Saving Throw: Amalur Dev Pays Gov, Pegs MMO For 2013

By Nathan Grayson on May 22nd, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Dear whoever this reanimated skeleton belongs to, we've taken him hostage. Please send $75 million to the PO box below, or we will hit him with this giant hammer. Signed, 38 Studios.

Generally, the weekend is life’s pause button. But occasionally, things happen. Strange things. Vile things. Things involving incessant backstabbery and good people falling on impossibly hard times. Oh, wait, I’m just describing yesterday’s Game of Thrones (wasn’t it great?). No, no, the real world weekend actually yielded a bloom-lit bounty of good news. In short, Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios (and subsidiary Big Huge Games) managed to at least temporarily ward off the Grim Reaper using that $1.125 million it wasn’t able to previously muster. Even so, this is just the beginning, and – somewhat terrifyingly – 38 still plans to plug the gaping wound in its bank account with an MMO. I’ve heard those things aren’t exactly cheap.

Hilariously,  Copernicus – as the previously announced Amalur MMO is known – had its cover broken by the governor of Rhode Island.  “What I understand is Copernicus is June of ’13,”  Lincoln Chafee said during a press conference (via Joystiq). Given that the bulk of 38 was racking its collective brain to come up with silly fantasy names for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning until a scant few months ago, that seems like an epic, danger-fraught quest outside the realm of possibility. But then, desperate times call for desperate measures, and 38 needs to knock one out of the park sooner rather than later.

Adding to Chris Shilling and co’s troubles, another payment of $2.6 million is due in November, followed by a total of $12.6 million throughout 2013 – all of which looks downright manageable compared to the $75 million that it owes in full. Chafee noted that the heavily indebted developer hopes to bring private investors on board to help make up the difference, but I imagine that’s a dicey proposition no matter how you slice it.

Presumably in an attempt to drum up interest, 38 released the first footage of Copernicus in the form of an environmental highlight reel that, promisingly, looks absolutely gorgeous. But then, the question of “Does the world really need another fantasy MMO” looms heavier now more than ever – especially in light of recent releases like Tera (which beat Copernicus to the action-based punch), upcoming games like Guild Wars 2, and the thus far frigid reception of Elder Scrolls Online’s announcement.

Honestly, though, I’m getting ahead of myself. Right now, there’s no telling if Copernicus will ever see the light of day, let alone make its hopeful 2013 date. For now, give the footage a look and see what you think.

, , .

73 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Grygus says:

    It is pretty enough, but real MMO success is all about the end game, and there is no suggestion here about that. I’d like to see these guys succeed, but it does seem like a long shot. Good luck to them!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’d agree that MMOs live by their endgame, but at least some of the new MMOs are trying to break the “end” part of endgame, and spread that sort of content for everyone/scale people/content to that area.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      No, no, no. Some MMOs do. WoW does, and accordingly so do many players expect other MMOs to do similarly.

      Me, I spent four years enjoying WoW, exploring, questing roleplaying on various characters but the end game isn’t really it for me.

      Better to state that the so-called ‘end game’ can be a significant aspect of an MMO. Much better to view each MMO on its own merits than to impress things from other MMOs upon them. Because those MMOs already offer those things.

      • Phantoon says:

        EVE doesn’t really have an endgame, does it?

        SWG certainly had no endgame.

        • eks says:

          EVE doesn’t really have an end-game because you are free to do whatever you want at any time.

          If you really want to think of it as “more SP/bigger ship” = end game (which is not the case) then I guess getting into a Cap/Super Cap would be considered end-game. Although that’s not really true either because by the time most people are in a Super they aren’t even really “playing” the game.

  2. Galcius says:

    The environments actually look pretty good. However if the camera is anything like as bad as the one in KoA:R, you’d spend most of the time staring at the ground…

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s well done, but that’s all there is to it. It’s one of those cases of ‘It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s not good’. It’s very been-there-done-that. It looks nice, but it’s very much [WARNING: marketing speak!] a me-too product. There are no unique selling points on display there. It doesn’t give you any reason to go there, since you’ve been there already. The only truly remarkable thing I noticed was that they seem to have built a town right underneath a huge dam…

      • Galcius says:

        I wouldn’t dispute that at all. Neither KoA:R or this project Copernicus seem to have any actual selling point – the environments did look good but they also looked like they might as well be out of the next WoW expansion.

        I don’t think any new MMO can survive without either:
        1: Some unique selling point
        2: An established and strong IP that will attract fans.

        I think GW2 is one to watch because it has both (and by most accounts is a great game on top of that), whereas anything that dribbles out of 38 Studios just looks like it was put together by some piece of automated software, probably called “Generic RPG Creator 3000″

    • Premium User Badge

      Morph says:

      I know what you mean. Sometimes I’d remember to flick the camera up and be genuinely impressed, but then walk forwards and it would move back to my character and the ground and generic-o-rpg again.

      • Galcius says:

        Yeah the environments were actually quite impressive at times – there were great backdrops that I too just stood and stared at, and the fact that the camera did everything to hide them from you really annoyed me. It’s incredible how much the game was stinted just by a poor field of view (it looked like what? 45 degrees?! What is this, a peep show!?) and a camera that obsessed over the ground textures. Pulling the camera back 10 feet and bumping up the FoV would have dramatically improved the game. (But still not saved it from the dreary grey tide of generic fantasy, that washed over the whole world like an extremely boring analogy).

  3. CaspianRoach says:

    Being pretty helps, but it is far from the main factor for an MMO.

  4. hench says:

    It’ll most likely be just another themepark that will be dead 3 months after launch.

    • Shuck says:

      If they’re having money troubles now, I can’t see how they’ll survive to launch.

  5. caddyB says:

    Can’t beat Tera’s combat!

    • Choca says:

      Can beat TERA’s everything else, though.

      • caddyB says:

        Well, yeah.

      • Wreckdum says:

        I wasn’t impressed with Tera’s combat. Sure it is faster paced than a traditional MMO but it is still snail slow compared to any action game. I give them kudos for trying to blur the lines between MMO and action game but they didn’t really succeed. Just a gimmick in my eyes.

        Also… Who the hell is Chris Schilling that was referenced in the article? LOL The CEO of 38 studios name is Curt Schilling former Major League Baseball pitcher.

    • Xzi says:

      Actually I do prefer KoA:R’s combat to TERA’s. Reckoning just had more of that crisp arcade-style feel to it, with real consequences if you got hit too much (on hard, anyway).

    • fish99 says:

      I tried the TERA beta and while the combat may be good for an MMO, I still found it horribly lacking compared to single player ARPGs, including KoA:R.

    • f1x says:

      Shockingly I find TERA’s combat superior to KoA:R

      In TERA, positiniong and dodging feels more necessary, in KoA:R even on hardest difficulty you dont really need to dodge or move to much, if you compare one of KoA:R bosses to any “BAM” in TERA you will see the difference

      Also the weight of weapons and the feeling of impact feels more satisfying in TERA and the way combos and skill compliment each other around the level 25+ in TERA is simply much more complex and apealing than in KoA:R, overall thats my major problem with KoA:R its got a fine base but suffers of dullness all around

    • nrvsNRG says:

      maybe not quite, but amalurs combat was decent enough, so if you could balance that without the overly grindyness of tera and add it to this then it may be preferable for some ppl to wow.
      i wish them luck, because they’ll need it.

  6. sneetch says:

    The environments do look gorgeous but gameplay is king. Details on that would be good.

  7. Choca says:

    This will end in tears.

    • jonfitt says:

      Truth.
      I see no good way you can launch an MMO without tons of money in the bank to invest in keeping people after the initial rush. Even if they go F2P it’s not plain sailing. $75m in the hole with no cash is not a good starting point.

    • Sarkhan Lol says:

      Beginning in bankruptcy is a good way to ensure that.

  8. Hoaxfish says:

    “and the award for best generic fantasy mmo goes to…”

    it looks “nice”, not stunning, not amazing, not inviting, not exciting.

    • Valvarexart says:

      I respectfully disagree.

      • frightlever says:

        It looks great, but there better be plenty of options sliders because the last thing you want to do is cut yourself off from mainstream success by having your required spec too high.

        • Valvarexart says:

          It all depends on the direction they want to take. If they want to go for a more ‘hardcore’ fanbase fairly high spec requirements are not really an issue.

          • wu wei says:

            When you’re in that much debt, I don’t think you can target “hardcore” players/high-end machines and survive.

  9. Valvarexart says:

    I really hope this succeeds… With environments like that and lore written by R.A Salvatore all that is needed is three factions and open-world PvP. I really do hope they make it sandbox-ish.

    It’s strange; there are many, many MMO’s out there, but all of them are fundamentally flawed in some way. Right now I am holding my breath for Mortal Online’s Awakening expansion, but other than that I can’t see anything worth a monthly subscription.

  10. JackShandy says:

    When will people stop treating MMO’s like an instant money button? The last time you want to be doing something like this is when you’re going bankrupt. Make something small and safe.

    • caddyB says:

      Especially now that sub based mmos are essentially sinking ships.

  11. MeestaNob says:

    You know what these money problems pretty much guarantee? 75% off weekend deal!

    • mondomau says:

      Except that EA are the publisher, and I’m fairly sure that it’s the publisher sets the price for Steam sales etc., not the developer. Can’t see EA giving a shit here, really.

      • UnravThreads says:

        Except EA aren’t the publisher (as such), more a distributing partner. The Steam version is all done under 38 Studios, not EA.

  12. Bhazor says:

    I quite enjoyed Amalur but yeah this company is doomed.

    Nice knowing ya and I hope your financial team join Acti/Blizzard.

  13. aliksy says:

    Another MMO?

    Let’s see. If it has dynamic grouping, no holy trinity, automatic rescaling (aka sidekicking?) so you can easily play with friends/revisit old areas, and combat more involved than the typical autoattack+hotkey, maybe I’ll be interested.

    But I think the chances of that happening are pretty slim.

  14. serioussgtstu says:

    I’m very confused. If Kingdoms of Amalur was developed as an MMO and then changed to a single player format, so does that mean that they had Copuricus in development at the same time as the Kingdoms MMO? I mean Copurnicus looks pretty far into development, and MMO’s are notoriously expensive to make, so Iogically I would say that it’s no suprise that 38 are hemorrhaging cash after having two of the things in production at once.

    I hope 38 studios recover, but these kinds of unsustainable business practices might be their downfall.

    • kyrieee says:

      KoA was never an MMO as far as I know. It wasn’t set in that universe to begin with though.

      • UnravThreads says:

        KoA has two forms. First you have Reckoning, which is a single player RPG. Second is an MMO.

        Both have been done simultaneously, with Reckoning being a sort of tech demo. Sort of like how Torchlight 1/2 and the Torchlight MMO will work.

        • serioussgtstu says:

          Yes I see what your saying, but what I’m really getting at is the overlap in the development cycles of two MMO’s within the same company. It just seems totally mad for one company to continue such a large project like Copuricus while KoA had either failed to meet their expectations as an MMO, or had it already been made into a single player RPG when the development for Copuricus began?

          Either way 38 seem to have shot themselves in the foot by giving both games the go ahead as MMO’s simultaneously, or by trying the MMO format again after KoA had failed.

          • UnravThreads says:

            Project Copernicus is almost certainly the Amalur MMO.

  15. Red_Avatar says:

    If you think that trailer is “absolutely gorgeous” rather than “several years out of date”, I think you’ve been playing too much WoW … What on earth is going on with people being blind to outdated graphics? Diablo III’s graphics are easily 4-5 years out of date and people STILL call them gorgeous despite the low resolution textures, lack of pretty much any modern effects, pretty mediocre animations, etc. etc. Are people so used to console games holding back good graphics that they can’t even see PC-only games looking OLD?

    There’s a point where you have to criticize the developer for not making full use of our expensive rigs. Especially when the damn game is £10 more expensive than others!!!!

    • derella says:

      Some people actually appreciate art direction more than graphical horsepower.

    • Eversor says:

      In MMOs, the graphical design is more important than just high-res textures. A game with good design will look good as time passes, while the latest MMO with the coolest graphics will look pretty outdated rather quickly. You can say whatever you want about WoW, but its graphical design has been solid till this day, even if they’re now getting weird and straying away from it with the new expansion.

      Contrast that to Age of Conan, for example. It looked very good in 2008. Now? Not really.

      This applies to all genres, though. A well designed graphical style can be timeless. Just look at any Nintendo game, if you need examples.

    • Premium User Badge

      Foosnark says:

      What is Diablo III missing that would make it not look “4-5 years out of date” to you?

      Because other than Crysis, I can’t remember the last time an interesting game was released where people thought the engine looked modern.

      Also, games with long development cycles (such as MMOs, or anything by Blizzard or Valve) are not going to look as shiny as the latest tech demo by an engine company or a video card manufacturer.

    • Brun says:

      Art direction is generally more important than technical fidelity. In some games like Skyrim (technically) superb visuals are necessary because immersion is a critical aspect of the game.

      A lot of my friends say that one of the (few) things they like about SWTOR is that it has better graphics than WoW. That’s true from a technical standpoint (more polygons, better textures, etc.), but SWTOR’s art style couldn’t be more lifeless.

    • nrvsNRG says:

      I actually quite enjoy the art style in D3.
      I would have liked it better if they put twice as much detail into character models (also some of the armour looks like the painted on armour of the lego games), but as far as environments go its nice… low res, but nice.

    • CorruptBadger says:

      firstly, like many others have said, its not all about graphical fidelity, but art style, for example, the darkness 2 has by your standards “Bad graphics” because it has a defined art style that tries to make it conform more to the graphic novels. Also, do not attack consoles, you herald them as the devil and pc gaming as god himself, but in reality its the fact that people see little graphical difference anymore with these minor improvements such as tesselation, and because developers know the shortcuts, can also squeeze more juice out of a machine.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Please name an example of what you think are up to date graphics. I’m sure it’ll help the discussion. :)

    • Falcon says:

      Diablo 3 is pretty. Sure, it has low res textures in several places, and lower poly models than I would like. There are really laughable backgrounds in other places that look like an animated GIF from the 90s. But overall, the art direction is solid and a lot of the game has a colorful, painterly look.

      It’s not all about polygon count, texture resolution, or raw engine horsepower. I appreciate engine advancements as much as anyone else (e.g. I’m definitely looking forward to what devs will make with Unreal Engine 4), but yes, games like Diablo 3, DotA 2, Portal 2, Trine 2, etc. look great even without the latest whizzbang golly-gee-whiz engine powering them. I still enjoy games like Crysis, or Metro 2033, or whatever you want to use for comparison, but great art direction is at least as good for me as simple horsepower. If I can get both, then great. =)

  16. Vinraith says:

    MMO’s are the sirens of the gaming world. They lure you in with promises of WoW-like financial success, then dash your studio upon the rocks. I can think of few things more foolish than a struggiling development house trying to save themselves with one of these.

    • Koshinator says:

      The thing is… 38 studios was set up to make this mmo in the beginning – Amalur was really (as said higher up in the comments) a tech demo for Copernicus. This is why Amalur really felt like a single player mmo.

  17. kyrieee says:

    Hey guys, parallax!

  18. Arcanon says:

    We still don’t know anything about the GAME itself, but with Tera and soon Guild Wars 2 innovating and raising the bar of MMOs, I really can’t see how ANOTHER online monster could survive that kind of competition.

    They would need to have something really unique in it, but the fact that KoA:R was as generic as an RPG can be doesn’t give me any hope.

  19. Roshin says:

    Generic fantasy MMO’s, eh? I hear those things PRINT money!

  20. Nick says:

    I see a future involving them going bankrupt.

  21. fallingmagpie says:

    Is Chris Shilling Curt’s brother?

    Maybe they should have a Kickstarter. ‘If you donate $12.6M by Dec 31 2013, we won’t go into administration!’

  22. Moraven says:

    Looks like the Skyrim MMO screenshots.

  23. sharkh20 says:

    I don’t like being a pessimist, but this is a terrible idea covered in financial failure. The last thing you want to do when you have money troubles is make an MMO.

    • El_Spartin says:

      The problem after that is that they realized this before it got really bad and the game didn’t do very well. Now they are in a “MMO or bust” state where busting is the far more likely option. I’m not even sure they will be able to make it to ’13 at all, much less June.

  24. misterT0AST says:

    Look at the end of the video, the whole world of Amalur slowly getting farther and farther, fading in the black nothingness around it…
    So sad, and yet so beautifully true.

    • oceanview says:

      Well said. Imagine being the last ingame char, turning of the lights. All these npc’s waiting… forever in the darkness.

  25. Cryo says:

    Well, the important thing is that top management will get rewarded handsomely even it flops. That’s all that matters, right?

  26. xp194 says:

    Am I the only one that wants to see the recent MMO trend kinda wither and die? Not saying it hasn’t produced /good/ games, but I get the feeling that 38 would benefit far more from an improved Amalur than trying to launch an MMO into an already highly saturated market.

    And despite not being a fan of WoW… let’s face it, /every/ MMO release that’s been suggested to be a WoW killer… hasn’t. Sure, WoW’s losing subscribers now, but I don’t think there’s going to be a ‘the next World of Warcraft’ till this one is fully dead and buried.

    • fish99 says:

      Agree. Surely there’s more money to be made with a good single player RPG/ARPG than trying to enter the subscription MMO market while WoW is still around. And even as an Amalur fan, I just don’t want to play an MMO version of that game.

  27. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I hope they’ll learn some lessons from the failure of Amalur. After all, that’s what seperates successful companies from unsuccessful ones. That go bankrupt.

  28. secretdoorinvisiblewall says:

    Has KoA been on sale on steam yet for a significant discount (like 50%)? I’m pretty sure that it has not, and looking at savygamer’s archives doesn’t bring up anything.

    Hey 38 Studios–if you want some cash, maybe you should actually try to sell some more copies of your last game. I’d be down to give it a go if the price is right (I’m thinking $20-30). If you don’t have an established franchise or absolutely through-the-roof reviews, you’re just not going to sell a lot of copies at $60.

    Seriously though, I can’t believe they’re going bankrupt and they haven’t even tried to drum up some interest in their game via a big weekend sale or something of the like.

  29. terry says:

    This move is akin to saving yourself from falling over a cliff by cutting your head off.