Gaming Secrets: The Fate Of The Breakaway Metroid Prime Studio

Editor’s Note: The mysterious person known as Superannuation shows up every two weeks like a new pay cheque, if you had a job that paid you in gaming rumours and secrets, all sourced to publicly available information.

This time, he/she/it has info on the people who oversaw some Metroid Primes, the people who made Quantum Conundrum, and Rome: Total War. On with it…

Announced to much ballyhoo in fall 2008, Armature Studio, founded by principles from the Metroid Prime franchise, has fallen off the radar in a way that perhaps no other studio has this console cycle. In their first four years of existence, they very quietly released only one game: the Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which came out last June. However, a handful of resumes provide some insight into the mysterious studio’s activities over the past several years.

Shorty after the studio’s formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher’s Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature’s small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ and developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature’s staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint’s overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development.

Unfortunately, two months after Armature’s public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.

A contract artist says in his resume that he spent a month in late 2009 at Armature contributing to “a military FPS game for the Nintendo Wii system,” perhaps a bit of a surprise given that Armature’s founders seemed particularly keen on the opportunity to work on less technologically restrictive non-Nintendo platforms after leaving Retro. Another former employee, a technical rigger who was at the studio from March 2010 to April 2012, lists cancelled games for WB and Capcom as credits from his time Armature on his resume.

Additionally, an Armature game designer, who joined in fall 2011 and left in September, says that he worked on a cancelled Unreal-based “Unannounced Action Shooter” with both single and multiplayer features, as well as a secondary pitch to Microsoft. (It’s unknown if the cancelled action shooter is the same as the project for WB, but it is very possibly not the Capcom project as that was rumoured to have been cancelled in mid 2011.)

Above: Metroid Prime 2.

Alongside his work at Armature, studio cofounder Todd Keller helped out fellow Austin developers Certain Affinity by providing concept art for Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition and Halo 4‘s multiplayer maps. Among other things, Keller’s art portfolio features what seems to be an interesting piece of concept art for the aforementioned Microsoft pitch that depicts a bunch of Avatars trying to maximise property damage in a given intersection a la Burnout Crash.

Towards the end of a former Armature animator‘s demo reel are a few brief clips of seeming in-game footage featuring a lanky giant robot bearing an uncanny semblance to the golem in the header image of Armature’s website. The clips hint at some sort of action-puzzler where that giant robot is a companion of spunky punk rock character traversing through a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape. Roughly lining up the timelines of this employee’s time at Armature and Armature’s history suggests this footage may have been from Armature’s game for Capcom. (There are also some mech and stylised action sequence previz animations that appear to be from work at Armature.)

As to what Armature is working on now, an August job opening alluded to porting “PS3/XBOX360 titles to handheld systems”, so they are presumably focusing on more contract work.


Seattle developer Airtight Games appears to be working on a second collaboration with publisher Square Enix, following last year’s light-hearted puzzler Quantum Conundrum.

The resume of a senior environment artist at the developer mentions an “unannounced AAA title” for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC for Square Enix. Lest you think this unannounced title is some mix-up referring to Quantum Conundrum, this artist joined Airtight in February 2012 — well after that game’s announcement — and his name does not appear anywhere on the Quantum Conundrum credits.

Above: Dark Void.

Rather, this Square Enix game seems to be Airtight’s primary project — an “unannounced AAA title” it has been developing since the completion of work on Dark Void. The company’s website describes this project as “another ambitious AAA title in a genre that is both unique and refreshingly unexplored.”

Given the development timeline, Airtight’s current AAA effort is likely a continuation of a project called Fate, a post-Dark Void project for an unnamed Japanese publisher, which was temporarily placed on hold in April 2011 so that work on the game “could be reassessed”. That decision resulted in much of the team working on Fate being let go. Assets from the time of the developmental pause suggested an aesthetic influence from BioShock, but the game has likely changed considerably since then.


Sega Studios Australia’s next title will probably have little in common with its recent 2012 London Olympics tie-in game: the very first item listed among desired qualities in a recent senior designer opening at the studio is “Extensive ‘Combat Design’ experience from a high profile combat-based title.” Also, the Sega subsidiary is seeking those with “an excellent understanding of combat game mechanics and dynamics, and how to create game experiences to the requirements of Brand and New IP’s.”

About a year ago, Sega Studios Australia made nearly half of its employees redundant as it restructured to focus on opportunities in the emerging digital games space. Within the studio’s statement on the layoffs, it said that it had “signed a multi-product deal focussing [sic] across the digital marketplace.”

Prior to being renamed Sega Studios Australia in 2011, Sega’s Aussie studio was known as The Creative Assembly Australia, and produced games such as the console strategy title Stormrise and medieval and Roman-themed entries in the Total War franchise.

The LinkedIn page of Sega Studios Australia’s director says the studio is positioning itself as “a new SEGA leader in digital download and F2P multi-platform games” by “Developing licensed & original IP for PSN, XBLA, Wii-U, Vita, 3DS, PC, iOS & Android”.

Superannuation is a self-described “internet extraordinaire” residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.

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