Armature Studio working with Capcom

Jun 10, 2004
26,711
1
1,495
#1
Edit: Project canned, they are now working on a PSN/Vita project after helping on Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.

Do you remember Armature Studio? It was founded by former Retro Studios leads Todd Keller, Mark Pacini, and Jack Matthews in early 2008 when they were lured by EA. On a sidenote, the whole story was just like what happened at Infinity Ward/Respawn, just exchange some names and you have it. That's why Surfergirl said that those three guys were "escorted out the door on Friday the 18th [April 2008]". The only difference was that Nintendo didn't sue them but cancel their project - this was the start of DKC Returns.

Back to topic, the EA deal fell through just like the entire Blueprint division. Armature did some PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii prototypes in the meantime. As of early 2010 they are working on a project together with Capcom Japan, while "specializing in console/downloadable games for XBox 360 and PS3, and handheld games for the 3DS and PSP2".

Let's see whether we'll get more information soon.
 

EatChildren

Currently polling second in Australia's federal election (first in the Gold Coast), this feral may one day be your Bogan King.
Jan 29, 2008
36,153
0
0
Australia
#2
Their business model of keeping their studio small, developing ideas and concepts, and then collaborating with other developers to have the games built is interesting, but I dont know how well it will fair in today's industry.
 

thetrin

Hail, peons, for I have come as ambassador from the great and bountiful Blueberry Butt Explosion
Sep 14, 2005
43,287
0
0
35
Osaka, Japan
www.playism-games.com
#5
EatChildren said:
Their business model of keeping their studio small, developing ideas and concepts, and then collaborating with other developers to have the games built is interesting, but I dont know how well it will fair in today's industry.
It's essentially how Mistwalker works, except they collaborate with large dev studios, rather than tiny sweat shops.
 
Jun 10, 2004
26,711
1
1,495
#6
faridmon said:
If those people have left Retro Studios, how come the Studio is as fine as ever? Not very important staff?
Close supervision from Japanese staff. Just look at how good Next Level Games' titles for Nintendo were and how bad the others are. Other examples include Fuse Games and to a certain extent n-Space.
 
Jun 7, 2004
22,706
0
0
33
New York, NY
#9
EatChildren said:
Their business model of keeping their studio small, developing ideas and concepts, and then collaborating with other developers to have the games built is interesting, but I dont know how well it will fair in today's industry.
I thought they abandoned that business model after Blueprint was killed. Am I wrong?
 
#10
faridmon said:
If those people have left Retro Studios, how come the Studio is as fine as ever? Not very important staff?
Retro is used, to an extent, like an outsource house.

As you can imagine, this helps inspire people to leave, but since you still have Nintendo designers everywhere, you get a Nintendo game.

EatChildren said:
Their business model of keeping their studio small, developing ideas and concepts, and then collaborating with other developers to have the games built is interesting, but I dont know how well it will fair in today's industry.
Father_Brain said:
I thought they abandoned that business model after Blueprint was killed. Am I wrong?
Somewhat. They're bigger now, but still small.

I imagine this is why they're focusing on downloadable titles.
 
Jun 12, 2008
36,000
0
0
Brooklyn, NY
twitter.com
#11
@fardimon - I chalk that up to the studio being under the guidance of SPD3 (or one of the branches dedicated to West/East joint projects) and the fact that the rest of the team seems to love working at Nintendo.

On topic, I'm interested in this development, mostly because I want to see how these guys fare on making game/gameplay for downloadable platforms and handhelds.
 

EatChildren

Currently polling second in Australia's federal election (first in the Gold Coast), this feral may one day be your Bogan King.
Jan 29, 2008
36,153
0
0
Australia
#12
gdt5016 said:
Can someone remind exactly what happened between these guys and Nintendo?
The official word was that they left Retro.

The unofficial word is that they were escorted out of the building and sacked. If rumours are to be believed, the head staff wanted more creative freedom and Nintendo wouldn't give it, and so attempted to round up staff to leave and form a new studio. Nintendo told them to stick it and gave them the boot.
 
Dec 6, 2008
29,041
2
0
London
#13
Shiggy said:
Close supervision from Japanese staff. Just look at how good Next Level Games' titles for Nintendo were and how bad the others are. Other examples include Fuse Games and to a certain extent n-Space.
AzureJericho said:
@fardimon - I chalk that up to the studio being under the guidance of SPD3 (or one of the branches dedicated to West/East joint projects) and the fact that the rest of the team seems to love working at Nintendo.

.
Nirolak said:
Retro is used, to an extent, like an outsource house.

As you can imagine, this helps inspire people to leave, but since you still have Nintendo designers everywhere, you get a Nintendo game.



Somewhat. They're bigger now, but still small.

I imagine this is why they're focusing on downloadable titles.
Thanks, that clears for me a bit. Just shows how great Nintendo are working with studios as they don't have to depend of few personel that could get very big-headed later in theier cerrier (Infinity Ward)
 
Jun 10, 2004
26,711
1
1,495
#14
gdt5016 said:
Can someone remind exactly what happened between these guys and Nintendo?
As said, take the Infinity Ward story and swap names.
They wanted to have more creative freedom which is not really possible due to the close supervision and strict guidelines from NCL. Retro was assigned to a Zelda spin-off, the three leads began talks with publishers in order to form their independent studio. For some reason, Nintendo got hold of these talks on April 18th, the day the studio's URL was registered, and the three leads were laid off/departed. Retro was kind of shattered or in limbo for a short time, but then NCL proposed a DKC sequel. And that's the story.
 
Jun 10, 2004
26,711
1
1,495
#16
EatChildren said:
The unofficial word is that they were escorted out of the building and sacked. If rumours are to be believed, the head staff wanted more creative freedom and Nintendo wouldn't give it, and so attempted to round up staff to leave and form a new studio. Nintendo told them to stick it and gave them the boot.
Yes :)
 
#17
faridmon said:
Thanks, that clears for me a bit. Just shows how great Nintendo are working with studios as they don't have to depend of few personel that could get very big-headed later in theier cerrier (Infinity Ward)
An interesting note is that Nintendo has continued to work with almost all their Japanese partners and almost none of their Western partners.

There's a pretty large cultural contrast between Nintendo and Western developers, which is why they've stated a few times they're not interested in working with or owning more Western studios.
 

Nemo

Will Eat Your Children
Sep 10, 2007
18,385
0
0
#18
EatChildren said:
Their business model of keeping their studio small, developing ideas and concepts, and then collaborating with other developers to have the games built is interesting, but I dont know how well it will fair in today's industry.
That's actually a pretty good business plan, and should work well today if you have the right ideas
 
Apr 30, 2009
35,156
0
0
#19
Going by their website, they still only have 12 people on staff and haven't done hiring in a year despite trying to hire for almost a year. And it looks like they added a lot of former Factor 5 and RARE staff which I don't know is a good thing.
 
#21
What were those three involved with prior to Retro and who were they replaced by after their departure and what did THOSE people do beforehand?

Because Retro's pretty much a company full of very talented folks from a variety of companies IIRC. So hopefully that still holds today.

I even once heard that some Rare folks are there, but I'm not sure who or if that's even true.
 

EatChildren

Currently polling second in Australia's federal election (first in the Gold Coast), this feral may one day be your Bogan King.
Jan 29, 2008
36,153
0
0
Australia
#23
Hero of Legend said:
What were those three involved with prior to Retro and who were they replaced by after their departure and what did THOSE people do beforehand?
Mark Pacini - Design director (lead designer on all three Prime games).
Todd Keller - Art director (lead artist on all three Prime games).
Jack Mathews - Principle technology engineer (you get the gist).

Not sure who they were replaced by.
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#25
EatChildren said:
Mark Pacini - Design director.
Todd Keller - Art director.
Jack Mathews - Principle technology engineer.

Not sure who they were replaced by.
I think the Iwata Asks about Donkey Kong Country Returns is with the three lead designers at Retro currently.
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#26
Hero of Legend said:
Sadly that would contradict the reason these folks left in the first place; Nintendo didn't allow them to have creative freedom.
Is creative freedom all that great? I would rather be the lead on a Donkey Kong game than making prototypes for EA that go nowhere.
 

EatChildren

Currently polling second in Australia's federal election (first in the Gold Coast), this feral may one day be your Bogan King.
Jan 29, 2008
36,153
0
0
Australia
#27
apana said:
Is creative freedom all that great? I would rather be the lead on a Donkey Kong game than making prototypes for EA that go nowhere.
Well, yeah, creative freedom is all that great if you're in the industry to work on the games you want to make. They were key staff. Pacini as a lead designer likely had a ton of ideas and dreams he'd love to persue, and Nintendo being Nintendo would have squished them in favour of their projects.

He couldn't make what he wanted to make at Retro, so he left.
 
Jun 8, 2005
10,390
0
0
41
Los Angeles, CA
#31
apana said:
Is creative freedom all that great? I would rather be the lead on a Donkey Kong game than making prototypes for EA that go nowhere.
Yes, it is that great.

Working on an established franchise is cool once or twice, but then it starts to feel constraining and you want to do your own thing.

It helps if you can switch between established things to break things up, but working on the same series forever gets old, even if it's an awesome one.
 

Nemo

Will Eat Your Children
Sep 10, 2007
18,385
0
0
#32
apana said:
Is creative freedom all that great? I would rather be the lead on a Donkey Kong game than making prototypes for EA that go nowhere.
You can still have creative freedom when making a DKC game. Maybe they didn't get it there either

I bet they left because Miyamoto insisted on putting in that stupid ass blowing feature
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#33
Teetris said:
You can still have creative freedom when making a DKC game.

I bet they left because Miyamoto insisted on putting in that stupid ass blowing feature
lulz, they left because Miyamoto broke their favorite tea table. Poor guys, they assumed it was just a metaphor.

edit: Also they left before DKCR was offered to Retro.
 
Jun 12, 2008
36,000
0
0
Brooklyn, NY
twitter.com
#36
I NEED SCISSORS said:
To a certain extent I'd agree that given the chance to work on any one of Nintendo's legacy IPs isn't something to turn one's nose up against, but at the same time, Retro has shown itself to be a studio with capacity that far exceeds what many expected of them. Not loosening the leash enough to let them go wild and come up with something different would be a grievous error on Nintendo's part especially since the team seemingly likes working as Nintendo too.
 
#37
They got sacked. They were vying to do different projects, but Nintendo wasn't greenlighting them.

It wasn't a matter of "We want to make our own thing," Nintendo just wasn't using them for anything. Several, if not all, of the pitches they made to Nintendo were still using Nintendo IPs. Nintendo just wasn't saying yes to any of them.

I think it was Keller that got fed up, said something about "If you want to have creative freedom, don't work for Nintendo" on the internet, and slowly (along with Pacini and Matthews) started talking to people in the studio about leaving to start something else up.

Nintendo caught wind, fired the three, and escorted them out so they couldn't try and bring anyone with them.

From Nintendo's perspective, the three were trying to take their employees and arrange a mass resignation. From Pacini/Matthews/Keller's point of view, Nintendo refused to give them an inch when they had already proven themselves with three successful games.
 

Oxx

Member
Oct 9, 2005
12,534
0
0
#38
apana said:
Is creative freedom all that great? I would rather be the lead on a Donkey Kong game than making prototypes for EA that go nowhere.
Coming off the Prime trilogy their stock was pretty high. Clearly they though it was better to 'sell-high' and pursue their own projects than spend another 2 or 3 years working on another Nintendo game.
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#39
Oxx said:
Coming off the Prime trilogy their stock was pretty high. Clearly they though it was better to 'sell-high' and pursue their own projects than spend another 2 or 3 years with Nintendo.
I didn't consider this, maybe they managed to get both hands inside of EA's pants.
 
Jun 21, 2005
18,889
5
1,240
29
The Netherlands
www.n1ntendo.nl
#40
It seems like a gathering of people who got burned by their publishers/managers:

Game Director
Mark Pacini (Metroid Prime - design director)
If you said that there wouldn't have been a Metroid Prime if Mark Pacini wasn't at Retro you wouldn't be wrong.

Art Director
Todd Keller(Metroid Prime - art director)
Turned the stuff that Andrew 'Android' Jones made into actual gaming gold. It would've been incredible to see what Jones had in mind for Zelda's art direction by the way....

Technical Director
Jack Mathews(Metroid Prime - principal technical engineer)
The tech behind prime was very impressive. In fact it is known that the code, tools and engines that Retro wrote was one of the reasons why Nintendo handed them the Metroid franchise in the first place.

Senior Environment Artist
Elizabeth Foster(Metroid Prime - senior artist)
Environment artist, well we've all seen the environments of the prime games very impressive stuff.

Senior Engineer
Steve Mcrea(Metroid Prime 3 - senior engineer)
Rolled in at the third game and these guys thought he was good enough to be lead engineer so he's talented no doubt.

Senior Engineer
Ken Miller(The Lord of the Rings: Conquest - senior engineer)
Got out before Pandemic went bust, did not only work on LOTR, but Battlefront II and many other games as well, knows his stuff.

Lead Animator
Michael Cawood(Kameo Elements of Power - lead animator)
Remember those moving faces and other impressive animations in Star Fox: Adventures that made people say that Rare was the 'Pixar of the gaming world' for all but one day? Yes that was Cawood, he did the trick again with Kameo and went to work on Happy Feet in Australia. After the movie was done he returned to Rare to do some work on the new Banjo and soon after he left.

This is what came up on their website in terms of names that I could find. This is possibly as close to a videogame 'A-Team' as you can get.

In the end Nintendo was pretty stupid to consider Retro Studios some second-rate studio like NST or Kuju that they could just ignore.
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#41
Nintendo even keeps a tight leash on Aonuma and Koizumi, not letting them produce new IP doesn't mean that they think of Retro as a second rate devoloper. Perhaps you have more info than I do. In regards to Armature, so now they are working on some kind of downloadable title for Capcom with only seven people?
 
May 8, 2009
14,617
0
0
#42
I'll be interested to see what comes of THIS partnership.

Edit: Hmm...

Strider. Giving it to the people who breathed new life into Metroid would be smart.
 
#43
apana said:
Nintendo even keeps a tight leash on Aonuma and Koizumi, not letting them produce new IP doesn't mean that they think of Retro as a second rate devoloper. Perhaps you have more info than I do. In regards to Armature, so now they are working on some kind of downloadable title for Capcom with only seven people?
According to their site, they're approximately 12 people, which would make them the same size as Chair.

Given the size of Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade, they should be able to handle making XBLA games with a team that size.
 
Feb 21, 2010
11,851
0
0
#44
Nirolak said:
According to their site, they're approximately 12 people, which would make them the same size as Chair.

Given the size of Shadow Complex and Infinity Blade, they should be able to handle making XBLA games with a team that size.
Given that Retro had success with DKC maybe Capcom is thinking to put them on 2.5D Megaman for 3DS/PSP2? That would be nice.
 
Jun 10, 2004
1,229
0
0
#50
I think the Nintendo Curse did hit them already. Armature failed to secure a project for almost two years and lost EA's support. That left them pretty high and dry, I imagine. Now that Capcom is supposedly helping them out, I think they are back on track.

I do believe that like another Capcom-helped developer (Bionic Games), if this upcoming project does poorly, it could be devastating to the company. However, the heads of this company have the means for high-quality work, so I'm not entirely worried about the end results unless I see a poor first impression.

Currently, Retro has demonstrated to Nintendo that it is still a very good developer that, with a bit of direction, can produce a high-selling product, even without its leads. IIRC DKCR is actually the dev's highest-seller, and if not, it will be soon. Now that the project is overwith, I imagine the company's next major title will be Wii2 related, and most likely will be DKCR2. I do hope Nintendo can "eventually" let them do something more risky, but if the team is fine with making old franchises new again, I am always eager to see what crazy stuff they can produce next.