'Epic Baltimore' rises out of the ashes of Big Huge Games

Many of the nearly 100 employees of Big Huge Games who found themselves suddenly out of work when Curt Schilling's 38 Studios imploded in May start new jobs in June as employees of Epic Games, a source familiar with the hirings tells Polygon.

Many of the roughly 80 employees of Big Huge Games who found themselves suddenly out of work when Curt Schilling's 38 Studios imploded in May will be starting new jobs soon as employees of Epic Games, Epic confirmed to Polygon today.

In a letter sent to employees today, Epic Games president Michael Capps said that the former Big Huge Games leadership team contacted them on Wednesday.

"They wanted to start a new company and keep together some of the key talent displaced by the layoff, and hoped that they could use an Epic IP as a starting point for a new game," he wrote in the letter, which was provided to Polygon. "We loved that they all wanted to keep working together, but it was pretty clear they'd have trouble building a demo and securing funding before their personal savings ran out.

"In one of life's coincidences, Epic's directors had spent the morning discussing how we'd love to build even more successful projects with our growing team, but that we'd need a dramatic infusion of top talent to do so. Which, we all knew, was impossible.

"So now we're planning to start an impossible studio in Baltimore. :)"

To speed up the lengthy process of starting up a new studio, Capps said that they will be bringing some folks over to Cary as soon as possible to get them started as contract employees.

While Capps said he doesn't know how many people they will be able to hire, sources tell Polygon that a significant portion of the studio is getting picked up to form the new Baltimore studio.

A portion of the remaining employees were picked up by Zynga East, and ZeniMax Online, according to the letter.

"The way we see it, there's been a big storm in Baltimore, and we're taking in a few of the refugees -- as are the awesome folks at Zynga East, ZeniMax Online, and other southeastern studios," Capps wrote. "Epic's in a situation where we can do this, and it very clearly fits with our company values, so we're going to give it a whirl."

The new Maryland studio, nicknamed Epic Baltimore, will likely work on a new action role-playing game in the vein of Kingdoms of Amalur, sources say. The game will likely be a completely new IP for Epic Games.

The hiring binge comes days after Epic Games was awarded $4.45 million in damages in a case that pitted Canadian developer Silicon Knights against Epic Games. In that case, the jury rejected all of Silicon Knights' claims, but found in favor of Epic's counterclaims.

Big Huge Games was purchased by 38 Studios in May 2009. At the time the purchase was heralded as a critical step in 38 Studio's push to deliver a "broad range of entertainment products" built around the company's growing fantasy mythology, Amalur.

The Maryland-based developer released Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning through publisher EA in February. The game reportedly sold 1.2 million copies in its first 90 days on market, according to Schilling, and was positively received by critics. Last month, 38 released a downloadable expansion pack for the game titled "Teeth of Naros."

In May, Schilling's 38 Studios missed its second payment to Rhode Island, which had signed a $75 million loan guarantee for the developer.

Over the course of the month it became clear that the studio was in dire straits and on May 24 the studio laid off its entire staff, shutting down both its Rhode Island office and Big Huge Games.

Schilling has said he is still trying to find investors for 38 Studios, but sources told Polygon that several publishers passed up on investing in or purchasing the company.

You can read the entire letter below:

Our heart goes out to the people affected by the unfortunate events surrounding 38 Studios and its subsidiary in Baltimore, Big Huge Games. Through it all, the team stayed together in a way that's been really heartwarming to see. The team kept working, hoping that there'd be a way to secure last-minute funding and save the company. People brought extra food into the office to help those unable to pay their bills. And last week, in bittersweet irony, Big Huge Games was named to Game Developer's Top 30 studios in the world list.

You may be wondering why I'm writing all this - and it's because Epic is going to do something to help them, and we want people to understand why we think it's the right thing to do.

On Wednesday, the ex-BHG leadership team contacted us. They wanted to start a new company and keep together some of the key talent displaced by the layoff, and hoped that they could use an Epic IP as a starting point for a new game. We loved that they all wanted to keep working together, but it was pretty clear they'd have trouble building a demo and securing funding before their personal savings ran out.

In one of life's coincidences, Epic's directors had spent the morning discussing how we'd love to build even more successful projects with our growing team, but that we'd need a dramatic infusion of top talent to do so. Which, we all knew, was impossible.

So now we're planning to start an impossible studio in Baltimore. :)

It'll take a while to find space, set up desks and PCs, purchase sufficient Nerf weaponry and Dr. Pepper, etc. But some of these folks have been going too long without a paycheck to wait for that. So, as soon as we can, we're going to try to get people working down here at Epic headquarters in Cary, NC as contractors.

There's a million things to work out. How many of the team can we hire? What will it be called? What will they be working on? We don't know all the answers yet. Please give us some time to figure it out; we hope to have more to share soon.

The way we see it, there's been a big storm in Baltimore, and we're taking in a few of the refugees -- as are the awesome folks at Zynga East, ZeniMax Online, and other southeastern studios. Epic's in a situation where we can do this, and it very clearly fits with our company values, so we're going to give it a whirl.

Dr. Michael Capps
President, Epic Games

In This StoryStream

Curt Schilling's game studio struggles to stay afloat
  1. Jul 16
    Dozens of 38 Studios depositions have to be performed by mid-August
  2. Jun 3 23 comments
    'Epic Baltimore' rises out of the ashes of Big Huge Games
  3. May 30 3 comments
    New 'Project Copernicus' screenshots released by Curt Schilling

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