As of today, everyone at 38 Studios Providence and Baltimore has been laid off.
It’s a very sad end to nearly six years of great work. Despite the odds, I believed in the dream we all shared. I believed with all my heart.
I’m not sure the public will ever know the beauty of what we built… that’s maybe the hardest part of it all. We snuck out a pretty, but dated, environment fly-through and a few key images, but there is so much more that would take your breath away. I truly hope you get to see it, in some form.
I don’t know what will happen to Amalur. It will no doubt be tied up in various legal proceedings for some time, both game assets and the intellectual property as a whole.
As people lay blame and the commentators turn a heartbreaking situation into the latest industry punchline, some will probably portray the team as a bunch of screw-ups who couldn’t ship a game. The story has so, so much more to it than that. In short order, you will start hearing truths, half-truths, and lies, as well as things that are true from a certain perspective. In the end, perspectives are what makes up history… real truth lies in the midst of it somewhere.
Perhaps someday I’ll talk more about my perspective… but not today.
Today, I mourn for what almost was. Because believe it or not, we came so close to pulling it off.
Over at 38 Studios, we’ve been working on a game for a few years now. We are very proud of the stuff we’ve done. We haven’t talked much about it, but given all that’s been said about us in the last few days, we wanted to answer the best way we knew how.
This is just a glimpse of the world of Amalur as it comes alive in our MMO, codenamed Project Copernicus.
Why is this cool? Well, it’s like being paid to play demos for two of the best games of 2012. It’s also cool because of the thought and attention put into this idea. The details were lovingly nurtured, down to the symbols that appear on the armor. There’s a story in everything.
Reckoning is the gateway to Amalur, the setting for our upcoming MMO as well. I’m proud to have worked on these games, and can’t wait until they’re in players hands!
The time draws near…
Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 9:23 am in 38 Studios, IRL
This is a big freaking list. Either I’m getting worse at narrowing down my choices for favorite albums, or maybe it really was just that good a year. There were a ton of releases I really liked, with an exciting blend of new talent along with reliable veterans making some of their best records in ages.
The downside of this phenomenon is that it takes me a hell of a long time to write this annual music post, and I’m inherently lazy. But man, there’s some music here I just really have to talk about. So here we go.
I’d imagine most people still aware that this blog exists realize that I have been working for 38 Studios for the last five years (yeah, it’s been that long!). We’ve been very quiet about the specifics of what we’re doing, other than that we set out to make an MMO, acquired an excellent RPG team, relocated to Providence, and are set to release Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning in February. So all in all, an eventful half-decade.
All the while we’ve continued the labor of love that is our MMO, though we remain quiet about it. We’re going to remain so for a bit longer, but we’ve started to take the wrapper off more and more of the world behind the games. The deepest dive into the lore of the world comes in the form of our new Amalur.com website.
This is a big deal to me, as I’m personally curating the writing as we take the mounds of internal documentation and fashion it for an outside audience. Our artists and web designers are doing some beautiful work, and the site will be evolving and expanding *a lot* over time. The first content drop is over 16,000 words, but we’ve barely scratched the surface of the material we’ve got to share.
What’s interesting about the Amalur.com project is that the site isn’t made to promote a specific product. Rather, it’s a gateway to exploring a deeper history than any single title could portray. If we do our jobs right, Amalur.com will help reinforce the connections between products within a single consistent universe.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 11:51 am in 38 Studios
Don’t get around much anymore–in blog posts, I mean. But hey, as long as I can stay ahead of Hartsman (who, as a big-money executive, does no actual work and thus lacks any excuse for not blogging), I figure I’m doing okay.
Anyway, I’m headed down to New York Comic Con this week for a panel scheduled on Friday at 1:30 pm called Creating a World Worth Saving. I’ll be joining our own Creator of Worlds, R.A. Salvatore, plus Andrew Auseon and Ian Frazier from the Reckoning team. We’ll talk both theory and practice of how you develop a world meant to span a whole ecosystem of products, and in specific about how we used those principles to craft the narrative of the RPG.
It’s still slightly too early to reveal hard facts about our MMO, but I’ll sneak some storyline tidbits in there. Until our PR guy tackles me and drags me from the stage, that is.
I’m in California for the first time in years to attend E3. I haven’t been to the show since the height of its excess, before it was neutered. Though still manic and bombastic, it feels noticeably less chaotic to me. I have memories (now fond, at the time not so much) of being hoarse each night after trying to shout my demo script for visitors at the SOE booth because I was competing with blaring sound systems from other booths. While communication still requires some effort on the show floor, it seems considerably easier than I remember it.
The show will never again inspire the awe and wonder I experienced the first time I attended, but it’s cool nonetheless. Activision’s reveal of the MW3 trailer was a dramatic event that had the crowd breathless in anticipation. Sony and Nintendo hardware had a ton of folks checking it out. Smaller projects drew attention as well–World of Tanks had an actual tank on display.
The show had its share of underwhelming displays as well, but that’s to be expected. Overall E3 remains a genuine event, a chance for the games industry to show off a bit in the shadow of Hollywood.
The coolest bit for me was checking out the Reckoning booth and seeing our team demo the RPG. I’m really excited about players getting to learn more about our world. And seeing the latest trailer playing on EA’s gigantic booth screen gave me chills.
Guess I’m just a sucker for the pageantry of it all.
It’s very easy for game designers to come up with lofty, complex ideas. This is especially true for people who take a support role on one project and suddenly find themselves in charge of something on another title; they get the impulse to put their stamp on everything, to show the world how clever they are by embroiling players in complex plots and multi-layered gameplay.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take a step back and simplify things.
Every night at dinner, I get asked by my toddler, “Daddy, what did you do at work today?” My answers vary, but often I mention how I looked at pictures of monsters (character art review), saw some fantastic place (environment art review), read a story about some great battle (narrative review), and so forth. Occasionally I even get to talk about something I wrote myself! If I say I looked at a monster, I’m asked “Was he good or bad?” If I say bad, I’m asked “What does he want to get?” And I usually give a little story about that creature’s motivations.
After this ritual had been going on a while, it suddenly struck me how incredibly useful this was to me as a storyteller and designer. If I can’t boil the plots and motivations of our characters down into simple terms that a child can understand, we’ve probably over-designed the experience–which means grown-up players won’t get it, either.
That’s not to say stories and gameplay have to be written like an episode of Dora the Explorer. The nuances and depth should be there for those who want to delve into them. But at the base level, the primary motivations of your characters and storylines need to be clear and obvious. Otherwise, all the fancy dialogue and pretty graphics won’t matter, because the drama of your game won’t resonate with the audience.
On the whole, 2010 was a fantastic year for new music. A lot of my favorite bands released albums, and a whole crop of new artists showed up with awesome material.
It was a struggle for me to name a single Album of the Year; for the first time since I’ve been doing this feature, any entry in the “Gotta Have It” category could easily have earned the distinction. So please, consider every album in that group a required purchase.
This year’s list comes with a brand new feature: an iTunes playlist showcasing some of my favorite tracks of the year. In addition to picking standout tracks, I tried to create a nice flow from one to another. Let me know what you think.