He’s brash, opinionated, and a three-time World Series champion. So what’s Curt Schilling’s retirement been like so far? It might surprise you to learn it’s got nothing to do with sports. Besides playing a major hand in breaking the Curse of the Bambino and delivering the Red Sox back to baseball’s promised land in 2004 and again in 2007, he’s also one of the biggest fantasy geeks and hardcore gamers on the planet. He’s combined his passion for gaming and fantasy to form the development house 38 Studios, which recently released the critically acclaimed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC platforms. (It came in at number 3 on our Best Games of 2012 List.) Spawn creator Todd McFarlane served as the game’s art director and best-selling fantasy author R.A. Salvatore penned the story. Next up for 38 Studios is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMO) that aims to threaten World of Warcraft’s stranglehold on the genre. Men's Fitness caught up with the hotheaded former pitcher to talk nerd culture, developing his own games and the infamous bloody sock. Once people found out you founded a game developer, they probably expect that you’d be producing sports games. What got you into fantasy and RPGs? I’ve been gaming for almost 30 years now—it’s something that I’ve always done. When you think about style and type and genre, I had the advantage of actually playing those sports games for a living, so that wasn’t as much of an interest. Fantasy has always been my kind of thing, so as I got towards the end of my career and thought about what I wanted to do, I wanted to try a stab at this. Do you remember the first game you ever played? Wizardry in 1980 was the first game that I can remember very vividly as my first fun gameplay experience. It was 2-D in a time and place where everything was text-based. It hooked me forever. Do you read fantasy novels? I do. I’ve read Tolkien [Lord of the Rings] 10 or 15 times since I was 10 years old. Terry Brooks, I’m a big fan. George Martin as well, and R.A. Salvatore as well, obviously. I came to read R.A. books a little later than most and I became a huge fan. It was right around the time I was thinking about doing the company as well, so it seemed like kind of a natural phone call to make. What makes Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, different from other fantasy RPGs? In some ways, nothing and in other ways, everything. There’s been a couple of reviews that have hit it right on where you can see the influence that games like God of War and Skyrim have had an impact. The difference is we've actually taken our favorite features from all of these games and dove deep on them. There’s an effort to bring the God of War-style of combat into the game and there’s a concerted effort to give you an open-world, yet guided experience. So there’s always something to do and there’s always action and fun. NEXT: Curt comes clean about the red sock >> [pagebreak]
Can you tell us about Todd McFarlane’s influence on it and how you got him involved? I’ve known Todd for about 10 years. It was one of those things when I formed the company, I started to look around and basically say, “I want to get the best in the world,” and at the end of the day, Todd, from an artistic visionary perspective, was the best in the world. I reached out to him and he and his team did a magical job. You seem pretty hands-on. Are you in there every day of the development stage and over the shoulders of the computer animators? I was early on. Not nearly as much now. I think one of the pitfalls of this industry is thinking you’ve got the market cornered on great ideas and I think that’s far from the case, especially for someone like me. My job now is to protect, create and foster the culture that we’ve established. This is a very different place to work, a very different team to belong to, and keeping that as a constant on a day-to-day basis is the challenge. Tell us about the MMO you’re developing. We’ve been working on an MMO for about five years in the Amalur universe called Project Copernicus. The other thing we’re doing is…obviously we’re looking at future Reckonings as well, but we have to watch the first one and be successful to focus on that. Okay, let’s talk baseball for a minute. Are you ready to come clean about painting the blood on the sock? Come clean in what sense? That you faked it with red paint. I probably need you to say that one more time. I’m joking! I know, I’m being facetious, too. What else can I say? I’ve got a nine-inch scar to back it up. Does it piss you off that you’ve actually been accused of painting it? This is the real world we’re living in, and for every lover there’s a hater and there can be far more haters than lovers. If you look at everything that happened around that situation, there’s a lot of media about it. But if you go back, I think you’re going to find very little in the way of quotes attributed to me. I didn’t talk about it except a little bit around that time. I’m proud of what I did. I’m proud about what we did, and it’s something I would do over and over again for that group of guys. How long did it take for it to sink in that you were one of the key guys, if not the key guy, in delivering a championship to Boston, which had such a long history of coming so close and not being able to get it? It sank in immediately. The enormity of what we did as a group was never lost and it wasn’t hard to understand, especially when two days later you’re sitting in a duck boat in a parade of 3.2 million people. It was a true 25-man effort. Look at the way we did that. Every person on that roster had a key moment, which every championship team finds itself in. Being able to call myself a part of that team is something I’ll always be very, very proud of.