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Westwood Studios

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For the Irvine branch, see Electronic Arts Pacific.
Westwood Studios
Westwood Studios logo.svg
Industry

Video game developer

Products
  • Eye of the Beholder series
  • The Legend of Kyrandia series
  • Dune series
  • Lands of Lore series
  • Command & Conquer series
Founder
Headquarters

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Parent company

Independent (1985-1992)
Virgin Interactive (1992-1998)
Electronic Arts (1998-2003)

Divisions

Westwood Studios (main)
Westwood Pacific

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.

In 2015, Brett Sperry and Louis Castle received the Industry Icon award at The Game Awards in the name of Westwood Studios.

Early years[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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. The creative efforts of Joseph Bostic, Eydie Laramore and Brett Sperry in 1993 resulted in the release of Command & Conquer in September 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 November 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[edit | edit source]

Westwood was acquired by Electronic Arts on 17 August 1998 for $122.5 million along with another studio in Irvine, California owned by Virgin Interactive, called Burst, that was subsequently named Westwood Pacific. According to Joe Bostic, Electronic Arts did not interfere with Westwood's operations primarily due to Brett Sperry's efforts in keeping the corporate cultures of the two companies separate, but eventually Westwood succumbed to wishes that every game had to be a hit.[1]

Mere 11 days after the acquisition, 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 early September of that year, with earlier prints also being distributed by Virgin Interactive, followed by Sports Car GT, Lands of Lore III and Recoil (with Zipper Interactive) 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, as well as those assigned to full motion video recording, were involved in the game's development. By the start of the new millennium, the Las Vegas studio was developing several different projects at the same time, including: 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).

Westwood Studios was closed in early 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, 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.

Technical details[edit | edit source]

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.

Games developed[edit | edit source]

As Westwood Associates[edit | edit source]

  • 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)
  • DragonStrike (1992)

As Westwood Studios[edit | edit source]

Cancelled games[edit | edit source]

Video gallery[edit | edit source]

Westwood Studios on Bravo (1996)
Westwood Studios on PC Games (1996)
Westwood Studios on Digital Turf (1997)
Westwood Studios' co-founders receiving the Industry Icon Award at The Game Awards 2015

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Joe Bostic (Westwood Studios) – Interview. Arcade Attack (31 August 2018). Retrieved on 16 December 2018.
Developers