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Probably should have been called "Project Icarus"
July 26, 2012 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Curt Schilling set out to build the greatest video-game company the world had ever seen, and to get rich — Bill Gates rich — doing it. Instead, the whole thing exploded in his face. Plus, a brief follow up. (Previously)
posted by MegoSteve (73 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was clear from Schilling's interviews even before the game came out that this was going to be a financial disaster.

He set out to make the best western RPG he could imagine and spared no expense doing it, hiring whatever talent he wanted and throwing out huge chunks of time investment whenever something didn't fit his vision. But he was doing it all within the established RPG formula.

By many accounts, Amalur is very good at being a traditional RPG. I never played it, but my wife sank an embarrassing number of hours into it.

But it's hard to create a legacy if you don't do anything new. And Amalur's only hope was to create a legacy, because it was clear from the get-go that the first title was going to operate at a loss. No game sells enough copies to balance how much they spent making Amalur.
posted by 256 at 4:12 PM on July 26, 2012


Not only did he lose a lot of taxpayer money, he doesn't want other people getting handouts.
posted by KGMoney at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


I'm glad that when I was growing up as a Phillies fan I didn't realize what an asshole Curt Schilling was, because, man, I loved him back then.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wish the linked articles were more in-depth.
posted by subbes at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2012


The end of the (previously) thread has a tooon of articles about this whole disaster.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2012


(Because the last thread had so many links and this seems thinner by comparison, I mean.)
posted by subbes at 4:26 PM on July 26, 2012


I will never forget what Schilling did to help the Red Sox win in '04 (staged dramatics and all) and I can't say that his post-retirement behavior has sullied those positive memories, but Christ what an asshole.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:32 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amalur sold very well. Big Huge Games, the troubled studio that Schilling acquired, did what they were supposed to do when making it. It moved somewhere north of a million copies. For a premium-priced game ($60), from a brand-new studio label, with brand-new IP, moving a million copies should be considered a home run. By all reports, that section of the company was profitable.

But they were also making an MMO, and the MMO is the hill on which companies die. Had Schilling just stuck with regular games, his company would be happy and healthy today, beavering away at its next release.

Buying Big Huge Games was a very smart move, easily capable of being the backbone to build a major studio on. But Schilling wanted it all now, and blew all the profits from Amalur on a game that was doomed from the start. He made many good decisions, but chasing the MMO market is just penciling a giant L on your own forehead.

Not even Bioware is doing very well in the MMO market... part of that, of course, is the pernicious EA influence that has largely poisoned that studio. Regardless, thinking that you're going to just start up a new company and make a huge splash, when Bioware just spent something like 200 million dollars to make kind of a dud, just about defines hubris.
posted by Malor at 4:35 PM on July 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


Also, I wonder how common this type of thing is for former major league athletes? I heard something on the news a few months ago about an NFL player who had blown through millions in bad investments and was back living with his mom, and of course there's Lenny Dykstra's fiasco from a few years ago. Is there a kind of bravado or self-confidence that allows former pros to think they can translate a successful career in sports into a successful business career, or do they just tend to have a lot of people around telling them that they can?
posted by KGMoney at 4:36 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was not the game 38 Studios burned through all that cash to make; it was actually developed by Big Huge Games and was in development before the company got bought by 38 Studios. What Schilling was actually building all these years was Project Copernicus, an MMO. Copernicus never got close to release.

38 Studios would probably be in a much better place (i.e. alive) today if it had actually set out to build Amalur instead, and scaled down staffing and budgets to match. Triple-A game development isn't cheap by any stretch, and it still would've been a bad idea for a first project, but it wouldn't have been the colossal faceplant that Copernicus was.
posted by chrominance at 4:36 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


By many accounts, Amalur is very good at being a traditional RPG.

It's not really a traditional single player RPG. It's much more a single player MMORPG.
posted by Justinian at 4:37 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lots and lots and lots of athletes burn through their millions with embarrassing speed. Schilling just did it in a high-profile way, and in an arena (video games) where a former athlete turning entrepreneur is newsworthy in and of itself. If he'd lost all his money trying to run a restaurant franchise, as is customary, nobody would have batted an eye.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:38 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and to put in perspective how tiny Amalur was compared to Copernicus (which, again, was never released): Amalur was widely regarded as a sales success in the general media, but the closure of 38 Studios revealed that Amalur needed to sell over 3 million copies to keep the company in the black, which is an utterly absurd amount for a new, untested IP to sell.
posted by chrominance at 4:39 PM on July 26, 2012


Huh. I played KOA and had no idea about the force behind it. It is a very good game, and that Todd McFarlane did the design makes sense, because that was one thing that kinda blew me away. I liked the combat the most, but I'd just played Mass Effect 2 and burned out on RPGs halfway through, and it's not the kind of thing I'm likely to pick up again.

Best western RPG ever? Arguably so, come to think of it, but as noted there's nothing hugely original. I was compelled to finish Fable 3 at least.
posted by cmoj at 4:39 PM on July 26, 2012


I've never seen anyone argue it was the best western RPG ever. I've seen people argue it was a good game, but that's not the same thing.

The only games I've ever seen any kind of real argument for as "the best western RPG ever" are Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment. With a couple of mutant freaks drooling over Fallout 2.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although, come to think of it I could probably make an argument for Wizard VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant. That style of RPG is so out of fashion these days I don't think it would be very convincing, though. Still, it's certainly the best example of a certain type of western RPG.
posted by Justinian at 4:43 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]




(Wizardry VII)
posted by Justinian at 4:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: Lots and lots and lots of athletes burn through their millions with embarrassing speed. Schilling just did it in a high-profile way, and in an arena (video games) where a former athlete turning entrepreneur is newsworthy in and of itself. If he'd lost all his money trying to run a restaurant franchise, as is customary, nobody would have batted an eye.

I don't know, if they lost $75 million in taxpayer money it would have probably made the news. Especially considering the epic-level mismanagement it sounds like he engaged in.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:44 PM on July 26, 2012


I read "Western RPG" as meaning "Set in the old west" and was totally confused for a minute there.
posted by antifuse at 4:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [13 favorites]




(oops sorry Rory)
posted by stbalbach at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(DON'T TREAD ON ME)
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first link actually mentions the leaked Copernicus trailer on page 7: a bunch of employees dug up an old trailer and spruced it up, then released it themselves after showing it to their co-workers to boost morale. It explains the oddly fortuitous timing of the trailer's initial release, right in the middle of the studio's implosion.
posted by chrominance at 4:50 PM on July 26, 2012


Actually I don't know what the video is I linked to, so crappy looking, maybe a very early attempt or fake.
posted by stbalbach at 4:51 PM on July 26, 2012


Amalur was a very nicely rendered skeleton of an open-world RPG; great combat, nice visual polish, pretty and varied environments, some fun twists on high fantasy world building stuff, and then a whole lot of not much filling it out. I played it, I enjoyed it, I had quibbles, I finished it, and I put it down, and I have no strong feelings about it after all that or investment in the game experience I had.

The thing about it that was frustrating was that it had lots of pieces but most of the pieces didn't do much. It had a skill tree that looked appealing but climbed slow and uninspiring; it had a crafting system that seemed like a good idea but didn't actually satisfy my collecting/crafting urges or make me feel justified in putting time and effort into it; there were lots of MMO-ish fetch quests with not a lot of payoff; there were miscellaneous collection type quests throughout the world that were likewise pretty dull thuds.

Treated as an RPG-lite fantasy combat game, it's actually a pretty good time, because the fighting is really solid and fun and arcadey and fast compared to many popular RPGs where the choice is usually either a bit more plodding and brutal feel (Skyrim) or a more deliberative orders-based mediated experience (most MMOs, or pause-and-plan like Dragon Age). But it speaks to the over-busy, under-finished feeling of the game that you have to basically ignore all the collect/craft/quest/explore stuff that was laded into it and just treat it as a gussied-up brawler for it to really shine.

That people were talking about it in the same breath as Skyrim is, it becomes very obvious very quickly, pure marketing twaddle; they're wildly different games. Amalur is at most wearing Skyrim drag, and not very well, and it'd have been a more rewarding experience if it weren't and just focused on being an awesome fantasy beat-em-up.
posted by cortex at 4:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is there a kind of bravado or self-confidence that allows former pros to think they can translate a successful career in sports into a successful business career, or do they just tend to have a lot of people around telling them that they can?

A few years ago, Sports Illustrated investigated the strange and perilous financial lives of professional athletes, and it's been my reference for terrible athlete business deals ever since. It's basically a perfect storm of young, over-confident under-educated people who have no- literally, no- idea how businesses actually work. The thing about Schilling not knowing that people got weekends off? Not a surprise to me at all. One of the advisors in that article talks about trying to explain to a young player that he should buy a $20,000 bond instead of a $20,000 Rolex, or at least that he should buy one bond and nine watches each year, instead of 10 watches.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:52 PM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


From the article:
"I’d like to honestly know why I was hired in the first place on January 16th, 2012…when members of the company knew they were behind on bills and not doing well economically?"

It should be noted that part of the deal that brought 38 to RI required that they hire a minimum number of new people. Which means it was probably a shitty deal to make, but by that point they were already committed.
posted by juv3nal at 4:52 PM on July 26, 2012


I got a lot less excited about Kingdoms of Amalur once I read the proud announcement that R.A. Salvatore was involved. Nobody should be pleased about bringing in the man behind The DemonWars Saga.

But people buy books he writes, so maybe it was a good business decision.
posted by squinty at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2012


That leaked trailer... Man, that game was in development for what, six, seven years? And all they had to show was environments?

Environments are *nothing* in the grand scheme of MMOs. Yeah, they take manpower and art direction and they're very pretty and I like them, but that trailer doesn't have a single actual model - creature, player, whatever. Let alone actual gameplay. Nothing I've ever heard about the game - from inside or outside the company - suggested they had anything like a playable demo. After that many years, that game, she is *dead.* I'm sure the worldbuilding was great and the story bible was a joy to read, but I never got the slightest indication that anyone who knew how to design a *game* was attached to the project.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:17 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm glad that when I was growing up as a Phillies fan I didn't realize what an asshole Curt Schilling was, because, man, I loved him back then.

To be fair, depending on your age, you could write that about a *lot* of former Phillies.
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:20 PM on July 26, 2012


I don't know, if they lost $75 million in taxpayer money it would have probably made the news. Especially considering the epic-level mismanagement it sounds like he engaged in.

It was on the news every night for a month here in Boston.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:23 PM on July 26, 2012


That a company can just blow through THAT MUCH MONEY and not really have anything to show for it is just mind-boggling.
posted by mrbill at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only games I've ever seen any kind of real argument for as "the best western RPG ever" are Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment. With a couple of mutant freaks drooling over Fallout 2.

Mutant freaks? Our ancestors came out of vaults, sir.
posted by ersatz at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


The Copernicus footage looks damn good, but I've seen enough beautiful uninspiring games to let me know that there are a lot of beautiful uninspiring games out there.

The cardboard counter wargames industry has a long tradition of people who are good at wargames deciding "I understand strategy ergo I shall be great at BUSINESS!" not realizing that real warfare (and business) has a whole lot more to do with logistics and less to do with brilliant landings at Inchon. That the computer games industry follows this path is not exactly surprising.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:46 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read "Western RPG" as meaning "Set in the old west"...

Why has nobody done this yet? I bet it would sell big in Germany.
posted by Winnemac at 5:48 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm always sad when people get let go, especially when it's such a clusterfuck, but seeing a classic bootstraps libertarian asshole that plays the Randian Titan Of Industry run a company into the ground and then complain he didn't get a big enough government handout is such delicious schadenfreude. And this thing, man, they haven't even really started digging into it yet.

Old west RPG? There's Arcanum, if you don't mind the classic Troika bugs and a steampunk setting. It's excellent.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


And the Wild ARMs games project a pretty engaging Old West aesthetic over the standard-issue JRPG swords and sorcery setting.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:54 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And this thing, man, they haven't even really started digging into it yet.

I don't think there will be any smoking guns. It's pretty clear what tanked the company-- Schilling's hubris, and his textbook narcissistic belief that he is entitled to the public's money but plebes are not.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:15 PM on July 26, 2012


Are there any patches of Arcanum that make it, you know, remotely playable?
posted by griphus at 6:15 PM on July 26, 2012


The unofficial patch is, as with all Troika games, mandatory. I don't think he's updated it in years, but it makes the game pretty playable. Terra Arcanum also has a bunch of tweaks of various flavors.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Snarl Furillo, that Sports Illustrated article was fascinating, thanks! Any chance you'd post it as a stand-alone FPP?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:37 PM on July 26, 2012


Not even Bioware is doing very well in the MMO market... part of that, of course, is the pernicious EA influence that has largely poisoned that studio. Regardless, thinking that you're going to just start up a new company and make a huge splash, when Bioware just spent something like 200 million dollars to make kind of a dud, just about defines hubris.

To put things in perspective: the MMO that Bioware made (SWTOR) had something like over 2 million sales and 1.7 million subscribers at launch (December 2011) trending downwards to 1.4 million subscribers (May 2012) and in the upcoming earnings call, are likely to report something like 1 million subscribers.

In comparison, WoW had a peak of something like 12 million subscribers.

Based on those numbers Bioware have definitely turned a small profit on the game at this point, and the SWTOR franchise will continue generating revenues for some time to come.

Schilling probably built his business case on moving a million copies of their MMO - Amalur sort of proved they could. From a financing standpoint, it doesn't seem so crazy. With better management - it's possible they could have pulled it off. But Schilling wasn't smart enough to lead, and wasn't smart enough to hire people that could.
posted by xdvesper at 6:37 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mea Culpa - earlier I criticized the linked page for being short. It turns out I was looking at a Coral Cached version of the article that was missing the navigation links so I only saw 1/9 of the content.
posted by subbes at 6:42 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Based on those numbers Bioware have definitely turned a small profit on the game at this point

I'm not totally sure of that - the burn rate on MMOs is pretty high, and despite the significant layoffs they still have kind of a lot of people at the studio. It may eventually hit profitability, if EA continues to keep it alive (which is by no means guaranteed) but I am not at all sure they've gotten there yet. (And the rumors that they're going to transition to free-to-play throw all predictability out the window.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:45 PM on July 26, 2012


> "Is there a kind of bravado or self-confidence that allows former pros to think they can translate a successful career in sports into a successful business career, or do they just tend to have a lot of people around telling them that they can?"

The SI article is very illuminating. It is sad that so many young men are so woefully unprepared to manage those brief years of high earnings and relative fame and fortune. In the case of Curt Schilling, I believe he is just terminally arrogant. Not every pitching phenomenon believes he is invincible but Schilling always did seem to believe in himself unquestioningly. I think he found it inconceivable that he could fail at this business or at anything he put himself into with his whole heart. It is that hubris which perhaps is responsible for his strange abandonment of his employees in the meltdown.

Perhaps for some athletes the talent and achievement they experience are inseparable in their minds from their personal identity and worth as human beings. If some long-ago parent, or teacher, or coach had intervened and taught him to value the clarity of humility, might Schilling have become a different kind of man? I wonder.
posted by Anitanola at 7:28 PM on July 26, 2012


There seems to be some confusion about the two studios and the two different games. From what I understand, and I have been following this story for a number of years on a gaming forums Curt used to frequent, he originally started Green Monster Games to create an MMO. He played Everquest for a long time, and started this project (iirc) a couple years after World Of Warcraft came out (2005-2007ish?). He spent a ton of money and time on it, and it took a long time before they realized they didn't have the talent or resources to pull off the MMO he wanted. So they bought another studio and converted a lot of the content they already had into a single player RPG. This might be why the game they actually released (Kingdoms of Amalur) felt so grindy and mmo-like, despite the fact that it was a single player game. It's unfortunate what happened as far as the money is concerned, but like someone upthread said, MMO's are the hill upon which good studios die. The scope of work required to complete a competitive MMO is mind boggling, and anyone who tells you that you can get something decent out the door for under $500 million is lying. If you really want to take on the giants, you better be prepared to spend twice that, and it's still no guarantee of success unless you have absolutely top-tier talent and project management.
posted by sophist at 8:03 PM on July 26, 2012


I'm a lot more sympathetic about the tragic financial naïveté of retired athletes when they're the primary victims of their own mistakes, instead of taxpayers and employees.

Part of me wants to bathe in the sweet schadenfreude of a no-handouts conservative falling on his ass despite government support, but I can't. This shit isn't funny, people are going to be hungry and homeless because Rhode Island wasted money on this instead
of social programs.

This guy cried in front of his kids? Yeah, that sucks for his kids, but that's not who Shonda Schilling was defending. Crying? Crying?! That's his penance, his burden, is feeling bad? Fuck that. God, fuck that.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's still no guarantee of success unless you have absolutely top-tier talent and project management.

There is no guarantee of success in MMOs. Most MMOs fail outright. The ones that succeed often do so because of clever monetization strategies (Sony's Station Pass, Turbine's innovation in free-to-play conversion) or willingness to throw money at the problem long after launch and before profitability (EVE Online,) not any particular virtue on the part of the people who actually make the game.

This is what venture capital is discovering now, and no doubt at least part of why the well dried up for 38. Too many failures - and even MMOs that manage to earn back their investment and make it to marginal profitability tie up very large sums of money for a really long time.

The potential rewards are pretty huge - there's a reason that even EA has kept Ultima Online around for all of these years, and that reason is 80% profitability on a monthly revenue stream - and no doubt people will continue to hammer at the problem for a long time to come - but it's just insane to think that a personal fortune and a couple hundred raiding hours logged is enough to get an MMO off the ground.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:13 PM on July 26, 2012


Isn't this the American dream in action? We in the U.S. have this deep-seated belief that if you just keep going despite the obstacles and never give up, you will win at whatever you're trying to do. The thing is, that sort of perseverance can actually help you in sports; the never giving up in the face of pain and exhaustion and overwhelming odds (can't you hear the music swelling?) can actually get you somewhere. But that approach doesn't work in business, where you can't be bull-headed and single-minded and think that you can make it work just with sheer force of will. As the article says, Schilling had a dream and he believed in it and he pushed and pushed and wouldn't listen to any other viewpoints . . . when he should have been cautious and careful and collected lots of information and acknowledged what he didn't know. And even then it might not have worked. The brutal truth is you CAN'T be anything you want to be, even if you want it really bad and work really hard. But Americans have a hard time hearing that.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:47 PM on July 26, 2012


F%! that noise. I'm an American - I can be anything I want to be. Right now, I'm going to be a llama!
posted by newdaddy at 8:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Malor: " But they were also making an MMO, and the MMO is the hill on which companies die. Had Schilling just stuck with regular games, his company would be happy and healthy today, beavering away at its next release. "

Actually, no. By the time Schilling bought Big Huge Games to repurpose their existing game and make it part of Amalur, the company was already hurting thanks to the long MMO development. With nothing to show for it. If they had been developing in-world games with the intent of a connecting MMO later they would have been in good shape, but they went all-in.
posted by graventy at 8:57 PM on July 26, 2012


Arrogance and a lack of business experience + Rhodie 'star fuckers' + overspending (aka not understanding and maintaing a true star-up environment) = FAIL.

FUCK your bloody sock.

Kudos to Massachusetts' Governor Deval Patrick to pass on the deal of offering you tax breaks and State support for your crazy ass idea.

Fuck you, Curt Shilling. Your actions screwed many of your employees who are out of salary ... are without healthcare ... are now having to repay relocation fees and double mortgage payments -- benefits you had offered them to relocate to join our company.

Oh, what about your stated Tea Party position of no government support? Your taking tax credits from R.I. demolish your FUCKING public stance. Do you know how to spell HYPOCRITE?

FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE. EGOTIST. FUCK YOU.
posted by ericb at 8:58 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


best western RPG

Heh. I wonder how many other manic-exclamation-to-put-in-the-ad reviews you can get out of the formula (hotel chain)+(deadly weapon).
posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


This article got me thinking that even failed business loans (though perhaps not this one) can be a better deal for governments than they would be for banks. When a bank makes a loan, they get only interest, while the same loan from the state yields interest and tax revenue: taxes on in-state income that resulted from the loan.

I wonder if a lesser failure on this company's part could have resulted in a positive total outcome for the state.
posted by zippy at 9:04 PM on July 26, 2012


I wonder if a lesser failure on this company's part could have resulted in a positive total outcome for the state.

If RI had an established game industry, it might have kept a lot of the people who moved there for 38 Studios. As it doesn't, I imagine most of those people will move right back out again.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:14 PM on July 26, 2012


ersatz: "The only games I've ever seen any kind of real argument for as "the best western RPG ever" are Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment. With a couple of mutant freaks drooling over Fallout 2.

Mutant freaks? Our ancestors came out of vaults, sir.
"

Your ancestors, sir, YOUR ancestors. My people value genetic diversity, although drooling is frowned upon in polite company. Unless, of course, you lack a lower jaw or are too toothy to properly close one's mouth.
posted by Samizdata at 9:32 PM on July 26, 2012


And, FWIW, I suppose you could label me a KoA fan. On my third playthrough right now. (1 - Warlord, 37, 2 - Archmage, 39, 3 - Scout, 9).

Also, pissed Schilling killed Big Huge. I have had too much fun over the years with some of their games like Rise of Legends.

The Amalur engine was pretty nifty especially as it runs decently on the crappy built in Radeon 3000 in my box I am stuck with since my 400W power supply died and I can't feed my GeForce 9500.
posted by Samizdata at 9:40 PM on July 26, 2012


All through that Boston magazine article, when Schilling keeps repeating "I know we'll succeed, we've just got to.", I want someone to pull him aside and say "Listen, Curt, you are exceptionally talented at playing a game. You may have other skills, but this business thing is not a game."

I kind of blame Ron Howard and Tom Hanks for making all those movies where, if you are sincere and guileless and try with all your heart, you just gotta to win.

/Also, thanks Deval. You got my vote.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just hope that the Epic-reconstituted Big Huge calls itself Even Bigger.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:43 PM on July 26, 2012


WorkingMyWayHome: The brutal truth is you CAN'T be anything you want to be, even if you want it really bad and work really hard.

You sure can't if you don't learn anything about what you want to do and you start out being an idiot about it. Curt Shilling used his position to fill his upper ranks with relatives and yes-men, didn't listen to the experts he did have, and made numerous other management, game studio, and general business mistakes. And he tried to do the hardest thing possible for a game studio to do - compete with WoW, a game which has killed or marginalized numerous talented competitors from industry experts. As a baseball analogy, it's as if he started a new team, went to the world series as his first game, put himself up to bat first, used a bat made out of marshmallow foam, and then tried to run the bases backwards. None of his decisions were competent. The venture capitalists who looked over his company were wise to run away.

Still, it was his own money, until he wasted that taxpayer loan. That alone is fully sufficient to formally make him a Bad Person. But whomever granted him that loan... they had to know better. It had to have been hero worship over his sports career at best, or outright corruption at worst. Either way, I'm all for stripping their personal assets to repay whatever tiny fraction they can manage.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:22 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Shilling arrogance, as I read the article, kept reminding me of the protagonist from Eastbound & Down.
posted by fredludd at 10:40 PM on July 26, 2012


The biggest surprise for me was learning tax credits are apparently a form of currency and can be sold or traded.
posted by maxwelton at 11:26 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read "Western RPG" as meaning "Set in the old west"...

Why has nobody done this yet? I bet it would sell big in Germany.


There is Red Dead Redemption.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:22 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


What really bothered me reading this, and it's not entirely surprising given his politics, is that Schilling's position still seems to be that the company's failure was driven by politics and government meddling.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:46 AM on July 27, 2012


I am not a gamer, so please bear with me. I know of WoW and Eve, and I seem to remember some Star Wars games that were MMOs, but what are the big successes, and what were the failures in this space?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:33 AM on July 27, 2012


Kenny Powers is a protagonist? This changes everything...
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:07 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is Red Dead Redemption.

That was the first thing that came to mind for me too, but it's not really a traditional RPG. More of an "open world third person action shooter". GTA in the Old West.
posted by antifuse at 6:16 AM on July 27, 2012


FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE. EGOTIST. FUCK YOU.

This
...again...and again...and again.
posted by incandissonance at 6:46 AM on July 27, 2012


I am not a gamer, so please bear with me. I know of WoW and Eve, and I seem to remember some Star Wars games that were MMOs, but what are the big successes, and what were the failures in this space?

Successes, in approximate chronological order (caveats - I am speaking of games that were successful in the US. Once you start talking Asia, it's a different game altogether. Also, my generational divisions are arbitrary and probably idiosyncratic):

Ultima Online, 1997: This was the first commercially successful MMO, often referred to (inaccurately) as the first ever. It peaked somewhere south of 300,000 subscribers.

Everquest, 1999: A different take on the genre (totally different interface and systems - didn't build on UO so much as get developed in parallel to it) and hit it big. The standard for most subsequent MMO systems and assumptions.

Dark Age of Camelot and Asheron's Call: Commercially successful, although not overwhelmingly so. Basically riffs on Everquest. EQ, DaoC, and AC were the "big three" for several years, and defined the first generation of modern MMOs.

World of Warcraft: The Everquest of the second generation, in that its success has been absolutely untouchable. It peaked at 15 million subscribers and is now the bar everyone is trying to reach.

EVE Online: Despite changing genres entirely (spaceships vs platemail,) EVE is often considered the spiritual successor to Ultima Online for reasons that would bore you. While it never hit the mass popularity of WoW, it has been quite successful and is often held up within the industry of what you can do with a game that underperforms at launch if you commit to it and continue to iterate on it.

There are quite a few second-generation games that were moderately successful (City of Heroes, Everquest 2, that Final Fantasy one, Lord of the Rings Online) and are still running one way or another. Several of them have converted from the traditional $15/month subscription model to some form of free-to-play model (i.e. no subscription, but bonus content, cosmetics, or whatever cost some kind of real money.)

The third generation - defined roughly as games whose design was shaped by the knowledge that WoW ate everyone's lunch - has generally not done very well, because in order to compete with WoW you have to throw really, really massive amounts of money at the project. This is also where my comprehensive knowledge fails, because most of these games came out right around when I left my last MMO job. But a brief list for your googling pleasure: DC Universe Online, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, Aion (probably huge in Korea, less so here) Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic (the vessel of our hopes and fears, not kicking as much ass as anyone wanted it to.)

The failures are too many to list. Here's one arbitrary list. Here's another. Some of them got shut down immediately, some of them lived a couple of years, a few are still limping along. (Sony has a multiple-game subscription that keeps games on life support more or less indefinitely.) Neither of those lists mention any games that never launched, but there are a whole raft of them, too - Stargate Universe (lawsuits galore), Dominus (gross incompetence), Project Copernicus (the subject of this and prior posts), and many more. Many of them go under to the tune of interesting scandals - both of Perpetual Entertainment's games (Gods and Heroes and Star Trek Online) shipped under other studios eventually (to no success, either one) but Perpetual itself is long dead under the weight of lawsuits and accusations of financial mismanagement.

The Wikipedia article is actually pretty good if you are still interested after all this rambling.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's interesting to see which ones are actually still around. Apparently Ultima Online is actually still around (!!!), and I was surprised to get an email recently from Funcom that Anarchy Online is still around too. I played that one for about 3 months when it was first launched, and gave up. But it's still kicking!
posted by antifuse at 9:49 AM on July 27, 2012


Apparently Ultima Online is actually still around (!!!)

Yup, which reminds me, I need to get writing that 15-year anniversary article. Once a UO dev, always a UO dev.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:04 AM on July 27, 2012


In related news, SWTOR is going free to play. It really seems like the age of the MMO is mostly ending.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:59 PM on July 31, 2012


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