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Arkane's Colantonio: Independence Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Arkane's Colantonio: Independence Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

August 13, 2010 | By Staff

August 13, 2010 | By Staff
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At Quakecon Thursday, Bethesda Softworks and id Software parent ZeniMax Media announced the purchase of Arkane Studios, the Arx Fatalis developer with offices in Lyon, France and Austin, Texas.

The sale of Arkane comes after more than 10 years of independence. While some view complete independence as ideal, Arkane, which has struggled financially in the past, appears happy to be more secure under the same umbrella as the developers of Doom and Fallout 3.

In a Gamasutra interview following the acquisition's announcement at QuakeCon in Dallas, Arkane CEO and co-creative director Raphael Colantonio (pictured) went as far as to say that "It's not fun to be independent," and that Arkane has actually been "more a 'dependent developer.'"

Here, he and fellow co-creative director Harvey Smith offer more background on ZeniMax's latest move towards expansion, and reveal this isn't the first time a suitor has approached Arkane.

Arkane was a fiercely independent developer. It was in your DNA. How can you leave independence behind?

Raphael Colantonio: I don't think it was in our DNA. From day one, doing Arkane was a vehicle to make the games that we wanted.

To be honest, if I could have made them at Electronic Arts when I was at EA, I would have made them there. If I could have made them at the company I was at after that... I would have made them there. But the people I was working with weren't interested in considering them. It's not like making a business was fun for me -- I'm not a business guy.

If you look at our history, we've had a lot of good intentions, and there was always something a little off, like the publisher wouldn't quite support what we wanted, or they wouldn't understand the game so they would market it the wrong way, or whatever.

It's not fun to be independent -- really, this is called more a "dependent developer", if you ask me...There's no better [company] than Bethesda to understand [our games] and be successful in marketing the games that we do.

How did this come about, how and when?

Harvey Smith: They approached us to talk about the kind of games that we are known for, the kind that Raph and I love, that we advocate. That was a weird moment in time... that's when we knew they were different.

Without going into too much detail, I can say I've worked with publishers in the past that all they've wanted to do is work with me, but change what I wanted to do. And it was different with Bethesda, they said "we're interested in working with Arkane because of what Arkane does."

Bethesda wasn't the first publisher to try to buy Arkane?

RC: It's not that we've never been approached, it's that it was never right. They were the first proposal we accepted.

HS: They were the only match.

This acquisition means you'll never get to work on [outside properties like] Ultima Underworld, or Half-Life, or Deus Ex. Was that a hard decision?

HS: We routinely describe our current game as a combination of Underworld, Half-Life, and Deus Ex. I think it's important to note that as much as Raph and I love Thief, System Shock, Arx Fatalis, Deus Ex and BioShock, that style of game.

Ultima Underworld is perhaps the patient zero, I would say -- it's not the IP specifically, it's the spirit of what the player gets to do in this atmospheric environment where the player can play with systems, and play creatively.


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