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Bizarre staff recall Activision closure

"Everybody was absolutely gutted."

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Image credit: Eurogamer

In a brand new episode of Eurogamer Asks, the three studios formed from Bizarre Creations' ashes have talked to Eurogamer TV about their experience of Activision's controversial cull.

While many had braced themselves for a bump, it seems few were prepared for collapse.

"It was a shock that it was actual closure - completely," admitted Peter Collier, senior level designer of James Bond game Blood Stone and The Club. "I think it's always unexpected, that kind of thing."

Senior tech programmer Martin Linklater was caught unawares, too. "I was surprised they closed it down," he said. "I wasn't surprised there were going to be job losses; I thought they might trim the staff by 25 per cent - something like that.

"But yeah, a total closure - it was just a really big blow. I hadn't been there that long, but a lot of the guys who had been with Bizarre since the early days were really crestfallen."

But producer Nick Davies was less surprised. "I don't think it was a complete shock," he countered. "We've all been in the industry long enough - and we were all senior enough at Bizarre - to know what was happening. But it's still not nice to be told, is it? Certainly wasn't the best day I've ever had at Bizarre Creations.

"It happened, we're moving forward. It's easy to look back and go, 'Well it's the wrong decision,' or, 'Oh I disagree with that'. It's never the best day in the world when you lose your job."

Activision tried to sell Bizarre Creations after racing game Blur stalled commercially. No buyer was found, and the regrettable news that Bizarre would have to close was announced in January. In February, Bizarre waved farewell with a touching montage of the studio's many acclaimed projects, including Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars.

"Big publishers, big developers, clash of egos..." mulled Linklater, trying to pinpoint the reason for Bizarre's closure. "Blur was a good game but it wasn't, I don't think, a mass market game. Once you mix weapons and racing you kind of lose the focus.

"It's difficult to sell the kind of numbers you need sell to make money when you've got teams that size. You need to be shifting 2 million units or so to make money back. And that's hard, because you're up against really stiff competition."

Eurogamer TV went on to discover that Bizarre Creations hasn't actually closed. "Core Activision staff" work there, a security guard told us. This was later clarified to mean Bizarre staff that were "retained" by Activision.

Peter Collier now works alongside Ben Ward (former community manager at Bizarre) and Stephen Cakebread (creator of Geometry Wars) at hogrocket. These three amigos will develop for iPhone to begin with, although what hogrocket's first game will be remains under wraps.

"It's not something you're going to expect," teased co-founder Ward.

Martin Linklater has also set up a new company, his called CurlyRocket.

"I want to get my first game out this summer," he told Eurogamer TV, before intimating that he had a bulging "backlog" of ideas to draw from.

Nick Davies and a handful of senior Bizarre team-mates have formed Lucid Games. They'll be around 30 people strong and are concentrating efforts on smaller-scale, downloadable titles. Eurogamer TV was shown around in-progress office.

"We still want to do console games, because that's what we know how to do," explained Mark Craig, chief gameplay officer. "But we want to go smaller scale and look at digital downloads: XBLA, handheld, that kind of thing.

"We've seen what it's like working on AAA games and it's a big factory, it's not a small creative process it used to be like working on PlayStation games and on Dreamcast games, with 12-15 people on a project. We want to get back to that environment.

"We're not going to do three-year projects or anything like that," he added. "We are going to make shorter projects - more gameplay-focused projects."

Bizarre Creations waves farewell.

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