgets, retail space, and publisher attention tend to be focused on safer bets like licenses, sequels, and "me too" projects. There are small games being made that are shaking things up from a business and game play perspective, but they can get so easily lost in the panoply of a $100,000,000 media blitz for Halo 3.

On a personal level, the best thing has been the chance to work on so many games that have brought fun and happiness into people's lives.

The people I have been fortunate enough to work with and the sheer talent, diligence, and passion they exhibit on a daily basis is inspiring and amazing. And the gamers - they are what make it all worthwhile. Having had the chance to travel all around the world and meet literally hundreds of thousands of gamers from dozens of countries has been incredible. Gaming, much like music, is a truly universal language.

On the other side of the coin is the long hours, lost sleep, strained relationships, the stress of being at the bottom and at the top of the industry, and trying to meet the expectations of ourselves and our fans.

It is a never-ending race to do our best, and even at the best of times, it can be trying and tiring. But taking the good and bad into full account, I wouldn't trade the experiences of the past 13.5 years for anything in the world.

How did your career in the games industry actually start?

Roper: I had a close friend (Stu Rose who is now an art director at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment) that worked as an artist at Blizzard. He let me know that they were looking for a freelance composer to write music for the PC port of their game, Blackthorne.

I jumped at the chance to combine two of my passions - music and gaming - so I sent in a demo reel and hoped for the best. They liked what they heard and gave me an opportunity that was my foot in the door of the gaming industry.

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