West/Zampella suit details "inquisition"

How they went from MW to unemployment.

The lawsuit filed by Jason West and Vince Zampella against Activision referred to the publisher's "astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed", and claimed that the investigation leading to the duo's dismissal was more of an "inquisition".

The full 16-page filing popped up overnight on IGN and made interesting reading. "This lawsuit is solely and regrettably the result of the astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed of defendant Activision," it began.

After taking credit for "lining Activision's pockets with billions of dollars in revenue", West and Zampella's suit said that the fact they were having to sue for their pay was "not surprising, given that Activision is run by a CEO who has been publicly quoted as believing that the best way to run a videogame studio is to engender a culture of 'skepticism, pessimism, and fear,' and who prefers to pay his lawyers instead of his employees".

It then catalogued events leading up to the two executives' dismissal from their perspective. It sounds like things started to turn sour after the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007.

"West and Zampella were not as eager as Activision to jump into the development of Modern Warfare 2. Despite assurances by Activision that West and Zampella would have complete freedom to run Infinity Ward as an independent studio, Activision had begun to intrude upon Infinity Ward's ability to create quality games.

"For example, Activision forced Infinity Ward's employees to continue producing the games at a breakneck pace under aggressive schedules, and West and Zampella were concerned that Activision was emphasising quantity over quality.

"Given Activision's insistence that Infinity Ward continue to focus on sequels to Call of Duty games instead of new intellectual property, West and Zampella were also concerned that Activision's demands risked 'burning out' the Infinity Ward employees' creativity. Nurturing a creative environment had been one of the cornerstones of Infinity Ward's success.

"West and Zampella were not eager to extend their employment; especially as they watched their games receive countless awards and make Activision billions of dollars, while many Infinity Ward employees were not being provided a fair share."

The lawsuit then referred to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Activision Publishing boss Mike Griffith at the end of March 2008, which would give West and Zampella "creative authority over the development of any games under the Modern Warfare brand (or any Call of Duty game set in the post-Vietnam era, the near future or distant future) including complete control over the Infinity Ward studio".

"The MOU explicitly provides that no such game can be commercially released without the written consent of West and Zampella."

After the release of Modern Warfare 2, West and Zampella asserted that Activision set up an investigation to "manufacture a basis to fire West and Zampella" and avoid having to pay them millions in royalties. (Bloomberg reported that the duo are seeking $36 million.)

When they inquired about the investigation, the lawsuit alleged that they were told in "Orwellian fashion that West and Zampella 'already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done'". Apparently any lack of co-operation would have been deemed "insubordination" and sufficient for dismissal anyway.

During the investigation, West and Zampella "were interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room", while investigators also "brought other Infinity Ward employees to tears in their questioning", the lawsuit alleged.

Once it was all over, apparently "Activision offered West and Zampella less than six hours to respond" to the investigation's findings. "It was also futile because Activision had already made up its mind. In fact, Activision had already included in its SEC Form 10-K Annual Report a disclosure to that effect."

Earlier today it was reported that Activision's response to the lawsuit included allegations that West and Zampella were in contact with rival Electronic Arts. Activision has described the lawsuit as "meritless".

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