Interviews// Ben Ward, Studio Communications of Bizarre Creations

Posted 2 Jun 2009 18:00 by
Games: Blur
SPOnG: How has your relationship with Activision been? There was a bit of a rumoured hoo-hah recently regarding some sort of deadline disagreement with Microsoft, which supposedly drew you to Activision. Would you say that was accurate, or were there other benefits that outweighed being an independent?

Ben Ward: No, we have had a really good working relationship with Microsoft for many years. And we were fiercely independent in that we kept everyone at arm’s length because we had to. That’s what you need to do to maintain your artistic integrity. But joining Activision has been really good, no bullshit. It’s been excellent for us because it’s just opened so many doors, a lot of developers don’t have as much luck as we have had unfortunately.

You hear a lot about mergers and takeovers where the developer needed it in order to keep going – that was not the case with Bizarre Creations at all. We had enough money to make another three games or so. It was just the fact that we liked the stability that Activision offered in being the world’s biggest publisher and everything. They weren’t the biggest at the time we joined with them, but then a week after we did they said to us “Oh by the way, we’re merging with Blizzard!”

It’s also been great in terms of a number of things we now have access to in contrast to being independent, such as focus testing. We’ve had people come into the UK and American offices playing the game, getting feedback and sending that straight back to our designers. The audio recording sessions – we can have guys sent into a studio and actually direct voice acting properly now. We just get all this cool shit that we didn’t have before, basically.

SPOnG: Activision has always been a publisher looking for long-standing franchises to add to their portfolio. This has led to something of an overworking of certain products like Guitar Hero, where there are four or five games being released this year. Is this a direction that Blizzard is taking with Blur?

Ben Ward: We are intending to turn this into a franchise. I don’t think, with the way that Activision work that there’s any danger of us being overworked with making five games a year or something.

It’s one of the reasons we joined with them in the first place, the fact that Activision has what’s called the Independent Studio Model, which is basically them saying “you do your thing, we’ll do our thing” and that’s that. We had a meeting one day and the director basically said “Oh by the way, we’re now owned by Activision” and the rest of us just went “…OK” and got back to work. There’ve been no redundancies, no change in work ethic whatsoever.

About the only change we’ve had to make was hiring a financer, because our finances before basically boiled down to Martyn (Chudley) saying it’s okay. This time we’ve actually got someone who says “Well is it really okay?” and then Martyn says “yes” (laughs). So really, nothing’s changed!

SPOnG: Thanks Ben.
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Games: Blur

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