May 15, 2012

What’s really killing me if 38 Studios closes…


…is that we’ll never know the real name of Project Copernicus.

Seriously though, I’m sad that things aren’t looking good for the studio, and I hope there’s some miracle solution to the whole thing. I admired Curt Schilling for putting his money where his mouth is, and trying his hand at making an MMO, something that most of us dream about doing on a daily basis, and something that we all think we can do better than the studios whose games we play. He did it exactly as you’d expect a Big Game, World Series MVP pitcher to do it too, by going big or going home. He hired the best talent in R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane, grabbed lots of experienced game industry vets from other games like Steve Danhuser and Jennifer MacLean. When anyone from 38 talked about the project, the two things that tended to come up were the vast scope of the project, across many types of media, and that the company was focused and terrific to work for. Heck, just a few weeks ago, I did an interview for Massively with two new additions to the staff: Senior Vice President of Development John Blakely, and Senior Vice President of Business Operations Mark Hanson.

Now, we’re hearing that 38 Studios defaulted on its May 1st loan payment of $1.125 million. From what I recall reading, their loan payments are due on May and September, and apparently the Kingdoms of Amalur box sales were not enough to cover the spring payment. With nothing to show at E3, and little concrete information about Copernicus for some time, that means even if they work out something for the May payment, things are looking bleak for the fall.

So if 38 Studios really does go under, what could be the reason? Was it the fact that the company branched out too far, too fast? Was the purchase of the Azeroth Advisor, and the potential data that came from it, worth the investment? Even more crucial, was the purchase of Big Huge Games, and the decision to put Kingdoms of Amalur (Project Mercury) on the frontburner a move that ended up putting them deeper into the hole and behind the 8 ball? And the lingering question, of course, is whether it was wise responsible to take a $75 million dollar loan from the state of Rhode Island if there might have been hints that this was a diceroll at best.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame that the studio might be shutting its doors. I was on the bandwagon from the very start — I wasted time watching Munch eat my cursor, jumped on the dribs and drabs of concept art when it came out a few years ago, and got genuinely excited about their motto, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”

I was looking back at some of the posts I had made back in 2008 when 38 Studios had made quite a bit of buzz with Copernicus, and it’s eye-opening to see some of the other titles that I was writing about: Stargate Worlds, Tabula Rasa, Lego Universe, The Agency, Metaplace, Red 5′s game (which turned out to be Firefall), Darkfall, Age of Conan, and Warhammer Online. Not exactly a barnburner list, now that we’ve had some time to see it all play out. Four years ago, the whole notion of games and studios shutting down was not very common, and it was a time when we bloggers had a pretty full plate when it came to the list of notable MMOs that had either just released or were in development. Call me pessimistic, but the landscape these days is looking a lot more like the world of the Matrix after taking the red pill.

I’m not sure I want to go down the rabbit hole when it comes to MMOs right now.

Posted by jayernh under Archive | Comments (0)

May 1, 2012

Newbie Bloggers…GO!

Today officially kicks off the Newbie Blogger Initiative, which is the brainchild of Justin Olivetti, who I have the privilege of calling my co-worker over at Massively. I love reading Justin’s work because he tends to focus on two aspects of MMOs that are near and dear to my heart: the history, and the people. His regular column, The Game Archaeologist, is always a trip down memory lane for me, and I often find myself walking away knowing more about a game that I swear I knew like the back of my hand. With his latest endeavor, the Newbie Blogger Initiative, he’s attempting to open the lines of communication and encourage more gamers to roll up their sleeves and write about what they love.

I’m very excited to be a part of the project, not only because it will bring in some new and talented writers to the blogging scene, but also because it reconnects me with the old blog pack that I haven’t really stayed in touch with for a while. I still prowl the blogsosphere, but it’s been mainly on the lurker level, and I’m hoping that this new initiative will help me get back to my roots.

If you’re one of the four people that read my blog and you want to take part in the Newbie Blogger Initiative, all you need to do is head to the forums that Justin has added and register to join. After that, it’s just a matter of setting up your blog (and if you need advice that’s a great topic to throw at the veteran bloggers!), and then type away! There are dozens of longtime bloggers that have signed up as sponsors, and are more than willing to help with any questions you might have, so this is a great opportunity for anyone that’s considered taking the plunge into blogging.

The Newbie Blogger Initiative will continue through the month of May, but the sooner you join up, the more you’ll get out of it (and it’s like, free and stuff). Happy blogging!

Posted by jayernh under Archive | Comments (2)

April 23, 2012

Sick and Social

This past week was school vacation week, which is always a tough time to sneak in some gaming, because the kids are home. We actually had a fantastic week at the beach, and even though it was April in Connecticut, the air was warm enough for them to don swimsuits and tromp around in the ocean for brief stints (think pint-sized polar bear club). I, on the other hand, was on the tail end of a nasty bug that I caught the week before, and I was still coughing and snorting in a futile attempt to clear my head.

So it seemed appropriate that there was a plague going on in SWTOR, and I got home in time to catch the tail end of it. I headed over to Tatooine to do some of the dailies, but was disappointed to learn that you can’t do the next orange armor daily unless you completed the one the day before. Since the event is due to end on the 24th, it appears I’m screwed and won’t be able to get many of the armor pieces.

I’ve endured in game plagues before, in EQII and in WoW, and there’s something inherently fun about catching and then intentionally passing along illness and death to in-game peers. In EQII, I actually snagged the plague on a toon that I camped, with the idea that I could log it in years later and start the plague up again (It didn’t work). The SWTOR plague is different though, because by catching it and passing it along, you can complete the daily quest and also get DNA when you self-destruct, and it turns out to be a very easy and relatively quick way to build up DNA. So over at the bank in the fleet on my server, there’s a tightly-packed crowd standing around giving the plague to each other and summarily blowing up after it runs its course. It’s pretty gross actually, because every few minutes someone will turn green, start hurling, and then explode, covering everyone in a green fog.

There are a few really neat things about this event. The first is that people somehow found each other and collectively designated the bank at the fleet to be “Plague Central.” I always love in MMOs when people choose social hubs, like the EC tunnel in EQ, because it just sort of happens — there’s no official declaration or vote or anything. Bioware didn’t put in the patch notes anything about meeting at the bank if you want to join a plague party, so how did so many find their way there, and how did word get out?

But another thing that struck me is that we’re willing to do pretty much anything for the proverbial cheese, including standing around absorbing green hurl and fog. I have only three days to get enough DNA to get that black and green lightsaber crystal that I want, so my little jedi ooched into the crowd and joined the plague party so I could play catch up with DNA farming. I’m currently tabbed out as I write this, so I’m playing SWTOR, only I’m not. I’m going to get the crystal purely because I was able to log in and leave my toon afk in the fleet for extended periods of time. If the kids’ school vacation week were longer, I wouldn’t be able to get the crystal. It has nothing to do with my skill, or my values, or my abilities as a player, it only has to do with my ability to log in (and stand near green puking people). Likewise, my lack of ability to log in the past week has caused me to fall short of being able to do all the armor dailies.

Lastly, how did we get to the point in MMOs where being “social” meant standing in a crowd with orange eyes and a green hue? The crowd by the bank is one of the largest gathering of players in SWTOR that I’ve seen since launch, and yet it’s not really social at all. Don’t get me wrong, I like the plague event, and I love the fact that it’s taking place on Tatooine (yes, I love that zone), but there’s something odd about standing around with dozens of others doing pretty much nothing. Makes me want to start inviting to form up a raid and go tackle, well, something!

In the meantime, I’ll be inhaling germs and auctioning my plague-filled DNA to the highest bidder. Get it while it’s green!

Posted by jayernh under Archive | Comments (0)

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