This past Saturday, I had the opportunity, amid the (dis)organized chaos of New York Comic Con, to speak with six-time Major League Baseball All-Star, three-time World Series champion, and, most importantly, Founder and Chairman of 38 Studios, Curt Schilling.
With project 'Copernicus' still in the distant future, and former project 'Mercury', Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning set for release Q3 2011, I was a little surprised to hear Curt be so excited about a project that he could, literally, tell me nothing about. As there was nothing to learn about 'Copernicus' today, I instead spoke briefly with him about the Single Player experience of Reckoning, the chosen world, and Curt 'The Gamer' Schilling.
Why release a single player game in the same universe as your MMO?
Reckoning was never originally part of the plan for 38 Studios, but Curt stated that he always saw it as being “on the road map towards what we wanted to achieve”. He explained that it (the single player experience) was an opportunity for them to get the ball rolling on the universe they wanted to present with 'Copernicus', a prologue of sorts. This is not uncommon. Many of the pre-existing MMOs out there started off with a single player experience. It was the acquisition of Big Huge Games in May of 2009, however, that Curt credits as being the turning point towards presenting a single player experience first. “They (Big Huge Games) already had a preexisting engine, preexisting technologies... why not take advantage of that?”
Why choose fantasy rather than a sci-fi or western setting?
Curt had explained that the desire from the get-go was to move forward with a fantasy world MMORPG. So why a fantasy game? “Fantasy was always at the forefront”, Curt explained, “Fantasy exists in all of us, we can all identify with it”. The idea of fantasy-heroism strikes a chord with audiences in a way that perhaps a science fiction, or a western, which can both be bound by limitations of imagination, cannot.
He also spoke to the strengths of his creative team. Executive Art Director, Todd McFarlane (Spawn) and Director of Creative Content, R.A. Salvatore (Forgotten Realms) both have “years of experience creating fantasy IPs” so why not build to the strengths of your creative team? And when the strengths of your creative team are akin to the starting rotation, one-two punch of Schilling and Randy Johnson of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, how could you not?
Who is Curt 'The Gamer' Schilling?
So why 38 Studios and video games? Curt's love affair with video games, and gaming, goes back a long time, as he was keen to point out to me. 1981's Wizardry, a Dungeons & Dragons-esque party based role-playing game was pointed out first and most eagerly by Curt as a precursor for his love of gaming, in addition to the Fantasy-Grand-Daddy itself, the aforementioned tabletop game, Dungeons & Dragons. Though he went on to talk a bit about games set during World War II, his love of fantasy gaming came through, through his listing several of the old SSI titles including 1988's Pool of Radiance and 1989's Curse of the Azure Bonds.
You could see his desire to talk about his pet project 'Copernicus', as he went into the love he shares of MMO gaming, listing off World of Warcraft, and of course, his first true love, Everquest. The quest based system of the MMO was an amazing thing to him and really drew him into the story, the world, the histories, the character. There was something about it that was completely immersive. Curt even said that the birth of 38 Studios and 'Copernicus' was over TeamSpeak while playing EQII one night. “We had talked about it a little bit, but then one night I finally had the balls to say 'I'm doin' it'.”
Running out of time, and yet wishing I could continue to talk video games (and D&D) with the man before me, I simply ended my discussion with Curt by asking if he had anything else he wanted to say. He smiled and saw his opportunity: “You don't have to play the single player to play the MMO, you won't have to play the MMO if you play the single player...” he said “But, hopefully, people will find that hook in the single player experience” that will help lead them into the world, into the story, that they want to put forward with 'Copernicus'.