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By Michael B. Farrell
Globe Staff / June 5, 2012
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A rival video game maker has thrown a lifeline to Curt Schilling’s Maryland employees.

Epic Games Inc. of Cary, N.C., plans to hire some of the 100 people who worked for Big Huge Games, the suburban Baltimore subsidiary of Schilling’s 38 Studios LLC. The entire staff of Providence-based 38 Studios — about 400 people — was laid off on May 24, after Schilling failed to raise more money to keep the company going.

“The way we see it, there’s been a big storm in Baltimore, and we’re taking in a few of the refugees,” Michael Capps, Epic Games president, wrote in an online statement posted Sunday.

Game makers have been trying to recruit talent from 38 Studios since last month, when it missed a $1.12 million payment to the state of Rhode Island and later failed to meet payroll. The state gave Schilling $75 million in loan guarantees to move the former Red Sox pitcher’s company from Maynard to Providence, which he did last year.

Several rivals — including Turbine Inc., one of the largest video game companies in Massachusetts — held job fairs last month near the 38 Studios headquarters in Providence. Other companies have reached out to Schilling’s employees over social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The troubles at 38 Studios came at just the right time for Epic, which was getting ready to build up its staff to work on new projects, according to the statement from Capps. Epic “saw a team that was ready and high-functioning, and looking to get back into the swing of things after what happened to 38 Studios,” said Timothy Loew, executive director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, or MassDiGi, a state-sponsored game development center at Becker College in Worcester.

Dana Cowley, Epic spokeswoman, said the company does not know how many of the Maryland employees it will eventually hire, but it wants to keep the core Big Huge Games team together.

“It’s rare that you are able to attract an entire team intact,” said Michael Pachter, a game industry analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. “The Big Huge Games guys are really talented.”

At first, Epic will bring employees recruited from Big Huge Games to North Carolina, where they will work until a new office is established in Maryland, according to Cowley. The company does not have any plans to recruit 38 Studios employees from Providence.

Former Big Huge Games managers reached out to Epic last Wednesday, according to the statement from Capps, offering to build a new game based on an Epic property.

“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,” wrote Capps. “So now we’re planning to start an impossible studio in Baltimore.”

Epic revealed its intention to hire Big Huge employees on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the premier annual video game conference being held this week in Los Angeles — just the right time to make a splash within the industry, according to MassDiGi’s Loew.

It’s unlikely that any game company will make a similar offer to 38 Studios workers in Providence, said Loew, given the large number of employees there and its skimpy track record. 38 Studios has so far released only one game, called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and that was based on a software platform developed at Big Huge Games.

Some former 38 Studios workers have contacted Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts about trying to recoup lost pay, a spokesman said Monday. Coakley’s office is referring the employees to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, which is already investigating the issue of unpaid wages at 38 Studios.

Neither Schilling nor 38 Studios responded to requests for comment.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.

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