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Games And Gamery

38 Studios Shuts Down

Posted by Stropp on May 25, 2012

Sad news today.

38 Studios has effectively closed down operations, laying off all employees at Rhode Islands, and at Big Huge Games. (Source: Kotaku)

I made the observation a few days ago that due to 38 Studios not making payroll, the odds were that it would share the fate of other business who did not make payroll. Unfortunately, this fate occurred very quickly after the initial reports. I was hoping that 38 Studios might be given a reprieve by their creditors or find an angel investor. The credit economy isn’t too flash right now with the European debt crisis, so no luck there.

In 38 Studios case it turns out that not only had management failed to make payroll, they had also stopped paying health insurance. Of course the staff had not been informed of any of this. It was only found out when an employee’s pregnant wife was told by her doctor.

None of the blame for any of this should fall on the developers, artists, and ancillary workers. These folks are now without jobs or health insurance. In a tough economy life is about to become more difficult for a lot of people. No, any blame should be laid squarely at the feet of management. It’s quite obvious looking at the screenshots that have come out of the studio in the last few days that the game was progressing well, and looking great. The people who were doing their jobs did so well.

There are a bunch of thoughts circulating in my head at the moment. Things like whether or not studios should attempt a AAA MMO as their first game; will small scale indie MMO’s like Wurm Online or Realm of the Mad God save the genre; the ‘sameness’ of the AAA MMO scene. But I’ll leave that to later.

For now I just want to wish the ex-employees of 38 Studios and Big Huge Games all the best and hope you folks find something else quickly.

38 Studios Won’t Be Releasing Its MMORPG

Posted by Stropp on May 18, 2012

38 Studios financial woes have been in the news over the last week. Despite not being able to make loan payments to Rhode Island, there were sounds coming from the administration that it would try to make it work.

But today there is news that 38 Studios has failed to pay its employees, and has laid off temp and contract workers.

That’s the worst kind of news that an investor can hear. When a company can’t make payroll, it’s not generally long for the world.

What I’m wondering is where that $75 million got to.

Schilling, as I understood it, invested something like $30 million of his own money, which coupled with that $75 million from RI provides a bankroll of over $100M. They’ve had a game release which presumably did well too. Where is all the cash?

It’s not like Project Copernicus has the scope of the $300M budget for SWTOR. Or does it?

In anycase, it’s probably not wise to get your hopes up for the 38 Studios MMORPG. Not unless an Angel Investor swoops in at the 11th hour. Or another studio buys the IP and development assets.

Schilling Announces Amalur. Just Another World of Warcraft Clone?

Posted by Stropp on July 21, 2010

The news is out. 38 Studios have announced the real title of the long in development Project Copernicus, and it is called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

So just some initial thoughts.

  • I’m not taken so much by the name. Kingdoms of Amalur sounds pretty generic to me, but that may just be the result of seeing so many MMORPGs with similar names.
  • Speaking of generic, and quoting through Heartless_ of Heartless_Gamer, RA Salvatore says that he has created a Tolkienesque 10,000-year-long back story: “I think we can say that we are talking about a high fantasy world with multiple races.” I tend to agree with Heartless_ on this point. A high fantasy Tolkienesque world? Why?
  • YAHFWLG? (That means Yet Another High Fantasy Warcraft Like Game?) Are we going to see Orcs and Elves yet again? Paladins? Warriors? Mages?
  • Generic World of Warcraft clone comes to mind.
  • I’m definitely disappointed by this announcement.

Look. I don’t mind fantasy games. In fact I quite like and enjoy them, and love Tolkien, but High Fantasy has been done to death. It’s time for something different.

The crazy thing is that there is so many other fantasy styles out there. I loved The View From The Mirror (Amazon) and The Stone Mage and the Sea (Amazon) series’ by Aussie authors Ian Irvine and Sean Williams respectively. There’s not an Orc or Elf in sight. They’re just wonderfully conceived fantasy worlds. Robert E Howard created the richly detailed Conan universe, and while that particular world is claimed by Age of Conan, there is nothing stopping anyone else using those concepts in a game. And then of course, there is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series from which to get some inspiration.

Remember when the Mad Max and Terminator movies came out? (I’m showing some age here) They quickly became cult classics. And suddenly Hollywood starts releasing a whole lot of B-Grade post-apocalyptic movies, some with Robots From The Future and some without. Many of these movies are lost in time, and best left there.

Sometimes I feel this way about MMORPG games. EQ, a success, spawned WoW, a megahit, and suddenly the bad B-Grade copies start popping up.

Now to be fair, we don’t have too much detail on Amalur yet, and 38 Studios might actually be doing something quite radical with the design of the game. But frankly, this initial announcement doesn’t give me much hope that this game will be, as the USA Today article says, a breath of fresh air.

It feels like more of the same.

Update: It looks like I am mistaken and Amalur isn’t Project Copernicus after all. It turns out that it’s an action RPG that 38 Studios are developing called Project Mercury, which I hadn’t heard about before. This other USA Today article gives more details on that. My apologies to 38 Studios. Thanks for the tip Longasc.

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