Big Guns, Big Air, Big Riffs: A Look Back at Neversoft (1994-2014) - Features - www.GameInformer.com
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Big Guns, Big Air, Big Riffs: A Look Back at Neversoft (1994-2014)

Yesterday Neversoft, which had once been Activision's premier in-house development studio, was officially dissolved and absorbed into Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward. In tribute, we look back at the studio's auspicious 20-year history.

Now that the Neversoft story is officially done, we can critique the history and work of a great studio - one that will forever be associated in gamer's minds with its classic franchise, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. However, the full tale of Neversoft's rise and fall shows that there is much more to the story than just a skateboarding video game.

Small Beginnings

Like many of today's triple-A development studios, Neversoft got its start in the wild days of the early 1990s. With new compact disc driven systems like the Saturn and PlayStation making more ambitious game designs possible, many young Americans entered the world of development that had previously been dominated by Japan in the 8- and 16-bit eras.

Neversoft was formed by three such aspiring developers: Joel Jewett, Mick West, and Chris Ward. The studio started out small, working on a game based on a Playmates line of toys called Skeleton Warriors. The Genesis version was cancelled, but it was eventually remade for the Sega Saturn and ported to the Sony PlayStation.

Skeleton Warriors didn't exactly set the gaming world on fire, and the next couple of years were difficult ones for the fledgling studio. Work began on a game based on the Ghost Rider comic book series for Crystal Dynamics, but it was ultimately cancelled before completion. Neversoft kept the lights on by porting Shiny Entertainment's (the company formed by Dave Perry of Gakai/PlayStation Now fame) MDK to PC.

The company's next project was an original game titled Big Guns. Like Ghost Rider, it would never see the light of day. However, it laid the foundation for Neversoft's later success.

Apocalypse Now

While Tony Hawk is the celebrity most associated with Neversoft, the studio's fortunes were actually turned around with a little help from another entertainment icon: action star Bruce Willis.

In 1998, Activision took an interest in the then close-to-death Neversoft. Though it wasn't impressed by Big Guns, it did see something in the game's underlying technology and graphics engine. Activision contracted Neversoft to revive a stalled project entitled Apocalypse, which starred Bruce Willis as the virtual hero and voice actor. Though the finished product was fairly mediocre 3D shooter, Activision was sufficiently impressed with Neversoft's work to give it another shot - this time with a skateboarding game to be powered by the Apocalypse engine (this same engine would also be the basis for Neversoft's excellent Spider-Man game of 2000).

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