Cryptic Studios Interview

Cryptic Studios, the team behind Champions Online, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and the upcoming Magic: Legends, has been working on MMORPGs for over two decades by this point. And if you wouldn't mind knowing more about this company and the lessons they’ve learned over the years, you should check out this massive VentureBeat interview with Cryptic’s CEO Stephen D’Angelo (Part 1, Part 2).

The interview goes over D’Angelo’s background, the studio’s journey through the years, their current and past projects, the ins and outs of the free-to-play model, and some general MMO-related musings. Here’s a couple of questions to get you started:

GamesBeat: I was looking up your career, and I saw you joined in 2007. What brought you to Cryptic?

Stephen D’Angelo: I have a background as a software engineer. I was doing multiple successful startups around the tech industry in the Bay Area. One of things I had been doing, moonlighting if you will, I was doing a lot of work in the paper game industry. I did a lot of work for Wizards of the Coast on Magic: The Gathering, as well as playtesting other pen-and-paper games they were doing. I jumped into the video game industry and joined Cryptic, a very dynamic gaming company, and I’ve been loving it ever since, more than 13 years now.

GamesBeat: I’m intrigued about your work on Magic and with Wizards and how that all relates to what you’re doing now. Cryptic didn’t have a partnership with Wizards when you were starting there, but now Wizards is one of your most important partners. Does that play into the past you’ve had?

D’Angelo: The work that we did with Neverwinter has actually nothing to do with my past. I had to do with Cryptic at one point being owned by Atari, which had the D&D worldwide licenses. But the Magic game we’re making now has everything to do with my long-term relationship with Wizards of the Coast.

We were sitting around one day, filling whiteboards with what we could be doing next, and someone said, why aren’t we doing Magic? I was face-palming myself. Why aren’t we doing Magic? We put together a pitch and I called the Wizards folks I know. I went up to Washington and sat down in the room, and the first thing they said was, Stephen, the only reason we’re doing this meeting is because of our history with you. We get pitches all the time for games, and we’re going to say no to yours like we say no to everyone. Don’t take it personally. All right?

Well, hear me out, I said. We did the pitch, and by the end of the meeting they said, damn, we want this game. Part of it is I got the meeting because of the relationship. Another part of it is, it comes back to this thing — I generally believe this: Know your IP and love it as much as the owner of the IP does, and you’ll make a better partnership out of it, make a better game out of it. We came in and pitched them something that represented the IP, and that got them super-excited in a way a lot of people who didn’t get the IP weren’t able to do.