Loan Guarantees

Rhode Island Subsidizes Curt Schilling's Video Games: Who's Buying This Fantasy?

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For libertarian gamers stuck working today and unable to play the just-released Diablo III, here's something else to annoy you: Rhode Island gave a game developer a $75 million loan guarantee, and now the company is in financial trouble.

Maybe they'll give this guy a job at the Rhode Island DMV to work off the loan?

The game company is 38 Studios, founded by former Red Sox pitcher (and apparent Everquest junkie) Curt Schilling. The company has produced exactly one game, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, released earlier this year. Rhode Island actually offered the $75 million loan back in 2010, luring the company to relocate from Massachusetts to Providence.

But Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the state's economic development officials worked with Schilling over the weekend to keep the struggling company afloat, the Providence Journal reports. If 38 Studios goes under, Ocean State taxpayers are on the hook for the loan. (Chafee opposed the loan, which was approved before he took office)

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was released to middling fanfare, generating some brief buzz for taking the conventional fantasy setting and giving it a more active combat system. But it's been buried under the hype for the next World of Warcraft expansion (panda bears!) and the aforementioned Diablo III.

The company reported selling 410,000 copies of the game, which was released on the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Reviews were good, but not spectacular, given that the game's pedigree included Todd McFarlane (crown prince of the cultural horror that was the '90s comic book scene) and fantasy author R.A. Salvatore (the reason why dark elves are a thing – and yes, dark elves are a playable race in the game).

The loan is for the studio's second game, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) currently codenamed Copernicus. Here's how 38 Studios describes the game on its site:

Copernicus is the codename for an unparalleled MMOG entertainment experience set in a truly evolving fantasy world that is both warmly familiar and intriguingly unique. Creative giants R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane, together with the design teams at Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, are crafting a story of epic conflict and heroic individual journeys in which the players' actions will impact the fate of the world. This storyline rests upon a solid design core that incorporates the best play and social experiences available to players at launch. Driven by the creative talents of Salvatore and McFarlane and enriched through an array of products that will allow broad and deep exploration of the vast universe of Copernicus, 38 Studios is combining the ages-old art of the story with 21st century interactive entertainment.

If that description sounds familiar, it's because that's the description of every fantasy game ever made. The online game marketplace is littered with the broken bodies of World of Warcraft clones and there's nothing to suggest Copernicus would be any different. The government, of all institutions, barely understands how the Internet works. It certainly lacks the information or wisdom to wisely invest in game development companies. (And couldn't they have gone with City of Heroes? That game is actually set in Rhode Island!)

The New York Times wrote about video game publisher tax breaks last year (conflating them with subsidies as though they are the same thing).

And while Rhode Island is throwing taxpayer money at elves and faeries, its cities are going bankrupt.

NEXT: We Find the Defendant, John Edwards, Guilty of Scumbaggery

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  1. The online game marketplace is littered with the broken bodies of World of Warcraft clones

    No shit. Every company thinks they can tape together a game, make it MMO and just start raking in money. I wish them good luck but with the heavyweights coming out this summer I don’t think they stand a chance.

    1. 1. Copy WOW
      2. Pretend it isn’t a clone of WOW
      3. ??????
      4. Profit

      1. when really, the steps are:

        1. copy Warcraft 1 – 3, including their indepth, cumulative, storyline
        2. make MMO based on that history
        3. Profit

        there’s no ??? step, because the extensive lore that existed prior to WoW’s introduction was a primary reason for its success IMO.

        1. Not really – Warhammer Online has a lore that’s much richer (and in my opinion more interesting) than WOW and even leveraging rabid GW fans didn’t help them much.

          1. Lore is the antithesis of what an mmo should be.

            Who the hell reads what quest givers say anyway…just a bunch of BS to skip through in order to find how many wolf pelts I need to get.

            1. Who the hell reads what quest givers say anyway

              the lore has a much broader design impact than just the quest text. it shapes the geography, the factions, etc

              1. it shapes the geography, the factions, etc

                HA!

                All the ugly monster races go this way all the cute and pretty races go this way…

                Faction lore!!!

                Geography is what plays best and has nothing to do with results of any possible history.

                Lore is obviously boot strapped in after the fact and only seems to get in the way of game play for a wow style mmo.

          2. leveraging rabid GW fans is pointless for a FPS or MMO, since those fans are rabid about wargamming (ie TBS/RTS).

            For example, WH: Space Marine was not made for rabid GW fans. Dark Millenium probably wont be either (if it ever makes it to release).

        2. I’ve played WoW since Classic beta and my impression is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t give a fetid dingo’s kidney about the lore and even the ones who do aren’t playing the game because of it. Could be wrong, though.

      2. Yeah, “The Old Republic” tried that and the only reason it worked is that its Star Wars – even so they’re still losing players left and right.

        Pretty much every other WOW clone – even good ones like “Rift” – are doing poorly.

        1. Also, TOR pretty much ignored the information that can be gleaned from WOW’s 7 years of doing shit right (and what they did wrong).

          Crappy UI, crappy AH, crappy communications

  2. Using the word “hype” in connection with the release of Diablo III is offensive.

    1. Because it implies that anyone’s paying attention?

      1. You have no idea just how wrong you are.

        1. That’s where you’re mistaken. It is a point of pride for me that I always know how wrong I am before I proceed.

          1. I think you may be even wronger than usual on this one.

            1. I strive for excellence.

    2. I’m way more excited about the Perpetual Testing Initiative myself.

  3. I’ve read my share of Drizzt Do’Urden books, and I can say without a doubt that he’s a gigantic pussy. Fuck dark elves.

    1. You actually read those books?

      HAHAHAHAHAHA!

    2. I always thought Jarlaxle was pretty cool. It’s been a while though.

    3. I read those too… when I was 10.

      1. Well, fuck you, you precocious dick. I didn’t realize they sucked until I was halfway through writing my PhD dissertation on them.

    4. Did the dragon lance books have dark elves?

      1. who cares, they had dragons.

        1. Not only dragons but dragons that could morph into humans and fuck.

          You understand why I do not remember if it had dark elves…

          Still it predates Dritz…so would prove they had an existence before him

      2. IIRC, Dragon Lance had ‘dark elves’ that were your regular forest dwelling elves that chose to do evil things.

        Raistlin’s apprentice was one, I believe.

        As I remember there were no Drow in Krynn.

  4. I didn’t know until this moment that Lin Chaffee was RI’s governor. Man, RI is just the worst, isn’t it?

  5. Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the state’s economic development officials worked with Schilling over the weekend to keep the struggling company afloat…

    So they’re throwing good money after bad. Too bad they couldn’t get in touch with one MBA (hell, someone with a BBA) who could tell them sunk costs are not recoverable. Do not try. It’s the equivalent of drawing to an inside straight.

    1. But you forget, a straight is a winning hand! (sometimes)

      1. Sure – I’ve actually won doing that – but going all in on a strategy that works ~ 8% of the time isn’t going to work over the long term.

        1. That strat works more often if your opponent is the type to fold more often than he should.

  6. Don’t know about EQ, but Schilling played a hunter back in BC/Wrath WoW. As I recall there was nothing especially notable about it, good or bad. And let’s be honest, if you were going to guess Schill’s WoW class, Hunter would have to be at the top of the list.

    1. I would have guessed Fire Mage.

  7. The current trend lately of turning single player games into MMOs is annoying as fuck. There are enough MMOs out there, and most of them SUCK. The most interesting dynamic coming out of all of them is the pay-for-extras model. With the exception of WoW, I do not think the subscription model will work on a new generation of MMO games. There are just too many from which to choose. Further, there will never be another WoW, because there is already a WoW that has had 7 + years of development and brand development. A new fantasy game, unless it is somehow radically different, will not be able to compete with that. Even a license like Star Wars is having problems, because it is not different enough from WoW. As for Kingdoms of Amalur, although I enjoyed it and I realize the SP game was essentially designed as a teaser for the Kingdoms of Amalur MMO, it absolutely will not be a WoW-killer. The MMO market is saturated right now, and very few of the games are making money except for the pay-to-advance model. And even that market is saturated with fantasy games. I think developers that want to develop MMOs at this point in time are living in lala-land. There’s no money to be made there.

    1. I don’t consider the “pay for extras” model all that personally interesting. It reeks of Zynga-style superannoyances, and anything that distasteful is destined for failure, IMO.

      1. I’m the whack job who only plays more traditional games like Go and Scrabble on servers instead of playing MMOs. Some of the servers let you play for free, although if you want perks (access to lectures from professional go players or the ability to keep kibitzers from seeing your Scrabble tiles), you can become a premium member. I don’t see what the big deal is; I’m just a cheapskate.

        1. I don’t know if a 20 kyu would get a lot from a go lecture, but I’d imagine a higher ranking amateur who has put that much time in the game would appreciate it….

    2. Fuck MMOs. I remain horrified that one of my favorite game franchises, The Knights of the Old Republic, was released as one. Killing any chance of it ever coming back as a single-player game.

      1. I was lucky enough to get to beta test The Old Republic about a month before it came out. It was quite fun as a single player game; the BioWare influence was clear. But I had zero interest in spending $15/month to keep playing it after the trial ended.

      2. Fuck MMOs. I remain horrified that one of my favorite game franchises, The Knights of the Old Republic, was released as one. Killing any chance of it ever coming back as a single-player game.

        Seconded, with seething rage.

        1. It’s damned disappointing.

      3. Fuck MMOs. I remain horrified that one of my favorite game franchises, The Knights of the Old Republic, was released as one. Killing any chance of it ever coming back as a single-player game.

        And how it made everything my character in KOTOR II did never happen.

    3. I don’t like it either, but it’s better than every game coming out with a shitty multi-player mode that they sacrifice the length and complexity of the main storyline in order to shoehorn in [cough]Bioshock 2[cough].

      1. This is arguably what happened to MAss Effect 3 as well. It makes me RAEG.

        1. I like Mass Effect 3 okay, but it’s not as good as the previous efforts. And it’s reportedly the last one ever, which sucks.

          1. Ah, wiki…

            Displeased fans organized an internet campaign called “Retake Mass Effect” to demand a better ending to the game, part of which includes a charity drive for the organization Child’s Play.[152][153][154] The drive officially raised $80,000 in less than two weeks, but was shut down at Child’s Play’s request due to confusion amongst some donors as to the purpose of donations and the organization’s unwillingness to become associated with any other cause than their own.[155][156] The group later raised $1,000 in under one hour to go toward the purchase of 402 cupcakes. The cupcakes were made with three different colors (red, green and blue) to correspond to the different endings, yet all had the same vanilla flavor.[157] They were then sent to BioWare’s main office, who in turn donated all of them to a local charity.[158] One fan even went so far as taking his complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency created to protect consumers. His argument was that BioWare did not deliver on the promise of its game saying, “after reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims.” [159]

            1. The ending isn’t that bad. Ye gods.

              1. It is pretty bad, IMO, but the dude starting the FTC complaint is a nut.

              2. The ending isn’t that bad. Ye gods.

                Maybe not, but it’s close. Even if you change nothing about the way it ends the story, the execution is just terrible. I’m convinced that they just kind of patched it together and rushed it out the door before something along the lines of Indoctrination Theory was ready so it wouldn’t go up against big titles at release.

            2. Fuck these fan boys who cry to the government and file lawsuits claiming their game experience wasn’t “fun and engaging”.

              That is all.

    4. The other problem with the Star Wars MMO was that it was pretty much just a KOTOR game that you could play with friends. Once you finished the story arc there was really nothing else to do.

      Arenanet is keeping their free play model with Guild Wars 2 which I think will help build their player base. I’m looking forward to The Secret World mostly because it’s not your standard fantasy MMO and uses classless characters like Ultima Online did. I’m just hoping it lives up to my expectations, I don’t want a reskinned WOW.

      1. Yeah, I’ve been antipcating The Secret World for a couple years now, mostly because I am a big fan of Ragnar T?rnquist’s Longest Journey games.

      2. I played the GW2 beta, and I was blown away. If they released it tomorrow and fixed it for six months I’d be totally cool with that.

        1. I’ve heard only good things about it. I’m holding off on new stuff until after TSW launch. I’m planning on joining GW2 later this summer after TSW either disappoints or the shine wears off a bit.

      3. The Secret World is pretty good – I’m in the beta (shh, don’t tell anyone) and have been enjoying the hell out of it.

    5. I think the bigger problem is every game, regardless of setting, is trying to be a WoW/EQ clone. If you pivot to different playstyles, rewards systems, or player / group objectives then I think there’s still fertile ground for an MMO.

      I think Mass Effect would have been a great candidate to test this theory on for both story and gameplay reasons, but the idiotic way BioWare ended ME3 pretty much killed that idea.

      1. I will probably finish my first playthrough of ME3 within a few days.

        Consider my expectations of the ending to be suitably lowered.

        1. The worst part is how suddenly it goes from high to low. I was completely invested right until the very last sequence. Great game otherwise, and I’m not at all mad I spent my money on it, but it did ruin the SP replay value for me.

  8. I’ve never played an MMO, but I am still looking damn forward to this one.

    1. But how can you simulate rolling 60 d6s in an MMO?

      1. dude, with rigid body physics and the latest shaders, the joy of rolling unlimited numbers of dice, of any configuration, can be yours once more.

      2. Tesselation makes the shading on the virtual d6 look awesome.

      3. Anyway, if you’re rolling *60* d6’s then you’re playing a wargame not an RPG

        1. Anyway, if you’re rolling *60* d6’s then you’re playing a wargame not an RPG

          *cough*

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deities__Demigods

          1. Lol obviously you’ve never played Shadowrun.

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen 60 d6’s rolled but I have seen 40, and it wasn’t in a combat situation (they were trying to bypass security on a very tough lock)

    2. I am interested to see how that does as well. To my knowledge there aren’t any games using a similar world, which is a big step in a good direction. At least there is tons of material for it. I adored Shadowrun back in the day. Hopefully they don’t try and make it WoW-ish. Despite my pessimistic rant above, I do think there’s room for MMOs that don’t tread down that well-worn path. EVE Online (although I didn’t care for it) seems to do OK.

      1. Its kind of neat that CCP is also developing a “modern horror” mmo in the WOD universe.

        Its on hold right now to get DUST 514 out the door but should be back on after the summer.

      2. On a somewhat related note, apparently they are coming out with a Mechwarrior MMO.

        That’s right, now you’ll get to strap on a *REAL* Suit of “armor”, all 70+ tons worth of PPC laden death and run around and blow the crap out of whole cities.

        They actually published a gameplay video for it a year or so ago, a Warhammer getting taken out by an Atlas.

        I practically had to change my undies after watching it.

  9. Man, I’m fucking lame. I just play The Sims on my PC and We Ski on the Wii.

    1. you’re a girl, so you get a pass.

    2. Don’t feel bad, I just play Tomb Raider, God of War, and any of the Legos games on my PS3. And then old school titles on my Wii.

    3. This is the part about the Sims I don’t get (and understand that I’ve only played the first one so I don’t know how they address this later on): what is fun about playing a game where you get a job, buy furniture and shit, and make sure you pee every morning?

      Then again I play a lot of Minecraft, and my brother just looked at me like “why are you showing me this?”

      1. what is fun about playing a game where you get a job, buy furniture and shit, and make sure you pee every morning?

        I tried sims: I was a complete and utter failure and all my people died.

        Just like my experience with houseplants and aquariums. Time to suck it up and admit that I’m some sort of life-draining monster that fouls everything it comes in contact with.

        Then again I play a lot of Minecraft, and my brother just looked at me like “why are you showing me this?”

        Me and my brother share many similar exchanges. Good times.

      2. Then again I play a lot of Minecraft, and my brother just looked at me like “why are you showing me this?”

        Did you show him this?

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh0mRZEZPGE

      3. Sims 2 was leaps and bounds better than the first one. You could create plotlines that would make soap opera writers blush.

      4. Honestly, every single player of the Sims I have ever met has derived pleasure from one of two sources.

        1) Finding the most creative ways to torture your Sims before eventually killing them.

        2) Homosexuality, Polyamory, and Incest. That is coming up with the most *creative* romantic engagements they can possibly imagine. They start with trying to make gay Sims, then Sims with multiple spouses/lovers and later on making the kid sims (after they are grown) fall in love/*WOOHOO*/have babies with siblings, parents, and grandparents.

        Also this group always downloads the hacks that show full nudity and not the blurred out images that are standard.

        I should also note, every single female player of the sims I have ever met has fallen into the second group.

        So basically The Sims is porn for women 🙂

    4. crap. The last PC game I played was the original CoD and the last one I liked was XCom. I can’t figure out how to shoot straight in Black Ops on this kids’ PS3 with that newfangled controller so all I do is play NHL. Christ I feel old.

  10. Yo, Fuck Diablo.

    Where. Is. Mutha. Fucking. Warcraft 4.

    1. They’re still working on Starcraft 2.

    2. It already happened, along with 5, 6, and 7; 8 is in development.

      Some enterprising modder should attempt to actually re-do the main story arcs from WoW into a new Warcraft on some RTS platform. It’d be fun.

      1. It already happened, along with 5, 6, and 7; 8 is in development.

        your joke

        ———-

        my head

        1. Heh. Anything that would have happened as a result of further Warcraft sequels was pushed to World of Warcraft instead, but instead of leading massive armies in huge battles, you roast a half billion boars with lightning bolts.

          Though my numbering is likely inaccurate; I think original release WoW and the first two expansions would have been one game and an expansion pack, while Cataclysm would have marked the beginning to WC5.

          1. Due to the changes in leveling to get new players up to speed its only 50 billion now.

  11. I tried and failed above, so I’ll try again: anyone else playing with the new test chamber creation utility for Portal 2? Highly entertaining, both designing and playing other people’s chambers, although the quality and difficulty is all over the place.

    1. I’ve heard about it but never seen it. Is it a mod that needs to be downloaded or does it get patched in by Steam? I’ve not tried coop mode but my son and daughter have a couple friends they’ve gone through bits of it with.

      1. I finished the single player, only played a little of the co-op so far. Steam automatically downloaded the new content and creator, and it runs from directly inside the game. The only thing that involves stepping out of the game is going to the Steam Workshop to find community maps to download. The downloading of maps is instantaneous though, and there are already tens of thousands of maps.

    2. I saw you post above, but I haven’t played it yet. Being able to play and share user created content is always a great feature to me, and one that really adds a lot of value to any game.

      1. The value they just added is practically infinite. There was already a developer tool called Hammer that could be used to make test chambers, but it’s apparently extremely complicated. But you can do the initial design with the new simple tool, then add some extra features with Hammer.

  12. World of Tanks is fun and free. They have a premium model that gets you credits and xp to buy junk faster, but it’s not needed. And I like shooting stuff. With a tank.

    1. so, iBolo?

  13. I still think the best MMO that hasn’t been made is one based on the War on Terror.

    Unfortunately, such controversies turn off gaming companies.

    1. Oooh, simulated drone strikes!

      1. I sketched out how this game could work with a coworker a few weeks ago. I think one way around the controversy is to set it somewhere else, but I think that also takes away the big draw: being able to play as a terrorist.

        1. How about playing as a terrorist organization who has gotten ahold of drone tech.

          Underneath the game you can have a discussion of how a lot of the policies we are developing are great when we have the advantage but no-fair crying foul when the enemy starts doing to us what we’ve been doing to them.

          1. I’m sure all sorts of things could be incorporated. You could throw in a whole campaign involving the use of weapons and training that were obtained after the US/West sided with one group during a civil war.

    2. That would make a good ARG.

  14. I did enjoy the Lord of the Rings Online MMO for a while, mainly because it was free to download and play with some limitations. I really do think the monthly subscription model has got to go eventually.

    1. I expect that in the future most MMO’s will be released with a monthly subscription that is intended to morph into F2P after 1-2 years, unlike now where most often F2P is quickly added in to keep making money when the initial surge of player interest dies.

      Your game has to be really good to keep people paying and I can only think of three games that are over 3 years old and still have subscription fees – City of Heroes/Eve Online/WOW

      1. City of Heros still exists?! Champions is the same game, but improved. Hell, I just figured Champs was made by the same people.

        1. Actually, City of Heroes has gone free to play as well. I stopped playing it well before then, though.

  15. Any other of you old farts finding that 90% of the comments above go right over your head? You kids get off my lawn.

      1. 30, 5’11″/165lbs, and despite reading Reason daily, not miserable.

        Yeah, statistics hate me.

  16. Those who are not working today aren’t playing D3 either.

    Midnight launch and the authenitication servers are overloaded for several hours.

    Game is taken offline again at 1000 to fix huge bug. comes online at at 1400

    Goes offline again at 1415 to fix another bug.

    I’m not working today and so far I’ve gotten a whole hour of gameplay.

    ANd it drives me crazy to see people say that there’s no need for offline in this game since no-one plays single player. I play single-player because I don’t like playing with other people on the internet – they’re usually fuckwads. Oh and looks like no-one is playing multiplayer either.

    1. Online authentication is a massive fail, but being forced to stay online after authenticating is the devil’s work, no pun intended. Of course the servers are overloaded. The anticipation was only building for a dozen years. Activision is ruining Blizzard.

      1. What really gets me about it is that Blizzard won’t just come out and admit that its about getting people to use the cash shop. If everyone has access to it, even people who normally don’t care would use it on occasion. All about capturing the long tail.

        Instead its about “piracy” and “fairness” (ie it cheapens others games if you cheat in your own). I really like one of their excuses – some people made SP characters in D2 and were upset that they couldn’t import them into MP.

        1. According to Twitter, those who pirated the game are playing in just fine, so a big LOL there.

          1. I am not sure the purpose is to stop piracy.

            I think it is to prevent people from duping or farming gear that can be sold on the auction house.

            1. This is almost certainly the case. They know that this merely a minor roadblock as far as cracking goes. see also: SC2

  17. R.A. Salvatore (the reason why dark elves are a thing

    Bullshit.

    Drow were pretty damn awesome before Drizzt or what the fuck his name is. Hell they pretty damn awesome in the world of greyhawk long before that Forgotten Realms shit came out.

    I give credit to Gygax….if anything R.A salvador screwed em up by making one Chatoic Good.

    Who the hell believes a Drow could ever be chaotic good?

    1. Wow…

      That’s some self-centered ranting going on there.

      A significant portion of my life was spent DMing in Forgotten Realms. And you know what? It was fun.

      Chaotic Good Drow? Why not? Are they crazed demons that are genetically locked into the CHAOTIC EVIL!!!!!11!!????///? Sort of like saying if it has dark skin, it must be evil.

      (breathes in) RAAAAAAAACIST!!!eleventy!!!

      But I do agree that it is bullshit to credit R.A. with making dark elves a thing. We had drow back in 1st Ed (original Fiend Folio).

      Now, get off my lawn!

      1. And yes, the original Fiend Folio credits the Elf: Drow (Dark Elf) to Gary Gygax.

        1. Yes, I know. I had the books, too. But Drizzzzzzzt’s popularity changed them from NPCs to characters people actually wanted to play, not just kill.

      2. Chaotic Good Drow? Why not? Are they crazed demons that are genetically locked into the CHAOTIC EVIL!!!!!11!!????

        Change “genetically” to “magically” then the answer is yes.

        According to the Fiend Folio Lolth is a demon and she holds a very short leash.

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