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AGDC: We talk to Jack Mathews of Armature Studio

Kevin Kelly

Earlier this week, EA announced that the three developers (Jack Matthews, Mark Pacini, and Todd Keller) who jumped ship from the Nintendo-owned Retro Studios back in April would be forming their own development house, Armature Studio. They were courted by several big companies (read: as big as EA, and/or bigger) and finally signed a long-term publishing deal with EA to develop games for all consoles. Pacini said, "What really gets me going is that now, no platform is off limit. That is just something we didn't have the ability to do before."

Both Retro and Armature are located in Austin, TX, so the timing of the press release was meant to be a part of the Austin GDC. Even though this same team worked on the Metroid Prime series, it's itching for more knuckle-blasting, thumbstick-twiddling, button-mashing fare. After the jump you can read our interview with Jack Mathews and find out what sort of platforms the new studio will be developing for. One thing we did learn: they're not making any MMOs.

So were you guys not satisfied with the way things were going at Retro, and that's why you decided you wanted to form your own company? What led to the decision for you three to leave?

I loved Retro, and it was the best place I've ever worked. After finishing up the Prime trilogy, this just seemed like the right time to be able to branch out and try new things that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do.

Why did you guys decide to go with EA?

Because the distributed development model is very attractive to us. The current popular model of game development just doesn't seem sustainable moving forward because of ever-increasing costs and manpower. This model allows us to be a lot more nimble and allows for more creative risks without wasting a lot of resources.

How early on did you start talking to big publishers, or did they start talking to you?

We signed our deal with EA a couple of months after we left Retro. The timing of this press announcement was to take advantage of Austin GDC, since we're located here and EA was coming down for it.

You've said you want to go after hardcore gamers. By that do you specifically mean PS3 and Xbox 360 titles?

We're definitely looking at the PS3 and Xbox 360 if that's where our game designs lead us. We're not going to go where the audience is for any given title.

Do you think Nintendo or the Wii has a chance to get a hardcore gaming audience?

Nintendo always has their built-in hardcore following. As for big first-person or action gamers, I don't think the Wii is really going to offer as much of that as the 360 and PS3.

How do you feel about the current state of the gaming industry, especially here in Austin?

A lot of recent layoffs in Austin are really unfortunate, but I'm hoping that with all the turmoil, we can get some new talent and studios rising from the ashes. As for the rest of the industry, I've got no complaints.

Why the name, Armature?

It really defines how we work as a company. It's defined as "a skeletal framework built as a support on which a clay, wax, or plaster figure is constructed" and we want to structure our development that way. The first stage of the development is the substructure, and then we direct a larger team of people to help us in filling out the full game.

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