Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Ex-Battlefield Developers Form New Studio In Hopes Of Kicking The Crunch Habit

A half-year after he announced his plans to "abandon AAA" game development, former Battlefield and Payday 2 designer David Goldfarb has
revealed his next move. Teaming up with fellow DICE alumni Ben Cousins,
Goldfarb has founded a new studio, dubbed The Outsiders.

For Goldfarb, the transition from large-scale projects to
indie was born out of necessity. After serving in critical roles for the
development of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and Payday 2, the
divorced father of two took a hard look at his life and realized his
crunch-heavy lifestyle wasn't making him happy. It was time to recalibrate.

"I missed a year of my daughter's
life," he says. "I don't even remember what happened during the end of
Battlefield 3 because I was just wiped out. I think my daughter had colic for
like three months, so it was just an endless procession of knowing I was doing
the wrong thing. My father passed away when I was finalizing Bad Company 2. I
didn't go home to see him.

"At some point you make these
calls and you live with them, but they're not always the right call. Then you
have to come to terms with, 'Am I going to do that all the time? What does
that mean? Am I going to be 70 and look back and be like, "Jesus Christ, I was
making people billions of dollars. That's what I was doing. Was that worth it?"' The answer for me is no. So that was a big part of changing my life."

Sadly, stories like Goldfarb's are common in an industry where
time off can be scarce, overtime is the norm, and starting a family can be seen
as a betrayal to your fellow co-workers. In a survey of game developers
published by Gamasutra last March, more than 50 percent of respondents claimed they typically put in
40-60 hours of work during crunch, the nickname for the period of time when the
team is typically behind in achieving its milestones. Another 32 percent reported
that they work 61-80 hours. One of studio directives for The Outsiders is to break
this vicious cycle and find a better work-life balance.

"I think there is a humane way to
do that stuff and a right way to push toward the finish line with a really
measurable goal," Goldfarb says. "And then there's the wrong way – where you're
just in the office and you expect other people to be there because you're there.
That all comes from the top. I've been in situations where you feel guilty if
you are walking out on people. But I think management has to set that boundary.
It's okay to have a life and not be here."

New Beginnings

Goldfarb's background is primarily in high-octane shootouts
fueled by endless streams of lead, and Cousins has spent the past few years as
a vocal free-to-play evangelist while running the European office for mobile
game developer DeNA. Given their backgrounds, some might expect the studio to
debut with a free-to-play shooter. Goldfarb has other ideas. He's excited to dive
into a project very different from the games listed on his resume, and he says
Cousins signed on as the company CEO because of the concept, not the economic
model.

"I just want to make things that I
want to make," he says. "I've been very fortunate to work on other people's IPs
that have been successful. I feel like I've contributed to their success, but
they weren't mine. For me, it's really important when I write that I'm able to
deal with the things that are important to me in some fashion. When I made
those other games, they were never about things that mattered to me in the way
that maybe they needed to matter."

Goldfarb isn't ready to share the idea
at the heart of The Outsiders' first project yet, but he did confirm that it's
a survival role-playing game. Unlike many of the modern entries that bear the
"survival" tag, no zombies will be featured in the making of this game. "This
project is something I've wanted to make for 20 years," Goldfarb says. "It's a
culmination of a lot of things I've been making throughout my career, and then
a bunch of stuff I've never had the opportunity to do. I've been shoving RPG
elements into all these games I've been making since I first worked on a ***
car game."

The Outsiders is targeting the PC
platform first, but Goldfarb says that is "fluid" based on talks with
publishers. Unlike many game projects being started by indie developers, The
Outsiders won't be seeking crowdfunding regardless of how its pitches to
publishers go.

 "I think Kickstarter is great, but
it's rolling the dice unless your name is Chris Avellone," Goldfarb says. "There's
a certain subset of people that are going to be really successful on
Kickstarter, but it's not a chance I'm willing to take with a concept that I really
care about. I admire people who have done it because it's a ton of work, but it's
just not my thing."

You can keep tabs on The Outsiders
on the studio's website.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Dragon Age’s Morrigan Looks Terrifying In Statuette Form

BioWare has announced a new, extremely limited Dragon Age collectible. Morrigan, who traveled with the Grey Warden in Dragon age: Origins, will be available in statue form.

The statue is cast in polystone resin and depicts her walking down a stone staircase. The 19.5-inch collectible is limited to 1,200 pieces worldwide, with pre-orders open now.

Click to enlarge.

Retail price is $ 330, with an $ 80 deposit. The remainder will be charged in the third quarter of 2015, when the item ships.

You can pre-order the item from the BioWare store. If Mass Effect is more your style, be sure to check out our coverage of a new Tali figure from N7 day. For more Dragon Age: Inquisition, check out our review.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Former Darksiders Developers Form New Studio Airship Syndicate

Vigil Games, the studio behind the Darksiders series, closed its doors on January 23, 2013 – one of several development houses affected by THQ filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

At the time of the closing, Vigil Games was working a new game codenamed Crawler. “When the teams got together recently to show each other their titles, Crawler dropped the most jaws,” THQ’s former president Jason Rubin told us a day after Vigil ceased to exist.

THQ auctioned off all of its assets and studios, but Vigil and Crawler were not purchased. The Darksiders property was sold to Nordic Games, a studio that hopes to keep the series alive under the THQ publishing name.

Many of the people who departed Vigil went on to other jobs in the video game industry, and a fair number of them didn’t have to travel far, as other Austin-based studios like Crytek, Retro Studios, and Certain Affinity were hiring.

Earlier this year, a handful of ex-Vigil employees, including one of the studio’s founders, David Adams, left Crytek to form Gunfire Games.

Today we learned that other Vigil Games founders are setting out on their own. Joe Madureira, Ryan Stefanelli, and other former Vigil developers are forming Airship Syndicate, an independent game studio that is already hard at work on a prototype.

I spoke with Madureira and Stefanelli about their time away from Vigil and their hopes for Airship Syndicate. They wouldn’t talk about the game they are working on outright, but they do drop a few tidbits that point toward what type of game they are making.

What have you two been up to since the closing of Vigil Games?
Ryan Stefanelli: Speaking for myself, I was with a lot of the other Vigil guys at Crytek USA working on Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age as a designer. As soon as that went down, I left Crytek a month or so before things came to a close there. Joe and I had been talking about doing something for a little while, actually. Once we realized Crytek wasn’t going to work, it just seemed like the right time for me to take the leap and do this.

Joe Madureira: For me, after Vigil I went back to comic books. I had a contract with Marvel to finish up a bunch of books. I did three issues of Inhuman. We both had the idea to start a studio together for a while, but we were both tied up in different projects and couldn’t make it work. We both finished our projects at the same time, and said, “It’s now or never.”

Stefanelli: Yeah, it’s something that we discussed informally for a while. We always had a cool idea for a type of game that we wanted to make. In particular, we wanted to work at a smaller studio. Vigil got very big. That grew from the four of us who started it to over 200 people, and was multi-project. Even Darksiders by itself, the team was big. By Darksiders 2 there were over 100 of us working on it. We always sort of felt that the golden era of Vigil was when it was smaller. We all kind of pined for that time, and wanted to get back to making games that could be built with a studio that was closer to that size…maybe even smaller. Of course that means building a very different kind of game than we were building at Vigil. And I think when the moon started aligning for us, where it seemed like we were both going to be free to work on something, we started discussing what that might be more seriously. That led us to where we are now.

How big is that ideal team for you guys?
Stefanelli: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I love being on teams that are under 20 people. I think we’ve always said that 30 is when you stop getting to know everybody that is on the team.

Madureira: It’s cool to be in one room. Where you start to have meetings and managers, that’s too big. It’s nice knowing what everyone else is working on, and being able to peek at someone else’s desk and have them show you something. It’s nice to feel like you are hanging out in a room with your friends. It almost doesn’t feel like work. That’s how it was when we started Vigil, and then it grew into something crazy. We want to take it back to the roots. Much like the games we played growing up in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. You know, they had small teams, just a couple of people making them. And there are a lot of games that probably wouldn’t be super-attractive to big publishers now, like RPGs and metroidvania games. Those real "gamer" games are like ones that we were like, “Maybe now there are other ways to get these games out there.” You don’t have to go the traditional route through a publisher. Maybe we can actually make some of these games with a small studio.

A lot of studios start with a particular aesthetic for the kinds of games they hope their studio is known for. Do you have a vision in mind?
Madureira: I think that adventure is a big thing for us. That’s why we sort of settled on the Airship Syndicate, as far as getting that vibe of exploration and otherworldly technologies. Games like RPGs and adventure games will sort of be at the heart of pretty much everything we do.

Stefanelli: At Vigil we always made games that were love letters to our favorite genres. I think that’ll carry through to Airship. We’ve always wanted to evoke that feeling of adventure and wonder. I think the difference here is that the game experience might be more intimate, I guess a bit more indie. That’s what’s kind of cool about the recent game movement, you see a lot of awesome RPGs, metroidvania games, isometric action games, the types of things we grew up loving, but as fresh and modern experiences. That’s probably a good way to describe what we’d like to do: classic experiences with a modern edge.

Madureira: I think, too, we’ll always have a strong character focus and story focus. We like developing worlds and IPs. That’s our bread and butter.

Stefanelli: Obviously, with Joe onboard, that’s going to be our studio’s strength. It’s going to be characters and story development and world development. We want to make games that can revolve around that.

Game developers have numerous publishing options available to them these days, from self-publishing to working with larger, established studios. What avenue are you currently looking at?
Stefanelli: At this point, we are pretty open to whatever is going to get the game made. It’s interesting: When we were at Vigil, literally the business plan was “put together a demo and pitch it to publishers and they say yes or no.” Now it’s a lot different because you can try and do it yourself or just go straight to Kickstarter. You can try to get outside investment. You can go to publishers either as doing an old, traditional publishing deal, or an investment from them. It’s really an interesting time to be putting a studio together. There are so many different ways you can go about paying for your game. The key for us is, whatever we do, and however we do it – whether it’s through Kickstarter or through investment and publisher – it’s to try and maintain control of the game. However we go about paying for it, that’s the goal – for us to keep control over the intellectual property and own the creative side of it as much as we possibly can.

Madureira: The fewer people we have to be beholden to and who can have sway over the direction of the company or the vision of the game the better. We would like to keep that to a minimum. We’re definitely going to make a strong effort to stay independent and raise the money on our own.

Stefanelli: But that said, even having discussed the idea we have for our first project with some of the bigger publishers, they are changing their perception of how they work with developers. They are willing to let studios keep their independence, and they are willing to do deals that are much different than they were back when we did Vigil. Even some of the big guys who you might assume are only going to do things in one way are starting to be more flexible in how they pay for projects, where they get creative control, and starting to trust talent – especially if the talent is proven in some way.  They are starting to trust that talent more and more. It’s kind of exciting. I really think we have a lot of options for how we can get our first project done.

What systems are you looking to create games for?
Stefanelli: The game will start on PC since it’s the dev platform for the game and a natural home for indie stuff. We have our roots in consoles and would love to reach them, especially considering the game we have planned would be perfectly at home on a TV. So we’re designing around both of those.
 
Madureira: Tablets are cool, too. They’re getting more and more powerful, and becoming a fun way to play some pretty serious games, so they’re in the picture. The game will work well on a touchscreen with only minor changes. I’m not sure phones will make the cut though; they’re a little too small and casual for what we’re thinking.
 
How many people are from the Darksiders 2 team?
Madureira: We have a small group who were all key members of the Darksiders team, and a few more waiting for some pieces to fall into place before they join.
 
If given the chance, would you make another Darksiders game?
Madureira: We’ve talked about being involved in Darksiders, and have had some conversations with Nordic, but it’s not currently the plan. I will say the game we’re working on now isn’t Darksiders.
 
Stefanelli: We love it, though. I don’t think we’d ever dismiss it entirely.
  
When are you hoping to announce the game? And do you have an idea of when you hope to release it?
Stefanelli: I’m not exactly sure how or when we’ll announce. That’ll depend on a lot of things, chief among them how we fund the project and who’s involved in that decision. It’ll be a little while, I’m sure.
 
Madureira: I hope we can announce soon, because the excitement is killing me. And I'm terrible at keeping secrets!

 

For more on Airship Syndicate, check out their website, Twitter, Facebook, and Google outlets.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Crytek USA and Vigil expats unite to form Gunfire Games

A group of former Vigil Games and Crytek Austin developers have founded Gunfire Games, a new indie studio in Texas. …


Gamasutra News

Ex-Irrational devs form new studio, reveal ‘The Black Glove’

Irrational may have drastically cut its staff to focus on narrative-driven games, but some of those that were laid off have their own ideas for a narrative experience. Enter Day For Night Games, a new studio founded by ex-Irrational developers, many…
Joystiq RSS Feed

Life Size Titanfall Kraber-AP Sniper Rifle Recreated In Lego Form

After creating Titanfall's EVA-8 shotgun with Legos, master builder Nick Brick has returned to show off his Titanfall Kraber-AP sniper rifle.

You can see a huge collection of images of Brick's Titanfall sniper on his Flickr account, and in the YouTube video below, which adds a few special effects to the Lego rifle's capabilities. It has a working trigger, and an accurate reload made with moving parts.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Source: Nick Brick on Flickr]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Rumor: From Software’s Project Beast emerges in video form

Speculation is mounting over a rumored From Software game codenamed Project Beast, after what appears to be gameplay footage hit the web today. The video, spread over four separate clips (combined into one above), tallies with screenshots posted a…
Joystiq RSS Feed

Report: Neversoft Merging With Infinity Ward To Form Larger Studio

After helping Infinity Ward with the development of Call of Duty: Ghosts, reports have surfaced pointing to a merger between the two studios and the abandonment of the Neversoft name.

Giant Bomb reportedly uncovered an internal memo detailing the merger from Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. In the memo, Hirshberg writes how successful the partnership between the two studios was for Call of Duty: Ghosts and how, "it seemed like a single 'super-studio' could emerge."

The resulting partnership means the name Neversoft will be abandoned. The newly expanded Infinity Ward hasn't been confirmed to be working on the next Call of Duty, but it's a fair assumption considering Hirshberg's reasoning behind the two studios taking the name Infinity Ward. Hirshberg wrote, "Since the Infinity Ward brand is indelibly tied to the Call of Duty franchise, it is the sensible choice."

According to the memo, the merger also marks the retirement of Neversoft studio head Joel Jewett and studio director Scott Pease. The two will remain with the studio during the transition, but are expected to leave later this year.

For more details on the reported merger, including additional quotes, check out Giant Bomb.

During our coverage of Call of Duty: Ghosts, we filmed an interview with Infinity Ward's executive producer Mark Rubin and Eric Hirshberg about bringing in multiple studios to assist in development. You can check it out below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

For more Call of Duty details, check out the latest on the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

[Source: Giant Bomb]

 

Our Take
As Call of Duty development costs expand into the new-generation of consoles, it's no surprised to see larger studios become necessary for the development of AAA titles. I'm a little disappointed to see the Neversoft name fall by the wayside as I associate the studio with my fondest Tony Hawk memories, but I am happy the creative side of the developer will continue on, even if it has a different name.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Titanfall EVA-8 Shotgun Recreated In Lego Form

Wonderfully named Lego builder Nick Brick has long had a history of recreating life-size video game weapons out of Lego. His latest creation is Titanfall's EVA-8 Shotgun, complete with a working trigger, sliding pump, and removable drum.

The video below shows these features in action. For more images of this amazing build, check out Nick Brick's Flickr page. Make sure you check out his other video game creations.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Frozen Synapse to form strategies on iPhone this year

Frozen Synapse, Mode 7 Games’ top-down, turn-based tactical strategy game that challenges players to not get shot, is using its next turn to head toward your iPhone. Mode 7′s Paul Taylor shared the news on Twitter, adding that while he wasn’t sure of…
Joystiq RSS Feed