Curt Schilling Faces His Own Reckoning Over Amalur's Pass-Protected DLC

Curt Schilling, the head of 38 Studios, has taken to his studio's own forums (and also NeoGAF's) to face the music regarding a buggy demo version of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and plans for day-one downloadable content. He's as plain-spoken here as he was on sports radio when he was a Major League Baseball all-star. It's an attribute that got him in trouble in his baseball career, but gamers seem to respond to it little better.

Not that many of them still care for a policy of day-one downloadable content, which everyone shrieked about as some dark evil plot imposed by publisher Electronic Arts. An Amalur community manager explained that this is not locked content already on the disc. It still is walled off behind an Online Pass, which means those who buy the game used will have to pay for it. So a forum thread raged for 48 pages demanding to know if 38 Studios pushed back against EA's Online Pass.

Then Schilling got involved and said, more or less, nope.

"This next part is likely to piss people off, but it's a truth and it's how I feel," Schilling wrote. "You can argue the merits and effectiveness of it, but right now it's how it's done and as someone that's as invested as I am in this company, I stand by what has happened.

DAY 1 DLC, to be extremely and VIVIDLY clear, is FREE, 100% totally FREE, to anyone that buys a new copy of Reckoning, ANYONE.

[...]

It's clear the intent right? To promote early adopters and MUCH MORE IMPORTANT TO ME, REWARD fans and gamers who commit to us with their time and money when it benefits the company.

Every single person on the planet could wait and not buy Reckoning, the game would hit the bargain bin at some point and you could get it cheaper. 38 Studios would likely go away."

Now, to be fair, Schilling had earlier replied that he hadn't been privy to any discussion of an online pass, and seemed to misunderstand its purpose. That resulted in some of the forum rage.

"After a day of soul searching I do remember conversations I was on the cusp [regarding an Online Pass] of but I, ME, never followed up and didn't ever pursue them," Schilling admitted.

But then, it doesn't really matter. EA funded half of the game's development. "[I]f EA and EAP don't step in and bet on us it would have never mattered and this game would have never been made," Schilling wrote.

As for the demo, Schilling popped into NeoGAF on Friday to take responsibility for bugs in it, and vow that they will not representative of the final product. He says he was wrong when he argued that the game shouldn't get a demo, and he understands its usefulness. "In a partnership there is a lot of give and take, and I believe in my team, they are world class, but when you have a publisher there are things happening you'd rather not choose," he says.

"Shipping old code out three months prior to gold master to a third party with no stake in the demo success can be problematic," he said. "I am sure they made the best demo they could, but as a studio packed to the gills with gamers, we refuse to believe code has to be unplayably buggy at launch; it doesn't. So to those that have had a horrid demo experience, I'm sorry, it's on us, our name is the name on the box we care about. I promise you, my word, that demo from a bug perspective is in NO WAY representative of the final code or product."

If you want, you can choose to see this as Schilling blaming third parties for things that have outraged Amalur fans. But on the question of online-pass protected DLC, Schilling's unapologetically behind it as someone existentially concerned with his studio's success.

In a bit of a different story, David Jaffe at Eat, Sleep, Play did publicly push back against an online pass for Twisted Metal, but said from the beginning that decision was out of his hands, and totally the call of Sony, the game's publisher, which is probably the situation Schilling and 38 Studios faced. I don't recall Jaffe getting excoriated for that, but he is more familiar to hardcore gamers.

Did you push back at EA at all over this? Quest content gated by online pass. [Curt Schilling, posting in the Amalur forums]


Comments

    "that demo from a bug perspective is in NO WAY representative of the final code or product.”

    I'll believe it when I see it. I have a feeling the camera will still be incredibly bad which was my only big complaint with the demo really.

      My problem was post-processing effects making NOTHING visible - a completely black screen. I actually quite liked the camera.

        Should be hotfixed with new ATI drivers just after launch... just wait a couple of weeks before playing it :P

      My problem was going through 4 or 5 levels of inventory with my mouse (which didnt always work, sometimes i had to use keyboard), and then having to press enter to equip something instead of just left clicking on it.

        You can double-click to equip.

          (that being said, I don't believe it *tells* you that you can doubleclick to equip the items, which seems like quite the flaw. You're using a mouse to navigate anyway, why would anyone want to hit enter to equip?).

      Only played the demo on PS3, and I agree with the camera. Seemed extremely close and I couldn't see anything. I felt like I was craning my neck all the time to see whats ahead and a little up on the screen.

      To be fair, camera complaints are 'bugs,' they're just aspects of the game you don't like, and if that's a dealbreaker for you that's cool too. I quite like the perspective of the camera, thought the control didn't feel spot on for me.

    I buy new. I could potentially deal with day 1 DLC ... if it worked consistently.

    Like Catwoman DLC not working for a *lot* of people for at least the first few days after release (I'm aware the link says 'less then .5% of units sold, but that's rubbish, and there's no way they could actually have an accurate depiction of that. At best, they could know how many fails there were from people who knew how to contact them and advise it had failed, which would be far less than the actual number of fails)
    http://community.batmanarkhamcity.com/forums/showthread.php/6800-Message-from-Warner-Bros.-Catwoman-DLC?s=08d85f4e8d2c67bc1f3920bab11ca65b

    Batman's not the only one that's failed horribly, but is the most recent one that comes to my mind.

    There's also the issues that it forces you to go on the internet to verify and download/unlock content, and makes the legitimate buyer jump through hoops to play their game.

    I'll never pirate, so when these hoops seem overly complicated, I just won't purchase, or play, the title at all.

    One day the companies will realise that delivering a strictly inferior product/service to legitimate consumers is a poor service model. My bakery wants me to keep buying bread from them, so I have a buy 5 get the 6th loaf free card. It's like ... providing a superior service to the alternatives keeps me going back (I know, shocking right?!)

    Of course, this realisation will occur somewhere a lot closer to the end of time.

    I'm fine with this.

    I think he explained his position logically and in a very straight forward manner:

    We want new game sales, not used game sales, so if you buy new you get X. If not, it's available as DLC.

    I'm going to give it a miss simply because of the demo.

    There's no way you can iron out bugs (texture warping, being unable to use the healer to cure curses), and fix fundamental aspects of gameplay - the camera - between a demo release and gold.

      I'm still unsure if I will buy this game, but from my understanding the demo build was at least 3 months old.

      Demo code was 3months old.

      If they were going to have to try to fix that stuff between last week and next week, I'd have cancelled my pre-order already.

      As it is I think they made a mistake in releasing the demo like that. Maybe it should have come with a big flashing text box that said "3 MONTHS OLD CODE", because if you didn't take the trouble to read news about it you'd think "Man buggy game, whatever, maybe I'll try it used after they've patched it".

      The more recent code is perfectly fine, I encountered no such trouble with it.

      http://www.capsulecomputers.com.au/2011/12/kingdoms-of-amalur-reckoning-preview/

    I don't get the anger about the Online Pass thing. Some sort of bonus for buying the game new instead of used makes sense. They're not asking people to pay extra for it if they buy the game new, under those circumstances I don't care whether it is on the game disc or not. Some people have way too much to complain about.

    This trend is getting more disturbing. What makes game companies (among others) so special that they believe they can still own the product after it is sold to you?

    If you sell a book, you don't hold back a few of the pages in the event that the book is re-sold on ebay later.

      But you do release it in hardcover for double the price months before there's a paperback... Different industries deal with the second-hand industry in different ways.

        The equivalent of this would be releasing a collector's edition of a game a few months before, not failing to release parts of the game that are already completed, and should be part of the final product. Mig's analogy was definitely more correct. The Hardcover is a nice bonus (If you like hardcovers) in that it looks nice, is more sturdy and has the status element to it, but you don't have parts of the book ripped out even though the author had written them and fully intented they be in the release. Same with a colectors edition, that case and statue and soundtrack don't add or detract from the game itself, they're just nice bonuses.

          Also your post implies hardcover books deal with the second hand industry? How exactly? I'm entirely sure you can sell hardcover books second hand just as easily as paperbacks : /

    I didnt have much a problem with the PC demo, ( mostly because i upgraded from and ATI card to an Nvidia card after the whole RAGE shitstorm.

    About the online pass system i dont agree with it one bit even though i hate consoles as a console game to me is just the same as DVD or music CD or a Car. Once youve brought it. its your and yours to do what ever the hell you want with it. I dont see FORD HOLDEN BMW etc asking people for 10% of the selling amount so what gives publishers like EA and Activision the right to ask for it.

      Not that it makes it entirely better, but car dealerships get extra money on the car from selling replacement parts later on.

        same for if one buys DLC for used games, or buys sequels new or merchandise

    I feel sorry for game developers that cop the brunt of most attacks. These poor guys and girls slaving away in a job they all probably love, which is like no other, in an industry like no other and with a audience all to their own - only to get abused for trying to get the word out about a new IP, in a market is flooded by sequels. Pull your heads in, and be grateful that we are a part of/can enjoy what I believe is that greatest medium out there.

    On line passes don't bother me, as I buy everything new; I support as many games/game developers as my poor little wallet will allow me. I want this industry to not just survive, but thrive and continue to thrive. I don't mind a bit of constructive criticism as it can keep people on their toes. But be mindful these people have to make money, and considering AAA games are 100+ million to make, there's got to be so slack thrown their way.

    This industry is young, growing and needs more support than crying about something you THINK you're entitled to. We have 3 different major consoles and the PC. There is a lot of people to please, and with this medium where users can readily go online to express their anguish about a product they've purchased, it's hard to get everything right the first time. By all means I think the general audience is intelligent enough to smell a cash in, and the poor efforts of game development that go along with it, hence the outcry. That's warranted, that's needed.

    All I'm saying is lets enjoy everything that's thrown our way, be constructive, give things are go (even if a demo or beta fail to meet your expectations).

    My 2 cents.

      "On line passes don’t bother me, as I buy everything new." Its selfish comments like these that are detroying this industry. Explain then how someone is going to buy the game in 2 - 3 years time when the game is no longer being produced and the only way to buy it is a second hand copy. You may say buy a digital copy, but these are often twice or more the price of the physical copies and rarely go down in price on places like the psn store and you dont get the right to lend these to freinds and family or have the benifit of any physical ownership to sell back off later if you wish.

    Companies need to get their values in line with their intended audience. The whole "It's ok it's business!" or "It's ok we're just trying to make more money!" Is not acceptable. People don't buy your games to pay YOU even if you deserve it. They're buying a product as they expected to receive it based on what is presented to them about the product beforehand.

    People justify pass-DLC as a bonus for buying new, while other consumers see it as punishment for buying used. It would be nice for these businesses to realise that nobody would be complaining about anything if they didn't do it.

      Its funny how the second hand market was never a problem 10 years ago but now that we have machines with online abilty and the fact the companies now have control to section parts of the games off it now has become a so called problem.

    If you go and read the ongoing review of Amalor on IGN, you'll find the bugs in the demo have been squished and the reviewer (Colin Moriarty) has stated that:

    " I'm sorry to hear that the demo people have been playing doesn't work properly for many, because the final product works extremely well. Can you believe that the game still hasn't frozen on me once? That I've never had to restart due to getting stuck in the environment?"

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