The Initiative hires Devs from Rockstar, Crystal Dynamics, Sony Santa Monica and Respawn

christocolus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,010
Darrell Gallagher Head of Microsoft's new studio 'The Initiative" formerly welcomed some new hires to the team according to a Linkedin post which was later taken down but he also made the same post on twitter where our very own CrimsonEclipse was able to get a snapshot.

Darrell is already pulling in some serious talent.

Lead Producer/Senior Producer on ROTR and Senior Managing Producer on God of War

Leader Writer and Designer on Red Dead Redemption

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6433463746622029824/
The link has been taken down now but CrimsonEclipse was able to get a snapshot of the twitter post below.


So I was looking at my tweeter feed and I follow Darrell Gallagher (Studio Head) for The Initiative and he posted the following:



Basically a link to a LinkedIn page listing new members of The Initiative. So I scoped out the link and these are the new members of the Initiative:



I don't know any of who those folks are, but something told me to grab some screenshots and I did. I then shared out the link to the tweet in the Xbox discord for Era and we found out that he deleted the tweet. A member of the discord chat (Slicerdyster) did some quick work on googling those fine folks and this is what we found out:

  • Brian Westergaard worked on GoW (2018) as the lead producer.
  • Annie Lohr is the recruiter and worked at Respawn.
  • Christian Cantamessa - the writer from rdr is at the company.
  • Blake Fischer - Senior Director of Portfolio Planning for MS, but now working with The Initiative.
  • Daniel Neuburger & Lindsey McQueeney are from Crystal Dynamics.
So, looks like they are getting talented folks for this studio which makes this extremely exciting considering the games they worked on and the studio's their from. Thoughts?

Edit: Provided a bit more detail on where these hires are from.
Brian Westergaard - Lead Producer/Senior Producer on ROTR and Senior Managing Producer on God of War

Christian Cantamessa - Leader Writer and Designer on Red Dead Redemption

Annie Lohr is a Senior Industry Recruiter and Daniel Neuburger worked as a co-director on the Tomb Raider Reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider alongside Brian Horton.

Blake Fischer - Senior Director of Portfolio Planning for MS, He has been very helpful in getting a number of games to Xbox and has been credited for his assistance in games such as The Witcher 3, Lost Planet, Dead Rising, Ninja Gaiden , Rise of the Tomb Raider, Blinx, Tao Feng, Fall Out 3, Killer Instinct, Cuphead, Elder Scrolls IV...etc


Darrell said in an interview a few months ago that the mandate given to MS studios was to go out and get top talent and creators and according to this list he seems to be pulling in some amazing talent and I'm really pumped for whatever the initiative has planned.

:credit to mikefizzled and CrimsonEclipse.
 

Chronospherics

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Oct 28, 2017
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In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
 

Theorry

Member
Oct 27, 2017
19,308
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
T10 did fine. That started from within MS also.
 

Chronospherics

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T10 did fine. That started from within MS also.
I'm just speaking personally. I just think it's harder to produce success like that.

It also depends what your making. I think if you're looking for a creative, new idea, then that's more challenging than making a racing game, which is arguably much more formulaic. The core principles of a good racing game are established, the core principles of x unknown innovative game are not.

Additionally, I think Microsoft have inadvertently placed a lot of pressure on this new studio with the reveal. Which can be difficult to deal with, and they may struggle to manage the expectations of consumers.

I'm hoping, but perhaps this is unlikely, that they'll start by producing smaller games and slowly expanding. Consider how Media Molecule started with Rag Doll Kung Fu, then moved to LittleBigPlanet, for example. Scaling the growth of the studio and producing deliverables that can act as a metric for success reduce risk and help manage realistic consumer expectations. This is also what Sony did with Evolution Studios, where they scaled the studio back and then encouraged them to produce Motorstorm RC. It helps the team build confidence and develop a workflow by engaging with a lower risk project.

Even seasoned developers like Bungie, who left Microsoft to strike out on their own, struggled internally with the development of a huge, triple A game. It's not easy, even for a highly experienced team and it's considerably more difficult when everyone is working together for what likely is, the first time.
 

v_iHuGi

Banned
Oct 28, 2017
5,155
Good, hopefully MS Studios will get to the same level of Nintendo and Sony producing quality games in constant basis.

Pretty confident they have the resources and talent to pull it off, i mean 343i, Koalition and T10 are outstanding teams and all started at Microsoft from Day 1.
 

Neural

Member
Oct 27, 2017
468
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
They're going both ways. They acquired (and are still acquiring) a bunch of third party studios to let grow, but they're also trying to build up a (or a couple, considering Playground's second studio) first party super-studio with top-level employees. We'll have to see how all this will pan out.

Pretty confident they have the resources and talent to pull it off, i mean 343i, Koalition and T10 are outstanding teams and all started at Microsoft from Day 1.
To be fair, 343i had its fair share of problems and Halo is now a much weaker franchise, while The Coalition is the merger of multple studios: Black Tusk, Zipline and some MS Vancouver.
 

keidash

Member
Jan 31, 2018
118
Microsoft has experience in forming new teams from top developers, they did with Turn10, repeated with 343i and The Coalition and now TheInitiative seems to be doing the same, they also seem to know that they can't do it anytime they want, but every 3-4 years they can fund a new team with top talent... And with all the studios closing these last years it won't be too hard to find goog talent.
 

Typhoon20

Member
Oct 28, 2017
658
I wouldn't call 343 or Coalition outstanding. Maybe with the next Halo or Gears that might change. The clock is ticking for 343. The next Halo has to be IT.

Anyways great additions now hope it all pays off in the end. I'm going to temper my expectations.
 

Theorry

Member
Oct 27, 2017
19,308
I'm just speaking personally. I just think it's harder to produce success like that.

It also depends what your making. I think if you're looking for a creative, new idea, then that's more challenging than making a racing game, which is arguably much more formulaic. The core principles of a good racing game are established, the core principles of x unknown innovative game are not.

Additionally, I think Microsoft have inadvertently placed a lot of pressure on this new studio with the reveal. Which can be difficult to deal with, and they may struggle to manage the expectations of consumers.

I'm hoping, but perhaps this is unlikely, that they'll start by producing smaller games and slowly expanding. Consider how Media Molecule started with Rag Doll Kung Fu, then moved to LittleBigPlanet, for example. Scaling the growth of the studio and producing deliverables that can act as a metric for success reduce risk and help manage realistic consumer expectations. This is also what Sony did with Evolution Studios, where they scaled the studio back and then encouraged them to produce Motorstorm RC. It helps the team build confidence and develop a workflow by engaging with a lower risk project.

Even seasoned developers like Bungie, who left Microsoft to strike out on their own, struggled internally with the development of a huge, triple A game. It's not easy, even for a highly experienced team and it's considerably more difficult when everyone is working together for what likely is, the first time.
Thats true. But we dont know how fast they are expanding. I mean these are the first hires we hear about. I doubt it becomes a 300 people studio right away.
 

funky

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,007
Lots of talent in the area ripe for the picking.


It could be one hell of a team
 
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christocolus

christocolus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,010
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
That's why they have Darrell heading The Initiative and Matt Booty heading all the studios cos both guys have proven to be very efficient in running successful studios.
 

Soap

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,927
This is fantastic news, but we still need to be cautious. I remember the super team 343 created, and on paper that should have lead to the best game ever.
 

ghostcrew

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Oct 27, 2017
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This is fantastic news, but we still need to be cautious. I remember the super team 343 created, and on paper that should have lead to the best game ever.
To be fair, Halo 4 is a fantastic game. It’s sat at 87% on Metacritic, 2% below Horizon Zero Dawn (as a wild comparison). It just had the pressure of being a new Halo game in a world where popular FPS games had massively changed direction since Halo 3. They tried some new things and a lot of Halo fans didn’t love it. In a vacuum it is a great game. Just maybe not a great traditional Halo game.

The Initiative presumably won’t have that pressure.
 

SG-17

Community Resettler
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Oct 25, 2017
8,500
You can't force greatness, it has to come naturally. So it'll be interesting to see what comes from this poaching.
 

Klobrille

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,794
Germany
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
They know that themselves. Creating a new studio isn’t easy. This has nothing to do with MS, it’s a difficult task for every major publisher.

And exactly this is the reason why Darrell Gallagher will be so important in the long run, because with him on the steering wheel at The Initiative they now have the knowledge and expertise to build a new studio from the ground up. It will still take years, it will still require a ton of work and resources but they will get there. Both Darrell as well as MS made it clear that this project will not fail because of financial support or missing creative freedom. They are making sure Darrell has all the resources he needs. They made it so clear that they convinced him to got out of a comfort zone of his previously safe job to tackle this new challenge, literally starting from scratch.
 
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Gundam

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,136
To be fair, Halo 4 is a fantastic game. It’s sat at 87% on Metacritic, 2% below Horizon Zero Dawn (as a wild comparison). It just had the pressure of being a new Halo game in a world where popular FPS games had massively changed direction since Halo 3. They tried some new things and a lot of Halo fans didn’t love it. In a vacuum it is a great game. Just maybe not a great traditional Halo game.

The Initiative presumably won’t have that pressure.
I agree with you pretty much 100%, but also consider that they trade the lack of pressure for the lack of familiarity and brand loyalty that 343 had with Halo.
 
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christocolus

christocolus

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,010
Are you sure? Midway Games filed for bankruptcy and became defunct under his watch as CEO.
Midway was struggling long before Matt was made CEO and the guy did the best he could during his short time at the helm.. you could read about all he did for the studio here and he was actually applauded for his efforts...since then he has been a valuable asset to every team he has joined including the Minecraft studio.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2008/10/30/midway-confirms-matt-booty-as-president-and-ceo

Also, the decision to make Matt the Xbox General Studio Head wasn't up to Phil alone..all MS studio heads unanimously voted for Matt. The guy is awesome at what he does.

But Spencer said that he spoke with each studio chief, and the consensus was that they wanted someone in the new role and that Booty was the person they preferred.
https://venturebeat.com/2018/01/17/microsoft-appoints-minecraft-leader-matt-booty-to-no-2-job-in-games/
 
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Steverulez

Member
Oct 27, 2017
991
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
They added 5 people and Turn10, 343 and The Coalition did alright starting from scratch.
 

Henrik

Member
Jan 3, 2018
1,234
Let's see what they can come up with. Looks promising on paper but the question is if they can pull it off. 3-4 years dev cycle sounds something more smaller scale if it's a new IP. You can't force AAA as it has to come naturally and not crank this thing out in 3-4 years.

If it's a Perfect Dark reboot as Phil Spencer has teased then it would be as much time it takes to produce it. 4 or even 5 years depending on the project.
 
Feb 10, 2018
12,550
In my opinion, hiring and expanding too quickly often produces bad results. I'm not confident that Microsoft know how to nurture a successful studio from the ground up. The studios who've produced games that I've enjoyed have always been third party at some point, or acquisitions. Bungie and Playground for instance.
Isnt it down to Darrell Gallagher and the higher up team MS and Darrell G have put in place.
MS/Sony will discuss and work out with there devs what kind of games a dev will make, pay the bills and visit for update report.
So weather a game is a success or not is down to the competency of the people managing and working at the devs.
The 'nurture' you talk of is cash flow and checking the game is heading in the right direction and I dont see how that can be anything more then a small factor in the quality of the finished game.
 
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Superman2x7

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Nov 4, 2017
1,692
This is super exciting. Too bad it's gonna take ages to see what this team is up too. But hearing the talent being recruited to the studio is comforting.

With the creative freedom they're getting, I truly wonder what they'll come up with. This is just as exciting as Playgrounds and Ninja Theory working on new games.

The possibilities are endless, 3rd person action game, right, a hub based shooter, who knows what they'll do!
 

Chronospherics

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They added 5 people and Turn10, 343 and The Coalition did alright starting from scratch.
I'm sure that The Coalition would have experienced some sort of workflow handover between them and Epic games. The game they were developing also wasn't an unknown formula.

I'm not saying it's impossible I just think more fresh studios fail than don't, and expanding quickly / setting up big expectations increases the likelihood of that happening.

Isnt it down to Darrell Gallagher and the higher up team MS and Darrell G have put in place.
MS/Sony will discuss and work out with there devs what kind of games a dev will make, pay the bills and visit for update report.
So weather a game is a success or not is down to the competency of the people managing and working at the devs.
The 'nurture' you talk of is cash flow and checking the game is heading in the right direction and I dont see how that can be anything more then a small factor in the quality of the finished game.
Cash flow and keeping the project on track is a tremendous factor in what determines the outcome of the end product. I'm not quite sure what you mean here?

My biggest concern with quick expansion of a new studio is establishing work flow and company culture. I think you often only produce great games with great staff members that really love working together and that's hard to achieve when it's somewhat inorganic.

I'm not trying to be negative I just think the odds are stacked against them, personally. I do hope they produce something amazing!
 
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Henrik

Member
Jan 3, 2018
1,234
This is super exciting. Too bad it's gonna take ages to see what this team is up too. But hearing the talent being recruited to the studio is comforting.

With the creative freedom they're getting, I truly wonder what they'll come up with. This is just as exciting as Playgrounds and Ninja Theory working on new games.

The possibilities are endless, 3rd person action game, right, a hub based shooter, who knows what they'll do!
That sounds actually boring, same when Bend Studio who picked Days Gone over anything creative.

Let me quote some game designer:

"I understand that there are a lot of barriers for game designers to create original concepts – you really have to fight to do it in this industry. I understand that. But still, let’s face that challenge! Don’t rely on old concepts or old designs."

https://www.mcvuk.com/development/going-loco
 

V_Ben

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Oct 25, 2017
162
St Albans, UK
Christian Cantamessa?? Fuck, he's a large part of the reason Red Dead Redemption has good writing compared to Rockstar's other output. That's super exciting.
 

Chronospherics

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Oct 28, 2017
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"I understand that there are a lot of barriers for game designers to create original concepts – you really have to fight to do it in this industry. I understand that. But still, let’s face that challenge! Don’t rely on old concepts or old designs."

https://www.mcvuk.com/development/going-loco
I can't really think of any triple A studio that isn't relying on old concepts and old designs? It's difficult to convince upper management to push forward with a project connected with so much risk. That's why the coolest games tend to come from indies.

The only thing I can think of is 'A Way Out'.
 

THEVOID

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,530
I'm just speaking personally. I just think it's harder to produce success like that.

It also depends what your making. I think if you're looking for a creative, new idea, then that's more challenging than making a racing game, which is arguably much more formulaic. The core principles of a good racing game are established, the core principles of x unknown innovative game are not.

Additionally, I think Microsoft have inadvertently placed a lot of pressure on this new studio with the reveal. Which can be difficult to deal with, and they may struggle to manage the expectations of consumers.

I'm hoping, but perhaps this is unlikely, that they'll start by producing smaller games and slowly expanding. Consider how Media Molecule started with Rag Doll Kung Fu, then moved to LittleBigPlanet, for example. Scaling the growth of the studio and producing deliverables that can act as a metric for success reduce risk and help manage realistic consumer expectations. This is also what Sony did with Evolution Studios, where they scaled the studio back and then encouraged them to produce Motorstorm RC. It helps the team build confidence and develop a workflow by engaging with a lower risk project.

Even seasoned developers like Bungie, who left Microsoft to strike out on their own, struggled internally with the development of a huge, triple A game. It's not easy, even for a highly experienced team and it's considerably more difficult when everyone is working together for what likely is, the first time.
You are honestly over thinking it.
 

THEVOID

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,530
I can't really think of any triple A studio that isn't relying on old concepts and old designs? It's difficult to convince upper management to push forward with a project connected with so much risk. That's why the coolest games tend to come from indies.

The only thing I can think of is 'A Way Out'.
It's the same with any art. If you make a AAA high budget, high concept game it won't take too many chances because it has to make up the cost and the buying public likes familiarity. Same goes for movies. The smaller "indie" films take more chances and can because the budget is smaller and such.

That will never change.
 
Apr 6, 2018
1,502
A studio head with a long and high profile curriculum makes a tweet because he's proud of the first two months of his studio after hiring top tier industry veterans.
Explain me why someone should be worried now while no one had nothing agaibsy playground second studio
 

Chronospherics

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It's the same with any art. If you make a AAA high budget, high concept game it won't take too many chances because it has to make up the cost and the buying public likes familiarity. Same goes for movies. The smaller "indie" films take more chances and can because the budget is smaller and such.

That will never change.

Yeah I get that. I don't have a problem with it being that way. The design risks from the smaller studios ultimately feed into larger. So even if big developers aren't taking risks, we have small indies taking them for them.
 

m23

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,760
Good stuff, will be more interesting once we know what exactly they're working on. I wonder if they even know at this point what they are making.