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View Diary: Curt Schilling's game studio effectively bankrupt; lays off entire staff (207 comments)

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  •  Your facts are wrong (37+ / 0-)

    I shouldn't even be commenting here.

    Reckoning sold over 1.2 million units, which is pretty amazing for a new IP on an entirely new engine. I'm not going into the details of the publishing contract with EA (don't really know them), but let me just say that the economics of the video game business are a lot more convoluted than multiplying the MSRP * Units and coming up with a cash/cash-flow number.

    Caveat: I am not an employee, an officer, a stockholder or on the BoD for 38 Studios. I've worked with them since 2006 on a consulting basis and believed in the project (and still do) - so much so that all of my compensation is on the back end. Maybe I'll never see a dime for those hundreds of hours, but I got the chance to work in the most incredible creative environment you can imagine. So be it.

    And...38 didn't go begging for a handout from Rhode Island...Rhode Island offered to secure a bond for them when the credit crunch reigned, trying to lure them out of Massachusetts.

    Say what you want about the rest of it - I'm not going to comment - but I have to tell you that this was an amazing team of designers, engineers, artists, animators, writers, audio team and all the rest, all chasing a common dream - all pushing the envelope in their respective fields. And this game is much further along than is being reported - I wish I could show you some if it! - and the environments, the animations and the game-play would blow you away.

    The MMO market is very different now than it was 6 years ago. Star Wars is aching, by all reports, and it's a solid game with groundbreaking voice-over work. EA bought Mythic, and Warhammer crashed. Bioware's MMO is hurting (they just laid off a bunch of people in their Austin Studio).

    Curt and I never agreed on politics, but that didn't define our time together. We'd argue, laugh, shake our heads behind each others' back, and carry on. And if this means anything to any of you, let me assure you that the vast majority of the employees of 38 make ME look like a rabid right-winger, the bunch of anarchists! And lord, I love 'em all and miss them already.

    •  If I came off as insensitive I'm sorry (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ducktape, ferment, Laconic Lib

      I do have a lot of respect for the people who create video games and I know there are some things here that might not be true since I don't know the full story yet. Nobody on that staff deserved to be laid off since I'm sure they were all doing a great job creating the game.

      I should point out that I'm not just mad at Schilling, I'm mad at Rhode Island for taking such a risk with the huge loan. Creating a great console game is a huge bet since a studio could bust if their game doesn't sell that well. I just can't wrap my head around how a studio could spend 4 million a month without multiple projects.

      I'm sure Curt was a nice guy overall. But the problem here is that he still used taxpayer money to fund the studio and it comes off as hypocritical for him to obtain it and then not have a sound business plan to make it work long term after his previous statements he made about the government.

      •  I hear what you're saying (11+ / 0-)

        But you don't have all the facts, and some are important.

        Are you mad at Obama for taking a huge risk with Solyndra? Or at Massachusetts for taking a huge risk with Evergreen Solar?

        What about the huge risk Massachusetts took with the bio-med field, which paid off in tremendous dividends?

        I'm not trying to be snarky here, but RI was trying to create a game hub in Providence - Hasbro is there (and is the state's largest employer). Take a look at the success that is Austin, TX, or the huge game hub in Eastern Canada, heavily subsidized.

        Take a look at how much Louisiana is pouring into movies to attract studios to New Orleans. Another risky business - did I just read that Disney wrote off something like $175 million on "John Carter"?

        And here are a couple of other facts - since they're reported, I can repeat them here (but again, I know only what's been reported, repeatedly): Rhode Island doled out around $49 million of the $75 - the rest is still there, and 38 Studios had already generated nearly $20 million in revenue for the state. Yeah, it's still going to sting.

        •  disney isn't crying as much about John Carter (0+ / 0-)

          after making a billion from the Avengers.  boy are they feeling like they hit the jackpot buying Marvel.  and that movie series is just getting started.

          still, who would have thought that Andrew Stanton would bomb so badly in his first live action film.  lucky for him he's got so many big successes before John Carter.

          i think my cat is possessed by dick cheney

          by Anton Bursch on Sun May 27, 2012 at 09:11:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think he made the classical mistake (0+ / 0-)

            He thought the name "john Carter" carried a lot of weight, because it certainly did for him and many others who loved those books in their heyday.

            It's too bad - I haven't seen the movie yet, but I will - because I love those books.

            •  it's definitely worth watching (0+ / 0-)

              there are moments of pure exhilarating adventure that you simply don't see much in movies anymore.  it seemed to me that Andrew was trying to make Errol Flynn of Mars.  you'll understand when you see the movie.  

              there is one scene that i definitely won't spoil by revealing to you, but it's a moment where Carter... how do i say this without spoiling the moment... he exorcizes his inner demons/pain.  you will recognize it the moment it begins to happen and it is for me what makes me love this movie despite it's flaws.  i can't imagine how you of all people won't love this moment in the film.  ;)

              i think my cat is possessed by dick cheney

              by Anton Bursch on Mon May 28, 2012 at 12:40:08 PM PDT

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    •  I think the lesson of SWTOR is: (0+ / 0-)

      launching an MMO in a world where WoW already exists is like starting a new NFL franchise in Pittsburgh.

      One is enough. No one really wants another one.

      'Betting against Facebook since 2012'

      by VictorLaszlo on Thu May 24, 2012 at 06:15:04 PM PDT

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      •  I think there's room (5+ / 0-)

        I think there's room for another, and SWTOR had the right intellectual property to carve out a big niche.

        Problem is, they concentrated on making an epic single-player game, and it's got limited replayability.

      •  Only in regards to copying WoW, and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Laconic Lib, Sychotic1

        employing the subscription model.

        You'll find plenty of games that can make big bucks by eschewing the tradtional sub model and moving forward with new and interesting gameplay features, instead of copying WoW's gameplay.

        SWTOR made the mistake of copying WoW's mechanics (they admit they copied in interviews almost not just inbetween-the-lines), sticking with a sub model (with no lifetime option) for their wow-clone, and thinking their excellent story would cover for their tired old gameplay.

        And the stories are excellent, and the class quests are solid. But the actual gameplay is a big blah.

        Now, no game, no matter what, will reproduce WoW numbers. WoW is a fluke. But you can make a successful game that is profitable in the current market.

        •  i disagree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          mmos are in their infancy. When someone gets it right, we will be seeing numbers that dwarf Wow's. Wow only has had a million US players, the vast vast majority is far east.  When you look at the target audience, US, europe, australia, n.korea. china, russia.  The numbers of potential players is enormous.

          •  There is potential for MMOs to become a more (0+ / 0-)

            intregal part of our culture, but I guess that's something for business-types to be concerned about. There is still no evidence to support it could happen, given that no MMO has reproduced WoW's numbers.

            You can split people who play games into two categories: people who play games once in awhile, and actual real gamers who have it as a large part of their life.

            Real gamers are already playing MMOs like crazy. We are a minority, and are mostly if not completely tapped out. I don't think our numbers can be grown, just shifted around.

            If the objective is, WoW or Farmville style, to attract "non-gamer gamers," I'm not exactly sure how you are going to entice them and make gaming part of our general culture, like how it is in South Korea. Other than WoW and Farmville, no games have even really come close out here. Well, that and the Wii gimmick with the motion controller.

            But if it can be achieved, yeah, big money there. Frankly I'm more interested in good gameplay than big money, though.

            •  funny story (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              years ago I was one of the first people outside of Blizzard playing Wow, I was friends with one of the developers so I was in the first stages of their alpha friends and family testing.  Anyway after my first day of playing my buddy logged on and we grouped and talked as he showed me things.

               I said to him, you know you got that certain "it" here, this is gonna be huge, I said, your gonna have a million plus subscribers in no time. ( Now remember at this time the bar was set by eq, daoc etc at around 300k)

              He laughed, we jumped on vent talked and I said again, buddy your gonna get swamped, he laughed and said, they werent even close to being ready for such numbers, and yet, the numbers far exceeded that, and they grew to match it.

              Im just saying, when someone creates a virtual world that marries say the sims with a wow, makes it a dynamic home away from home, you will see numbers that astound.

              Right now only archeage looks to be pushing the envelope hard and that will be a far east release.

          •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

            I think  that there won't be one singular game, but further niche fragmentation as people find a world to their liking.  

            The MMO industry is far, far different from when WoW first started.  There were only a handfull of online game at the time (Meridian, Ultima, EQ). WoW improved on the gameplay of its predecessors, got lucky and rose to the top at a time when competitors were few and it outshone them all.  It got a huge amount of momentum that even at, what 7 years old, and with numerous and in some ways better MMO worlds still boasts a massive sub base.

            (but please don't think I'm defending Activision in any way, just pointing out that another "WoW" happening is highly unlikely.  Unless we're going to talk cyber-synthesia virtualities)

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            by The Dead Man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:03:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  every decade (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              The Dead Man

              you get another generation of gamers. All Im saying is soon you'''ll have a demographic that is age 10-80, and encompasses japan, US, europe, china, NK,Russia,the baltics.  You are talking about a demo of several billion possible players. a game with 100 million is not out of the question.

              •  Farmville, iirc, topped out around 80 million (1+ / 0-)
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                so, yeah, from a numeric standpoint, a scary % of world pop could play a certain game.  Which leads to crazy thoughts of digital religions and bizarre morphs of culture wars.

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                by The Dead Man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:29:27 PM PDT

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      •  there is plenty of room (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ElaineinIN, Sychotic1

        I mean over a million people joined up in a few short weeks to just join Guild Wars 2 beta, and if you get inside the numbers, most of WOW players are overseas, mostly s.korea, china.

      •  There are a lot of people aching for a game that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nathanfl, Sychotic1

        isn't pay to win RMT fest, which is what a lot of the Asian games are, or dumbed down to attract the casual gamer ala WoW.  I think a lot of people were looking to Schillings EQ1 nostalgia or GW2s reworking of the trinity for hope of something challenging.  Alas, instead we get TERA.

      •  Bullshit (0+ / 0-)

        I have been tired of WoW (as have LOTS of people) for years.  I jump at any new MMO and pre-purchase.  SWTOR was awesome, but once again lacking that something that makes an MMO last...what is that something?  It is end game playability and the social aspect of the game.

        People conquer the content, so unless they have made lasting friendships in the game, they stop playing.  You must, must, must foster social content or you will die.

        "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

        by Sychotic1 on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:57:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's always depressing to read about all the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrBigDaddy, Cassandra Waites

      layoffs. Tons of people losing their jobs like that. I've been through layoff scenarios, and I have nothing but sympathy for the people involved. It's terrifying, depressing, and for some peoople often life-destroying.

    •  Ive seen some of the leaking (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erush1345, Sychotic1

      game shot along with the fly through video. The Game world and art look fabulous.

      I dont know why you guys kept this so close to the vest. The game looks amazing and if you would of shown it at some conventions and started showing it off, you would have amazing buzz right now, and possibly some outside investment opportunities.

      If this was/is do out next year, and it's this damn pretty, why not show it off.  Hell GW2 has been showing off their game for over 3 years and its still not out.

      anyway, this is all 20/20. I wish you and all your friends and colleagues at 38 the best of luck.  Layoffs are never fun and cause a lot of stress and heartbreak.

      Here's hoping we havent heard the last of this project.

      •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

        Truth is, most of what you've seen is rough compared to what we have. We had zones in WHITE BOX that were prettier than many you'll find in running, completed, published games. And the combat and all the way around.

        And something else I probably shouldn't say, but what the hell: Reckoning showed a TINY slice of the world 2,500 years BEFORE the MMO. A TINY slice of a past age that ties to the meta-story of Amalur in the way a tale of the Schism in the Catholic Church might relate to modern day Earth...yes, the world lore was THAT BIG.

        And the music - Look up Aubrey Hodges, Duncan Watt and Gene Rozenberg. The things they were doing with music and ambient sound took the entire concept of sound in a video game to another level...I could go on all night, but I'd probably get sued.

        I enjoy your comments on the game industry - you have a much deeper understanding of the things going on than most, I think.

    •  SWTOR is not a solid game (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ElaineinIN, Laconic Lib

      They launched too soon, made a lot of rookie design mistakes (some of which were extremely retrograde  harkening back to early MMO designs) and a lot of common features missing that they're still putting into the game with six months in with patch 1.3.

      Some of the storylines (Sith) are quite enjoyable, but MMOs have to have gameplay to back that up.  And SWTOR doesn't have it.

      What kind of game studio thinks a rail shooter is "good enough" for a Star Wars game anyway?  

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      by The Dead Man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 07:25:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  WOW just laid off a bunch too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in their Austin offices, and not because they were losing money.

      But it was mostly the customer service people actually in Austin that took the hit. Most of the creatives are in California and still employed.

      And that was REALLY stupid to do just weeks before they launched Diablo III, which is why people are spending hours online waiting to be helped.

      WOW is going to do itself in before any rival has to take them down.

      "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

      by Brooke In Seattle on Thu May 24, 2012 at 07:51:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, spare me. (0+ / 0-)

      Curt Shilling knew nothing about running a business and took $75m of taxpayers' money.  This was irresponsible on his part and on the part of the state of RI.

      I'm very sorry for the terrible losses that his employees will  endure due to his lack of business skills, but I feel worse about your loyalty to a man who totally screwed his employees.  Will CS be putting that magnificent house up for sale due to his mismanagement, or will it just be his employees who lose their homes?  

    •  Thanks for pointing out the units moved (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The game was not a failure except in a world where selling a million copies of something is seen as "not enough."

      The game is very well done, especially for a fledgling studio. It certainly kept my attention for the 40 hours my Steam profile (Steam is a gaming portal/place to purchase games from different companies) tells me I've spent playing it.

      While my personal opinion is that Mr. Schilling is a capitalist tool, he seems to genuinely enjoy computer games and brought a great deal of what-seemed-to-be-real enthusiasm to the project.

      I wish the employees who worked for the company all the best and, Mr. Salvatore, I sincerely hope you are compensated for the years of work you put into the project.

    •  What a sad thing this is (0+ / 0-)

      A co-worker put in an application there a couple of years ago and didn't receive a response - I wonder if there were problems even then?

    •  as a game developer i'm happy you commented (0+ / 0-)

      i don't think many people realize the amount of talent, skill and passion fueled hard work that goes into making video games.  being a game developer is like being a Renaissance person.  it's painting, sculpture, math, physics, story telling, logic, architecture, etc, etc.  and it's all to make this virtual journey for players.  

      and all of that is done while the developers have this cloud of instability hanging over their head.  you don't know how long you will work for a company and thus how long you will even live in the city you live.  it's awful.  

      i have been lucky to work for a small but relatively stable company, but even we've had our ups and downs.  i don't make as much money as many who do my job at larger companies.  but it's worth knowing that i don't have to worry about losing my job in the middle of 3 years of development on a game.  i feel really bad for people who are not as lucky as i am.

      my heart really goes out to the employees who lost their job and i hope they find work soon and that they don't have to move across the country or world for it.

      i think my cat is possessed by dick cheney

      by Anton Bursch on Sun May 27, 2012 at 09:08:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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