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Oct 23, 2012
Shacknews - Steve Watts
The controversial "Favela" map has been reinstated in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, after being pulled temporarily due to complaints of religious insensitivity. A small update will let the map show up on playlists again, with the offending portions now removed.
The patch is only 17 MB, reports MP1st, which is likely just enough to change the map's trouble spots. So far the patch has only hit the PlayStation 3 version of the game, but this should mean we'll see it coming to all platforms soon.
The Favela had previously reused assets from a picture frame in a bathroom, apparently unaware that the calligraphy read: "Allah is beautiful and he loves beauty." Activision apologized and worked on patches for both MW2 and Modern Warfare 3, where the map was reissued.
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Activision has temporarily pulled the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer level 'Favela' from the map rotation following complaints that a quote attributed to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad was written on a texture used in a bathroom. As you may imagine, some took issue with hanging holy words above a toilet.
A picture frame texture used twice in the level in a bathroom features ornate calligraphy of the quote "Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty," Kotaku reports. That's probably not the only place it was used in MW2, though, and it reappeared in Modern Warfare 3's DLC re-release of Favela.
"We apologize to anyone who found this image offensive," Activision said in a statement. "Please be assured we were unaware of this issue and that there was no intent to offend."
Activision's "urgently" working on a title update to remove the texture from MW3, and less urgently to get it out of MW2. It's also scouring its texture libraries for the texture and any similar.
"Activision and our development studios are respectful of diverse cultures and religious beliefs, and sensitive to concerns raised by its loyal game players. We thank our fans for bringing this to our attention."
Here's one video complaining about the textures:
May 31, 2012
Shacknews - John Keefer
After a recessed hearing yesterday that allowed the parties to try to resolve their differences, a settlement has been reached in the case involving Activision, Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vincent Zampella, and 40 ex-Call of Duty developers from Infinity Ward.
The settlement details are confidential, an attorney for West and Zampella told The Verge today. While West and Zampella wouldn't offer comment, The Verge's Michael McWhertor told Twitter that there was a "beaming smile" on West's face.
A statement released by Activision tried to allay any financial analysts' concerns, saying the one-time charges related to the settlement shouldn't impact the company's earnings outlook for the current quarter or the calendar year, citing "stronger-than-expected operating performance in the current quarter."
The deal brings a close to the contentious case, which started almost two years ago. The trial was scheduled to begin tomorrow, with billions of dollars at stake. Shacknews will stay on top of the story and add more details as they become available.
Shacknews - Andrew Yoon
While interest in the Call of Duty franchise remains high, many of the developers that worked on the original games have since left Activision. Many former members of Infinity Ward, the studio that worked on the incredibly successful Modern Warfare games, are heading to court over unpaid bonuses for the two games.
Activision has already paid $42 million to former members of Infinity Ward, but there's a lot more at stake. Ultimately, what caused the huge rift between Infinity Ward execs Jason West and Vince Zampella and Activision? The two say that the team's desire to work on a game other than Modern Warfare 3 made an already tense relationship even worse.
Speaking to Game Informer, Jason West discussed a contract that would have given Infinity Ward free reign to work on any game after the release of Modern Warfare 2. "That contract gave us the right to make whatever game we wanted after Modern Warfare 2. Apparently, they didn't want to live up to that."
West and Zampella believe Activision promised independence after Modern Warfare 2 so that the game would be made one way or another. "I think they just wanted the game, and were like, 'Tell these guys whatever you need to,'" West said. The pair's representing attorney Robert Schwartz added: "I don't think Bobby [Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard] ever intended to honor that until he had to honor it. They were in breach of it the day they signed the contract."
When the trial goes to court, West and Zampella will try to convince a jury that Activision wrongfully terminated the two in order to back out of paying them their originally promised bonuses. Leaked emails show a panicked Activision preparing for the fallout from firing the two, with contingency plans laid out for retaining other Infinity Ward employees.
Activision claims that West and Zampella conspired against the company by speaking with rival company Electronic Arts. (West and Zampella's new studio, Respawn, currently has a publishing deal with EA.) However, West believes that's an absurd claim. "They said, 'He orchestrated his own Âfiring,'" he told the magazine. "I said, 'Don't give me 100 million Âdollars - fire me! That would be awesome,'" he added sarcastically.
Infinity Ward ultimately lost a significant talent pool to West and Zampella's new studio, and it took the efforts of another developer, Sledgehammer Games, to finish Modern Warfare 3. West and Zampella never had the opportunity to work on the game, or develop the new IP they wanted to create for Activision. "Maybe we would have done a new IP, maybe we would have done Modern Warfare 3, or maybe we would have done a new IP and then Modern Warfare 3," Zampella said.
Ultimately, Zampella thought that taking a break from Call of Duty would have been good. "Resting a brand isn't a bad thing," he said. "We saw it as protecting it. And it's like, we're always working, it's not like we're going to sit around and do nothing for a while. So it's like let's do something else that will be good for Activision, and then go back to Âthat."
Shacknews - Steve Watts
The legal battle between Activision and Infinity Ward is coming to a head, and newly released court documents are giving us a better look at Activision's internal dialogue in the days leading up to firing Jason West and Vince Zampella. The e-mails range from frustrations, to plans of how to keep projects and teams on-track without the known leadership.
Court documents published by the LA Times show conversations between CEO Bobby Kotick, and executives Dave Stohl, Mike Griffith, and Rob Kostich.
Tensions began to boil after Infinity Ward failed to get a gameplay demo of Modern Warfare 2 ready for Microsoft's E3 press conference. "Msft [Microsoft] will go ballistic over this and the deal is seriously risked," Kostich wrote in one email. Griffith, who was president of publishing at the time, called West and Zampella and said they hung up on him. Kotick replied, "If they really did I would change their locks and lock them out of their building."
Griffith then suggested that Treyarch could take it over, but says that option is "scary given the tight timeline." Plus, Stohl said the group should "discuss what the plan B is going to look like" since "there could be a ton of risk getting the project done depending on how the team takes it."
And in a moment of truth in hindsight, Stohl also said, "Is everyone ready for the big, negative PR story this is going to turn into if we kick them out? [It's] freaking me out a little."
Activision had also set in motion a retention plan for the top 12 team members, besides West and Zampella. This was to "help ensure we retain the team if things blow up at the top," according to Griffith.
The company recently settled its suit against Electronic Arts, and paid a hefty non-settlement sum to the Infinity Ward Employee Group. All indications are that it's clearing the arena for the main event against West and Zampella, and these new e-mails show just how tense the situation was before the company fired the two former executives.
May 17, 2012
Shacknews - Steve Watts
Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts have reached a settlement in a lawsuit surrounding the firing of Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella. EA had been accused of conspiring with the pair to leave Activision form an independent studio. Neither party has disclosed the terms of the settlement, but they will reportedly ask the court to dismiss the claims.
"Activision and Electronic Arts have decided to put this matter behind them," said Activision lawyer Beth Wilkinson.
Robert Schwartz, a lawyer for West and Zampella, took a less cheerful tone. "Activision dragged EA into the case hoping to distract from Activision's wretched conduct towards West and Zampella," he said, according to a Bloomberg report. "In dismissing EA today, Activision admits that it was never going to convince anyone that EA conspired with West and Zampella to breach their contracts or did anything else improper."
This is coming out just as court documents are released, alleging that former senior IT director Thomas Fenady was instructed to "dig up dirt" on West and Zampella. The LA Times reports that Fenady expressed concern about the so-called "Project Icebreaker," but was told not to worry about repercussions. Outside companies worried about the legal hurdles, and Fenady considered a fake fumigation or mock fire drill to gain access to the pair's computers.
Ultimately, he didn't follow through on these ideas. Giant Bomb reports that chief public policy officer George Rose denies asking Fenady to dig up dirt, but does affirm he asked Fenady to monitor e-mail traffic.
With the EA matter settled and some money paid out to IWEG employees, it seems like Activision is clearing the stage for its legal battle against West and Zampella themselves. That trial is still set to go forward on May 29. The Infinity Ward Employee Group will also be included in the suit, still seeking $350 million in damages and unpaid royalties. A few days ago the group was given $42 million in unpaid royalties plus interest, which the group's lawyer called a "cynical attempt to look good before the jury trial."
Apr 6, 2012
Shacknews - John Keefer
GameFly is running a huge digital sale this weekend, including some of the most popular franchises from the biggest publishers. Missed out on the original Mass Effect or the Call of Duty: Modern Warfares? Now's your chance to try them out at a huge discount.
Among the biggest titles on sale:
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Activision): $9.99, 50 percent off
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision): $9.99, 50 percent off
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision): $40.19, 33 percent off
- Stronghold 3 (7Sixty): $19.99, 60 percent off
- Mass Effect (Electronic Arts): $5.99, 70 percent off
- Mass Effect 2 (Electronic Arts): $5.99, 70 percent off
- Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe (Electronic Arts): $8.99, 70 percent off
- The Darkness II (2K Games): $24.99, 50 percent off
- Alan Wake (Nordic Games): $20.09, 33 percent off
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square Enix): $10.19, 66 percent off
- Gotham City Impostors (Warner Bros.): $7.49, 50 percent off
- Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year (Warner Bros.): $4.99, 75 percent off
- Batman: Arkham City (Warner Bros.); $14.99, 50 percent off
- Battlefield 3 (U.S. Only) (Electronic Arts): &40.19, 33 percent off
Check out the complete list of sales and start playing the games you missed now.
Mar 26, 2012
Shacknews - John Keefer
In a surprising move today, Infinity Ward creative chief Robert Bowling announced that he was resigning from his post on the Call of Duty franchise and leaving Activision. No explanation was given on what he had planned or where he was going.
"Today, I resign from my position as Creative Strategist of Call of Duty, as a lead of Infinity Ward, and as an employee of Activision," he tweeted to his 367K followers.
Activision moved quickly and said "We sincerely thank Robert for his many years of service. He's been a trusted and valued member of the Infinity Ward team. We wish him all the best on his decision to pursue future opportunities."
Bowling had been with Infinity Ward for more than six years, working on the Call of Duty franchise, specifically the three Modern Warfare games.
Shacknews - Steve Watts
A California State Superior Court judge has dismissed one of the two fraud claims raised by former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, in their suit against Activision. The two alleged that Activision had made commitments that the company executives never intended to honor.
Bloomberg reports that Judge Elihu Berle agreed with Activision that one claim shouldn't be allowed to go forward, but let the claim of promissory fraud stand.
The fraud claim was added to the suit last April. It claimed that Activision entered a Memorandum of Understanding with them, promising creative control, bonuses, and extra income from hit games. When West and Zampella raised eyebrows at the stipulation that these bonuses relied on continued employment, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick allegedly replied: "Don't worry about it. It's impossible for you guys to get fired."
Activision has also raised a counter-suit, claiming the two were in talks with rival publisher EA to set up a new development studio. West and Zampella's suit, with its remaining fraud claim, and Activision's counter-suit, will come to a head when proceedings begin on May 7.
West and Zampella are currently working at their new studio, Respawn Entertainment, and are teasing a project to be published by EA.
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
The big "he said, the monolithic corporation said" video games kerfuffle of 2010, the fallout from Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vincent Zampella leaving Activision then signing up with Electronic Arts, is indeed going to trial. On Wednesday, a California Superior Court judge denied EA's motion for summary judgement on the complex lawsuit, as well as one from West and Zampella, meaning the big Call of Duty mess will go before a jury next year.
West and Zampella were fired by Activision in March 2010, and quickly sued the publisher for unpaid royalties and control over the Modern Warfare brand, created at Infinity Ward. Activision counter-sued in April, saying the pair attempted to undermine IW so it could poach employees for a new studio, and had been in clandestine meetings with a competitor.
A few days later, West and Zampella announced the formation of new studio Respawn Entertainment in April, signing an exclusive publishing arrangement with EA. Forty-odd Infinity Ward members eventually follow West and Zampella to Respawn. A number of people who worked at IW on Call of Duty also sued Activision for up to $125 million in unpaid royalties.
Activision later added EA to its counter-suit, claiming that it had conspired with West and Zampella, and seeking $400 million in damages for contract interference.
With the summary judgement motions from EA and the duo denied, the case will go before a jury on May 7, 2012.
In a statement provided to USA Today, West and Zampella's attorney said, "We are eager to get to trial on May 7 to prove Jason and Vince's case against Activision for firing them without cause and denying them the money they earned. Activision's claims against EA are a smoke screen, seeking to distract attention from Activision's atrocious behavior to Jason, Vince, and the rest of the Infinity Ward team."