Wookiee Wednesday Westwood Wonderment
Hey there kids, come sit round and listen to an old man grumble about the good old days of gaming. You see back before the time of you younglings, there was more to gaming than Call of Duty, DOTA, and World of Warcraft (and their numerous clones that you are now telling me are better for an infinite number of pointless reasons, that are meaningless to anyone but you).
One of the absolute highlights of this golden (well I suppose Silver, Gold probably belongs to the NES) age of gaming was Westwood Studios, who until EA sent in their hordes of salesmen to ruin all their franchises, was one of the pinnacles of the industry. Founded in October 1985 (meaning they would have just turned 30 if they were still around) by two friends friends Louis Castle and Brett Sperry in a garage in Las Vegas.
In the early days they specialized in porting games between platforms, they released their first origonal game “Mars Saga” in 1988. In 1992 they were acquired by Virgin Interactive, and achieved their first true success with Dune 2, inventing the RTS genre in the process. Dune 2, only named as such Due to a copyright issue, was based on the epic novel series from Frank Herbert. 31st August 1995 makes the date that Westwood Studios truly established themselves with the release of a little game called, Command and Conquer.
The Command and Conquer franchise is easily one of my favourite fictional universes, and Westwood’s practice of using full motion video with genuine actors, rather than full CGI really helps flesh out the universe. Westwood were also well known to have well written (if sometimes intentionally cheesy) stories. Around about the time of the first CnC games release, a local drummer named Frank Klepacki working as a Beta Tester was enlisted, after impressing the audio director with some compositions of his, to work on the soundtrack of CnC. The song he submitted was so catch and well received, that it was considered too good to be just part of the soundtrack, and instead was selected to be the theme of follow up game CnC Red Alert. This is the now legendary Anthem Hell March. As a musician myself, I utterly idolise, and worship the ground Mr Klepacki walks on so please allow me a few minutes to fangirl……..
Over the next few years they would release a series of successful games, most of which (though not all) are set in the Command and Conquer universe. In 1998 Electronic Arts acquired Virgin Interactive’s US assets, including Westwood Studios. Around 1999 EA Split Westwood Studios into Westwood Las Vegas and Westwood Pacific.
Sadly in 2003, Electronic Arts dissolves Westwood Studios, the Westwood Las Vegas assets are moved to Los Angeles and Westwood Pacific becomes EA Pacific. During this time a number of former Westwood employees including Joe Bostic, Mike Legg, Steve Tall, and Frank Klepacki form Petroglyph Games, which many fans, myself included, see as reincarnation of sorts for Westwood Studios.
PS, Yes I know EA continued the franchise for a while, but those don’t exist, and that is a rant for a future article. Happy place time now….I think I shall jam some of my Klepacki albums and fire up some classic old school CnC, many of which are available free here, or you can check out the fan made continuations of the franchise Twisted Insurrection and RenegadeX.