The vocal minority’s opinions only mean so much, but when it’s calling you “the evil empire,” it might be time to set the record straight. Such was the aim of a recent PAX East panel, during which Activision-owned studios Vicarious Visions, Raven Software, and High Moon stormed the stage with some sunshine and butterflies to balance out the publisher’s heaping helping of doom and gloom.
Activision, of course, recently put the Guitar Hero series out of its misery and made us miserable by disbanding Bizarre Creations. Despite that, however, Vicarious Visions executive producer Jennifer O’Neal didn’t feel at all that her studio could be next on the chopping block, saying that it’s “not in as risky of a position as we were when we were independent.”
She also added that Vicarious’ growth into new areas of technology – such as motion capture – wouldn’t have been possible without Activision’s financial backing.
Singularity dev Raven Software, meanwhile, chimed in with perspective from back in its days as an independent contractor. The take away point? Contractors were far more iron-fisted in their approaches than alleged Dark Lord Kotick.
“If we didn’t turn in a milestone every month that wasn’t exactly what was listed in our contract they wouldn’t pay us,” said project lead Eric Biessman. In the end, he added, his company’s head was forced to pay employees with credit cards. The trade-off? Activision’s not entirely hands-off – especially when a new IP’s involved.
“It’s more work for us to make sure they feel it’s worth it,” said Biessman.
High Moon head Peter Della Penna then took the mic to heap praise on Activision’s “independent studio model,” explaining that – while the publisher expects products that are polished until they shine – it’s never forced High Moon to be something it’s not.
In addition – contrary to popular belief – Activision doesn’t force developers into working on franchises against their will. Della Penna explained that Activision doesn’t always suggest franchises that fit his studio, but ultimately, he has the final say.