by Cody
“Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

The video gaming industry is an incestuous place. Before we get zealots
crawling out of the woodwork to curse and damn us, let me explain my
statement. In the video gaming industry, there’s a lot of
movement between various development studios and you’ll often
see the same people, albeit employed by different studios, all the
time. Like professional sports, the “players” on
these development studios are constantly traded back and forth. Once
you make it in, you’re consistently passed from one company
to the next.

If you read articles concerning the single player and console games,
you’ll find this idea to have validity, but its even more
true in the MMOG portion of the industry. There’s a running
joke among many of the community and public relations managers that
collecting business cards is just as good as Pokemon –
you’ve gotta collect them all!


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Brett Close talks
with us at AGDC about redefining the MMOG genre.

So when new blood enters the water, there’s a relative
feeding frenzy to see what these folks are up to. Such was the case
with 38 Studios and there relatively unknown lineup of directors,
managers, and executives. There are many recognizable names –
Brett Close, Chaz Sutherland, Scott Cuthbertson, Mary Kirchoff, Curt
Schilling, Todd McFarlane, and R.A. Salvatore to name a few –
but those names don't coincide with a plethora of experience in the MMOG field. However, At the core of their studio lies a treasure trove of experience, with employees gathered from a variety of different studios in the industry. They've gathered the best and the brightest to create what the new blood brings to the table.

Luckily, Ten Ton Hammer was one of the early companies that joined that
rush to get to know 38 Studios, and throughout the convention season,
we’ve gotten to know the individuals at 38 Studios. At AGDC
’07, we again caught up with Brett Close and Mary Kirchoff,
the president and chief marketing officer of 38 Studios. After chatting for a bit, Mary let Brett field our interview questions and we
made our way to an empty speaker ready room.

Initially, I simply wanted to know what 38 Studios had been up to since
and what was next for the young studio. Brett was more than ready for
the question and came out swinging. “ href="">ComicCon
was huge and very successful for us thanks to Ten Ton Hammer and a few
others sites,” Brett said. “There was some great
follow-up press that made for a solid coming out party for the studio.
I think some people now look at 38 Studios in a different light, but we
still have the challenge and risk of how you address intellectual
property when your product is two and a half years out and people want
to hear about it now. We hope that we’ve deftly sidestepped
that sort of agenda because we’re stubbornly (and smartly)
holding that information back. I don’t think it’s
wise for us to uncork the bottle just yet.”

I’d have to agree with Brett on their tactics concerning the
release of information. Since they are building not only a game but a
complete intellectual property, it would be a complete waste to
announce the premise of the game now to allow their competition to
build new products to match their own. By staying silent,
they’ve restricted their competitive edge until its ready to
be unveiled. To take a setting from Salvatore: It’s like the
assassin’s hidden knife that isn’t revealed until
it’s ready to cut.

However, when the game and intellectual property are released to the
public, what sort of MMOG will we be seeing? This was the question I
posed to Brett, and he divulged his own – and the
company’s – thoughts of where they want to take
MMOGs. “The industry is ripe for the next phase in the MMOG
genre,” Brett said. “The first phase was the
concept of existing in a 3D engine and world; you log on and can do
pretty much what you could do in a 3D engine before – kill
characters and go kill a boss. In MMOGs you can group up with your
buddy and do these sort of things on top of grinding to get levels, but
that’s basically it. I’m obviously leaving out a
few things, but that’s kind of the barebones of the first

“The next frontier [for MMOGs], to me, is a lot like what
happened with 3D shooters,” he explained. “You had
these basic 3D shooters and somebody realized that this isn’t
just a game; it’s a storytelling device and medium. Then you
had companies like Valve making Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and EA
making the Medal of Honor games. It’s all about

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Bob Salvatore has
already created extremely interesting worlds for his novels. Now he's
trying to do it for MMOGs.

Amen to that. At least someone is finally figuring this out with MMOGs
and doing their best to get something implemented that’s more
than a simple competitive ladder to the top. If there’s a
meaningful story, people might slow down and actual look at the content
that’s being present and try to grasp the meaning behind it
all. Like a good book, there may even be a reason to replay (or reread)
the game simply to see if you missed any important details the first
time around.

“In general, this industry is all about figuring out how to
convey a story,” Brett said. “It’s no
different than seeing a great movie or opening up a great book. If you
can combine that with the fertile soil of MMOGs, then you
won’t just go and hang out with your friends to grind and
level up. Now you’ll have a clear motivation why
you’re doing certain things and if you don’t go and
defend a village, there’s a very clear outcome and
you’ll see how the world changed.”

“It’s all extremely interesting,” he
continued. “I don’t think we’re the first
to say or think of that idea, but we’re probably in the best
position to do this, since we have people like Bob Salvatore and Todd
McFarlane. Bob’s in house frequently; he lives only thirty
minutes away, and he’s a ridiculously avid MMOG player.
It’s one of those things – and I know it sounds
cliché – where you get all of these creative and
talented minds together, and you simply turn up the heat and watch what
happens. Things begin to bubble over and stew, and then stuff just

“Right now we’re solving the implementation
issues,” Brett said. “We’re doing engine
evaluations, and we’re converging on that. We’ve
just about got the team to a steady state for a prototype phase. Beyond
that, we’ve got the tools to build an MMOG, we’ve
got this great presence who can tell a story from beginning to end in
an MMOG world, and we’ve got people who’ve been
building MMOGs for a long, long time; now we just need to push it to
that next frontier, that next phase in MMOG development.”

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016