If you are even a casual baseball fan, you have heard of Curt Schilling. His bloody sock masterpiece pitching effort that broke the curse of the Babe and led Boston to a long overdue World Championship has already taken on the status of legend. What you might not know is that Curt is also an avid gamer who has been playing MMORPGs for many years now. He is also the founder of 38 Studios, which has its own MMO game in development. Curt agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Allakhazam about all of his passions.
Allakhazam: Let me start by congratulating you on another World Series win. You’ve known me for years and know that I am a huge baseball fan, so I’ll start somewhat off topic for a gaming site. When I started writing up these questions you were a free agent. Now it appears that you have signed a one year contract to go back to Boston. Can you elaborate a little on the contract talks and what went into finalizing your new deal?
Curt Schilling: Well it was simple and quick to say the least. I am at a point in my career, and by association my family is at a point in our lives, where our preferences and wish lists had very little to do with money. The 2008 season was about playing where we wanted to play, and with whom we wanted to play with more than any other factor. Boston has embraced us since we arrived and it just seemed to be the perfect fit to spend my final year in the major leagues here. Theo was accommodating and the Sox truly did want me back so there was much more common ground from the start of talks than maybe other situations have.
Allakhazam: There are some who might argue that you gave in and took too little money to return to Boston, or that you could have held out for a two year deal instead of one. I personally find it commendable to see an athlete who does not put money above all other factors in his negotiations. What were the most important factors to you in finalizing your new contract? What do you feel you accomplished?
Curt Schilling: I got everything I wanted, and more. This is where I wanted to be, this is who I wanted to play for. At the end of the day, if I am healthy and pitch like I know I can, I’ll earn 13-14 million dollars this year to play in our dream location. I think we ‘accomplished’ everything we hoped we would, and we’re getting paid to do it.
Allakhazam: As a die hard Phillies fan, I have to ask. Were the Phillies ever in the picture this time around? How about back in 2004? Were the Phils ever truly in the hunt back then? Not that it wasn’t clearly the right choice, but what led you to go to the Red Sox in the first place?
Curt Schilling: They were. The problem is that in 2004 there were people in the front office there that did not want me to come back for personal reasons. I didn’t even have Boston as a choice when it became clear I was going to be moved from the Diamondbacks. My two main choices at the time were Philadelphia and the Yankees. I wanted to either go ‘home’ or to a team I knew I could spend 3-4 years with that would field a WS capable team every year. The Yanks offered that opportunity. Once Terry was in the running for the Sox job, this became a viable option and after meeting the Sox front office it became a legitimate choice. At that time I hadn’t chosen a side in the Sox/Yankees rivalry so both were in play and I knew if one didn’t work out, the other would. When it ended and Boston had become the new team, in my mind, growing up a baseball fan, I had made a choice there was no going back on. I liken it to the Hatfields and the McCoys, once you pick a family, you are in, for life.
Allakhazam: You’ve made an amazing adjustment from power pitcher to finesse pitcher over the past couple years, but lets face it, you are going to be 41 in just a few days. Given that you just signed a one year contract, is this next season going to be your last one? If not, how many more years do you think you can keep pitching at an all star level?
Curt Schilling: The plan is to pitch this year, and then walk away. I plan on preparing every year to show up and be the best pitcher in the game, I am not sure I could do it any other way. I think that the 2nd half of last season gave me a head start on the transformation I underwent that will carry over to 2008. I think my numbers in the 2nd half are an indicator of what I can do over a full season with my ‘new’ stuff.
Allakhazam: OK enough about baseball. Let’s get to the real games – video games. I know that you have been a die hard MMO gamer for many years. What game or games are you playing now?
Curt Schilling: I am a hopelessly hooked World of Warcraft player now. I resisted the urge, trying to defend my stance as a ‘hard core’ gamer for years. I was an EQ and EQ2 gamer for the first half of my MMO life, and I gradually worked my way into WoW and have realized that entire ‘hard core’ to ‘casual’ gamer battle is irrelevant to me. I want to have fun, and WoW is fun.
Allakhazam: What got you interested in video games and MMO gaming in particular?
Curt Schilling: Todd Pratt got me into UO when it first came out. I dabbled in it and became hooked when EQ came out.
Allakhazam: Give us your background and development as a gamer.
Curt Schilling: I grew up an avid fan of WWII board games. Advanced Squad Leader and Panzerblitz were my first two games. That love is still there and I realize it with the gaming company I own. Check out www.multimanpublishing.com to see how that is going. I also enjoyed the occasional D&D game when you could find a good DM. In 1981, my best friend's dad brought home an Apple computer, and sometime after that I played a game called Wizardry for the first time. To get an idea of how hooked I was, I had a paper route at the time. I saved up enough money to buy my own computer then, just so I could play wizardry. I dabbled in all sorts of military simulations, D&D games and the like but when EQ came out I was done. That was it for me, and I’ve been mainly an MMO gamer every since. The other games I play during the season are all the Total War series, Company Commander and the Medal of Honor series. It's kind of ironic that my favorite WWII games, the Medal of Honor Franchise, were created and run by the man who’s now the President of 38 Studios, Brett Close.
Allakhazam: How do you manage to play while keeping up with the travel schedule you have both in season and off season? Do you have any special gaming equipment that you take with you, or do you actually play on your laptop a lot? Care to tell us the specs of your gaming setup?
Curt Schilling: I am a Voodoo guy. I have a laptop, as well as a couple of rigs at home and the office that are built by Voodoo. The schedule I play actually allows me time to game. On the road I am a hotel rat. I don’t go out much, and that offers me time to play the games I like.
I would give specs on my machines but in this crowd it would appear like I was bragging. Let’s just say that if you could build your ultimate machines, laptop and home systems, with a limitless budget, for the sole purpose of playing your games in the best possible settings, my machines probably fall close to those spec lines.
Allakhazam: Can you tell us what class/race combinations you have for your main and your alts, and what levels and other accomplishments they have achieved? Come on, show off a little. We want to know all about your characters.
Curt Schilling: Ogres. Big ugly things. My main in EQ was a human Monk named Scythehands. My alt, that ended up as my main eventually, was an Ogre named Ngruk. He was a Shaman/Defiler in EQ2. In WoW I went with a Tauren for Ngruk, Shaman, and my 2nd main is an Orc Hunter named Wyndwraith.
I had 4 level 60s when I left EQ2 for WoW. Froglok conjurer, Troll Berserker, Ogre Shaman and one more I have forgotten.
Allakhazam: Are you in a guild? If so, would you care to share with us which guild and server? (I understand if you don’t want to name names). What type of guild is it? By that I mean does it concentrate on high end raids? Pvp? Socializing? How big is it? Do you find it difficult to keep up with guild responsibilities given your schedule?
Curt Schilling: In EQ2 I was in DROW. A guild I got into in Beta and carried the relationship into the launch of the game. Early on it was a fantastic group of people and players. We always had drama, which kept things fresh, but it was never guild killing drama. Like all guilds, real life became an issue and people began to drift away. In WoW we have a guild made up of 38 Studios employees and family members that we play regularly on called “The Burning Hole”.
Allakhazam: You've talked about WoW, but what was it about Everquest 2 that kept you playing it for so long? What did you love about the game?
Curt Schilling: I have always been a very detailed oriented realism freak. I thought EQ was the first, and EQ2 followed it, that really focused on those two things and that was a big deal to me. I logged in recently, for the first time in months, and was blown away at how hard it was to pick back up. After playing WoW for so long and then going back, I was also struck by the fact that while they are two totally different worlds, different games. The UIs are horribly original.
Allakhazam: Have you ever revealed who you really are in game? Did people believe you? How hard is it to convince people you are grouped with that you truly are a real life celebrity?
Curt Schilling: It’s not hard because it’s not something I share very much. Everyone I group or am in guild with usually knows, and to them it’s not a big deal. That’s the main reason I enjoy it so much -- the ability to unwind, be myself and not worry about things for a few hours is incredibly refreshing.
Allakhazam: How would you describe your typical playing style? Hard Core Raider? Casual Gamer? Role Player? Do you prefer Pvp or Pve? The good races or the evil ones? Tell us what Curt Schilling the gamer is really about.
Curt Schilling: I am a hard core raider, who loves questing. I don’t really like PvP. Never have, although some of the newer WoW real world PvP stuff I find to be a ton of fun because I can co-exist with PvP players and we don’t have to impact either's play styles if we don’t want to. I tend to steer towards evil races as well.
Allakhazam: Even us long time gamers have our share of Noob moments. Are there any you would like to share with us? How about things you have done in game that you are particularly proud of? Is there an item or two that you have won, or a particular kill in a particular way, that you really want to show off?
Curt Schilling: The one achievement I think I still vividly remember is getting my Robe as a monk in EQ. Camping Raster and the whole thing to make that happen was one of those things I was very proud of when I was done.
Allakazam: Do you still play the original Everquest at all? If not, is there anything about it that you miss? Do you ever find yourself waxing nostalgic about things like 20 minute boat rides or staring at your spell book while meditating?
Curt Schilling: I miss all of it. It’s funny because I JUST this week re-installed EQ. Patched the whole thing as well. Got myself in the right frame of mind to give it another try, and when I logged in my game crashed, and continues to do so. I can’t get to character select, so maybe that’s a message or sign??? As far as nostalgia goes, every fun and memorable thing for me in MMOs goes back to EQ. From camping Elite ledge in BB, to late night corpse runs to the Karana’s. Seeing Foof and Froon for the first time. Seeing Vox for the first time. The statue of the Ice Giant in Everfrost. How cool and eerie Befallen was. How I never felt safe there due to the pain in the ass route you had to take to get out.
Allakhazam: As a celebrity who plays MMO games, I’m curious if you have run across many other celebrities who share your passion for online gaming. Can you tell us some other people whom you have discovered share your hobby?
Curt Schilling: Actually I have run across quite a few. Robin Williams and Vin Diesel are probably the most famous. R.A. Salvatore is the most famous celebrity I actually know that is a serious hard core gamer.
Allakhazam: Being in a macho profession like baseball, how do people react when they discover that you like to spend your free time playing games on the computer? Even though you and I both know that MMO gamers come from all walks of life and are as normal and productive as any other types of people, the public perception is still of the lonely geek locked in his parent’s basement. How do you get around that stereotypical reaction to your hobby?
Curt Schiling: Things change. First off I have never cared what people thought of my hobbies. My hobbies are there for me to enjoy, and I have never allowed someone I don’t know's opinion of me to factor into how I enjoy life. We are in a day and age when names and stereotypes are changing. I find that people that can’t operate a computer, don’t know how to work the web and have trouble sending emails are now the geeks and nerds. We live in a world now, that it’s possible you could go from 1st grade to graduating High School and never physically write a single word. The computer, the internet, are the in thing and the way we will function and communicate in the 21st century.
Allakhazam: I’d like to switch to yet another facet of your resume -- game producer. A little over a year ago, you announced that you were launching your own gaming studio, called 38 Studios, along with comic book illustrator Todd McFarlane and Fantasy/SF writer R.A. Salvatore. Since then you have hired away several prominent EQ2 staff members as well as several other top industry personalities. Can you tell us something about your company and your plans for the future?
Curt Schilling: We are just past our one year anniversary and things are going fantastic. Being able to watch this game, this world, these iconic characters R.A. has created, come to life, has been beyond incredible. We have put together a core group of people who have all been in on the production of previous MMO’s from EQ to EQ2 to WoW to Final Fantasy and many more. We recently hired one of the lead concept men from LotR. We are preparing to announce the hire of our CTO as well, and with each and every hire we legitimize ourselves more and more within the gaming community.
I am amazed at the increasing number of parallels between the gaming space, the MMO space in particular, and the movie industry. For example our premier title has a budget over 60 million dollars. That’s similar to a Hollywood movie these days. But one thing I have always believed was that if you were doing something you did it to the very best of you and your team's capabilities. In this regard and this industry that means spending money to mitigate risk. You mitigate risk, in our position, with people. Hiring the perfect people is the most vital task to accomplish right now and we’ve done that to this point.
Allakhazam: The history of MMO gaming is littered with the corpses of great projects gone awry. Of all the MMO games ever conceived and released, only a handful have been truly successful. What is it about your team that lets you think that you can create a game that will not only survive, but thrive?
Curt Schilling: First off we don’t think we will be successful. We absolutely 100% know it. We are launching a game, we are getting this product to market. We recognize we’ll make mistakes and there is much trial and error along the way, but actually completing this isn’t an option, it’s the requirement. Being self funded through today has been a HUGE plus for us. Not having to walk into a publisher with open hands gives us enormous advantages as we progress. We are near completion of the B round of funding and I still own 100% of 38 Studios. That’s huge. Also, no matter who comes on board, all of our partners understand that the IP itself is and always will be ours. That’s a deal breaker. We also make sure that while we do have a target launch date, all potential partners understand that our game, our world, goes live when it’s done, and not a day before that.
Allakhazam: What type of philosophy do you bring to game development? What type of game are you hoping to create? Do you intend to totally break the mold with something completely new and different, or to refine the mold to take the best of what exists and make it better?
Curt Schilling: I have had the fantastic experience of 21 years of professional baseball. I’ve found the amount of cross over from a leadership standpoint to be a huge positive. In the end it comes down to the same thing, people/ You find the most talented people you can, step back and let them do what they do.
Allakhazam: What is your development schedule? When can we hope to get a glimpse of your game? Can I get into the beta? ;)
Curt Schilling: No comment, No, maybe….
Allakhazam: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in the future with both your baseball career and your game studio. We’re all looking forward to seeing what you come up with.
Curt Schilling: Thanks to you as well for the time and effort you’ve put into this hobby! It’s always nice to meet the people who make up the foundation of the MMO community.