Curt Schilling: MMO maestro or walking publicity stunt?

The MMORPG genre is stale.

The last big shakeup of the MMO industry was when the original Everquest brought 3D graphics to the mainstream, and as much as we all love World of Warcraft, it’s more a distillation of the finest ideas on the subject than a revolution in gameplay. The devs aren’t entirely at fault though, as it takes at least a metric c*ntload of cash to get these games off the ground, and the games that have dared to stretch the boundaries have been the least successful (this is the time where you would tip a forty for dear, departed Planetside).

Curt Schilling, however, plans to toss a curveball into the MMO landscape (See what I did there? It’s funny because he plays baseball!).

Schilling recently went in for a Q&A with the MMO-philes at The Escapist and the entire thing is either going to lead you to believe that his starting a company to create the next great American MMO is either a stroke of genius or that he’s just playing off his dual-fanbase of baseball lovers and Everquest shut-ins like the million dollar prostitute that he truly is.

Hit the jump for more reactions to the Q&A (with lots of snark) and to decide for yourself if Schilling is the Rick Vaughn of the MMO scene. 

Mr. Schilling’s new company, Green Monster Games (named after that wall in Fenway Park … the one with the teeth that eats people’s bones … or something), is an ambitious prospect. Created to build the finest MMO known to man, some of the key figures include (obviously) Mr. Schilling, R.A. Salvatore (of swashbuckling Drow fame) and Todd McFarlane (of overrated comic anti-hero fame). You’d think it’s kind of an odd menagerie for a gaming company, and it is. There’s no joke there, it’s just a screwy combination. Let’s see how Curt explains things:

TE: What role will R.A. and Todd be playing in the company?

CS: R.A. was hired on as the creative director. R.A. will drive the creative vision, the story behind what we’re doing. He’s got a pretty decent track record of writing some pretty good stories.

Todd will literally be the art director. He will be behind the artistic vision of R.A.’s story. We will have an art director in house that will collaborate with Todd and Todd’s team to take Todd’s conceptual vision and turn it into a game world and game players and game characters.

So, we’ve got an author known only to people who have more body hair than the furbolgs they roleplay as and a guy who peaked with issues of Spiderman in the early 90s teaming up with a guy who can throw things hard, and they are supposed to compete with Blizzard?

Then again, maybe I’m being too pessimistic. Maybe Curt actually does have some really good insight into how to create a viable MMO. Take this bit for example:

TE: There’s only one really big player in the MMOG field, and they just barely reached mass market. What is your key to succeed?

CS: It’s really simple. Todd can draw until the cows come home and it could be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, and R.A. can write the most beautiful story you’ve ever read, but if the game sucks, the game sucks. It really comes back to the game.

You have to make a game that appeals across the market, across platforms, that has a low barrier of entry, that people will want to play.

In that simplistic explanation, there really is a lot of detail, but it really is that simple. You have to make a fun game. And I think a lot of people have really just misunderstood that. There’s franchises out there, that I’d hazard to guess everybody said were “can’t misses,” and they’ve missed.

The three most branded franchises in the history of the MMOG space were Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and, to me, Blizzard. Lord of the Rings had a century to brand their IP, Star Wars had three decades and Blizzard has had a decade of branding and franchise in the world of Warcraft. And they’ve done it so impeccably well, but at the end of the day, the thing that sticks out amongst those three is Blizzard stayed truer to their visions than anyone else, and fans got what they wanted.

They did it because they stuck to their vision. They didn’t try to make a game for 7 million people. They tried to make and stick within the vision that they had, and at the end of the day, they didn’t let anybody come into the kitchen and change the recipe.

That was actually really insightful. He has impressed the robot. Now we’re torn; do we root for the failure of Green Monster Games (and another World Series victory for the Yankees), or do we jump the slowly growing bandwagon that has faith that Curt’s company can actually beat World of Warcraft (and that he’ll punch Derek Jeter in the face)?

What do you guys think? Can it be done? Can a pitcher, a comic book/action figure artist and a fantasy author come together to create the game?

 

Earnest Cavalli
I'm Nex. I used to work here but my love of cash led me to take a gig with Wired. I still keep an eye on the 'toid, but to see what I'm really up to, you should either hit up my Vox or go have a look at the Wired media empire.