Gaming Massively

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What are they up to now? 38 Studios edition

It's funny how conservative young people can be. Keen has a post up, noting concern over recent statements by 38 Studios in an interview with Joystiq about their recent acquisition of Big Huge games. In the post, Keen notes that he is concerned that the game isn't well defined, and that makes him 'uneasy'.

Of course, the trick here is that with RA Salvatore, they don't need a game at all. They could create an IP and go crazy with it on t-shirts, posters, etc. (gotta keep all the artists busy somehow - otherwise why pay them?) and make a killing. The story will sell - we know that. And so do they. So take as a given that the key element - the IP - will be successful.

Now it's gravy time. And here there is some legitimate room for concern. The game could be built just like every other game that's been built on a successful IP. I'm thinking here of movie games (E.T. on the Atari 2600, anyone?) But let's, for the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt - these are professional game makers. With nothing defined except for the fact that they will have an awesome and successful storyline on which to build a game, I think it's a bit premature to start worrying the sky is falling (will fall).

The other nice thing is that, even if the main game sucks at first, with the funds they'll have from everything else (those t-shirts, etc.) they should have time to hold on and make it right. I think that's the biggest thing people forget is that longevity is the biggest factor in making a good game (or anything else - everyone knows the first gen has bugs). With their plans for making money in a variety of ways, they should have the resources to take their time and polish it up to shiny. And because the IP should be good, at least we can expect any games to come out to at least have a credible story - that may not help the game, but it can't hurt.

Finally, the only way gaming, as a genre, is going to get better is by people pushing the envelope. So if they release 15 crappy games and one truly new thing, we'll all be happier than if they released nothing at all.

Patience, Grasshopper.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Original IPs vs. Established IPs

Slashdot pointed me to an interesting article at Ten Ton Hammer all about storytelling and MMOs, specifically whether using an established IP is better or worse than developing your own. They interviewed a number of gaming companies, and came away with a mixed bag of results. Basically, PR is easier with an established IP, but working within an existing storyline is harder.

Interestingly, 38 Studios has the benefit of a known story teller, which is benefiting them as an established IP would.

Some things I felt related to the fact that gameplay still isn't innovative enough - lots of people cited Lord of the Rings as being problematic, and others noted that in several established IPs the most powerful characters were already established. I thought that focus on the 'epic battle where the big baddie is vanquished' missed other options for great storytelling - Gandalf, for example, may or may not have actually destroyed the Balrog (I can't remember if the book actually says unequivocally that the Balrog was destroyed) - the key was that he managed to walk away, and protect the others. Basically it's the escort quest, only without the silly parts of the escort quest that relate to bad AI.

It's interesting, actually, to think about - the one assumption was that storytelling should be excellent, but the good guys should always win. But some of the best stories (Empire Strikes Back, e.g.) involve the good guys getting their tuckus handed to them.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


I was wondering if 38 Studios had any new developments (I'm quite excited about anything involving a writer like Salvatore), so I cruised on over to their site to see what was up. Looks like they've hired a UI designer from Blizzard, and some other details like that, but nothing really big. I also had a look at their jobs board, and while reading a posting noticed this little tidbit:
Based in Maynard, Massachusetts, the studio is a fun, energetic place to work, where the company mantra, "How cool would it be if . . . ?" infuses the team with a commitment to passion, integrity, and innovation.
Where they heck is Maynard, MA? Sadly, it's not as 'in the middle of nowhere' as I had hoped - looks like it a suburb of a suburb of Boston. Why had I hoped it was in the middle of nowhere, you ask? Because I'd like to imagine someday I might live near an MMO that I could work for. But since I make it a point to never live near big cities, and I've yet to have enough cash to live in a big city (Paris excepted, amusingly), I need to wait for an MMO to be headquartered somewhere rural. I've a sneaky suspicion I'll be waiting a while....

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