Vicarious Visions, High Moon and Raven all stood waving the Acti banner. They talk about less pressure, and support of the "independent studio model".
Activision has become the videogame industry's new 'love to hate' figure over the years, a position once held undisputed by Electronic Arts. Shutting down studios is never popular but it was the firing of Infinity Ward's co-founders that really hurt their image.
In a panel entitled 'Owned but Independent' at PAX East, some studio heads offered a differing viewpoint on their paymaster. Guitar Hero developer Vicarious Visions said it felt it was "not in as risky of a position as we were when we were independent."
Jennifer O'Neal, a Vicarious executive producer, said Acti let them invest a lot in motion capture technology , which an independent outfit likely couldn't afford to entertain.
"If we didn't turn in a milestone every month that wasn't exactly what was listed in our contract they wouldn't pay us," added Eric Biessman of Raven Software, referring to their pre-Activision days. The studio feels a great deal less pressured now.
Transformers: War for Cybertron dev High Moon Studios' Peter Della Penna praised the publisher too, saying thanks to their support of the "independent studio model" his team was free to pursue their work creatively, and he even got to surf during lunch.
Activision's involvement is "structured, but not heavy-handed," he said, and even defended their preference for licensed property over original IP. "When you're creating new worlds and characters you get a lot of people with opinions," said Penna.
Does Activision feel like of an ogre to you now?