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Why Robert Bowling left Call of Duty behind

"Right now is the single most valuable time for independent developers in our industry," former Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling tells us as he discusses his new self-funded studio, Robotoki.

Mike Rose, Blogger

April 24, 2012

3 Min Read

Infinity Ward's creative strategist Robert Bowling left the Call of Duty studio last month after six years at the company, choosing not to reveal his future plans straight away. This week, he unveiled Robotoki, his new game development studio, with which he plans to release games for next-gen consoles, PCs and mobile devices. Speaking to Gamasutra, Bowling, who had served as the public-facing community liaison for Infinity Ward, says that he only came up with the idea for the company after leaving his role at Activision. "When I made the decision to resign from my previous position at Activision, I only knew one thing for certain," he tells us. "I knew what I didn't want to do, but that eventually led to clarity on what I did want to do." What he wanted to do, he says, was delve into new experiences and develop something different to that which he had worked on with the Call of Duty franchise. "After each project, you sit back and you contemplate what you're passionate about and you have to make your next move based on that," he continues. "Regardless if the rest of the world is ready to move on or not, if there are unique stories and experiences you want to deliver, then you have to follow your passion to deliver those. Nothing else can be a deciding factor when it comes to creative decision making." "So when I left, it was solely to follow that passion to create new opportunities and experiences -- not knowing yet what that would be until the decision to form Robotoki and rally support behind our first project was decided." Forming Robotoki, says Bowling, was an answer to the problem: "How do you create a foundation for a creative team that is completely free of outside influence and pressure?" This was Bowling's main criteria that he says was "essential to approaching the development of our new IP and most importantly the forming of the team that would create it" -- and the answer, he believes, is self-funding. "Self-funding the initial investment to get the studio off the ground allowed me to do this," he tells us. "Right now is the single most valuable time for independent developers in our industry." "It was important for me to have complete control over how Robotoki was formed and to lay a solid foundation for the creative talent that would join it and, most importantly, the creative freedom required to embark on a new intellectual property as ambitious as our first project," he continues. "Which is why I decided to self-fund the formation of the studio, the initial team, and our new IP, and to set a guiding principle for the studio moving forward to work exclusively with partners that supported that independent model and mentality by allowing the creative vision holders behind a project to retain control of it." The accessibility of self-publishing and crowd-sourcing models has led to more gamers realizing just how important it is for creative vision holders to maintain control of their creations, says Bowling, and in turn, the stability in quality that can come from this. Robotoki's first project is not simply a single game, but rather, an entire online universe that is completely platform and genre agnostic. Bowling plans to build up the universe first, then define the experience afterwards, before putting together any specific gameplay mechanics. "I believe we have moved away from telling our players how to enjoy our game, and our job is merely to provide them a platform to dictate their own experience," he suggests. "Therefore a player on mobile should be able to engage in the universe, continue their progression, grow their persistent character, and experience the lore of the universe in a unique way from the other less tactile experiences on PC or consoles and vice versa." "Where the at-home experience may be focused on action, the mobile experience can be a completely different, strategy focused experience. However, each contribute and affect the overall state of the universe equally," he concludes.

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