Respawn Alumni Form Gravity Well, an ‘Anti-Crunch’ AAA Studio

Not an actual representation of gravitational potential on a two dimensional plane, but an incredible simulation.

Two former Respawn Entertainment leads today announced the formation of their own Los Angeles-based development studio: Gravity Well. The two alumni, Jon “Slothy” Shiring and Drew McCoy, have credits on Respawn Entertainment’s most successful titles — McCoy was a Producer on Titanfall, a Senior Producer on Titanfall 2, and Executive Producer on Apex Legends, while Shiring has engineering or Lead Software Engineer credits on the same titles, among others. Additionally, both men were part of Infinity Ward prior to Activision’s famous contract loophole exploitation that lead to the creation of Respawn.

“We take team health as an absolute top priority,” McCoy says on Gravity Well’s official website. “That means we are anti-crunch. That means good compensation. That means everyone at Gravity Well has creative freedom, because when someone else makes all of the decisions, work isn’t fun and the end product isn’t as good. We prefer to cut and focus down so we only ship what we love.”

“Once your team size crosses 100 people, everything changes,” according to Shiring. “It’s nobody’s fault – big organizations just move slowly. You need meetings just to make decisions. Choices get siloed and brilliant creatives become less creative. So let’s just not do that. We’re going to build a team that is 80-85 people at peak. We aren’t satisfied with the low level of creative risk that gets project funding these days. We want to explore bold new ideas exclusively for next-gen hardware and PCs.”

It sounds like a pretty classic pitch: More creative freedom, less overtime, and bold new ideas that big publishers (like Respawn Entertainment’s parent company Electronic Arts, for instance) don’t tend to fund. Neither McCoy nor Shiring go into detail about how they plan to fund ideas that traditionally make investors skittish, but that hasn’t stopped them from listing 11 initial openings on the website — all remote — ranging from HR Manager, to Writer, to Game Designer. There’s even a generic application form if you have skills that aren’t explicitly asked for, like puppet wrangling, or telekinesis.

“Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re starting the studio for remote work from the very start,” Shiring says. “Since one of the core values of Gravity Well is increased diversity, we’re excited about not being hamstrung by relocation or work visa issues. We want to hire the best talent in the industry, regardless of where you live.”

Starting a new game development studio is hard enough, let alone in the middle of a global pandemic, but there are also a lot of people who could probably use the mental health boost of at least applying for work at a new studio. Nearly a quarter of Los Angeles is currently unemployed, with 33.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits within the last seven weeks. The actual number of unemployed people is assuredly higher, since these figures only track those eligible to apply for unemployment insurance, which typically isn’t available to independent contractors and/or self-employed folk who now find themselves out of work, or to the thousands of undocumented workers who cannot risk applying for fear of deportation.