It was a day that began like any other. Which is to say that it began with every website in the Western world parroting more accusations from the three-ring circus that is Activision's ongoing legal battle with former Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella.
It wasn't long though before we learned that West and Zampella - fired by Activision last month - have formed a new company called Respawn Entertainment and that they have signed a multi-game deal with EA Partners, under which they will retain ownership of any intellectual property they create.
And then it wasn't much longer after that that Eurogamer got on the phone with West and Zampella - who are at such an early stage of their venture that they don't even have an office yet, let alone any employees or game ideas - and got to try and pry some answers from them about the Infinity Ward debacle.
"Vince and Jason wanted to stress how happy they were to have the opportunity to speak with you, because the European gaming community is so important to them," their publicist told us afterward. "They were also hoping that you might mention that they are looking to hire multi-lingual community managers so that they can get unfiltered input from European gamers in their native languages."
Jason West will act as president of Respawn Entertainment, while Vince Zampella is general manager. They're joined in our interview by EA Partners' David DeMartini.
Eurogamer: So then, to paraphrase a famous interview question, what first attracted you to multi-billionaire publisher Electronic Arts?
Vince Zampella: [General laughter.] Hi, this is Vince. Uh, I don't know if you know this, but we were fired.
Eurogamer: Really? Tell me about that!
Vince Zampella: So, you know, the situation was kind of forced on us, so once that happened the next day we were flooded with calls and emails from publishers interested in working with us, which came at a great time for us and obviously in a tough situation, so people showing that much interest in us really helped us get through it.
Jason West: Absolutely. We had a lot of offers come our way and deals were presented to us, and we looked at it and we really thought the EA Partners would give us the freedom and independence we needed to make great games. They respected our culture, and we own the IP, so we can make sure it's treated with the respect it deserves.
Eurogamer: I realise you can't talk about the Activision divorce very much, and I know your attorney has responded to the latest round of accusations and so on, but how do you feel about people you spent seven years working for calling you "insubordinate and self-serving schemers"?
Vince Zampella: It sucks. Horribly.
Jason West: Yeah, we think it's false and outrageous and we're glad we're able to now move on and focus on the future.
Eurogamer: Is there anything else in their claims you can address? They said you held Modern Warfare 3 hostage, for instance. It's pretty venomous stuff.
Vince Zampella: False and outrageous and that's all we really have to say about it.
Jason West: We're here to reboot, start this new company and do our thing. You know we love gaming, it's in our blood, it's what we do, so we're really glad to be able to get back to it.
Eurogamer: Leaving aside specific stuff, do you anticipate other people from Infinity Ward joining you at Respawn?
Jason West: We're kicking off our hiring today and then we'll announce the make-up of the team at a future date.
Eurogamer: Your press release says you will own your IP, but it seemed like some of the friction at your previous studio came through other areas like marketing - I remember Robert Bowling once went mental because of something Treyarch referred to IW's COD games, for instance. How much control do you retain over how your games are publicised and marketed under this arrangement with EA?
David DeMartini: I think everything we do with all of our partners is a large collaboration, so I certainly can't speak to the past, but on a going forward basis I think we view this as a significant collaboration and much as the guys will independently head down the path, come up with an idea for the IP... I mean, this is a little unusual - they've signed an arrangement, they're going to come up with the idea, they're going to come up with the team - so I think what we talk about is today is day one, I think they need to put a team in place, I think they need to come up with some ideas, and then we'll worry about what the best way is to promote and market the games once we have an idea that can be shared.
Eurogamer: David, there was a rumour going round that you had a multi-million pound bounty on these guys' heads to get them to work for you. Is there any truth in that?
David DeMartini: [Long pause] Uh... no.
Vince Zampella: Unfortunately no!
Eurogamer: Does EA have the option of buying Respawn at any point in the future?
David DeMartini: Really we're not talking about deal terms, but specifically on that point the answer is no.
Vince Zampella: We're a very independent company and this is a publishing deal with our premiere game and we're really excited to be partnering with EA.
Eurogamer: What were the innovations that you think allowed your previous company to be successful, and what kind of new thinking will distinguish Respawn from other startup developers?
Vince Zampella: For us Respawn is kind of a reset and a chance to start over and build everything from the ground up, so I mean we're going to do the best job we can to bring innovation to gaming, and bring our quality control to the company...
Jason West: And I think when you build an environment where a team gets to control their destinies and they get to control their games, and they get to control their brand, that passionate love shines through, and I think the fans appreciate that - and that's critical to success, I think.
Eurogamer: It's early days but do you have any ideas for what kind of game you'd like to make, or is there anything on any level that you've done beyond sign the deal with EA?
Jason West: It's premature right now. We're focused on getting the team. We know we want it to be a big summer blockbuster, we want it to be something our fans will really enjoy, but there's nothing specific yet.
Eurogamer: Are you going to do anything with other EA studios? Any collaborations? For example, I imagine DICE would love to hear from you guys with any thoughts you might have about Medal of Honor multiplayer...
David DeMartini: I think part of the EA Partners programme is that it's collaborative in nature. We're very proud of our internal teams and the great success that we've had on Battlefield: Bad Company, what we're anticipating on Medal of Honor, my goodness, Crysis 2, Bulletstorm which was announced today. We've got a bunch of titles that we're incredibly excited about, and the nature of the collaboration is really at the desire of the independent studio that we sign. One of the things that attracts us to the best independent studios is that they're independent studios, and they're going to be able to establish their team, come up with their own creative ideas. Whatever we could do to assist... as of right now we've tried to provide a sanctuary for them to be able to operate freely and execute against their plans. They kind of unexpectedly fell into this and now we're trying to assist in any way that we can.
Eurogamer: Do you expect Respawn to be a multi-game studio or are you going to start on one project and see where you go from there?
Vince Zampella: Right now it's our first day, the studio's one day old, we're focused on getting the studio up and running, finding office space, getting one team set before we think of anything past that.
Jason West: Yeah, it's definitely all about coming out with an awesome premiere game from the studio and that'll be our focus for the foreseeable future.
Eurogamer: You said in your press release that you want to make "state of the art gaming experiences for global audiences" - what constitutes a state of the art gaming experience for a global audience in this day and age?
Jason West: [Laughs] Yeah and it'll probably be different when we come out.
Eurogamer: Alright, so what constitutes a state of the art gaming experience for a global audience in three years?
Jason West: [Laughs] Yeah, I think we need to dodge any details because honestly it's premature, because once we've had a think about it we're going to start talking about it.
David DeMartini: I think the analogy that we could use is that we've got Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo starting to play for a brand new football club and you're wondering how many championships we're going to win. Well, the odds are with those two superstars we're going to have a pretty good team, but we need to fill out the rest of the line-up and then we need to move forward. I think that's where the guys find themselves today.
Eurogamer: You're probably going to say it's premature, but still - EA already has EA LA and DICE and to some extent Visceral who make the big-budget action games of the kind that Jason and Vince you were previously associated with, so do you anticipate making something in that area given your background, or do you expect to go in a new and surprising direction?
Jason West: Well, we hope that it will be a fresh and new experience that will surprise people, but we're not going to make Boom Blox or something, it's going to be a big huge game. So.
Eurogamer: [Laughs] Ah, okay! So is this your first day? Is the entire company what I'm talking to on the phone at this point?
Vince Zampella: [General laughter.] You're talking to everyone!
Eurogamer: So where are you actually working? Are you in an EA building somewhere, or are you working from home? People imagine executives in ivory towers and so on, but you guys are starting out, so what does that actually constitute?
Jason West: Normally we're in our homes. Right now we're in a hotel conference room. We'll be moving into a space soon.
Vince Zampella: Yeah we're going to start to look for office space and stuff this week, and spin all that up.
Eurogamer: Fair enough. Have you got anybody in mind to join you at the studio yet, or are you literally throwing the doors open via your website to see who comes through?
Vince Zampella: Yeah, we're literally turning on the email, setting up the website, and tonight we'll hopefully be reading a lot of resumes and figuring out where to go from there.
Eurogamer: It's a very handsome website, by the way.
Vince Zampella: [Laughter] Yeah, we spent a lot of time on it.
Eurogamer: I can see that.
Jason West: It's not overwhelming is it?
Eurogamer: I was impressed that you didn't keep it to plain text, you actually had some imagery there. How have you guys been coping personally with the lawsuit saga? I can't imagine personally the stress of having to deal with any legal exchange, let alone one as vitriolic and public as that. Has it worn you down at all? Does it make you sick of the games industry?
Jason West: I wouldn't say that. It was pretty traumatic, and that first week was rough, but like Vince said, it was great to get all the interest from all the publishers and the gaming community, and I think that renewed my spirits at least.
Vince Zampella: Yeah, definitely. And we're glad that this is a chance for something new, we're able to get back into doing what we love, so this is really, on both fronts really exciting for us.
Jason West: Now it's fantastic, we can get back to what we want to be doing, making great games. It's a very exciting time.
Eurogamer: What is it that you love about games? What first attracted you to them?
Vince Zampella: Oh, I've always been a gamer, I play board games, pen and paper RPGs, I play videogames, I always have. I got into gaming - I don't even know or want to say how many years ago. It'll make me feel old. For me, getting into it - an opportunity came up and it was just a natural fit: 'I can get paid to do that?' I've been in games for a long time and when you can get paid to do something that you love, you're lucky.
Jason West: It's the same type of thing for me... You're always playing games, you love games and you even necessarily realise that there's a job to make 'em. 'Oh wow, people get paid to do that! I'd like to do that.' I'd always loved multiplayer games and playing with friends and getting into creating these types of experiences for people is very rewarding. It's like making Christmas presents for people, and hopefully they unwrap it and they're very excited.
Eurogamer: I guess you guys have had a little bit of free time over the past month, have you been playing any games?
Jason West: I took, like, two days off to see what it would be like to take some time off and then started climbing the walls. So I got back to talking about new business ventures and trying to get a publishing deal, so I don't think I've had much time off.
Vince Zampella: It was a pretty good holiday season last year so there were a lot of games that I wanted to play. There was Mass Effect 2 I recently finished, and Assassin's Creed II...
Jason West: I was playing Bad Company 2 when I thought up the name, Respawn Entertainment. [Laughter.]
Eurogamer: Bad Company 2, what a great game. I guess you can finally say that. So, you guys leave quite a lot of talented people behind you at Infinity Ward, and there's a danger, because of Activision's alleged behaviour in this affair, they may now be vilified by the gaming public. Perhaps you could reassure gamers - is a game that's made by Infinity Ward as it now stands still going to be worth their time?
Jason West: We can't comment on anything...
Vince Zampella: Yeah, that's not in our area...
Jason West: We're not associated with that in any way and we don't comment on other people.
Eurogamer: Sure, but you've worked there for a long time and those are your guys... You must feel that the work that they do is valuable and that it still has merit.
EA Publicist: Hi, sorry Tom. These guys can't comment on Infinity Ward.
Jason West is president of Respawn Entertainment and Vince Zampella is general manager.