New Xbox Studio With Red Dead Designer, The Initiative, Is Playtesting Its New Game

One of Microsoft’s newest internal game studios, The Initiative, has heaps of big-name talent on staff. The company employs Christian Cantamessa, the writer and designer of Red Dead Redemption, as well as God of War producer Brian Westergaard. The Initiative also has veteran employees of Respawn, BioWare, and Naughty Dog among its ranks, while former Square Enix and Activision boss Darrell Gallagher is heading up the studio. Needless to say, Xbox fans–and the video game industry overall–are waiting to see what the studio might be cooking up.

It’s still too soon to know for sure what the team is working on, but The Initiative design director Drew Murray (Sunset Overdrive, Resistance 3) has now seemingly revealed that the studio has a game that is far enough along in development to be playtested. Murray said on Twitter that people shouldn’t read too far into this because, for him, playtesting begins when a studio has literally anything working on-screen. Reading between the lines here, it seems safe to assume that The Initiative’s new game is still nowhere near ready for release.

Murray also posted a picture of himself with other members of the development team enjoying some drinks following what sounded like a challenging but educational playtesting session.

“Playtesting is informative, essential, and, if you have any ego, will leave you in the gutter. Fortunately, the design team have souls of iron coated in Teflon, so we just have fancy cocktails and talk about what we learned and what to fix next,” Murray said.

Playtesting phase for me runs from the day you have anything working onscreen until after you’ve shipped. Don’t read too much into it. 😀

— Drew Murray (@PlaidKnuckles) October 15, 2019

Regarding getting out of the office and and enjoying time away from their screens, Murray said working flat-out constantly can be a bad way to make games.

“Constant heads-down is overrated. If you don’t have the breathing space to think, you’re wasting time making bad decisions,” he said. “If you can’t break bread with your team to build trust and community it’ll murder your game later on. Also, it’s hard for me to get in-studio shots.”

The Initiative appears to be ramping up development on its mysterious new title. In addition to the fact that it is already playable in some form, the studio has 18 open positions on its careers website spanning a number of different disciplines including art, design, engineering, operations, and production.

The Initiative says it wants to remain “small,” but it remains to be seen what that means in practice. Others developers in the video talk about how The Initiative plans to “push boundaries,” “challenge convention,” and take risks as they make something “spectacular and unique.”

The Initiative was announced at E3 2018 as part of Microsoft’s wider announcement of new studios and acquisitions. The company, which is based in Santa Monica, says its ambition is “about craft, creating story, innovating, and looking ahead to the next big thing.” While the company is owned by Microsoft, it claims to operate independently.

There is no word on when The Initiative’s new game may be announced. Microsoft’s next big event is X019 in London, which takes place in November.

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Author: Eddie Makuch