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Gaar: After dry spell, some Austin gaming studios staffing up

By Brian Gaar - American-Statesman Staff

When you’ve lost scads of jobs, as the Austin video game industry has, any hiring is a good thing.

So it comes as welcome news that two high-profile studios are currently staffing up. The studios in question – Battlecry Studios and Arkane Studios – are both hiring for top-secret projects. And while the upcoming games might be question marks, both studios have good pedigrees.

Arkane, which has studios in Austin and France, was responsible for last year’s hit “Dishonored,” an action game set in Victorian-era England, starring a bodyguard who is framed for murder.

The studio is moving to new offices in the Arboretum area and is currently hiring for at least 9 positions, according to the website for parent company Zenimax Media. The open jobs range from senior gameplay engineer to environment artist.

Raphael Colantonio, the studio president, wouldn’t say much about the upcoming game – only that it will be in the style that the studio is known for, which he called “first-person games with depth.”

He did admit to feeling some pressure after the huge success of “Dishonored.”

“I’m terrified,” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, of course.”

Meanwhile, the new Battlecry Studios is staffing up for an undisclosed project of its own. The studio was started last year by Rich Vogel, who was formerly the head of BioWare Corp.’s Austin branch and executive producer of “Star Wars: The Old Republic.”

Battlecry, which is also owned by Zenimax Media, has grown to about 35 employees, he said.

The company is hiring for at least 16 positions, from animator to producer to senior engineer.

Vogel, was also tight-lipped about his upcoming project, saying “the good thing about our company is they really don’t want to over-hype anything.”

But he added: “Our studio mission in particular is to build fun, engaging, AAA free-to-play games for the connected world. So you can gather anything you want out of that.”

The hirings come as the Austin video game scene continues to recover from a brutal rash of layoffs in 2012 and 2013.

Two major studios, Vigil Games and Junction Point Studios, were shut down earlier this year. And Austin was already reeling from layoffs at other major studio outposts in town - BioWare Corp. and Zynga both announced local job cuts last year.

But Arkane’s “Dishonored” was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy 2012, garnering great reviews and giving Austin a much-needed hit.

Arkane’s success, Vogel said, helped lay a solid foundation for what his studio is attempting to do.

“(Zenimax) saw what kind of talent is here and what they could produce here … and they wanted to expand their investment down here,” he said.

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