Aww: Epic Make Moves To Hire Big Hugers

By Jim Rossignol on June 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.


The collapse of 38 Studios and Big Huge Games, after the commercial failure of Kingdoms Of Amalur, left a lot of game developers completely out of work. Which is not a good situation to be in. But all is not lost, thanks to the need for Epic to expand. In a letter written by Mike Capps, the company explains that they need lots of talent, and consequently they’re jumping right in with both feet and hiring a bunch of Big Huge Games folk: “The way we see it, there’s been a big storm in Baltimore, and we’re taking in a few of the refugees — as are the awesome folks at Zynga East, Zenimax Online, and other southeastern studios. Epic’s in a situation where we can do this, and it very clearly fits with our company values, so we’re going to give it a whirl.”

So that’s a new Epic studio in Baltimore, working on something owned by Epic, starting, well, right now.

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50 Comments »

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  1. LionsPhil says:

    I thought this was a PC news gaming site? </obvious-bitter-epic-snark>

    Sort-of props to them, but Epic’s not the place it once was, and I don’t really see anything like Rise of Nations coming out of this as long as CliffyB is still in love with muscles and gamepads.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      Isn’t Fortnite Cliffy’s design?

      I thought he’ll make another Jazz Jackrabbit after Shadow Complex was such a hit. On the other hand I remember him pointing out that Gears has some platformer DNA, as you mostly jump from cover to cover to advance.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Back when I reviewed Unreal Tournament 2004 Cliffy told me how he’d really like to make a game version of the summer holidays people had as kids.

      • Mr. Mister says:

        Point’s so true it must hurt.

      • LionsPhil says:

        …given Gears, that worries me as to how he spent his summers.

        (That, or the whole American summer-camp thing is making me think of Psychonauts as interpreted through the medium of MUSCLES and possibly bright green rabbits. I…honestly don’t know what to think about that.)

  2. deadly.by.design says:

    That’s not too far away from me, but …

    I’ll restrain my sarcasm/sarcasm in remembrance of UT, though.

  3. Kadayi says:

    Good to see other developers stepping in to assist. Quite liked Amalur (it’s a slow burner) and hope they can build on it, in terms of product (if not IP).

    • darkath says:

      The game was not too far of being good, or at least okay. But sadly it was waaaay too easy, and waaaay too long, for waaaay too high a price.

      I guess most people who bought it never finished it, out of boredom. I mean I was already bored to death before the end of demo, then i *borrowed* it to see if there was meaningful stuff past the demo limit … but not even something to fill a hollow tooth.

      I guess they have to blame groupthink and the belief that throwing a bunch of “star” people in a team would breed a good game.

  4. Drakhoran says:

    And the new studio will be called Big Huge Epic Megagames?

  5. GamerThe0ry says:

    This is such good news. It’s great to see developers looking after each other.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Smashbox says:

    Word up. But they were based in Rhode Island, not Maryland.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      38 = Rhode Island
      Big Huge = Baltimore

      • Premium User Badge

        Smashbox says:

        Indeed. Hopefully my public folly can be a lesson to other misapprehending readers.

        Good on Epic, hopefully they’re able to pick up some talented folks, and those talented folks can keep paying their mortgages.

        Hopefully hopefully.

    • Moraven says:

      Beat me to it.

      Great to see the support from the industry as a whole to help those without a job on short notice.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    They all need big hugs. :(

  8. Mr. Mister says:

    Sooooo… does this mean a boost in next UT’s art design?

  9. Xardas Kane says:

    Great news, I hope all the Bug Huge guys manage to find new jobs quickly. That still doesn’t wash away the bitter taste in my mouth though. I liked KoA and I would have gladly seen a sequel. And I was a big fan of Big Huge as well, Rise of Nations/Legends were great games. Such a waste…

  10. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Would rather they hire Big Huggers. The world needs more hugs.

  11. Hoaxfish says:

    Bit of a side-question I guess… but what is the baseball guy doing in all this? Has he run off home to pretend it never happened (except for the chunk of money he lost)?

  12. ExplosiveCoot says:

    I don’t know that it’s really appropriate to call KoA:Reckoning a commercial failure. According to Curt Schilling, the game sold over 1.2 million copies across all platforms. The reason this didn’t help 38 Studios survive was because the details of their publishing agreement had them receiving all money upfront and only seeing royalties if the game sold over 3 million copies.

    AFAIK the only other person calling Reckoning a commercial failure was Lincoln Chafee (the governor of Rhode Island.) EA is on the record crediting it specifically for helping them post strong Q4 earnings (per their Q4 earnings conference call.)

    • Skabooga says:

      Well, not an all around failure, but certainly a failure for the studio, if not the publisher who made it.

    • Ultra-Humanite says:

      But see that was your mistake…listening to what Curt Schilling said. The only number I’ve seen, which is from a more trust-worthy source than Curt Schilling, cited 580k copies total across all platforms, worldwide.

      • ExplosiveCoot says:

        What source do you have for the 580k number? I looked around some, and was able to find VGChartz (no idea of their actual credibility, to be fair) reporting 580k in X360 sales alone (with 410k on PS3 and 160k on PC, for a total of 1.15 million – close to Schilling’s number.)

        I’m also inclined to believe Schilling on this given EA’s positive comments about the title. If EA did front the widely reported $35 million for Reckoning’s development, there’s no way they would’ve broken even selling only ~600k copies, whereas 1.2 million copies sold + DLC sales would net a modest profit.

        • Shuck says:

          They’d have to sell a lot of DLC to make a profit off that many sales. 1.15M sales doesn’t cover those development costs (which I suspect are on the low side, given team size and time in development), and there’s also marketing costs to consider. To turn a profit I think they’d have to make more money off the DLC than they did the game itself.

          • ExplosiveCoot says:

            It was reported EA spent $35 million for Reckoning in total.

            If EA managed to get $30 / box for those 1.2 million copies, that’s $36 million. If 1/10th of the people who bought the game bought the DLC, assuming EA keeps 80% of that it would bring the total revenue generated to nearly $39 million – a modest profit.

          • Shuck says:

            I’d be very, very surprised if they managed to make the game for a combined dev & marketing budget of $35M. According to their “post-mortem” in Game Developer Magazine, they had a 2.5 year development cycle with approximately 100 people (which is more than $35M right there), not counting some of the discarded work they did on it when they were owned by THQ, etc. The publisher+developer portion of a $60 console game also tends to be closer to $25 rather than $30. If we assume they really did only spend $35M, with normal, healthy DLC sales they’d just about break even. Of course, given that the average console game loses $10-15 million, breaking even could very well be considered “financially successful.”

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Yeah I think calling the game a commercial failure is a bit harsh, more like a commercial mixed successful. It is the studio overall that was the commercial failure in that it had a horrible business plan.

    • Kohlrabi says:

      If you have this kind of unrealistic expectations, it can only be a failure. How in god’s name did they expect to sell 3 million copies while running against the likes of Skyrim and Witcher 2? I think there are not many people who will buy another epic RPG.

      • ExplosiveCoot says:

        Apparently their idea was to build brand recognition for Amalur prior to the launch of their MMO. They gave up getting any profit in exchange for keeping 100% of the IP. Not really a horrible deal for the studio if they’d have had enough money to finish the MMO or produce a sequel to Reckoning.

        • darkath says:

          This would explain that …

          You don’t “build” brand awarness with a half assed product, only to prepare the grounds for the next one.

          If they meant to make the MMO from the beginning, they should have started with just that. It’s like they made the spin-off before the real deal …

  13. Shuck says:

    Oof, not such good news, actually. Epic haven’t set up the studio yet. Given that the developers in question haven’t been paid for more than a month already, I doubt many of them can survive however many more months it’ll take to set up the new studio. Not only that, but the positions being offered are contract. (Which in the US isn’t good – no health care, and less than no job security. Employees are often in the position of wondering if they’ll still have a job the next week.) I suspect this was announced more for PR purposes than anything else. It’s unfortunately the usual deal when a company goes under and some other company announces that they’re going to “help out” by hiring – but they usually don’t have more than a couple dozen particular positions they’re looking to fill, so 90% of the unemployed developers are still out of luck.

  14. Binho says:

    I wish they didn’t have to lose their jobs – but personally I can’t feel that bad for the devs either. At least they had a shot of it, and have something good to put on their CV.

    There are hundreds (thousands?) of young unemployed artists and developers, who because they don’t have exceptional talent immediately out of school, or 5+ years of industry experience, will never get a shot at doing what they studied for. When things like this happen, I feel they are the ones who get screwed over the most. In such a competitive market, and in such a tough economic climate, what chance does a university graduate with zero work experience have against a veteran of 5 years?

    The game industry seems to be very incestuous in their hiring practices. Personally, I think this is a contributing factor (albeit a small one) to why so many AAA games these days are so derivative.

    You know, like KOA.

    Sure, KOA had some fun combat, but the world and the art style was very generic with only a few unique twists. Was that really the best they could come up with? With a staff of various hundreds and an investment of various millions of dollars?

    In some ways I’m glad the studio closed. While the hurt caused to the staff was immense, hopefully it’s a wake up call to all the other AAA studios out there. A sign that nobody wants another WoW-alike while the original WoW is already out there. Maybe we’ll see more risks being taken, and more creative AAA games? Somehow, I doubt it.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Transferable skills are king. Unless you live in a comand economy, in which case its quotas.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Not taking risks seems very… risky.

  15. Shooop says:

    So much for them making anything for us then.

    Epic is only good for game engines, nothing else.

  16. jwoozy says:

    Amalur was a mediocre game that needed to succeed despite all rationality, common sense, and good taste. No one knows how to do that better than CliffyB.

  17. Sweetz says:

    I wonder if Epic will hire Silicon Knights developers after they’re laid off from lawsuit fallout…

  18. Edeph says:

    Indeed it’s nice to think of this as of an act of benefaction, but we can’t say that Epic has something in it’s mind.

  19. MiKHEILL says:

    Sick of seeing claims that Amalur was a commercial failure. It wasn’t. Neither was it hugely successful, but that’s another matter entirely.
    38 went over budget on Copernicus, and combined with some appalling financial management this led to the collapse of it and it’s subsidiaries.