By Kimberley Donoghue PBN Web Editor Twitter: @kdonog
PROVIDENCE – “I’ve always considered myself a geek, ever since I was … 7 years old with my Atari 2600 and really thick glasses; I was pretty much classic nerd,” said Jennifer MacLean, CEO of 38 Studios, to a packed crowd at AS220 during the monthly Providence Geeks meet-up on Wednesday.
During her speech to the local tech community, MacLean quickly broke the ice about the “infamous” $75 million loan guarantee deal from the R.I. Economic Development Corporation, saying that the company wanted to make sure that the move to Providence would make sense.
“And we didn’t have to look very far,” she said, noting that about 25 percent of the company’s art department are RISD graduates. “The quality of those students has been phenomenal. They go toe-to-toe with the best artists in the world. It was obvious that there was a huge local talent pool here that we could tap.”
Games, of course, were a hot topic of the night. MacLean said that players won’t be able to take advantage of the Playstation Move or the Xbox Kinect and “get off the couch” with 38 Studios games in the near future, since development began before tech specs for the body movement technology were set.
She did, however, jokingly say that they may be able to incorporate some Rhode Island “Easter eggs” – unexpected treats hidden in the game – perhaps a Del’s lemonade.
“We don’t think there is anything in Boston that you can’t get in Providence,” she added, while hailing the “vibrant” local arts community - a comment that received hoots of approval from the audience.
Generating almost as much interest from the Geeks were the potential jobs that 38 Studios will be creating. MacLean assured the crowd that the company will use local talent “whenever possible” and will boost its current 7.5 hires per month to 9; 38 Studios employs about 45 artists, 28 designers and 30 engineers and plans to “roughly” keep those proportions in the near future.
38 Studios will be hiring about 280 people after its move to Providence, scheduled for late spring, and is already reaching out to local institutions to set up a summer internship program. Interested applicants for both internships and jobs should send their resume to jobs@38Studios.com.
“There is really an under-recognized tech community here in Providence and for us, the chance for us … to play a part in giving it a growth infusion was really exciting,” said MacLean. 38 Studios plans to “significantly” expand its internship program from the 18 participants it had last summer.
Nevertheless, the evening’s main focus was on introducing the 38 Studios team to the Geeks crowd.
R.A. Salvatore was the first to be presented. Despite being a New York Times bestselling author, well-known for creating Drizzt Do’Urden - one of the iconic characters of modern fantasy writing - what really got the crowd’s attention was how he killed Chewbacca.
“He wrote the book in the Star Wars series where Chewbacca dies,” said MacLean, a statement met overwhelmingly by “boos” from the crowd and recognizable overtones of Wookiee noises.
“He gets more grief for that than I think you can imagine,” said MacLean, who went on to introduce other 38 Studios “visionaries”: Todd McFarlane, executive art director - whom she described as a “crazy genius” after he “re-imagined” Spider-man and created the comic-franchise Spawn - and Ken Rolston of Big Huge Games.
“It is a pre-revenue company, but we do have a depth of experience that is unsurpassed for a company at our stage,” she noted. “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” will be 38 Studios’ first game to be released, scheduled to be unveiled in late February or early March and out to the public shortly after.
MacLean also briefly mentioned Copernicus, the code name for a massive multiplayer game, to be developed in Providence.
“It gives people the chance to interact and shape the story with 10,000 of their closest friends,” she said, without revealing why 38 Studios thinks it can go head-to-head with World of Warcraft and Star Wars the Old Republic, among others.