The end of Vince Zampella’s first decade as the head of Respawn Entertainment, the studio he co-founded with fellow Call of Duty co-creator Jason West in 2010 in the wake of an ugly corporate divorce from Activision, couldn’t have gone much better. In 2019, Respawn bookended the year by releasing two critical and commercial successes: Apex Legends in February and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in November. Zampella capped it all off by earning more power from EA via a promotion to oversee multiple studios, including DICE LA. And this after EA bought Respawn for $455 million in 2017.
“When you look backwards at , it’s crazier than it was at the time,” Zampella told IGN this week. “When you see it all as a package, it’s like ‘Holy shit!’ but at the time we were just doing what we do. We’ve got a bunch of people that love to make games and love what they do and they did that.” The good times have continued to roll for Zampella and Respawn in 2020. Coming off of Jedi Fallen Order’s success, EA CEO Andrew Wilson recently called Jedi Fallen Order the “first title in an entirely new franchise.” That means a sequel, right? Zampella laughed and said, “I will say that Andrew Wilson alluded to something…but I will say, that team is hiring. Put the word out.”
Creating DICE LA’s Identity
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=star-wars-jedi-fallen-order-voice-cast&captions=true”]
Moving forward, Zampella gave a couple of hints for what we might expect out of DICE LA, which had most recently served as a support studio for multiple EA projects. First, they will be renamed. “The intention is for them to have their own identity,” Zampella said. “We’ll figure that out as we go. The COVID situation has thrown a kink in everything, so we’re still figuring [it] out.” They won’t be folded into Respawn, he confirmed to IGN, and their first game is likely to be a shooter running on the Frostbite engine.
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%E2%80%9CThat%20team%20is%20a%20shooter%20team%2C%E2%80%9D%20Zampella%20said%20of%20DICE%20LA.%20%E2%80%9CChances%20are%20it%E2%80%99s%20going%20to%20be%20something%20along%20those%20lines.%E2%80%9D”]
“That team is a shooter team,” Zampella said. “Chances are it’s going to be something along those lines.” He cited veteran talent from Battlefield projects and DICE who already work there, and continued: “There’s a lot of really good shooter talent there. But I don’t want to lock it in and say that’s definitely exactly what they’re doing, because we’re going to look at everything and pick something that feels amazing. The same tenets that apply to Respawn of doing something new and exciting and kind of breaking the genre a little bit is what we’re going to apply to DICE LA. We’re going to look at trying to do something cool.” He added, “We want to do something that’s not competitive with other EA games so that we’re kind of filling in the right gaps in the portfolio. We have some really good ideas, but it’ll be a little bit [before they make any announcements].”
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=apex-legends-holo-day-bash-screens&captions=true”]
While Respawn has bucked EA convention and been the only internal EA studio to not use Frostbite in its games, Zampella said it probably makes sense for DICE LA’s next project to utilize the in-house engine.
“DICE is a Frostbite team, so they’re familiar with it,” he said. “You need to pick the right engine to make the game that you want to make. Most likely it’ll be Frostbite because that’s what they’re familiar with and that’s what they know and that’s what’s going to be the quickest ramp-up time. But if we decided to do something where another engine made sense that could be an option. So much wealth of experience in that engine and the ability to extract amazing looking graphics out of that engine that it would be a shame to waste that.”
DICE LA currently employs about 100 people, Zampella said. “We’re definitely hiring up there. And this has definitely given us a bridge into the world of more remote work, being distributed. We’re looking at ways to expand in a smarter and safer way as we go forward. We’ll probably start taking on a lot more remote workers and we’ll kind of expand globally. We want to be everywhere.”
Apex Legends and the Future of Titanfall’s Universe
Titanfall remains a beloved series that has yet to see the commercial success of Titanfall-universe spin-off Apex Legends or Jedi Fallen Order. When asked if we’ll ever see it again, Zampella was optimistic. “There’s nothing currently in development,” he said. “But it’s always there. You see the little bits of stuff coming back [through the lore in Apex Legends]. At some point, I would personally like to see some kind of resurrection there. We’ll see if I can make that happen.”
For gamers worried that EA might cast a negative influence on Respawn and its recent successes, Zampella noted that his relationship with the top of the company in his new role is “mostly hands-off but in a collaborative way. We talk a lot. They’re not prescriptive in how we get things done. It’s a good balance of collaboration so that we have knowledge about what’s happening and not trying to be prescriptive in how or what we do.”
[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22At%20some%20point%2C%20I%20would%20personally%20like%20to%20see%20some%20kind%20of%20Titanfall%20resurrection.%20We%E2%80%99ll%20see%20if%20I%20can%20make%20that%20happen.%E2%80%9D”]
Finally, IGN asked Zampella if we can look forward to any announcements from Respawn at EA’s upcoming EA Play event. “We have Medal of Honor [Above and Beyond] coming out sometime this year, so we’ll see if that shows up,” he said diplomatically, before deferring to an EA spokeswoman out of fear he’d say something he wasn’t supposed to. She clarified: “It’s safe to assume that yes, you might see some things from Respawn at EA Play.”
Zampella then jumped back in and noted with a smile: “The other things I would be hesitant to talk about because I want surprise and delight [for fans].”