The lights are on
In 2009, Sledgehammer co-founders
Michael Condrey and Glen Schofield transitioned from Electronic Arts' Visceral
Games (former EA Redwood Shores) to working for Activision with the
understanding they would work on a third-person Call of Duty game (learn more about it here). While at EA,
the pair created Dead Space and rebranded the studio to the skull-emblazoned
Visceral Games. After the ink dried on a new contract with Activision, they
went from managing 400 developers on the main campus of EA to sitting in a car
planning their next move.
"We're sitting in the car going like,
'Wow, what do we do? Who is going to come with us? What's the name of the
place? How are we going to get a facility?'" recalls Condrey.
"It was two of us with a vision
for a different way to develop and the opportunity to start the studio we
wanted with the culture and development methodologies and the design vision and
marry that with Call of Duty," Condrey says.
The sudden career shift was
exhilarating for Condrey and Schofield, but the venture was also new territory
for Activision. The publisher is known for consolidating studios and trimming
fat, so expanding to accommodate Schofield and Condrey and building a new
developer from the ground up is an uncharacteristic move. According to
Schofield, former Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and his peers were incredibly
"They couldn't have been better
partners in the beginning," Schofield says. "They got us up and running."
Sledgehammer Games co-founders Michael Condrey (left) and Glen Schofield (right)
"Activision's independent studio
model was, 'Build the team the way you want to build it. Use the practices that
allow you to build great software,'" Condrey says. "It was such a great match,
and I think now you're seeing the fruits of that labor. We're different than
any other Call of Duty studio in terms of how we operate and the culture of our
In regards to space, the fledgling
Sledgehammer's first big step in making its mark in the blockbuster shooter
franchise would be securing an office larger than a car. The new team acquired
a modest workspace before settling into the current, custom-built space in
Foster City, CA.
"We were actually renting a
really small office which was really weird to me," says senior development
director Aaron Halon. "I didn't know you could just rent a boardroom. There was
this really tiny whiteboard and probably at that time maybe 15-20 of us just
crammed around a table talking about what it is that we want to do for Call of
Duty. That was pretty exciting."
Sledgehammer's evolving studio
space would steadily be filled by new developers, along with many former
colleagues from Visceral Games. Don Veca, who won numerous awards for his work
on Dead Space's moody, dynamic sound design, is just one of the former Visceral
Games employees to follow Schofield and Condrey to Sledgehammer. Brett Robbins,
formerly creative director at Visceral Games reprises the same role at
Sledgehammer. Christopher Stone, animation director on Advanced Warfare,
hand-keyed many of Dead Space's signature movements. Schofield and Condrey
weren't legally allowed to recruit their former Visceral colleagues, but
Sledgehammer's roster is proof of the duo's magnetic leadership qualities.
"It was very, very difficult
leaving [Visceral] but this was a great opportunity," Veca says. "The thing
about Glen and Condrey is that you know they're not going to fail. That's the
way that I've felt when I worked with them on previous games. I saw that in
those guys. These guys will take us to the finish line. I have total 100% trust
Sledgehammer Games' current studio in Foster City, California is home to over 200 developers
That trust would lead
Sledgehammer to create an impressive, playable slice of its vision for a
third-person Call of Duty set during the Vietnam War. While that project would
ultimately be shelved, it proved the team's ability to Activision, which opened
the doors for co-development with Infinity Ward on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
3 and eventually creating Advanced Warfare itself.
By all accounts, Schofield,
Condrey, and other key Visceral developers' decision to leave behind an
acclaimed studio they helped establish was a risky proposition. The leap is
fitting, however, considering the team's obvious infatuation with treading new
territory, whether it's the canceled third-person title or bringing the
franchise into the near future with Advanced Warfare.
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