Anyone else feeling uneasy about Copernicus?

38 Studios‘ Copernicus IP has me feeling a bit uneasy.  Reading the interviews and statements from Brett Close, I’m not sure what to expect from the studio anymore.  Originally I was expecting a company from Curt Schilling, with talent like Ryan Shwayder, and Steve Danuser (to only name a few) to put out a product that would feel familiar.  Honestly and simply, I was expecting a better EverQuest.  However, it appears that 38 Studios is taking their MMOG(if we can call it that any longer?) in a different direction.

In Brett Close’s interview with Joystiq you’ll find the reasons for my unrest.  He talks about Copernicus (btw, that’s still a code name right? right?) being this IP and turning into books and graphic novels, extending to other platforms, printed on underoos and t-shirts – okay, perhaps not, but you get the idea.  It seems to me that they’re trying to really sell the idea of this property becoming the next big name.  Does 38 studios want Copernicus to be the next Warcraft?  EverQuest? What?  That’s the biggest problem that I am having right now:  I don’t know wtf Copernicus is anymore.

Originally, the idea of Todd McFarlane and Salvatore being the creative force behind a MMO, with what we know Curt Schilling likes (And what people like Ryan and Steve are comfortable with already), had me thinking that perhaps we would see the next step in the EQ style of game being refined and brought up to speed with what the masses and fans of McFarlane and Salvatore can appreciate/enjoy.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The greatest successes in this industry have come from brilliant minds willing to take what we know and improve upon it.  The biggest flops in this industry have come from people who think it’s time for innovation simply because they feel it’s time to be innovative.  Innovation for the sake of innovation is wrong.

Brett Close states that there is nothing like Copernicus out there and that he believes no one out there is even working on something like it.  *RED ALERT! ALERT! DANGER! DANGER!* ….  I’m not the only one, right?   Without enough information I’m left to form assumptions.  Some of my more disturbing assumptions would be this recurring nightmare of some oddly put together game mixing Guild Wars with Choose your Own adventures and Free Realms in a Spawn-like Forgotten Realms Metaplace available on the iPhone, DS, and PC!

I’ll remain uneasy about this game, IP, platform, whatever, until the specifics are out.  Curving the hype is a marvelous idea and I applaud them for it, but at the same time I just want to know what type of game we can expect.

  • I just can’t see it being anything I’d remotely find interesting. It might be good, but I always worry when people flaunt how different their new thing is going to be without any specifics. Being different in itself is not a selling point.

  • Honestly, I’ve been feeling very uneasy about 38 Studios for quite some time now, and if anything, those same statements which are making you nervous are making me feel better about it.

    The last thing on the planet I personally want to see from them is yet another “better EverQuest” Diku-MMORPG. The current market is literally saturated with them. No one is going to be the Next Big Thing by shoveling out More of the Same. WAR should have proven that by now, no?

    By all means, tell us “no one else is working on something like this” and “this is something new” but you’d better deliver exactly that, too. Otherwise you’re right back to nearly every post-WoW launch: 700k+ the first month, 200k or less after the third month because it’s just the same ol’ same ol’.

    Unlike many, I don’t require every MMOG to be an RPG and at this point in time I am sick to death of anything that even remotely resembles Diku under the hood.

  • “Brett Close states that there is nothing like Copernicus out there and that he believes no one out there is even working on something like it.”

    Everyone says that about their game. Hold your horses.

  • I have been following them for a long time, since there were Green Monster Gaming, and almost all the info was on the FoH boards.

    There going after WoW. I think they are trying to build an IP that holds up to Warcraft and Forgotten Realms, in scope and depth.

    If I was trying to take down WoW, I know I would go about it about like they have. I don’t know that it qualifies as sane to try to take down WoW, but it does seem to be their goal.

  • I’ve still got faith in them, particularly Shwayder and Danuser. The company just shouldn’t be talking about stuff until they’re ready to actually give examples and release more info about it all. Trying to sell a concept without specific is kinda silly, agreed.

  • They set the expectations pretty high. But so did Age of Conan.

    Many people expect a lot from Curt Schilling, the next big thing in MMO gaming. I hope he does it, if not… he will die in a shitstorm.

  • @Xaas: I feel very strongly that you do not attempt to take down WoW by being the anti-WoW. WoW is successful because it did not start with a statement like “We want to be like nothing else out there”. It started with “let’s take all the good stuff out there, make it better, and put it all into one game”. I’ll write an entire blog entry dedicated to this sometime soon.

  • Just before the quote you hit upon Keen is this:

    “Our secret sauce, obviously some of it is the tie-ins that we have involved in terms of R.A., Todd [McFarlane] and the talent and experience that have built MMOs before on this team, as well as variety of other products. What I will tell you rather than drilling into details about why this is going to give people something that they have never experienced before, give them a type of product that they never played in an online experience, that they have never had — what I will tell you is that it’s simply based on that talent and based on our approach and our experience in building these products.”

    Throughout the interview he continually emphasized that they aren’t reinventing the wheel. Whether it be borrowing technology from other studios (ie partly the motivation behind the Big Huge Games acquisition) or the proven game mechanics and design decisions of current MMOs, the developers at 38 Studios have always described the (MMO) Copernicus as an evolution of current fantasy MMORPGs. What I think Brett Close’s comment is actually referring to is the way they are approaching their IP in general; the other games, comics, novels, social networking implementation, etc that will help flesh out the Copernicus IP. World of Warcraft was a big deal in part because the IP meant something to a lot of gamers steeped in the lore of three RTS games that had come before. To create something entirely new, and then ask people to invest a huge amount of time in characters that inhabit that world, has been historically difficult. If you listened closely to interviews/podcasts with Curt Schilling, his line on the 38 Studios strategy has never changed, and Joystiq’s interview seems to reflect it. I for one am still eager to see just what their “secret sauce” is.

  • I’m more than eager still, let there be no mistaking that. And although the sentiment of not reinventing the wheel might be present, Brett Close still said they’re doing something that does not exist and, to his knowledge, will not exist until their product releases. That’s an all-too-common line for developers to toss around even when they don’t mean it, but I have a feeling that they just might.

  • I’m actually eager for this if it goes in the direction I take from it.

    Look at a possibility with the current talent they have:

    1. Give it lore by throwing out novels to have the game based on (think D&D, Dragonlance type stuff).

    2.Throw players into the game right with everything in the books is ready to blow (think Cataclysm in Dragonlance, Rand getting ready to fight the big battle).

    3. Take events from the game as players move through them and change the world and add that to the novels.

    4. Get the players in the game into the books based on great heroics or game changing events.

    Basically i see this as a MMO giving players something t hey have wanted for a long time, a game where they change the world and it affect more than just the in-game.

  • Hey Keen are you ever going to give Age of Conan another try?

    They just released a huge new update.

    Another totally random question, do you like DoTa?
    There is a new DOTA game coming out called Heroes of Newerth. It is from S2 games (who made Savage 1 and 2 also awesome games IMO!). It is all the old dota heroes and items, same map (as well as new heroes maps and items). but they built it on a different engine built specifically for this type of gameplay. The wc3 engine wasn’t really made for DoTa and a lot of things held it back. I am in the beta for Heroes of Newerth and the game is simply awesome. I am under the NDA so I can’t talk about much, but I do have beta invites I can send out, if you are interested let me know.

  • I haven’t been following the game much other than the initial announcement but as far as the extendability comments it strikes me that they’re just excited about the lore. They have guys like McFarlane involved who may go off to do side projects after the initial world and art creation period. Not that any MMO ever made to date should be proud of its lore.

    As far as “completely different,” I get the sense they’re looking for a more hardcore, realistic endgame. How that’s going to work, I’m not sure. More serious death penalties and deep-dungeon small group stuff to get the best items/mats? Possibly in an uninstanced, PVP atmostphere? That would make for some interesting times.

    Anyway, I don’t get invested in any MMO until I see working in-game play these days. Half these games are doomed by the engine not feeling responsive. I’m encouraged that these guys seem to know that.

  • I’ve been ringing this bell for quite a while.

    It’s a company masterminded by three men – Schilling, R.A. Salvatore, and Todd McFarlane – who’ve never made a video game in their lives. Once in a while, Schilling will mention someone like Brett, who knows how to make a game, but those references are few and far between. It was the three visionaries (that’s 38 Studios own term for the leadership triad) that came up with their current P.R. policy. You know the one: issue press releases, host panel discussions, grant interviews, but never talk about your game. Instead, do a bunch of bizarre, inexplicable nonsense. You know, talk about the cake at your company Christmas party, discuss your business plan, announce your retirement from baseball at the GDC, give interviews at BlizzCon about how you’re playing Warhammer, and in general just waste everyone’s time.

    Yeah, the ‘visionaries’ came up with that. It just doesn’t inspire me with confidence in their ability to make Pong, much less a revolutionary MMO.

  • @Stinkerbelle: Curt Shilling is the only real outsider though, R.A. Saltatore and Todd McFarlane aren’t really strangers to the games industry.

    The way I see it, Copernicus may be the ultimate fan-made game. Curt Shilling was nuts about EQ and fantasy in general, so he’s taken his money and business-sense and he’s getting a game made that he’d really like to play. This is kinda similar to how BioWare got started.

    Strong focus – check.

    Good crew of developers – check.

    Big names so when it’s time to tell, they can pump up the excitement – check.

    Making the game quietly / mysteriously and keeping it on-track rather than getting bogged down “listening to the fans” – check.

    I’m excited by the prospects here because they’ve got a lot of the right elements so far. I also think the curtain of silence is a good thing, even tho us bloggers / pundits / whatever usually feed off of information. The unease is that we’re in the dark and feel less important.

    Sometimes we like to pretend we have an effect on the development of games and to that: Oh god I hope not, because if that’s true we should be waggling our fingers at ourselves for the current crop of poor performers. Game design by committee sucks. Fans like to be listened to, we like to be listened to, but please developers, don’t take us too seriously. =P

  • You state

    “game mixing Guild Wars….”

    This alone already makes whatever Copernicus is a sight better than WoW, as every other MMO that has been released since WoW wants to be WoW (besides Darkfall which just wants to be a failure)
    6 Million people were not displeased with GW, and that already could be a stepping stone to a better game for 38 Studios than anything that has been released since WoW.

  • I’m not seeing any red flags here at all. I don’t think these guys are saying anything they haven’t said all along. I’ve been watching them since they were Green Monster Games (a much better game company name than 38 Studios).

    It has always looked to me as if they will combine elements of online games they like, with a Forgotten Realms type universe because that’s what Salvatore writes, and maybe some elements of table top and card gaming.

    These things are being done piecemeal elsewhere but these guys are just building in accompanying side products of various types from the start, and books and toys and who knows what. I trust that they will do this in such a way that it will help immerse the player in their world and engage them and show off their engagement by the products they make available from the start.

    Game companies really stink at marketing but maybe not this one 🙂

  • I feel the same way as NecroRog.I don`t understand why people are judging them because they haven’t showed anything yet.All they’ve been saying is we are making something different and original.

    Copernicus is the first on my wishlist together with WoD and The Secret World.So we gonna wait and see.

  • Don’t get me wrong, but everyone saying something along the lines of “This is on the top of my list” or “I can’t wait for it!” or “It’s going to be great” or anything like that….

    Do you all know something we don’t? Copernicus could be like Age of Conan, Darkfall, or Warhammer. Half of you commenting that it’s on the top of your list or that you’re not worried have commented on my blog before stating how you disliked at least one of those games.

    My point is, how do you know if no one knows wtf Copernicus really is?

  • This sort of hype amuses me. I love hyperbolic statements totally void of any content, it’s like selling air. This kind of hype is starting to become the identity of the MMO market because everyone is sitting around waiting for the first big studio to take down WoW. There simply are no results anymore. There are entertaining games here and there but there hasn’t been anything that has panned out to become even remotely close to WoW…. so we resort back to hype discussions, because, frankly we need some sort of hope. There is none on the market, so it’s all hype on the market horizon (put there primarily by us and our wishes for something to answer our calls).

    To be honest, I find the hype storylines just as amusing as the actual games these days. I don’t even play anything anymore (while waiting on Aion and Natural Selection 2) but still monitor the MMO gaming industry like a hawk because… well… it’s fun. Hype is fun.

  • Interviews at this stage are a no-win scenario. If we sound like we’re making something too familiar, somebody will rip us for just making EverQuest 3 or WoW 2. If we sound too radical, somebody will say we’re reinventing the wheel or straying too far from the core appeal of these games.

    Taking a classic style of gameplay and evolving it while adding some new twists intended to make you say “Holy crap, that was cool!” are not mutually exclusive. Like I said, it’s hard to explain without detailing what we’re doing, which we’re simply not ready to do yet.

    So while we certainly appreciate the interest and enthusiasm, I think it is far too early for anyone to either get too excited or too concerned about our direction just yet. When you can actually see what we’ve done, you’ll be in a much better position to judge if we lived up to expectations (whether you expected us to rock or expected us to suck).

  • @Moorgard: Hopefully you’ll be able to say “We’re making a traditional MMORPG” or “We’re going to try something completely new but in the realm of a MMORPG” soon. That’s what I’m mostly getting at here.

    We all know that the classification of games is blurred, often on purpose, these days. What is Guild Wars? Is that a MMO or a Multiplayer game? That’s what I’m getting at here. I want to know if I should expect a Guild Wars interpretation of MMORPGs, a WAR,an EverQuest interpretation, etc. Not in mechanics, but in style. I could spend 20 minutes trying to word this better with proper adjectives and verbiage, but I like the word “style” and I hope that what I’m trying to say can be picked up. You can play several MMORPGs and know which ones play alike. Hopefully I’ll be able to say “Copernicus plays like EverQuest, or whatever, soon.

    I have a feeling that the reason you guys are being tight lipped about it is because you are going to do something different and probably can’t equate it accurately to something we’ve played before. Like you said, you could say “oh yeah it feels like EQ” and everyone would jump to conclusions. Simply coming out and saying it that way (that you are doing something that you can’t equate to an existing style until players get to see gameplay) though would put my mind at ease rather than feeling like I’m following a game that I could hate on a fundamental level.

    Thanks for stopping by Moorgard.

  • Cool.

    A blog entry about a game with no name (other than its code name), with pretty well zero information out about it (apart from “Yeah were making something”) and your “uneasy” about it, even going as far as calling an alert (a red alert no less!….IN CAPs!!).

    Glad to see “much ado about nothing” high drama alive and well and living on Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog!! (Sorry if this comes over harsher than I intend, it’s just meant as a playful “dig” :)).

    Personally, I’m not “uneasy”. I’m “curious” as to what this particular collection of talent may produce, I’m “interested” in how each talents “portfolio” skills may hang together in the final product. But beyond that, I’m reserving other adjectives until there’s more factual information to go on. Currently there just isn’t enough real info to go on for me to form any other opinion than “this waiting games a bummer, isn’t it…”

  • Nice to hear something from the horses mouth. Thanks for stopping by Moorgard!

  • Seems like there really isn’t enough information out yet, but I will agree innovation for the sake of being different is a horrible idea. I think WAR fell into this pitfall and I think Mortal Online is going to regret not implementing a few common MMO idea’s for the sake of “not being WoW”.

    99% of the complaints from the anti-wow burn out crowd is about the game play, classes, or actual content… not the UI, interface, polish, or ease of control of your character and interaction with the world.

    Other MMO’s refuse to implement even the most basic idea WoW has because their target market is the wow burn out crowd and they don’t want to be associated with WoW in any way.

  • I’m not quite sure if I understand what kind of thought processes could be behind wanting the “next EQ”, but I really just lost a lot of respect for you.

  • Oh god, whatever shall I do?! … I liked EverQuest and now someone loses respect for me because of it. /eyeroll

    Get lost, seriously. I won’t even try and be nice about it.

  • @Melf_Himself

    Liking certain video games is serious business apparently. Don’t you think you might be taking this MMO talk a bit to seriously if you go around losing respect for people because of games they enjoyed? You need a little self reflection it seems.

    “I’m not quite sure if I understand what kind of thought processes could be behind wanting the “next EQ”,”

    EQ was a trend setting MMO that laid the ground work for all we know and enjoy today.

    Keen wants another game to come along that creates a similar effect to EQ. Something that is so epic and unlike anything else that it points the genre in a new direction and starts a new era in MMO creation. I think we all would like to see that happen.

    Still confused?

  • Agree with Bartlebe and Keen.

    I would say arguably EQ had more of an impact on MMO’s than WoW has. Sure EQ didn’t hit the numbers WoW did but nearly everything that WoW did was because of EQ.

    I love EQ 10 times over any other MMO.

  • There are countless things about AoC and WAR that I loved… I guess nobody respects me.

  • I can’t believe everyone isn’t jumping for joy that they aren’t making a simple WoW clone. I mean, that’s everything that’s wrong with the industry – the I haven’t enjoyed an MMO since Asheron’s Call really because everyone since it and the original Everquest has been the EXACT same game. There is no way anyone will take down WoW without some innovation – they’ve already got that market, and it’s not like making a better game would be hard with a little innovation. WoW is NOT a fun game – addicting, yes. The truth is, if he DIDN’T say something like that, I would immediately dismiss the game, because nothing short of an overhaul of the entire genre is going to get people interested enough to overturn WoW, and eventually someone has to innovate to do it.