LOS ANGELES – Epic Games is having a very big E3 this week with its Gears of War Judgment prequel from its Polish developer People Can Fly, its own internally developed Infinity Blade Dungeons and Unreal Engine 4 making its press debut. But back home in Cary, an unexpected series of events has led to the independent studio growing in size.
Over the last few weeks, former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling has run his Rhode Island-based game company, 38 Studios, into the ground. One of the casualties of that debacle was the closure of Big Huge Games, the Baltimore studio that most recently created the action role-playing game (RPG) Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. When that closure occurred, Epic Games’ Dana Cowley tweeted that they were hiring.
Well, Big Huge Games ended up taking Epic up on that offer.
“On Wednesday, the ex-Big Huge Games leadership team contacted us,” wrote Michael Capps, president of Epic Games on the company Website. “They wanted to start a new company and keep together some of the key talent displaced by the layoff, and hoped that they could use an Epic IP as a starting point for a new game. We loved that they all wanted to keep working together, but it was pretty clear they’d have trouble building a demo and securing funding before their personal savings ran out.”
Capps called it a life coincidence that just that morning Epic’s directors had discussed how they’d love to build even more successful projects with its growing team, but that they’d need a dramatic infusion of top talent to do so.
“So now we’re planning to start an impossible studio in Baltimore,” continued Capps. “It’ll take a while to find space, set up desks and PCs, purchase sufficient Nerf weaponry and Dr. Pepper, etc. But some of these folks have been going too long without a paycheck to wait for that. So, as soon as we can, we’re going to try to get people working down here at Epic headquarters in Cary, NC as contractors.”
Capps cautioned that there are a million things to work out, including how many of the team they can hire, what project they will work on, and what the new studio will be called. Epic and Big Huge Games are working all of this out, but there’s also the E3 show taking place so any additional news won’t be coming right away in this breaking development.
“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,” said Capps. “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.”
During the turmoil that was going on at the studio, Big Huge Games was named to Game Developer Magazine’s Top 30 studios in the world list. The studio’s Reckoning game was well-received by the press and sold decent numbers. Prior to Reckoning, Big Huge Games developed the real-time strategy game (RTS) Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends for THQ and the RTS Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties for Microsoft. Veteran developers Brian Reynolds, Jason Coleman, Dave Inscore and Tim Train founded Big Huge Games in 2000. The developer was acquired by 38 Studios in 2009
The development team’s ability to make quality action RPGs and RTS games would give Epic new genres to explore, should they so desire. It’s a veteran team of game makers in Baltimore that would complement the expanding global presence Epic has in the world today.
“It’s hard to say we’re not making a new Bulletstorm right now because we have another opportunity we want to explore,” said Capps in an exclusive interview before E3 and the Big Huge Games situation arose. “We have a neat IP like that, a fun IP like that. With Unreal, which is a storied, fantastic IP, to say we’re not working on that and we’re doing something else is hard. It’s a lot of opportunity costs to be soaking up. I suppose the easy thing to do would just be shop out a bunch of games (to external developers), maybe that’s what a publisher would do. But these are our babies so we can’t do it that way. We have to do them one at a time and maybe not do as many as we’d like.”
With an infusion of new talent, Epic may have solved that problem and opened the door to even more games.
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