And Now, The Finger Pointing

Boston Magazine has a recap of the 38 Studios meltdown, cast as some kind of dinner theatre, with Curt Schilling the amiable and clueless family patriarch who just holds his head in his hands sadly at a kid’s softball game wondering

and the just and the unjust alike were trapped in the onslaught of taxpayer funding

why his company blew up.

No really. That’s not from the dinner theatre metaphor, that’s from the actual story.

Back at the softball field in Dracut, Schilling is still having trouble fathoming what happened. “I’ll find myself in the middle of the day, just aching,” he says. He concedes that he’d promised his employees 60 days’ warning if the money ever looked like it was going to run out, but argues that the situation was moving too fast for him to keep sending updates. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell anyone,” he says, “it’s I didn’t know what to say.”

Note to Curt: being in that position is why your job title was Chairman and not, say, Director of Responsibility-Free Fun Stuff.

No new actual material facts in the piece, but lots and lots of context: the author of the infamous “it is in the company’s interests that we fire everyone immediately, get out” letter turns out to be Curt’s uncle, for example. And surprisingly a lot of ex-38 Studios execs talked to the author, on and off the record, mainly to point out that Curt Schilling did not have the most realistic expectations. (You don’t say.)

The most damning part, however, came from Hamlet-On-The-Softball-Pitch himself:

“The game wasn’t fun,” he says, unprompted, beside the softball field. “It was my biggest gripe for probably the past eight to 12 months.” Visually, Copernicus was stunning, but the actual things you could do in the game weren’t engaging enough. The combat aspects especially lagged. Schilling — who never wavered in his belief that the game would be great — says the MMO was improving, but after six years, it still wasn’t there. When Schilling walked around during lunch hour, he says, nobody was playing Copernicus’s internal demos. They were all on some other game.

Most outside the industry will read that and think “well, damn. It wasn’t fun, they failed!”

Most inside the industry will read that and think that Curt Schilling knows so little about making games that he actually expects people who work on a game for 12 hours a day to play it – even though it’s unfinished and most projects don’t actually become fun until the last sprint of development – on their one free non-working hour.