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real world point of view.
|For the succeeding studio, see Electronic Arts Los Angeles.|
Westwood Studios (known as Westwood Associates from 1985 to 1992) was a video game development company founded in 1985 by Louis Castle and Brett Sperry, and specialized in role-playing games and real-time strategies. The studio was famous for popularizing the real-time strategy genre with Dune II and their proprietary Command & Conquer series. Following a peak of popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s under the leadership of Virgin Interactive and, later, Electronic Arts, the studio was disbanded in 2003.
Westwood Associates was formed in 1985 in a small garage in Las Vegas, Nevada by Louis Castle and Brett Sperry, aged 20 and 21 respectively at the time. In its early days, the company employed artists of various fields and taught them computer usage in order to enrich the company's future games.
Their first game was Temple of Apshai Trilogy (1985) for the Amiga, Atari ST and the Macintosh, itself being an updated version of three existing games in the Dunjonquest series by Automated Simulations, Inc. Louis Castle stated that the game was made quickly under the budget, and the contractor, Epyx, was satisfied with their performance.
Following this project, Westwood Associates collaborated with several different companies as a full development studio or was tasked for ports on different platforms. Their contractors were Epyx Inc., Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI), MicroIllusions, Electronic Arts, InfoCom Inc., Disney Software, Namco Limited, SEGA of America and others.
The first game that was fully developed by Westwood Associates was Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nikodemus in 1987, a top-down turn-based role-playing game (RPG). Although the studio developed games in several different genres, role-playing games were their primary focus throughout the late 1980s. However, they would often release games past the set release date, and wouldn't improve on the practice until 1993.
One of Westwood's first great successes was Eye of the Beholder from 1991, a licensed Dungeons & Dragons (Forgotten Realms) role-playing game, published under SSI. Along with the sequel, Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon from the same year, Westwood became known among players and critics as a competent development studio.
Under Virgin Interactive
Westwood Associates was acquired by Virgin Interactive in 1992. The company was renamed to Westwood Studios.
In December 1992, Westwood released Dune II: Building of a Dynasty (known as Dune II: Battle for Arrakis in Europe) with the license of Frank Herbert's Dune series of books. Although this was not the first real-time strategy game as is commonly believed, it did set the standards for the genre which were followed by the industry from then on.
Westwood started creating original intellectual properties (IPs) with The Legend of Kyrandia (1992), Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993), and Young Merlin (1993). The former two were very successful, and got sequels: The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate (1993), The Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm's Revenge (1994), and Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny (1997).
Westwood also made use of licensed IPs, releasing games such as The Lion King (1994), Monopoly (1995), and Blade Runner (1997). However, they did not produce Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor (1993), as the Dungeons & Dragons license was probably held by SSI, not Westwood.
Command & Conquer
Following the success of Dune II, Westwood Studios decided to create an original intellectual property over the real-time strategy formula that they helped shape. As a result, Command & Conquer was released in the summer of 1995, to praise and sales unexpected by the studio, considering the budget used, even for that time. Successful developments continued with the release of the even better sold first Red Alert in late 1996. Expansion packs The Covert Operations for Command & Conquer and Counterstrike and Aftermath for Red Alert were produced as well.
Westwood Studios announced the production of the continuation to the story of the original Command & Conquer, called Tiberian Sun, already after the original was released. However, financial issues within Virgin Interactive and technical difficulties during development stalled the development. At the same time, Westwood was working on the remake of Dune II with Intelligent Games, which would eventually be called Dune 2000. Financial problems caused Virgin Interactive to place its assets for sale, including Westwood Studios.
Under Electronic Arts
Westwood was acquired by Electronic Arts on 17 August 1998 along with another studio in Irvine, California owned by Virgin Interactive that was subsequently named Westwood Pacific. Mere 11 days later, Westwood released the PlayStation port of the Red Alert expansions, called Retaliation, but the cover art still featured the Virgin Interactive logo. Dune 2000 was released in August of that year, being the first Westwood-produced game to be released under Electronic Arts, followed by Golden Nugget 64 in December 1998, and Sports Car GT, Lands of Lore III and Recoil in 1999.
Westwood continued to produce Command & Conquer games under Electronic Arts, with the first in line being Tiberian Sun, originally announced in 1995. It was delayed numerous times and finally released in August 1999, following a reveal event in Prague earlier that month. It was generally praised, and the expansion, Firestorm, was released in March 2000.
Red Alert 2 was the first Command & Conquer game not developed by the main studio in Las Vegas, but the Westwood Pacific studio. However, certain staff members from Las Vegas, particularly in the art and sound department, were involved in the game's development. Red Alert 2 was released in October 2000 and was acclaimed by critics and fans. It was expanded with Yuri's Revenge in September 2001 to equal success, especially among the modding community.
By the start of the new millennium, the Las Vegas studio was developing several different projects at the same time, including: Nox (2000), Tiberian Incursion, Continuum, Emperor: Battle for Dune (2001, produced with Intelligent Games), Renegade (2002, later Renegade 2), Pirates: Legend of the Black Kat (2002) and Earth and Beyond (2002).
After Yuri's Revenge, the Westwood Pacific branch was working on Generals, and was at some point during its development renamed to Electronic Arts Pacific. Concept artists from the Las Vegas studio were involved, which even led some (like Phil Robb) to mistakenly label their work for Tiberian Incursion as that for Generals.
Westwood Studios was closed in January 2003. EA Pacific, along with Westwood Studios' assets, was merged with EA Los Angeles (originally DreamWorks Interactive) and continued working on the Command & Conquer franchise, starting with the Zero Hour expansion pack for Generals. This led to the cancellation of Renegade 2, Tiberian Incursion and Continuum, and Command & Conquer games would not be released until the 2007 Tiberium Wars, which made use of some concepts made by Westwood.
Many former Westwood employees moved to EA Los Angeles or Blizzard Entertainment. Some of them founded Petroglyph Games.
Video game developer
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Petroglyph Games, an independent game developer studio specialized in real-time strategy games, was founded on 1 April 2003 by several former Westwood Studios employees. By 2012, approximately 20% of the Petroglyph Games staff were former Westwood developers.
Their first title was the 2006 Star Wars: Empire at War, a real-time strategy that took place both in space and on the surface of planets. Later in the year, the Forces of Corruption expansion pack was released.
From 2008, Petroglyph released games with different publishers, including SEGA, Ubisoft, and Greybox, while some were self-published. Their most notable titles were Universe at War: Earth Assault (2008), Panzer General: Allied Assault (2010), Guardians of Graxia, Rise of Immortals (renamed to Battle for Graxia before closure in 2013), and Grey Goo (2015). They released 8-Bit Armies in 2016, followed closely by the Guardians DLC and mutually compatible standalone expansion packs, 8-Bit Hordes and 8-Bit Invaders.
Petroglyph was also working on End of Nations until 2013, when the game was given to Trion and subsequently entered development hell. They also attempted to create a game called Victory through a kickstarter initiative, but failed to meet the goal. The second attempt in 2015, this time under the name of Victory Command, succeeded, but no news have been released and the official website is currently down.
By 1996, Westwood Studios had approximately 1.5 terabytes of magnetic storage and a rendering farm composed of 50 Pentium 90 computers with 128 cumulative megabytes of RAM, capable of rendering 3000-4000 frames per night, at its disposal.
Westwood Associates / Westwood Studios
- Temple of Apshai Trilogy (1985)
- Blackjack Academy (1987)
- Questron II (1988)
- Donald's Alphabet Chase (1988)
- BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception (1988)
- Mars Saga (1988)
- Hillsfar (1989)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1989)
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Limited Edition Collector's Set) (1990)
- Circuit's Edge (1990)
- BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks' Revenge (1990)
- Goofy's Railway Express (1990)
- DragonStrike (1990)
- Mickey's Runaway Zoo (1991)
- Eye of the Beholder (1991)
- Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon (1991)
- Order of the Griffon (1992)
- Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (1992)
- The Legend of Kyrandia (1992)
- DragonStrike (1992)
- Dune II: Building of a Dynasty (1992)
- The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate (1993)
- Young Merlin (1993)
- Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos (1993)
- Dune: The Battle for Arrakis (1994)
- The Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm's Revenge (1994)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Command & Conquer (1995)
- Command & Conquer: Covert Operations (1996)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996)
- Games People Play: Hearts, Spades & Euchre (1997)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Counterstrike (1997)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert: The Aftermath (1997)
- Command & Conquer: Special Gold Edition (1997)
- Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny (1997)
- Blade Runner (1997)
- Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor (1997)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Retaliation (1998)
- Dune 2000 (1998) (with Intelligent Games)
- Sports Car GT (1999) (for Image Space)
- Golden Nugget 64 (1998)
- Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (1999)
- Lands of Lore III (1999)
- Recoil (1999) (with Zipper Interactive)
- Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Firestorm (2000)
- Nox (2000)
- Nox Quest (2000)
- Emperor: Battle for Dune (2001) (with Intelligent Games)
- Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (2002)
- Command & Conquer: Renegade (2002)
- Earth & Beyond (2002)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000)
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge (2001)
- Command & Conquer: Generals (2003) (prior to merge with EA Los Angeles)
- Official Petroglyph Games website
- Report on Electronic Arts' acquisition of Westwood Studios @ CNN Money