Plenty has been written and said about Vince Zampella and Jason West's departure from Activision and the subsequent legal face-down. But very little has emerged about the former Infinity Ward leaders' deteriorating relationship with one another, and West quitting their new venture Respawn.
Vanity Fair is running a feature this week on the dramatic events that led to Zampella and West's departure from Activision, the legal tussles that followed and their new project at Respawn and Electronic Arts, Titanfall. It's a great story, but mostly familiar to anyone who has been following the tale of corporate bullying, double-dealing and court-room shenanigans.
Writer Max Chafkin has added some new details to the story, including insights into why West departed Respawn earlier this year, and announced his retirement from game development. Vanity Fair reports that the court documents brought by Activision included revelations that damaged West and Zampella's relationship.
A person close to the company says that revelations about West's erratic behavior at Activision, which came out during the depositions, upset Zampella. "Vince felt that Jason was sabotaging the company," says the source. As the Respawn team scrambled to finish Titanfall, West was barely coming to the office. In March, he officially parted ways with his longtime partner, moving his family to North Carolina and leaving Zampella in control of Respawn. In an interview in April, Zampella refused to elaborate on what had separated them-except to say, "It's hard to work with one person for 15 years."
The article also delves into a little-known story from West and Zampella's early careers, when they worked at a developer called 2015. While working at 2015, the two led an effort to create EA hit Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002) for PC as a contract job. As the game came to completion, they left the company taking most of the talent with them. The new studio, called Infinity Ward, was funded by EA. 2015 boss Tom Kudirka filed a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which contains startlingly similar allegations to those that would be made by Activision a decade later, claims that Zampella began negotiating with EA through an intermediary and organized secret weekly meetings at a local Tex-Mex joint, during which he conceived a plan to leave 2015 and start a competing studio, known as Infinity Ward. Salaries and job titles were planned, the renting of office space was discussed, and a time line was drawn up.
Zampella and West say there was no conspiracy, but no one disputes what happened next. In the days before Allied Assault's release, Kudirka's team rose up against him. Each day, Kudirka would come to the office and find a handful of resignation letters slipped under his door. By the end of January, 20 of Kudirka's 27 developers had turned in letters. "People don't have any idea that Jason and Vince did the exact same thing to me that they're doing to Activision," says Kudirka. "I was a tough boss. But those guys screwed me over pretty good."