So what about the worry that this might be some kind of vanity project or dampened by the involvement of three people who while extremely talented in each of their fields, are not game developers? I put the question out there point blank. Emphatically, Close told us that they would not have those problems and explained the roles of each of the three big names to illustrate his point.
Schilling, McFarlane and Salvatore are all essentially executive level contributors to the project and each has a full time, in-house person below them. Schilling is the head of the company, but Close runs the day-to-day operations of the company. Likewise, both Salvatore and McFarlane have in-house developers under them who handle the day-to-day development of the game.
Curt Schilling is a high profile person who loves games - specifically his highly public support of SOE's EverQuest II - but he also realizes his limitations, Close told us. During the season, Schilling concentrates primarily on pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Outside of that, Close tells us that Schilling believes firmly in hiring good people and "getting out of their way". For example, often the designers will debate something through email. Schilling does not hesitate to chime in with thoughts or ideas and sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not. Close added that Schilling does have a "good design sense". However, when it comes down to the decision, the designers make the choice.
R.A. Salvatore lives near their Maynard, MA office and comes into work three days a week. There, he contributes to the overall story of the game and how it is weaved in, but again, there is a full time employee on site who handles the nitty-gritty details and makes sure people work.
The same goes for Todd McFarlane. He works from Phoenix and comes by the office each month. They even set up a video link, complete with tablet support, so he can sketch things for the team. He sets the high level artistic goals and vision of the project, but an in-house art lead manages the day-to-day operations.
Beyond the big three, 38 Studios had also raised some eyebrows by hiring a series of EverQuest II developers, such as former community manager Ryan Shwayder, designer Steve Danuser and others. Close didn't try to hide that they had many ex-SOE developers on staff, but said that they had been no concentrated effort to approach people from that staff. They receive resumes, like most companies from all over, and in this case, Schilling's personal relationships ran especially deep with SOE. The hires shouldn't indicate to people, he added, that they're making some kind of EQII clone, nor that their relationship with SOE is anything other than friendly
So far, 38 Studios has been a lot of hype. There are some big names and some big expectations, but it's the developers who will ultimately dictate success or failure. AGDC gave us that first peek inside what the studio is really all about and so far it seems like they're on the right track.