One Year Later

There are various dates one can identify with the death of 38 Studios. You could cite the day the company failed to pay its employees. You could choose the date the company declared bankruptcy. For me, 38 Studios was about the team and the friendships we shared, so I mark May 24 as the point it ended–the day we were officially laid off and walked out of our office together for the last time.

As one of my former colleagues recently noted, in some ways it feels like barely any time has passed; in other ways, it feels like a hundred years. There remains a surreal quality to the whole thing, a disbelief that it ever really happened. Yet there are reminders of it everywhere in my life, reminders that leave a sense of unfinished business.

The studio and its most recognizable faces still turn up in the news regularly. Most recently, the lawsuit against Curt and others involved in the bond deal has made headlines, along with an article saying that the IP and assets are finally going up for sale. The former is a farce grounded in political posturing, an attempt to shift blame away from politicians who want to be reelected. I’m confident the truth will come to light.

The latter is more personal. My blood and dreams flow through Amalur; the lack of closure has left me unsettled. The prospect of someone finally buying the work that my friends and I put so much of ourselves into leaves me with mixed feelings. Copernicus will never see the light of day, at least not in the form we intended it to take. Some buyer with an engine and a suitable back-end could take the considerable assets we created and plug them into their game, instantly owning some of the best looking characters, environments, and animations on the market. While much of the focus in the press has been on the MMO, another possibility often overlooked would be to take the work the BHG team had done on pre-production for Reckoning 2 and release a sequel. The first game was well-reviewed and it continues to attract players, so there’s definitely money to be made if a company could do it right. But with the key members of both teams spread across the globe, the chances of pulling off a successful product are slim at best. After all, it’s the teams who truly make their games shine–not assets on a hard drive.

On the one hand, I’d love to see something finally come about from all the work we did. But if the result is some stranger butchering our material and slapping the Amalur logo on shoddy work, I’d rather the assets just fade away into the mists of time. I can only hope that if someone does buy it, they treat it with the respect it deserves and realize they’ve acquired something pretty special. We’ll soon find out.

Today I read that it takes half the duration of a relationship to finally get over it. If that’s true, I’ve got at least a couple more years before I can truly move on. But that’s okay; despite the challenges and pain I’ve felt since it ended, the memories and friendships forged at 38 continue to enrich my life, and have given me countless lessons to draw upon in my career going foward.

It was all worth it… every beautiful, heartbreaking minute.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

One thought on “One Year Later”

  1. I do hope it eventually makes it to market daylight in a pleasing way. Assuming a purchaser didn’t recruit back key talent …. wouldn’t the game still be looking at a 3+ year cycle to learn, assimilate, and then finalize?

    I agree the court stuff as it stands is pretty awful, but to step back from 38 Studios …. one thing that this process illustrated, the US doesn’t have enough protections for employees in this kind of situation. If a company is withholding money from an employee’s paycheck for benefits, and then not paying those benefit providers … there really needs to be a legal notification to the employees when the first payment is missed. (I’m on the fence about criminal liability for the executives choosing not to pay those bills). It’s not just 38 where this has happened, Hostess had a similar issue where the management group wasn’t making pension payments, but was deducting money from paychecks for it. That’s theft from where I’m sitting, plain and simple.

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