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A Revolution Through Visionaries - How 38 Studios Hopes to Change Lives

Updated Mon, Apr 18, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning
Exploring a dungeon in Reckoning.
What makes a great game? Defining that could take an entire series of articles and more words than the Internet can hold. For some it would be graphics, for others it would be story. However there is a simple answer to that question. No matter what game you prefer and for whatever reasons, the root is always the same. What makes a great game? Its visionaries and the team.

When it comes to visionaries it's hard to argue that 38 Studios has anything but the cream of the crop. We've seen their team and we've seen what they've done in the past. Earlier this year I was able to join the quad of minds behind the plans at the Studio in a panel discussion. What ensued was nothing short of inspirational to any game enthusiast.

Of course, when you have a team of all-stars on any panel it's hard not to get swept away. In attendance to discuss the vision behind 38 Studios was the Studio's founder, Curt Schilling, along with Todd McFarlane of Spawn and other comic book fame (as well as some major motion pictures), RA Salvatore best known for his NY Times best selling Dungeons & Dragons novels featuring the iconic Drizzt, and Ken Rolston of Morrowind and Oblivion fame.

The All-Stars

38 Studios
Curt Schilling

38 Studios
Todd McFarlane

38 Studios
Ken Rolston

38 Studios
R. A. Salvatore


Schilling opened the discussion by outlining his gaming history and his recruitment strategy when he went to form the Studio. Hardcore gaming, he said, was always a commitment to him more than it was a play style. It was something he did whenever he didn't have a ball in hand. He was a laptop collector, always with the latest and greatest, and he'd be at those laptops whenever he had the chance so he could play the video games he enjoyed.

The company was founded on a Teamspeak server in an EverQuest raid channel. Some of the founders were in the same guild. After discussing it for some time, Schilling wanted to take the next step by taking action. From his formidable baseball career ending as a famed pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, he understood the nuances and intricacies of team play. As such, he wanted the best team he could get, so he approached it as he would have a fantasy sport team. He wanted the number one picks, and he went after them.

Schilling had known Todd McFarlane for 11 years up to that point, so getting him on board was not difficult. Later, McFarlane would bring his celebrated creative mind to the artistic direction of the team.

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning
Fighting a troll!

""We want a revolution in the genre," said Rolston. "The thing that makes a revolution possible is by doing what everyone else says is impossible.""
Next up, they needed someone who could flesh out a captivating story and universe. There really was only one person Schilling wanted for that spot, and that was RA Salvatore. Unsure of whether or not Salvatore would be up for the project, Schilling contacted his PR agent to try to get a hold of him. Soon enough he was on the phone with Salvatore.

"I can't believe I'm talking to you!" Schilling said when he first connected with Salvatore. And Salvatore said the same thing: "I can't believe I'm talking to YOU!"

Schilling was pitching against Kansas on opening day, and that night he stayed up until 7am to put the proposal together for Salvatore. It didn't take long after that before Salvatore was on the team and committed to plotting out the story, history, and lore of Amalur.

At that point the team was looking for a playground, and Salvatore was going to be the man to provide it. He created the entire history of the new world - all 10,000 years of it. When he presented it to the rest of the team, Schilling said it was like hearing JRR Tolkien tell the story of The Lord of the Rings.

kingdoms of amalur: reckoning
The Well of Souls.

Over the next few months and years, Schilling aimed to make working at 38 Studios incomparable to anything else. He wanted no better working environment in the world. "When employees matter and know they can make a difference, they work with a passion," said Schilling. His primary job now is to protect that environment to ensure it remains a place where its employees want to stay.

McFarlane was busy at work too. He went to it by recruiting a lot of young artists. He would watch them at noon as they would take a break and go play video games. As he watched, he asked questions, mainly "why not do this better?" When he presented that philosophy at one of the company's meetings he asked that very question. "There are only three things that would stop anyone from doing things better: money, time and technology," he said. Were any of these obstacles that couldn't be overcome by 38 Studios? When the question was asked, there was a pregnant pause. The team then knew there was nothing holding them back, and they could do better than what was already out there.

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