The lights are on
In this age of frequent layoffs, disappearing publishers,
and the shrinking of the mid-core market, game developers who strike out on
their own typically take one of three paths. Many follow the battle cry to the
mobile space, where studios like Rovio and Supercell are striking it rich with
no publisher to cut into profits. Others turn to the promise of Kickstarter,
hitting up old fans in hopes that they see enough value in their new game idea
to fund its creation. Some video game illuminati outright retire, like SimCity
creator Will Wright and BioWare doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. But when
your last game made more than a billion dollars, you have other options.
When Call of Duty Vince Zampella and Jason West formed Respawn
Entertainment and a large number of former Infinity Ward developers joined the
startup, they weren't sure which direction the studio would head. In control of its own IP thanks to a partnership with Electronic Arts, the team could do anything it wanted. The
studio looked at the mobile and free-to-play gold rushes, but ultimately felt
that wasn't for them.
"It's something you
look at – obviously a lot of games are going that way," Zampella says. "I think
there is some truth to it being the future, but I don't think it's the only
future. There has always been the blockbuster, and I think there always will
be. Maybe people will buy less of them, but I don't always want to play a game
where it's free to play and a dollar for this and a dollar for that. I have
some, I play some, but it's not what everybody wants."
With the idea firmly entrenched that Respawn would make a
console game, the next question was what kind of game would it make? After
staring into the abyss of the blank page, the studio broke off into small
groups to generate an avalanche of prototypes. Some worked on top-down hack 'n'
slash games. Others kicked the tires on various plots in different genres.
"When you can do
anything, what do you do?" Zampella asks. "Our team grew pretty fast, so we had
a lot of people with a lot of ideas, and they all wanted their idea to be
number one. So we had to figure out how do you focus that down and keep
everybody happy. It was a pretty tough process."
When it came time to hone into an idea, the team had a moment
of clarity regarding its strengths and weaknesses.
"The choice to do another FPS...we're
doing something new, we wanted the idea to be different and new in terms of
gameplay and mechanics," Zampella says. "Breaking farther beyond that and doing
a racing game or something we're not familiar with wasn't the smart thing to
do. For us it's something that's in our wheelhouse that we can innovate on and
do something new and expand from there. It was just kind of a natural choice."
Thus, Titanfall was born. Given
the game's amazing reception at E3, Respawn chose wisely.
To read more about Titanfall, click on the banner below.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.