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Ex-Bizarre Creations bosses finally admit it: Activision's corporate meddling was a problem

It's never been official, but we've always sort of known it. Activision's interferance and committee thinking hurt the now sadly defunct Bizarre Creations in the run up to the much-loved studio's closure. Shut down by the house of CoD following the poor performance of its last two titles, Blur and James Bond: Blood Stone, Bizarre's studio atmosphere and creativity were gradually steamrollered once Activision bought it and started calling the shots.

Looking at the kind of game Blur turned into and reading between the lines, I've always suspected this to be the case, but now we have it straight from the horse's mouth, via a new interview with some of the studio's key figures. Sometimes it's crap being right.

Speaking in this month's issue of Edge Magazine, former Commercial Director Sarah Chudley explains that Activision thrust its nose into every bit of the long-respected developer's affairs during the making of Blur, "from design meetings through feature choices, locations" and the name and branding - "a big change from what we'd seen in the past".

How badly did it affect morale and creativity? Former Managing Director Martyn Chudley brings the sad news.

"We weren't an independent studio making 'our' games anymore - we were making games to fill slots. Although we did believe in them, they were more the products of committees and analysts. The culture we’d worked on for so long gradually eroded just enough so that it wasn’t ‘ours’ anymore."

So, a trustworthy and highly creative developer flattened by suit-driven meddling. Not exactly a new story, but of course a very sad indeed given the eventual outcome. Following Blur's less-than-exceptional performance, Bizarre was shunted onto the poison chalice of the Bond license with Blood Stone, an arguable waste of its talents after the Metropolis Street Racer, Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars series. After Blood Stone sold disappointingly, Bizarre was finished, cast out by Activision and unable to find another buyer. The studio was apparently offered a chance to buy itself back, but by that point Bizarre had grown too big to manage itself without outside help.


Above: Despite it all, Blur was great. It was just a little too schizophrenic to find an audience

Looking at Blur, the committee thinking is clear.

"Hey, the kids like Mario Kart, but Gran Turismo is big as well. So let's Make Mario Kart with real cars! That's got to work, right?"

"Yeah, and the kids also like Facebook and urban things and nightclubs and neon and stuff. So that's the interface sorted!"

"And Call of Duty multiplayer is huge and it has load-outs and perks, so all multiplayer needs load-outs and perks, regardless of genre. Put them in! If it's got those we'll barely even need to market it or come up with a title that explains anything about it!"

And lo, there was high-fiving and bonuses and everyone went off golfing, and a confused, tricky-to-market game with an abstract name went out to the back yard with only a shotgun and an unclear ad campaign for company. And you know the rest.


Above: Geometry Wars 2. NEVER FORGET!

Saddest part of it? Sarah Chudley's comment on how the experience of working at Bizarre had changed by the end.

"I suppose it's a telling thing that in the last weeks, many people were saying they would never work anywhere like Bizarre again".

Sad times, friends, sad times.

Source: Edge

April 6th, 2011

24 comments

  • ALttP - April 15, 2011 7:34 a.m.

    It's stuff like this that makes me think that all the positive comments from Activision developers come with a gun to someone's head.
  • QWERTYCommander - April 7, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    Activision should go fuck themselves. They killed Tony Hawk. They killed Guitar Hero. They currently have a knife a few millimetres in the neck of CoD. So, which company is next? Because I have a feeling that it's Neversoft, as they only had 2 franchises: Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero. One was sold off (and killed by) some no-name developer, and the other had it's production ceased. Their only hope is if they bring in a new IP or make a GUN sequel.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - April 7, 2011 8:38 a.m.

    Actually Dan, if you read paragraph six of my article, you'll notice that that fact IS referenced: "The studio was apparently offered a chance to buy itself back, but by that point Bizarre had grown too big to manage itself without outside help"
  • DanAmrich - April 7, 2011 5:05 a.m.

    Interesting article simply for what it leaves out of the Edge source. For instance: "Perhaps the most surprising claim is that Activision gave Bizarre the choice of buying itself back; even more surprisingly, the answer was no. “Without going into details, yes, there was [an opportunity],” Martyn explains, “but I personally thought there was far greater potential for the security and well-being of the company if a third party could come in.” That's a very interesting point which David does not address. But hey, I'm biased, right? Why read the whole article?
  • TeaGuy - April 7, 2011 3:42 a.m.

    If developers were bought out by Valve the gaming industry would be perfect.
  • MightyMorphinPoltergeist - April 7, 2011 3:28 a.m.

    da funk is with these people bashing Blur. It was an awesome game and I'm sad I wont get to see more of it. Hopefully this is a lesson to all studios out there looking for a big publisher - stay the F away from Activision.
  • Yourmom - April 6, 2011 11:16 p.m.

    BUNNNNNNNNGGGIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
  • HaVoK308 - April 6, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    Developers should learn to be satisfied with just making an honest sustainable living. There are many examples of this all around the world. They get suckered into the big deals with publishers in the hopes of striking it rich. Apparently its a risk they are willing to take but if they truly just love to make games they can get by with publishing games themselves. There are many avenues in which they can use to do so. Not everyone can be content with making 40-50 grand per year I suppose. They want the 250k per year. Situations like this is nothing new. Each developer knows exactly what can happen when they sign with a big publisher. In the end the responsibility falls on them. Developers are going to have to hold themselves accountable for there actions and mistakes. Its easy to point the finger at a big corporate empire. But developers are grown-ass adults and do not need the media and gamers fighting their battles. Fact is...these developers gamers so desperately defend live a much more well-off lifestyle than they could ever imagine. Developers need to grow up and make a stand for what they believe in. Dont sell your soul to the devil then cry about it. What the latest bonus round on gt.com and you will see three indie devs who got their shit together.
  • ChickenFillet5140 - April 6, 2011 9:16 p.m.

    I freakin' loved Blur, so sad to see these talented guys go. Fuck you Activision!
  • Crabhand - April 6, 2011 7:24 p.m.

    @Firestorm21 I think we've all been saying it for months now. I'm just waiting for Call of Duty to fail, then Activision will be in serious trouble. I'm also worried about what will happen to the employees at the 4 (5?) studios working on Call of Duty. But hey, everything is great now, what could go wrong when you only have one good franchise?
  • Spybreak8 - April 6, 2011 6:11 p.m.

    "poor performance" Right yeah, it's all because the games were crap, nothing about they were released at the wrong time or given to the the wrong developers. Boooooooooooooooo Booooooooo! (Kids booing sfx from Tdar) The thing is Bizarre previously worked with Microsoft and they're saying Activision was more intrusive than the big M people.
  • babyhenchy1 - April 6, 2011 6:03 p.m.

    @HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO I disagree. Dragon Age II was rushed but Mass Effect 2 was pretty damn polished and Mass Effect 3 is getting 2 years of development. On topic of this article, this was evident. Why give a racing developer a TPS, release it at the SAME TIME as Goldeneye's hype, and not give it any marketing. Either Activision's people are the stupidest businessmen in the world, or they're a bunch of jackasses. Neither one is a good thing.
  • peaceful765 - April 6, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    I really enjoyed Blur. It had so much potetial but in the end felt rather souless. I was hoping a sequel would be great but..... The big shots in gaming are churning out what makes the most money for them, which is great but some of that profit needs to be reinvested into new developers or "The next big thing" will never happen and all we are left with are clones of other games. This will be death for the market. A small risk for a bigger profit.
  • Kyo - April 6, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    I hate activision so. damn. much. That company makes me sick, it is The evil organization of the gaming world. It takes good dev companies and their ideas and twists them around until there is nothing left but crap. They even cancled games that would have pleased a lot of people(such as myself) like True Crimes simply because "It's not a top tier game".. like they think CoD is, they milk things so damn much that people get sick of the games.. and suddenly, they aren't activisions image of "top tier" anymore. I HATE ACTIVISION.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - April 6, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    This exact same thing is happening to Bioware right now with EA breathing down their neck and demanding that they release their games in 15 to 18 months. When will developers learn that when you sell out to the big publishers of course they will say that nothing will change but it ALWAYS changes.
  • Fuzunga - April 6, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    Someone needs to ask these guys who owns the Geometry Wars IP.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - April 6, 2011 4:41 p.m.

    I pretty much agree with everyone. What I think is funny about Activision is that they fired all those Guitar Hero people because it wasn't selling a well as it once had. Do they learn anything? They force out games in the same series every single year, I just can't wait until Call of Duty finally crumbles to the ground. When that happens, I'll dance around and piss on its grave.
  • sirdilznik - April 6, 2011 4:20 p.m.

    Activision - Killing independent studios, one at a time. And to think that this is the company that once created awesome games like Interstate '76. ReCaptcha=icespea from. So where does icespea come from anyway? Spea that's frozen of course.
  • yagirlfriendsfavoriterapper - April 6, 2011 4:02 p.m.

    Blur was lame and overrated! Chudley: Bizarre Creations could have bought itself out
  • Fiirestorm21 - April 6, 2011 3:55 p.m.

    Fuck Activision right up the ass. (Someone had to say it.)

Showing 1-20 of 24 comments

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