Shack Chat: What is your favorite shuttered EA studio?

The Shack Chat discusses their favorite EA studios of the past that were closed down.

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Shack Chat is back once again, our weekly feature each Friday where we’ll ask the Shacknews staff to give their opinion on a particular topic, then open the floor to our dedicated Chatty community to provide a diverse mixture of thoughts on the subject. It’s a great way for us to get to know one another better while inspiring healthy debates with all of you passionate gamers out there.

Question: What is your favorite shuttered EA studio?


Westwood Studios - Asif Khan, Low on Tiberium

Command & Conquer was one of the best RTS games of all-time, and things at the studio really turned south after EA acquired the company in 1998. Westwood Studios was shuttered in 2003 after the C&C franchise had lost its luster. There are a lot of great EA studios that we have lost over the years, but this one always felt particularly sad given the greatness of titles like C&C and Red Alert.


Visceral Games - Brittany Vincent, Senior Editor

It’s troubling to me to know that there will likely be no further entries in the Dead Space series from Visceral, who I felt did a great job with the games, up until the third one, anyway. I’d love to see more out of Isaac Clarke in the future (and those zany necromorphs) but it looks like that’s about all she wrote for that particular franchise at this point. It’s unfortunate that Visceral had to close, especially when it appeared to me they were still more than capable of producing great work. It’s one of my favorites out of the shuttered EA studios for sure, though my answers will invariably change based on the series I’m missing at one particular time.


EA Black Box - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Editor

For all of Shacknews' affinity for the Skate series, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see some love for its former developer. I preface this by saying I played a lot of the old Tony Hawk games. Then there were more Tony Hawk games. Then there were even more. And despite the new bells and whistles, nothing about the Tony Hawk franchise truly changed. It felt samey by the time the series reached the ninth game.

Then came Black Box to try and change things with Skate. Skate relied far more on physics and a different control scheme, making it stand out well above the aging Tony Hawk. It was a breath of fresh air and a shot in the arm for EA Black Box. Of course, this being EA, it wasn't going to last and the doors were closed after the heavily uninspired Need For Speed: The Run.

We live in a gaming world that needs more Skate. But we're also living in a gaming world without the developer who made the originals so great.


Pandemic Studios - Josh Hawkins, Some guy

Known for games like the original Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II, Pandemic Studios had a lot of potential that was unfortunately cut short when EA shuttered the studio in 2009. With additional titles like the Destroy All Humans! series, the studio was by far one of my favorite studios to follow throughout the early to mid and late-2000s.

I can still remember the first time I got to play the original Battlefront games, and how much I loved the systems that Pandemic had put into place. It was unlike anything I’d played before, and it really brought me into the Star Wars universe, something that a game had never really done before.

It’s still sad to think that the company is now closed and shuttered for good, another casualty in a long line of studios that EA has acquired and abandoned. I’d honestly have loved to see what a new-generation Battlefront game would look like under Pandemic, especially given how much time I spent playing the original two with my brother when we were younger. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the sad, hollow shell that is DICE’s vision of Battlefront, which just doesn’t stand up to the original.


Visceral Games - Kevin S. Tucker, Enjoys Science Fiction References

I couldn’t believe the news when I heard that Visceral Games was closing down. Dead Space was an absolute treasure, and one of the finest games of its console generation, in my opinion. I know that the EA Redwood Shores was mainly focused around sports games and the like prior to reorganizing as Visceral, but the jump from developing titles like The Simpsons Game straight into the delightfully macabre world of Dead Space spoke to a developer ready to break out of its shell and do something different. I suppose Dante’s Inferno was different enough — I liked it, but I know plenty who didn’t. If you wanted a game where you could rip the limbs off of aliens or watch demon babies spout out of giant nipples, though, Visceral had you covered.


Westwood Studios - Chris Jarrard, Hell March is the only song on his Zune

All of the studios EA ruined bring a tear to my eye, but Westwood Studios was probably my favorite (big shoutout to Bullfrog, though). Westwood practically invented the modern RTS genre and went on to perfect it with classics like Command and Conquer and the sublime follow-up Red Alert. Those games were digital crack to an impressionable young me and continue to cross my mind, even more than twenty years later.

I also have a soft spot for Westwood’s stellar adventure game take on Blade Runner. Flying my car around 2019 Los Angeles while my voxel ass tried to run down replicants is a cherished gaming memory. Thanks for Munson’ing all these great studios, EA. You’ve done the world of video games a lot of good.


Maxis - Blake Morse, Reviews Editor

Back when I was a kid my mom worked as a manager at a chocolate shop in Orinda, CA. One of the other business located in the large outdoor mall was a little indie development company known as Maxis that was working on a few new games after the launch of their SimCity series. A few of the devs frequented the shop where my mom worked and she was able to get me a tour of the offices and I got what I consider to be my first exclusive preview ever of the PC version of SimAnt.

Later on in life as a somewhat directionless young 20-something I found myself working at a coffee shop back in Orinda. Maxis founder Will Wright would come in all the time for an iced tea and we would chat about the work he was doing on an ambitious pet project that would become Spore several years later. While the finished project didn’t quite hit the mark, speaking to a visionary like Will about his work was always enthralling. If all of that wasn’t enough, one of my closest friends and current bandmates ended up being a dev on the Sims franchise for several years.

Maxis is a studio that I had the unique chance to watch grow from an outsider’s perspective. They went from a small group of devs working out of a strip mall to a company responsible for making two of the biggest franchises in gaming history: SimCity and The Sims. I think the way that EA dismantled everything great and innovative about Maxis and left us with nothing but annual Pet expansions for the Sims is a damn shame.  


Danger Close - Bill Lavoy, Managing Editor

I’ve mentioned previously that Battlefield 3 was how I got into this industry, and that is true. It was the game that got it all started, but a trip to Danger Close at EALA in September 2012 was the door that Battlefield 3 opened for me. I was half of a YouTube channel that made videos about BF3, and somehow my partner knew a guy who knew the folks making Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and suddenly I was getting a passport and heading to Los Angeles to play test it for five days.

From start to finish, this trip was an education in the games industry. I was among other games media folks, all of who were more successful than I was. I was among developers, some of whom worked on Battlefield 3. I got a behind-the-scenes look at the Frostbite engine at work and was able to provide feedback directly to developers on everything from how grenades felt to how accessible the experience was as a color-blind gamer.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter was poorly received, but that was also a lesson. Watching a game get torn to bits, knowing how much the developers cared and how many hours they sunk in on a daily basis, was tough. Developers would sit with us for eight hours per day taking dozens of pages of notes, then update the build of the game and install it on all the machines at night so we could try the updated version the next morning. Seeing how much these people wanted to make a great game was eye opening for me, and to this day I cringe when I see keyboard warriors get rude or inappropriate with devs.

During my trip, we were given Danger Close development team hoodies. That was unanimously considered the best piece of swag any of us received. I remember wearing that shortly after the trip when I was back home, and someone walked up to me and thanked me for making games. I corrected them and explained, of course, but it was another realization of just how much impact games and the people who make them have on our lives.


Visceral Games - David L. Craddock, Longreads Editor

Visceral Games, formerly known as EA Redwood Shores, occupies not one but two special places in my heart. The developers at EARS created Dead Space, an action-survival horror joint that pried the survival horror torch from the cold, dead hands of Michael Bay Presents Resident Evil 5 (Editor's note: He doesn't know a good game when he sees it, obviously) and carried it forward. Dead Space 2 was even better in some ways: While the environments weren’t as memorable as the dark, claustrophobic corridors of the USG Ishimura, the sequel blended tense atmosphere (remember your first trip through the nursery?) and dismemberment-focused action expertly. Dead Space 3 was the weakest entry, but it wasn’t a bad game. It just wasn’t as strong as the first two.

Professionally, I wrote for EARS over roughly two years. I’ve done creative writing for several studios, but EARS gave me the opportunity to tackle a unique slant on technical writing: Instruction manuals. As a kid, I loved riding in the backseat of my mom’s car on the way back from K*B Toys, peeling off a new game’s cellophane wrapping and digging out the instruction manual to learn all about the game I would be playing if my mom would only put the pedal to the metal and get me back to my NES faster. The opportunity to write manuals, and play cool games months before their release--and to put Electronic Arts on my resume, not to mention taking advantage of that sweet, sweet EA employee discount in the merch store--was an absolute treasure during my freelancing days.


Mythic Entertainment - Greg Burke, Head of Video

First off I’d like to say while researching this topic it made me pretty sad. I feel EA would struggle to be financially successful if they didn’t have the monopoly on NFL, NHL & FIFA licenses. That said, Mythic Entertainment made an MMO at the peak of MMO Wars, that started with Blizzard’s 900lb behemoth, World of Warcraft. It seemed like every studio wanted a piece of the delicious MMO subscription fee pie. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was a decent game and hung in there for as long as it could, but in the end it died just all the others. But they did leave some awesome cinematics to be remembered by.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 5, 2019 2:00 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What is your favorite shuttered EA studio?

    • reply
      April 5, 2019 3:07 PM

      Please comment before EA shuts down another studio.

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      April 5, 2019 3:15 PM

      For work that they did while owned by EA? Probably Visceral.

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        April 5, 2019 4:42 PM

        Same. I loved c&c, but I haven't been into rts games in a while and I really loved the dead space series

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      April 5, 2019 3:16 PM

      This is a hard one, between Mythic, Visceral, Maxis, Bullfrog, Phenomic, and Origin I'm really not sure.

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      April 5, 2019 3:28 PM

      Origin, no question

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        April 5, 2019 9:42 PM

        jesus i forgot origin was the name of a really good company. i now associate it with poo

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      April 5, 2019 3:38 PM

      Maxis: Sim City 2-> 4 was on a good vector, and then EA wanted to push the online elements. Now all that's left of Maxis is infinite DLC for Sims 4.

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      April 5, 2019 3:59 PM

      I can say Looking Glass, right? They were under Origin who got wrecked by EA.
      "Electronic Arts decided that Origin would become an online-only company after the completion of Ultima IX in 1999. However, within a year's time, in part due to Ultima IX's poor reception, EA canceled all of Origin's new development projects,"
      Looking Glass dissolved that next year.

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      April 5, 2019 4:01 PM

      Origin and Westwood

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      April 5, 2019 4:02 PM

      I think I'd have to go with Westwood Studios. Their games were such a HUGE part of my falling in love with PC gaming in the 90's. I was all about the C&C franchise, and although I played through all the Blizzard RTS's, aside from Startcraft and maybe Warcraft 3, they didn't come close to my obsessive playing of the C&C games over the years.

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      April 5, 2019 4:30 PM

      bullfrog or maxis

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      April 5, 2019 4:38 PM

      westwood! where is my C&C renegade 2?!

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      April 5, 2019 4:41 PM

      Westwood

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      April 5, 2019 5:44 PM

      This is tough. I'd probably go with Origin.

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      April 5, 2019 5:45 PM

      BioWare. :(

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      April 5, 2019 6:01 PM

      Origin Systems. They developed so many good titles.

      - Ultima
      - Wing Commander
      - Crusader No Remorse/Regret
      - Bioforge
      - Strike Commander
      - Pacific Strike

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        April 5, 2019 6:04 PM

        Yep would be Origin by far.

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      April 5, 2019 6:15 PM

      [deleted]

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      April 5, 2019 6:36 PM

      It's in the game.

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      April 5, 2019 6:58 PM

      Even though this studio is still technically I alive, my pick is Maxis.

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      April 5, 2019 7:00 PM

      Looking Glass, Bullfrog, Origin

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        April 5, 2019 7:03 PM

        Ah, looking glass. Yeah, that's the one.

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          April 5, 2019 7:04 PM

          Wait, what did EA have to do with their closure?

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            April 5, 2019 7:07 PM

            Not sure. I thought they were Eidos' fault.

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            April 5, 2019 7:07 PM

            Ah, I guess they just published some stuff with EA. EA never devoured them.

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              April 5, 2019 7:10 PM

              Good example of turn of the century gamer outrage. I distinctly remember a bunch of folks laying the blame for Looking Glass' closure at John Romero's feet. The reasoning being that if Eidos hadn't poured so much money into Ion Storm and Daikatana then they'd have been more willing/able to fund Looking Glass' next project.

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      April 5, 2019 7:02 PM

      Mythic by a mile.

      Their sci-fi Roman Empre MMO followup to DAOC, Imperator sounded like a lot of fun.

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      April 5, 2019 7:06 PM

      Here's a handy chart of EA acquisitions with closures highlighted in beige.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Electronic_Arts

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      April 5, 2019 7:14 PM

      Dead Space 4, Dead Space 4. My kingdom for Dead Space 4.

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      April 5, 2019 7:41 PM

      RIP Westwood

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      April 5, 2019 8:04 PM

      Maxis and Bullfrog

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      April 5, 2019 10:04 PM

      Westwood probably.

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      April 5, 2019 10:16 PM

      Ooof. Bullfrog, Westwood, or Maxis.

      That's tough, they all hurt differently and at different times.

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      April 6, 2019 3:25 AM

      Hard to choose out of Origin Westwood or Bullfrog, I think maybe Bullfrog, since Syndicate is one of the best games of all time, just thanks to that motherfucking musicccccccccccccccccccc.

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      April 6, 2019 3:30 AM

      [deleted]

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      April 6, 2019 4:54 AM

      Westwood by far, but damn that grave yard is massive.

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      April 6, 2019 6:08 AM

      that article owns

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      April 6, 2019 8:16 AM

      Origin.

      Fuckers took Wing Commander from me.

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      April 7, 2019 5:58 PM

      Bullfrog, followed by Westwood. I keep asking for a spiritual sequel to Nox (for its unique competitive multiplayer), and if nobody did it during the year that everybody released a MOBA, then we'll probably never get it. Nowadays they'd probably fuck it up by going after the MOBA audience instead of the people who like to have fun in games audience.

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