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Two More Infinity Ward Expats Join Respawn, As Studio Down 26
Two More Infinity Ward Expats Join Respawn, As Studio Down 26
April 27, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

April 27, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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Infinity Ward employees continue to leave the studio for Respawn Entertainment, the new venture of fired co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella.

As of today, the studio has lost 26 employees, according to Kotaku's count -- about a quarter of the talent Activision said it still maintained at Infinity Ward just recently. And LinkedIn profiles first noticed by consumer weblog Joystiq show that two more IW expats have joined Respawn.

Senior software engineer Chris Lambert and designer Brent McLeod are the latest to surface at West and Zampella's Electronic Arts-backed studio.

Lead designer Todd Alderman, lead animator Mark Grisby, lead environmental artist Chris Cherubin, lead animator John Paul Messerly, software engineer Rayme Vinson, programmer Jon Shiring and lead designer Mackey McCandlish, all former Infinity Ward staff, were part of another recently-reported wave of Respawn hires.

It's widely believed that more staffers could leave Infinity Ward -- analysts have cited ongoing departures at the key Activision studio as a risk to the publisher, and Activision itself has said the exits are likely "not over."

Sources have told Gamasutra -- as well as numerous consumer media outlets -- that morale is low at the studio, and employees feel less certain of their future after the reorganization of the Call of Duty brand and the departure of their co-founders.

An Activision rep recently used Facebook to reveal that employees who stay at Infinity Ward are effectively being incentivized to stay by Modern Warfare 2 performance bonuses forfeited by West and Zampella when they were fired.

Rep Dan Amrich confirmed the bonus money would be distributed among remaining staff, but several sources close to the situation have told Gamasutra that employees are being asked to sign time or project commitments before receiving their bonuses.


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Comments


R G
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I'm just going to quote somebody I heard in a previous post on G4:



Activision to Infinity Ward staff:



"You want yo money, ****? Get back on that street corner. Daddy wants a sequel."



I cried tears when I saw this. It truly made my day.

Michael Martin
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That really is pretty exciting news. Modern Warfare was obviously a high quality, well polished product, but it also started to get a little stale. I hope that Respawn is able to put the same quality into a new and interesting IP.

Giles ODell
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I'm curious as to how the criteria for receiving the bonuses can keep changing. Was there never anything in writing until now?

Laurie Cheers
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@Giles: There's no change to the criteria for receiving the bonuses. But the amount has changed, since the bonuses from the people who left are being redistributed to the people who stayed.

Mark Wong
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Giving the remaining bonus to the remaining employees helps Respawn. The best game developers don't have money as their primary incentive for making games. They are effectively putting up a filter, allowing IW to keep the bad employees. What other option does Activision have? Well, I don't know. But I do know the decisions they've made in this matter have all been short sighted.

Giles ODell
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Laurie: Apparently there is a change in the criteria, or at least an attempted change, if people are being asked to sign new documents committing to future time frames and/or project milestones.



Mark: I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense. Who is putting up a "filter" -- Activision or Respawn? And excuse me, the "bad" employees? How about the employees who have children, dependent elders, spouses or family members with disabilities or unforseen illnesses, or massive student loan debts to pay off? There are a lot of possible reasons other than avarice that someone might choose to stay and receive the bonus... in addition to the fact that they've simply earned it.

brandon brown
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Mark: your comment is completly illogical, if someone offered you 400,000$ to work one more year, i bet you would seriously stop and think about it. Furthermore, nothing is stopping the people who stay from quiting right after these contracts are over, so for and ever increasing amount of money, i could surely put up with almost any situation.



Infact, i'm willing to bet that vast majority of people who have quit so far, are so well off that this bonus isnt such a big deal to them. However, they clearly have other reasons for quiting.



On a side note, what are the chances that activision will just completely shut down the studio if say, 50% of the employees quit?

Robert C.
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It's hard to say without actually seeing the documents in question, but from my experience, everybody other than the two heads who were fired should be getting their bonuses. Even if they quit now. What it sounds like is happening is that Activision is taking the bonuses earmarked for those two (because if claims that they were acting in bad faith) and distributing them to the rest of the IW employees, if those employees will agree to some sort of additional contractual obligations.

David Rodriguez
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@Mark



I have talented friends still at IW and that was a completely incompetent remark you made labeling the bad employees. There is no argument that 26 people mainly consisting of Seniors and Leads leaving will have a profound impact on Leadership and overall teamwork. But just like how there is comradery among the people who left with west and Zamp, There is still comradery among the people still at IW. This is common for any other studio dealing with departures of key figures (I've seen it happen on a smaller scale). Linkedin has exploded with recommendations for each other, no one knows who's leaving or staying. It's a cluster F that's not over yet.

Mark Wong
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The average income of a game developer is enough to support an average size family. I don't think Respawn would pay so little that this couldn't be accomplished with the income offered from Respawn. They are EA backed, so I doubt these people are working only for equity. I didn't take into account dependents with disabilities. Yes, if I had a dependent whom is racking up high medical bills beyond what I could pay back, I would take the money. Nonetheless, I think the percentage of people that fall into this situation are very small.



But if I was given an opportunity to join Respawn, and the location was the same. It was only a difference in money. Yes, I would forfeit the $400,000. The threshold where money buys happiness stops at around $60,000. From then on, you must enter the realm of self-actualization.



If you have some reason other than money for staying at IW (friendships, etc..) then Activision offering the incentive of a bigger bonus will have no effect on your decision. So I did make a mistake in implicating that everyone at IW is a 'bad' employee.



The point I was trying to get across was about the people who are affected by the incentive. If someone decides to stay at IW because they are going to pay out... I am willing to bet that that person is a bit self-interested. These people may be the smartest and most talented people in the company... but do I consider them 'bad' employees for a new studio.



And yes, I'm now suggesting that Respawn will be successful and IW will corrode. I'm basing it on historical similarities between IW and the Medal of Honor team. Of course there are new variables in this situation, but the similarities are just to strong to dismiss.

Achilles de Flandres
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LOL @ Mark Wong.



"The average income of a game developer is enough to support an average size family. "

Mark Wong
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@ Achilles



I was raised in a five person single income family, which was less than the average developer salary. My parents are now retired and have a home. Although housing prices, inflation, the standard of dual income needs to be accounted for. I'm pretty sure game developers are in a better situation.



If were talking about pure subsistence. I'd raise my eyebrow to anyone who says they can't subsist on a developer salary. I think you're talking about having discretionary income to purchase what your social group considers 'the necessities'. Which means a new car rather than public transit or used car, a data plan to communicate, private schooling so your kids are given the best quality education. I don't think that ever ends. As your socioeconomic status raises, so do your friends. And there is a strong drive to be in parity with them. But that's not a game developer exclusive issue.

Meredith Katz
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@Mark



Also of note, of course, is the fact that many of the cities considered development hubs -- and thus where average developers are likely to live -- tend to be quite expensive to live in.

Matthew Lye
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I think it just shows how little faith that the staff at IW place in Activisions promises to pay up.

Mark Wong
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@ Meredith



I live out in Vancouver. Housing is pretty fairly expensive. Nowhere near some of the bigger cities, but I would peg it in the upper half of all game development hubs. But you're right... IW is in LA which does command a higher cost of living. I'm not sure how salaries scale relative to it, so I can't say that the subsistence argument holds for certain, but I do suspect it might.

Meredith Katz
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@Mark



Oh hey, BC represent (Victoria here, so I hear you on Cost of Living)!



Yeah, it's something we can't know without knowing both the salaries they were receiving (if it's representative of averages) and compare it to LA cost of living and so forth but it's definitely more expensive to raise a family there than many places -- and if people have ongoing financial commitments within that environment, I can see why it's almost certainly not just the "principle of the matter" that's coming into play.

Michael Smith
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I'd be less worried about salaries and more worried about time commitments if I had an "average size family".

Tom Loughead
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@Tim

True, but let's not forget that these guys seem to be able to do good work no matter what they're called or who they're working for. They put out Medal of Honor before jumping to Activision and that game was really good. I can only hope that Respawn will get a new series going and produce something fresh and not nearly as frat boyish as MW2.


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