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Toying With Games: Todd McFarlane On Halo And His MMO
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Toying With Games: Todd McFarlane On Halo And His MMO

November 12, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Now, you announced the formation of 38 Studios not too long ago with Curt Schilling and R.A. Salvatore. Can you go into how you got involved with the project, your thought processes?

TM: You know, it really is Curt's baby. Curt, aside from being an All-Star Major League Baseball player -- as you might imagine, as an athlete you're on the road a lot and you have a lot of downtime, and for well over a decade he's been going back to his apartment, not going to the bars, going back to his hotel room and getting on his computer and playing a lot of MMO games over the years. Everything, I believe, from Ultima Online, EverQuest, now World of Warcraft. He saw stuff there just like I see when I'm doing stuff -- "I don't get why you don't do this and this and that" -- and he just got to the point where he started thinking about his post-athletic career. I mean, he's now in his forties, and he's winding it down on a professional baseball level, and he just wanted to start planning for the future.

So he started putting his money where his mouth was, which was, "I know. I'm going to start developing a game, and I'm going to get good people on it, and then I'm going to go and help people to get distribution, and help fund it, and we're just going to rock and roll and see if we can't go into that space and do some competition and land, in a perfect world, somewhere between EverQuest and World of Warcraft, and see what we can do." And then R.A. came on board and wrote this big fantastic story based on the seeds of the ideas that Curt and his friends had already come up with.

I see, so he got involved afterwards.

TM: Yeah. And then he fleshed out a bunch of stuff for Curt, and then we put the team together, and it's my job to look over all the artwork and push the artists to actually live up to the standards that Curt and R.A. have sort of laid down artistically.

How did you get involved, exactly?

TM: Curt, who used to pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- I live in Arizona, so we're both in Phoenix so we used to run into each other --

And you're well-known for being a baseball fan.

TM: Yeah, and we did some common charity, with the ALS foundation, and so anyway we just knew each other. And then he took off to Boston, and when the time was right he gave me a call and said, "Hey Todd, I'm doing this crazy thing and I need somebody who can do art, and the first guy who came to my mind was you, and I wanted to know if you wanted to get on board." So I flew out to where he was at and met a couple of his people, and for the last year I've been going off and on to some of the investment meetings and doing some of the pitching for him in terms of the ideas and what it would look like. And that's how we got together.

Now, in terms of the art, obviously to make a big game, an ambitious game like an MMO, you have probably dozens of artists working on it. Do you work on characters, or concept art, and then how does that become part of the game?

TM: You know what, I see myself as more of a director. It's my job to take those twenty guys that we've got, talk to them about the philosophy of what it should look like and why, and here's some ideas.

If anybody ever gets stuck I can draw, you know... "Guys, here! Let me draw it for you." But I wasn't interested in being the guy who came in and drew the stuff per se. I've done that. I was more interested in being part of a team effort. Basically the whole is way better than the parts, and arguably that's what I do with my own toy company. I don't sit there and sculpt every toy, but what I do is I give guidance every day, and I give philosophy, and they hear me talk about stuff, and the best days are when they take all that information and they turn it into something that's three times better than I could ever imagine. Then I look at stuff and I go, "Wow!" I consider myself to be a pretty good artist and I would never have thought of that.

So, if you can be an inspiration to them, it catapults them to actually do even more, and that there's a reasoning behind it, so there's some uniformity to what we're doing, then I go, "OK." We'll have done our jobs. This isn't about an R.A. story, or Todd artwork. This is about -- is this, at the end of the day, going to be a cool game to play? And if the answer is yes, then we all did our jobs and there will be plenty of pats on the back to go around for everybody. Matter of fact, if people think it's a Todd art game, then I've done my job wrong.

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