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Author Topic: Jason West and Vincent Zampella's new call of duty
SparkyMcSparks
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 08:47 am
The duo behind the popular video game franchise plan a new company -- Respawn Entertainment -- and a distribution linkup with Electronic Arts.



In the video game world, "respawn" means a character that was killed off has come back to life.

So when two of the top creative talents in the industry form a new independent company called Respawn Entertainment, they are sending an unmistakable message to colleagues, competitors and fans.

The pair, Jason West and Vincent Zampella, who played key roles in the development of the multibillion-dollar military shooter franchise Call of Duty, have been embroiled in a bitter dispute with their former employer, Activision Blizzard Inc., which fired them a month ago in a move that shook the industry with the force of a rocket-propelled grenade.

West and Zampella first responded by suing Activision for more than $36 million. On Monday, they are expected to make their next move with the announcement that they are forming a new game studio and hooking up with Activision's chief rival, Electronic Arts Inc., which will have exclusive distribution rights to their next creation. The pair disclosed their plans in interviews with The Times on Sunday.

The company is initially being funded with several million dollars in seed capital by EA, according to people familiar with the situation. In a typical publishing deal, developers are given money by a publisher up front that they can earn back from the game's sales revenue.

In a rarity for the highly corporatized video game world, however, West and Zampella will own and have full control over the intellectual property they create.

"This is a total reset," Zampella said. "We're starting again from ground zero. It's daunting and exciting."

West and Zampella are among a handful of creators well known by video game players. Their creation of a company is roughly equivalent to the shake-up in the film business when Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen formed DreamWorks Studios in 1994.

The move, a rare bet on individual talent in an industry usually focused on big brand names, means there will be a major new title competing for gamers when Respawn finishes its first product in two or three years. It could also presage more independence and financial benefits for the creators of hit games, particularly if West and Zampella win or favorably settle their lawsuit.

Activision fired West and Zampella on March 1, alleging they had violated their contracts by seeking to start an independent studio and purposefully slowing the production of games while working for the Santa Monica-based publisher.

In a lawsuit filed two days later, the duo said Activision had fired them to avoid paying millions of dollars in royalties owed on November's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which has sold about 20 million units and generated an estimated $1.3 billion. The publisher denied the charge in a counterclaim last week that labeled them "self-serving schemers."

Throughout their careers, West, 37, and Zampella, 40, have specialized in realistic, first person-perspective military action games such as Call of Duty, which are hugely popular with hard-core gamers. The mostly male audiences have been attracted to the real-world settings, blockbuster action sequences that resemble those of big budget movies, and extensive online options that let them compete against other players via the Internet.

There have been six Call of Duty games released since 2003, four set during World War II and two, which carried the subtitle Modern Warfare, featuring contemporary counter-terrorist combat.

West and Zampella co-founded Encino-based Infinity Ward with then-partner Grant Collier in 2002 after leaving the studio 2015, which had made the previously dominant military action game series Medal of Honor for EA, based in Northern California's Redwood Shores. Infinity Ward's creation Call of Duty was published by Activision in 2003 and quickly surpassed Medal of Honor in popularity. Activision bought Infinity Ward that year for $5 million.

"It has a certain irony to it," Frank Gibeau, president of the EA Games label, said of West and Zampella's return to making games for his company. "But the fact that they were in this situation was a stunning opportunity for us."

The publisherdeclined to discuss deal terms, but a person familiar with the situation said it has the rights to publish Respawn's first game, along with potential sequels and spinoffs.

"What makes Vince and Jason's deal so ground-breaking is that EA is investing in them as individuals, not as part of a larger, established company," said Seamus Blackley, who heads the Creative Artists Agency's games department and negotiated the deal.

West and Zampella wouldn't discuss what the first title from Respawn might be and whether it would compete directly with Call of Duty in the military action genre, though West did say he expected it to be of "huge, summer blockbuster" scale. He added that they would consider turning their games into films, comic books and other media.

It remains to be seen whether avid gamers who have come to love Call of Duty will buy a new game based on the résumé of its developers, given the relatively anonymous status of most creative talent in the game industry, compared to that of film directors.

Though West and Zampella declined to discuss their time at Activision, they made it clear that after eight years of working on Call of Duty for the firm, they were eager to forge a new path.

"We have learned the hard way," said Zampella, "that the best way to ensure the integrity and quality of your work and make sure the fans get what they deserve is to own the intellectual property."


Source: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-ct-callofduty12-2010apr12,0,6466384.story
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Mystic
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 01:33 pm
Interesting.. I wonder how all this is pan out..
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StrYdeR
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 02:04 pm
it most definitely will be interesting to see how ownership of any ip gets published with a court case in the offing - if there is any proof (even circumstantial) that the ip in question was conceived utilizing the assets of another co. then things could get right sticky in a hurry!

[angryalien]
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FAFFER
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 02:37 pm
aren't these the sell-outs that f*cked PC gamers for mod tools/dedi servers.....


i wish them well! [tongue]
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DemonSeed
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 02:50 pm
FAFFER writes...
Quote:
aren't these the sell-outs that f*cked PC gamers for mod tools/dedi servers.....


i wish them well! [tongue]


I dont know about Vince, where he stands on PC gaming, but Jason West? Come on! He is the "real" talent behind the COD franchise. He is the guy who put most of the cool features of COD into COD:

He was the one who put prone into COD;
He was the one who headed the engineering team that wrote the IW engine;
He was the one who made the netcode for the IW engine so crystal clear.

Sorry, if it hadnt been for Jason West, COD would never have been what it is - and I mean from the beginning. If you've ever liked a COD title, you have no small thanks to give to that man. I predict that his next game will be huge.

Activision are the ones who pushed the COD titles out the door once every year. Both Jason and Vince didnt want to do that, and thought it was creating the wrong type of franchise. They cite this as one of the main criticisms of Activision in their court case filings. And it was this "hurry out the door" policy that ultimate lead to IWNet as had they had more time to finish the game, there would not have been any IWNet at all. We would have had dedicated servers for MW2 as well.

So, ultimately, its not West or Zampela that have sold out. Or any one at IW. It is Activision and there cut-throat attitude to gaming.
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FAFFER
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 03:03 pm
as i understand it was a collective screwing by these two...

as much as i'm all for the "little guy" being rewarded, seems activision might have a good case!

frying pan into the fire springs to mind tho!

EA! [rolleyes]

i hope thats one thorough contract!

edited on Apr. 12, 2010 06:07 pm by FAFFER

everyone has their own theory mate. [cool]

i personally don't buy the "not enough time" excuse..

they had dedi servers/mod tools from the previous games, iwnet should have needed extra dev time surely!? plus steamworks testing etc?

speaking of which...have they priced the "robbery" mappack yet? [biggrin]

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DemonSeed
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 03:13 pm
FAFFER writes...
Quote:
as i understand it was a collective screwing by these two...


Then you understood wrong. They were only following orders.

Sure, you might say they could have refused, but in part they did - by looking for the "out" door that ultimately got them fired. Why were they looking for a way out if they approved of what Activision were doing to COD? Why cite discontent with Activision's "out the door in a hurry" policy if they were "collectively screwing" the gaming community?

Ultimately, all I am saying is: dont be guilty of having a grattitude problem. If you have ever liked a COD title, ultimately that will be down in no small part to Jason West.
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InsideOut
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 03:16 pm
Both EA and Activion want billions to make the owners happy. I really just want the mod tools.
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Morphisnb
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 03:22 pm
In terms of "What have you done for me lately?", this is how I remember them.
Quote:
Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella explain the decision as a conscious effort to improve their game for the vast majority of their players.

"We're just prioritizing the player experience above the modders and the tuners," says West. He points toward the mounting feedback IW has received from PC fans of Modern Warfare who couldn't find a decent server to play on between all of the cheaters, the insular communities, and huge skill level disparities that the original game's community fractured into. "We thought maybe it would be cool if the fans could play the game," he laughs.

IW says that gameplay concerns for the majority of MW2 players are the overriding reasons for the decision. Zampella downplays the obvious piracy prevention angle (IW has cited numbers of people online playing illegal copies of Modern Warfare up to 60 percent). "The Steam stuff helps with the piracy. I don't know that the matchmaking stuff does," he notes. West takes a shot at the motives behind some of the outrage, noting that there's money to made by selling dedicated servers and adspace on them: "It's a little dubious. Some of the people complaining are complaining with their pocketbook."

Again and again during our conversation, West and Zampella hammer the point that hardcore PC players lose very little to this change relative to the returns that casual to moderate fans will see. Clans can set up private matches to do their training or what have you; all they lose is the ability to customize the game on a deeper level with mods and such. Infinity Ward sees the addition of solid matchmaking and community support like IW-run tournaments to the PC as a huge win, and not something that could be done under the old system.


Not exactly warm and fuzzy about moding or customization.
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DemonSeed
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Posted: Monday, Apr. 12, 2010 03:23 pm
Quote:
they had dedi servers/mod tools from the previous games, iwnet should have needed extra dev time surely!? plus steamworks testing etc?

speaking of which...have they priced the "robbery" mappack yet?


In September 2009, rudedog was invited to a console-only event in LA for MW2. He is a PC server admin, and went as a representative of the PC community. He got a chance to speak to Jason West (then Studio Head) for 9 minutes or so. Here is a brief run-down of the questions he asked Jason:

Rudedog writes ...
Quote:
Below is information from a very quick interview with Infinity Ward's Jason West. It should be noted that this was a 100% console only event, and Jason was kind enought to sit down and talk PC shop. He and the rest of the IW staff where very busy with interviews from large media sites.

The big questions are Mod tools, dedicated server bits as well as Linux support.

- They are all on the list however as of right now it looks like they will not be in the box or be released on day 1.

How well will IW support the PC side of the game, once released

- They are committed to the PC side of the game and will support it as IW has supported their past titles.

- Their co-op special forces mode will be invite only, no dedicated servers for co-op

- They are currently looking very closely at steam for match making via online play

- They will be using the same type of master servers as Modern Warfare. They are not using GFW

- There will be DLC however it's up to their parent company in regards to how DLC will be distributed (paid, delayed, or sponsored) - nothing has been decieded yet but they are looking to support MW2 for a very long time via DLC

About admin features

- The bad news is there will be a lot of console type features, which Jason did not go into detail. There was not much in regards to dedicated server type features. He did say "some cool features" but was more or less talking about console side of the game and what they would port over to the PC

I asked the silent treatment towards the PC side of this game.

- I was told it was because they are all hands on deck to get the console game into Microsoft Xbox 360 certification. Once that is done, they will be working on the PC side. It sounded like there was not much done as of yet.... hello the game going to be released soon.

Based on the answer I got above, I asked about the release date for the PC version.

- I was told as of today, it's on schedule and they don't see a delay.

Will there be a console or PC demo/beta

- No and No. Neither version will have any type of demo. Jason said, they feel their customers want them to spend all their time on the game and not distracted by a demo/beta

That's about it. I had about 5-8 minutes with Jason as he was very very busy


http://www.fpsadmin.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18475

That was posted 16th September 2009. Note all the enbolded parts. In particular, where West says they were planning dedicated servers, and "just" looking at Steam and matchmaking. If they had been planning IWNet all the development time, why say such contradictory things.

Also, remember Bowling was interviewed by GameSpot at the beginning of September, and when asked about PC multiplayer, he replied that it would "be as it always is" - referring to dedicated server support.

So why was IW "just" looking at Steam for matchmaking mid-September? Because they were late making the console game, had devoted all attention to it. Note this bit in rudedog's post:

Quote:
I was told it was because they are all hands on deck to get the console game into Microsoft Xbox 360 certification. Once that is done, they will be working on the PC side


Working on the PC game once the XBox 360 certificate was done. With only 2 months till launch, they hadnt even been bothering with the PC game! The 360 certification was made 22nd September 2009. This left the PC game with no development time at all.

If they had planned IWNet before September, there would have been no PC game to test on IWNet.

Why didnt they just port the dedicated netcode from COD4? Well, its clear from all the left over netcode from COD4 found in MW2 PC that they originally planned to do just that. But they couldnt just release it untested, and what with all the late dev time, the new engine hadnt been tested for the PC. With a dedicated setup, you can unlock and change almost all the settings. If they havent tested every possible premutation of setting, they would fall foul of lack of testing. So, they had to lock all that down so you cant fiddle with it in order to release a game to the PC which wont fall apart due to lack of testing.

This is what IWNet does - it allows the "finished" and "tested" console game to run on a PC, complete with matchmaking system, and locks down all the settings by disabling all the dedicated netcode left over from COD4.

What's clear from that interview with West is that, as of mid-September 2009, IWNet hadnt even been properly planned. It was only the germ of an idea, precipitated by the fact they recognised they were running out of time.

When Bowling was interviewed at the begining of September 2009, I bet he didnt even know that dedicated server would never be used.

So, all this nonsense that IW had been investing a lot of time in IWNet is just a great big fat piece of PR spin to "sell" the idea. All the evidence says it was only planned mid September 2009.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As for the price of the DLC for PC, I think there are going to be a few surprised faces about that come May 4th. I'll say no more than all these theories that IWNet was conceived to provide a mechanism to sell DLC to the PC community is going to be put on its head.
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