When we first laid our eyes on the beautiful visuals of Transformers: War For Cybertron, it was immediately clear that Activision was trying to take the robotic franchise in a more serious direction for video games than they had managed with previous movie spin-offs. The first question out of our lips: Who’s making it?

The answer to that million-dollar question would be High Moon Studios. This Activison-owned developer is based out of Carlsbad, California (near San Diego). We visited their offices last month to check out War For Cybertron and get the inside scoop on who they are and why they’re the right team to re-energize the Transformers franchise.

Where did they come from?

The core of High Moon Studios started life under a completely different name: Sammy Studios. Until 2005, High Moon operated as Sammy Studios and was owned by Sega Sammy, a division of Sega largely focused on arcade gaming. Early in 2005, though, Sammy Studios broke away from Sega and renamed themselves High Moon Studios.

After a year as an independent studio and publishing their first game for Capcom, High Moon was purchased by Vivendi. In 2007, Vivendi merged with Activision to form Activision Blizzard, thus making High Moon Studios a member of the Activision stable of developers.

What is their philosophy on game design?

High Moon Studios game director Matt Tieger describes the High Moon philosophy in the simplest way possible: “Shut up and play it.” They believe that games are about feel, that no matter how great an idea might sound on paper, it’s all about how it’s executed.

A major element of this belief is play-testing and giving gamers the chance to actually feel their games “on screen and under thumb.” Within their studio, High Moon pushes for heavy play-testing of games in development. Even now, with War For Cybertron in the middle of its development cycle, the team has been getting together for frequent multiplayer matches since the earliest possible stage in development. This constant testing and tweaking will help ensure a balanced multiplayer game that functions and is fun.

Since two of their three releases so far have been licensed games, we also had to ask about their approach to licensed IP specifically. Whether or not a game they’re working on is licensed does not affect their goals for the end product, though. According to Tieger, “Our philosophy is to find the heart of a game, license, or IP and deliver it to the gamer, no excuses.”