Vince Zampella didn’t invent the military shooter, but he helped to perfect it. He’s making science-fiction shooters these days, as the chief executive of Respawn, which recently released the almost universally acclaimed Titanfall 2. (Trust us, it’s fantastic.) But long before that, he and his longtime collaborator Jason West led the creation of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, a sequel to Steven Spielberg’s WWII PlayStation shooter.
Allied Assault, unlike the first Medal of Honor, made players feel like they were participating in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. From there, Zampella and West founded Infinity Ward, created Call of Duty and took that series into a “near future” that looked an awful lot like the present with 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and 2009’s Modern Warfare 2.
Then, a kind of video game civil war broke out. In 2010, five months after the release of Modern Warfare 2 – which had sold 25 million copies and was making gobs of money – Activision fired Zampella and West. The developers sued for wrongful termination, and then were countersued. One day before the lawsuit was set to go to trial, the parties settled for an undisclosed sum. After the settlement, West left Respawn, the new studio he and Zampella founded.
Yet more than 40 former Infinity Ward developers remained, including Zampella as CEO. After Titanfall and Titanfall 2, Respawn’s next game is expected to be a Star Wars action-adventure that is being led by Stig Asmussen, the game director of God of War 3.
A week after the release of Titanfall 2, Glixel talked to Zampella about the new game, which landed in the crossfire between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Before the release of Titanfall in 2014, you said that, for your games, people spend the vast majority of their time in multiplayer. So you tried to tell a story in multiplayer instead of making a single-player campaign. With Titanfall 2, you’ve gone back to two different game modes. Was the first Titanfall an experiment that didn’t work?
It had a ceiling. I think we were able to do something great, and I’m glad we did it. But at the same time, if we wanted to expand our player base, we had to look to something a little more conventional. We saw the limit of the amount of story you can tell in that type of campaign.
You’ve referred to Call of Duty as “your baby.” Is it weird to have Titanfall 2 come out so close to the remastering of Modern Warfare?
It definitely feels a little odd. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is from my old studio, that I built. And they’re repackaging my old game that I built, on a brand that I built. So it’s kind of like you’re throwing it all against me. OK, I can live with it.
On top of that, Titanfall 2 was released right after Battlefield 1, a historical military shooter, which is a genre you helped pioneer.
If the question was, “Would I rather have this window to myself?” Well, of course. I’m not foolish. I’m not foolish that way, anyway. In other ways, probably.