Opening Day is a special moment in the life of any baseball player. It was no different for former Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox ace Curt Schilling. One of the most dominant postseason pitchers in major league history, Schilling compiled an 11-2 playoff record during a career that spanned nearly a decade. But Opening Day was always special.
Tuesday will be an Opening Day of another sort for Schilling, who's love of video games led him to found 38 Studios with acclaimed comic book artist Todd McFarlane and best-selling author R.A. Salvatore. 38 Studios' debut project, "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," a massive action role-playing game, finally arrives in stores this week after more than half a decade in development.
Last week, Schilling spoke to the Gazette's Jeff Rider about "Reckoning," 38 Studios and his love of gaming:
Jeff Rider: At what point after your playing career wrapped up did you decide to get into videogame development?
Curt Schilling: I actually opened the company about a year, year-and-a-half before I retired. The company opening in 2006 was a process that probably started in 1998, 1999. I've been a gamer my whole life, so when I started looking at my post-baseball career, this was something I had always wanted to do.
JR: You've assembled quite the all-star team to join you at 38 Studios in Todd MacFarlane and R.A. Salvatore. Was that something you decided early on, that if you were going to enter this field, you were going to do it with some of the biggest names out there?
CS: It is a fantasy baseball team kinda thing. But it's not always about getting the best names. Yes, these two guys are worldwide leaders in their fields, which is awesome, but there had to be some substance behind it. I had known Todd for quite a few years and I got to know R.A. before we asked them to come in, but, you know, who they are and what they do and the kind of people that they are kind of validates why they are as good as they are at what they do.
I played a sport where, every year there was a lot of teams on paper that should win the World Series. And in this industry, I'm sure there are a lot of teams, on paper, that should be doing far better than they are. My goal has always been to have the expectations be exceeded by the production. You've got to get special people to do that.
JR: As a baseball player, and particularly as a pitcher, scouting your opponents is key to success. Did you take a similar approach to game development, playing other games to see what worked and what didn't?
CS: That's actually a really good question because that's exactly what I did. In late 1999, going into 2000, 2001, I was a big "EverQuest" player. Sony found out that I was a big "EverQuest" player and I developed a really good relationship with Sony Online Entertainment, and that was my first real insight and look into the industry. I took that approach with everything, I visited companies and talked with people extensively for years before I did this, and at every turn I was taking notes, the same way I did in baseball. I wanted to have a firm understanding of what this industry was about, what the playing field looked like, what the competitors looked like from the ground up. That was my approach.
So when I started the company, I had some of these basic fundamental understandings of what I believed was good and bad in the industry, and I think what people's perceptions of what was good and bad in the industry both were.
JR: Creatively, how much input did you have in the early stages of "Reckoning's" development?
CS: Initially a lot. There was probably a core group of 7 or 8 guys that were tasked with [developing the basic ideas] and we probably drew up and fleshed the outline for about a year before we had a chance to get in front of R.A. and Todd and pitch them and kind of have them take it and bring it to life.
JR: At any point in the process of developing "Reckoning" were you worried about the decision to take on the role-playing genre, especially for your first product?
CS: Every single day, every single day. I've had a lot of times over the last five years where I looked back and said, 'My goodness, why didn't I just do a 2D side-scrolling web-based game.' But those aren't the games I play. And if I was going to put my time and money and effort into a company to make entertainment, it was going to be entertainment I wanted to enjoy. So an MMO in a fantasy setting was kind of a natural first step. Plans changed once BHG [Big Huge Games] came online, but the thought has always been, I want to be a company full of gamers who makes games they want to play.
JR: You've been extremely visible during the development process and have really worked hard to promote the game leading up to its release. It's clear you're passionate about the game -- do you think the passion you shown toward the game will influence people to try it for themselves?
CS: At the end of the day, maybe it will sell a few games, but our games are going to have to sell themselves. Our games will always have to sell themselves, and I think that's one of the strong points for us -- that passion that is hopefully being conveyed by me is rampant throughout the entire team. It's a special thing that we have, and it has to come out in our products, you have to feel it in our products.
Obviously I can help create awareness, but gamers aren't stupid. And I think they are offended by being talked down to and they're a smarter bunch than they were maybe 20, 30 years ago. You take that into account. At the end of the day, that's who we are. Yes we're a company making video games, but in a lot of ways we're the exact same people that post on those forums. I did it when I played baseball, interacted with fans the same way because I was a fan long before I was a player in the big leagues and I was a gamer before I owned a gaming company. I know what gamers like me want, and one of those things is open, honest and accountable people.
JR: The recent announcement of free downloadable content for "Reckoning" available at launch was met with a rather negative response from a certain segment of gamers. Were you surprised at all by that reaction?