Titanfall Was Almost Destroyed By Lawsuits

Titanfall Was Almost Destroyed By Lawsuits

Before Titanfall was Titanfall, the mech-heavy shooter went through years of development hell. Crippled by a complicated lawsuit back in 2010, the folks behind the newly formed studio Respawn Entertainment worried for a long time that they might never actually make a game.

This afternoon, games reporter and TV host Geoff Keighley released The Final Hours of Titanfall, a book-slash-app in the vein of his previous Final Hours projects like Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3. Keighley sent us an early copy, and it’s a great read, full of neat tidbits, cool visuals and dramatic details about how Respawn was created, and how they put together their big PC/Xbox exclusive. (You can get the book on iOS, PC, Mac, Kindle, Android and Surface.)

Back in 2010, when Activision fired Modern Warfare creators Vince Zampella and Jason West, the two became involved in a multifaceted lawsuit involving Activision, EA, and all sorts of legal complications. In The Final Hours, Keighley paints a fascinating picture: over the next two years, as Zampella and West started work on their own game at the new company they were calling Respawn Entertainment, they were constantly distracted by depositions, meetings, and legal complications.

“Once new employees were immersed in the studio culture, they soon realised that there were really two companies operating beneath the surface: those who were in the lawsuit, and those who were not,” Keighley writes.

“On certain days almost half the company would crowd into the conference room for multi-hour meetings with lawyers. Often those discussions would spill over into the afternoon with debates about the latest legal manoeuvre. The rest of the company was supposed to be heads-down working on the game, but one Google Alert about the lawsuit sent development into a tailspin for the rest of the afternoon.”

Even after the lawsuit was settled, Keighley writes, the relationship between Respawn co-founders Vince Zampella and Jason West had become tense and fractured, and, as Respawn employees described it, West was often distant and distracted. In 2012, after countless discussions and internal debates, Zampella decided that one of them would have to go.

Keighley describes one particularly harrowing meeting in July 2012. Not long after the lawsuit was settled, Respawn employees got a meeting invitation titled “Come to Jesus.” The purpose: get everyone in a room with West to try to hash things out.

“What West hoped would be a constructive dialectic turned into an all-out lynching,” Keighley writes. “Pent-up feelings burst into the open. Employee after employee complained about the rushed way the lawsuit had been settled. Many attacked West directly and complained that he hadn’t properly balanced his time between the lawsuit and the game, which he had largely ignored for the better part of a year.”

In early 2013, Kotaku broke news that West had left Respawn. We’d heard that he left for family issues — namely, that he was moving to be closer to his mum, who had come down with a respiratory illness — but there’s more to the story: the lawsuits and difficulty at Respawn drove West away from the company he helped found. (The Final Hours is full of other anecdotes about West’s relationship with Respawn staff.)

Today, we’ve got Titanfall: Respawn’s critically-acclaimed shooter is the crown jewel of the newest Xbox. Thanks to an exclusivity arrangement between Microsoft and publisher EA, Respawn was able to get both the time and money they needed to get their mech game together.

To get the full story — and to support some solid journalism — check out The Final Hours of Titanfall. It’s totally worth reading, and gives a fascinating backstage look at the drama behind game development.


    • While I haven’t played it and therefore won’t pass judgement on if it’s good or not, I think the massive power of the hype train guaranteed its success regardless.

    • I agree, it’s all hype. The mechs literally play like giant people skinned to be robots. The gameplay is just call of duty again. There is nothing next gen about it.

        • As someone who has played it, I still feel it is. Tiny maps. Spawning randomly with no front line. Scope in scope out killing. Most of the objectives just involving killing people or capture and hold. The only difference is the giant people shaped like mechs and the jetpacks which just allow you to get somewhere quicker (still nothing compared to tribes). Overall I just get a cod with mechs feel. It isn’t even as revolutionary as bf2142 was on its own quasi genre with giant pilotable motherships and a new gametype involving taking them out, they could have easily gone “here is bf with mechs” like titanfall clearly has with cod.

    • Yes. It is critically aclaimed. It has a great metacritic average and most people that get their hands on it love it. The parkour is the star of the show, not the titans ironically. Show me a first person action game with a more creative, smoother movement system. Wallrunning, jetpacks etc make this game really exciting. Why do you think its mediocre?

  • I think it’s a great game. I don’t like FPS much but I still purchased it because it is super fun running around and jumping all over the place with the rocket launcher taking down titans and such.

  • titanfall has certainly done something right….. i dont usually like FPS games…. but im a massive fan of titanfall….

  • Titanfall is amazing.

    I basically can’t go back to any other shooter now. Once you’ve experienced the movement in Titanfall, there’s just no other way.

    So much fluidity. The Titans are merely a distraction in my opinion. I barely spend time in Titans because getting around as a Pilot is just so much fun.

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