Superannuation: Whatever happened to Armature Studio? (Former Retro Studios devs)

#1
We already had some idea just how much bad luck Armature Studio, founded as part of an exodus from Retro Studios in April 2008 and announced to much fanfare six months later, had been through, leading up to MGS HD Collection for Vita becoming their first fully credited release this past June. Thanks to superannuation, we now know a bit more about the studio's string of cancelled projects and failed pitches. One of the saddest wastes of talent this gen.

Full version, at the link above, has links.

superannuation said:
Announced to much ballyhoo in fall 2008, Armature Studio, founded by principles from the Metroid Prime franchise, has fallen off the radar in a way that perhaps no other studio has this console cycle. In their first four years of existence, they very quietly released only one game: the Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which came out last June. However, a handful of resumes provide some insight into the mysterious studio's activities over the past several years.

Shortly after the studio's formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher's Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature's small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature's staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint's overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development.

Unfortunately, two months after Armature's public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.
Another former employee, a technical rigger who was at the studio from March 2010 to April 2012, lists canceled games for WB and Capcom as credits from his time Armature on his resume.
Additionally, an Armature game designer, who joined in fall 2011 and left in September, says that he worked on a cancelled Unreal-based "Unannounced Action Shooter" with both single and multiplayer features, as well as a secondary pitch to Microsoft.
Towards the end of a former Armature animator's demo reel are a few brief clips of seeming in-game footage featuring a lanky giant robot bearing an uncanny semblance to the golem in the header image of Armature's website. The clips hint at some sort of action-puzzler where that giant robot is a companion of spunky punk rock character traversing through a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape. Roughly lining up the timelines of this employee's time at Armature and Armature's history suggests this footage may have been from Armature's game for Capcom. (There are also some mech and stylized action sequence previz animations that appear to be from work at Armature.)

As to what Armature is working on now, an August job opening alluded to porting "PS3/XBOX360 titles to handheld systems," so they are presumably focusing on more contract work.
 
#4
The bit about PS3/360 ports to portables is interesting. I'm guessing we're talking about Vita here, but I can't imagine which upcoming games that are left this gen would work on Vita too, or which older titles they'd even bother with a port of :/
 

cuyahoga

Dudebro, My Shit is Fucked Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time
#5
The bit about PS3/360 ports to portables is interesting. I'm guessing we're talking about Vita here, but I can't imagine which upcoming games that are left this gen would work on Vita too, or which older titles they'd even bother with a port of :/
Borderlands 2?

http://www.gameplox.com/2012/07/13/3-developers-approached-gearbox-to-handle-borderlands-2-vita-port/

Pitchford proclaimed that, since his enthusiasm for the idea hit the media, three separate developers have approached Gearbox with interest in doing the port for them. He didn’t name any, and he assured everyone that there’s absolutely no Vita version in the works yet, as he’s waiting for Sony to step in.
I wouldn't be surprised if Armature was one of those companies.
 
#6
The bit about PS3/360 ports to portables is interesting. I'm guessing we're talking about Vita here, but I can't imagine which upcoming games that are left this gen would work on Vita too, or which older titles they'd even bother with a port of :/
Sony money hatted GTA?
 

Shig

Strap on your hooker ...
#8
Yikes, sounds like they haven't had any luck at all. If it were me, I'd say it'd be high time to swallow my pride and ring Retro's doorbell.
 
#9
I wonder if any of the founders regret leaving Nintendo? Sure they're on their own but having deals fall through, pitches declined, not getting credit for their work, and no financial security or backing doesn't sound good at all. Curious as to what morale is like.

Not like they could go back to Nintendo. Weren't they escorted out of the building? Nintendo has built Retro back up as well. Retro has seen what happens when you try to strike out on your own like this group did. Or at least the way the group from Retro did. In a way Armature Studio's problems might provide an interesting deterrent to current Retro Studio employees. I guess they could go to Nintendo but would need to do so with their heads down. Sounds like they've tried to avoid Nintendo by trying to work with all the other large studios/companies.
 
#10
Sounds like a lot of really really bad business decisions.
Going handheld porting is a pretty depressing place to be I suspect considering Vita just (quick edit: sorry, 'looks to have') died.
 
#14
Yeah, it sounds like that they picked a really bad time to go out on their own. It's a shame, too, given the talent involved.

At least MGS3 turned out quite well on the Vita, thanks to them.
 
#16
These guys tried to destroy Retro from the inside out, same as West and Zampella tried to do with Infinity Ward. They honestly don't deserve your sympathy.
 
#23
I don't believe in stuff like curses. But it seems like whenever a developer or affiliated group (especially high profile) of people tries to leave Nintendo, nothing works out well.

Factor 5
Rare
Silicon Knights
Armature?
 
#26
I don't believe in stuff like curses. But it seems like whenever a developer or affiliated group (especially high profile) of people tries to leave Nintendo, nothing works out well.

Factor 5
Rare
Silicon Knights
Armature?

Maybe these guys were not as good as people thought the were and a lot of their success comes from Nintendo peering over their shoulder and smacking them if they started to move off in weird directions or at least keeping their ambitions in check.
 
#27
Maybe these guys were not as good as people thought the were and a lot of their success comes from Nintendo peering over their shoulder and smacking them if they started to move off in weird directions or at least keeping their ambitions in check.
That definitely happened with Retro during the development of Metroid Prime in particular and DKCR (Not sure about MP2 and 3 but it probably would have been true as well).
 
#28
Did these guys leave Nintendo because they didn't want to work on DKCR or did they decide to leave prior to that being developed?

Because that would be all kinds of ironic on so many levels if true.
 
#29
Maybe these guys were not as good as people thought the were and a lot of their success comes from Nintendo peering over their shoulder and smacking them if they started to move off in weird directions or at least keeping their ambitions in check.
Of course! Rare would be nobodies with no talent without the mighty magical wand of Miyamoto Sama.
 
#34
Maybe these guys were not as good as people thought the were and a lot of their success comes from Nintendo peering over their shoulder and smacking them if they started to move off in weird directions or at least keeping their ambitions in check.
This is along the lines of what I was thinking. They weren't a stellar studio before Nintendo started supervising, I don't see why anyone expected them to be great after they stopped receiving supervision.

Edit:

Of course! Rare would be nobodies with no talent without the mighty magical wand of Miyamoto Sama.
Difference being that Rare was quality before Nintendo bought them.
 

cuyahoga

Dudebro, My Shit is Fucked Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time
#37
Did anyone grab that concept art and footage from their games alluded to in the story before it was taken offline?
 
#39
DKCR began development a few months after the Armature exodus, IIRC.
So yes?

Edit: If I'm understanding correctly what Shiggy said back in the Capcom/Armature cancellation thread Retro was working on a another project at the time of the upheaval that got cancelled and replaced by DKCR.

Now I'm intrigued about what they were working on that Nintendo cancelled, hmm...
 
#40
Also Left Field.
Left Field did pretty well, I think - the studio was bought out by 2K and moved up to Marin to make sports games automatically forever.

The head of Left Field then went to start Zindagi, the guys that make Sports Champions, Deadmund's Quest, etc. and apparently are doing pretty well.
 
#41
IIRC, they left Retro because they were tired of working on Metroid and wanted to work on original IP/games...
And then, they've done Metal Gear Solid HD port on Vita.
Sad. But it seems they've done a good job.
Worst part is that it seems they've tried a lot of thing, and it's kinda sad they couldn't show what they've done.
 

cuyahoga

Dudebro, My Shit is Fucked Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time
#42
Left Field did pretty well, I think - the studio was bought out by 2K and moved up to Marin to make sports games automatically forever.
I think that was Kush. Left Field put out a budget sub-Majesco racer last year or something, and seems to have gone belly up.
 
#43
Left Field did pretty well, I think - the studio was bought out by 2K and moved up to Marin to make sports games automatically forever.

The head of Left Field then went to start Zindagi, the guys that make Sports Champions, Deadmund's Quest, etc. and apparently are doing pretty well.
I don't think 2K bought them...
 
#44
Left Field did pretty well, I think - the studio was bought out by 2K and moved up to Marin to make sports games automatically forever.

The head of Left Field then went to start Zindagi, the guys that make Sports Champions, Deadmund's Quest, etc. and apparently are doing pretty well.
My buddy worked at Left field for a bit i think, he helped on NintroBike, I think he said there was only 1 guy there who originally worked on ecxite bike, and that he had his head up his ass or something. Didn't sound like a promising developer anymore.
 
#45
Of course! Rare would be nobodies with no talent without the mighty magical wand of Miyamoto Sama.
Not to discredit their Rare's own accomplishment, but I doubt there exists any other publisher that would let development of a licensed movie tie-in extended far beyond theatrical release like that.
 
#48
Maybe these guys were not as good as people thought the were and a lot of their success comes from Nintendo peering over their shoulder and smacking them if they started to move off in weird directions or at least keeping their ambitions in check.
Definitely got this impression of Silicon Knights from Mama Robotnik's post-mortem thread.

Shame. I remember being intrigued when they formed the studio and then years later seeing their logo on MGS HD Vita and suddenly remembering they existed.