Declaring his “second career, second opening day” in video games, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher revealed details about the first game to be released by 38 Studios, the game company that he has bankrolled in part with the money he made as a professional baseball player. The new details show that Schilling’s game is a very ambitious undertaking and, despite some setbacks over more than four years, it stands a good chance of seeing the light of day. Having followed Schilling’s progress, I was keen to watch the unveiling on video.
Even as he was winning World Series games and earning other accolades in baseball, Schilling knew he didn’t want to be a car dealer or open a restaurant when he retired from baseball. He was, on the other, a staunch fan of fantasy role-playing games. He demanded in his contracts that he would stay in hotels that has fast internet access so that he could always play online games such as Sony’s EverQuest while on the road.
Schilling said at a panel at the comic and video game fan show that he wanted to assemble an all-star team when he decided to found 38 Studios in 2006 to create a massively multiplayer fantasy online role-playing game. He knew Todd McFarlane, the famous comic book artist who created Spawn, and signed him up to create his fantasy world’s visual look. Then he sought out fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore, who has written 18 novels, to create the story behind the world. Finally, for the company’s first announced game, he enlisted game designers Ken Rolston and Mark Nelson, who created the Morrowind and Oblivion role-playing video games. It was a team that could, theoretically, take on World of Warcraft, the dominant fantasy online game.
They’ve been working for a long time and finally had a chance to talk about their first game in a multi-game series at Comic-Con. Salvatore said he wanted to create a world of beauty that was worth defending from the forces of darkness. He wanted it to be a huge world and one with many scary experiences. But rather than script out the entire game, Salvatore had to be satisfied with creating the story framework and watching the game designers build the game around it.
From the look of the game trailer, the game is very ambitious and looks fairly original. It’s got thundering music and some serious fighting. The only clue to the story: the trailer reveals that in this world, there must be a reckoning — for every birth, there has to be a death. Salvatore revealed, “What happens when that eternal pact is broken?”
Schilling shared his passion about fantasy role-playing games in a talk at our first GamesBeat conference in 2009. Since then, he has shown that he can roll with the punches. The company tried to raise a huge amount of money to finance its multi-year project, but it came up dry as the big recession hit. Then the company had the good fortune to acquire Big Huge Games, a seasoned game studio owned by THQ, for a song in the spring of 2009.
Brett Close, the first chief executive, left the Maynard, Mass.-based company in August of last year and he was replaced by business development chief Jennifer MacLean. Meanwhile, the company decided to greenlight a single-player game, created by the Big Huge Games team. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will be out in the fall of 2011 on PCs and consoles. Electronic Arts will publish it. The first game takes place within a certain part of the history of the 10,000-year back story that Salvatore created; other games that come later will focus on other parts of the history. Rolston described the game as a combination of theater and storytelling.
If the game is a hit, Schilling will have an easier time getting funding for the MMO, which is likely to be much more expensive to make. Money is still an issue since Schilling is entertaining an offer to get a $75 million loan from Rhode Island to move his company to that state. Rolston said that sometime after Reckoning launches, the MMO will debut.
Asked on the panel how the company survived having so many big egos, Schilling said, “When everyone stopped listening to me and did what they do best, it came together. They understand they are part of a bigger thing. It’s been easy for me to sit back and be quiet.” On the other hand, Salvatore noted that he used to get calls early on from Schilling just after baseball games ended; the only problem was that they would be at 1:3o am, East Coast time, when Salvatore was already in bed.