A number of ex-Blizzard developers who worked on World of Warcraft have banded together to form a new studio. Notorious Studios is already working on its first title, which it says will emphasize "core RPG fantasy" and combat-focused multiplayer gameplay.
What do we know about Notorious Studios?
In a thread posted on Twitter, co-founder Chris Kaleiki details the process of leaving Blizzard to found Notorious. He says he wanted to start a team with "similar cultural values" to the ones he had while working on Blizzard, namely "putting gameplay (the player experience) first". The studio is named after Kaleiki's World of Warcraft guild of 17 years, which he says is "symbolic of our company mission". You can check out a video of Kaleiki announcing Notorious Studios' existence here.
Staffers at Notorious include Kaleiki, who's working as a systems designer, as well as illustrator Cole Eastburn and level design artist Colin Volrath, all of whom worked on World of Warcraft. Others include gameplay engineer Cort Keefer, gameplay engineer Doug Frazer, and artist Eric Bradder, as well as several other Blizzard alumni. Not everyone at Notorious has worked on WoW; server engineer Alex O'Konski cut his teeth on Overwatch, for example. Adorably, there's also a listing for Ellie, the Notorious dog and "chief morale officer". Aww.
What's the background to Notorious Studios' founding?
Rather notably, in his announcement, Kaleiki makes no mention whatsoever of Activision Blizzard's ongoing legal battles and harassment allegations. The company is currently embroiled in a battle with the California Department for Fair Employment and Housing, as well as several other organizations including shareholders and unions, over a perceived toxic work culture that saw women marginalized and abused in the workplace. Also notable is Notorious' list of investors, one of whom is League of Legends developer Riot Games, which is currently locked in its own legal battle over gender discrimination. Notorious' initial lineup of staff is all-male, including advisors Jonathan Jelinek and Omeed Rameshni.
Questions regarding Notorious' inclusivity aside, it'll be exciting to see what these ex-Blizzard and World of Warcraft developers come up with. Kaleiki's comments about core tenets that Blizzard used to espouse are telling; it's possible that Notorious' first project will be something of a return to an old-school World of Warcraft-style MMO. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, be sure to check out the company's official website if you want to know more about it.
What kind of game do you want to see from Notorious Studios? Let us know in the comments below!