Former Metroid developers go multiplatform

For Armature Studio, the hardware will finally match the vision.

Kotaku is reporting today three former Retro Studios employees have formed a new multiplatform development studio under a publishing deal with Electronic Arts.

The newly formed Armature Studio is headed by Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Jack Matthews, the former Game Director, Art Director and Principal Technology Engineer of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime series.

According to Pacini, EA approached the three illustrious Metroid alumni with an offer too interesting to refuse.

“EA approached us with this really interesting business model of creating a small studio that is only comprised of industry veterans,” says Pacini. “The goal is to create new IP with a very, very small team and to produce a game without having to grow that team.”

The deal represents an interesting shift within the business philosophy at EA. According to Pacini, the relationship is somewhat experimental; Armature will essentially work on game prototypes, and once an idea is ready for development, it will be shifted to an external team with Armature keeping close tabs on the project.

“We would still be very hands on,” says Pacini. “Our studio is the grand experiment. It’s kind of a really different take on how to make these larger scale games.”

If this experiment is a success, Pacini says it could allow developers and publishers to take greater risks in game design, a potential cure to the industry’s ongoing addiction to safe-bet sequels.

“EA has been very, very supportive of all of our efforts,” says Pacini.

Pacini, Keller and Matthews earned the industry’s admiration for the Metroid Prime series’ outstanding art direction, and the opportunity to work on consoles more powerful than Nintendo’s Wii should give Armature the ability to fully realize their artistic design visions.

“From my stand point, I’ve never worked on any other console,” says Pacini. “I’ve always made games for Nintendo. I’m reinvigorated. I’m really excited about what other opportunities are out there. How can we use Xbox Live? How can we use the power of the PS3?”

“I think it really opens it up,” says Pacini. “I’m not saying it was by any means restrictive working for Nintendo. We had this palette to work on, the Wii and the DS, but now we have everything.”

“That’s just really, really exciting.”

Pacini, Keller and Matthews left Retro Studios in Apr. 2008, and their contract with EA prevents them from developing another Metroid Prime game for Nintendo. But Keller insists his love for Samus is evergreen and won’t close the door on a future Metroid project.

“Personally, I would love to work on another Metroid game,” says Keller. “I have been in love with Metroid for years. We had a chance to recreate a game that was created way back when.”

“That was awesome.”