Rockstar Vancouver

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Rockstar Vancouver Inc.
Formerly called
Barking Dog Studios Ltd. (1998–2002)
Industry Video game industry
Fate Merged into Rockstar Toronto
Founded May 1998; 20 years ago (1998-05)
  • Brian Thalken
  • Peter Grant
  • Sean Thompson
  • Christopher Mair
  • Glenn Barnes
  • Michael Gyori
Defunct 9 July 2012 (2012-07-09)
Headquarters Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Key people
Sergei Kuprejanov (creative director)
Number of employees
Decrease 35 (2012)
Parent Rockstar Games (2002–2012)

Rockstar Vancouver Inc. (formerly Barking Dog Studios Ltd.) was a Canadian video game developer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company was founded as Barking Dog Studios in May 1998, by six developers formerly of Radical Entertainment. The company started out with developing the Beta 5 version of Counter-Strike, which released in December 1999, together with designer Minh Le. Its following projects included Homeworld: Cataclysm (2000), a stand-alone expansion for Homeworld, Global Operations (2002), a tactical first-person shooter, and Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon (2002), a real-time strategy game based on the Treasure Planet film.

In August 2002, Barking Dog Studios was acquired by Take-Two Interactive, became part of the Rockstar Games umbrella, and was renamed Rockstar Vancouver. Under its new title, the company went on to develop Bully (2006), and lead development on the Rockstar Studios-developed Max Payne 3 (2012). Both games were critically acclaimed. Following the release of Max Payne 3, on 9 July 2012, Rockstar Vancouver was closed as part of a merger with sister studio Rockstar Toronto, which would receive new, larger offices. All 35 employees working for Rockstar Vancouver at the time were given the choice to move to the relocated Rockstar Toronto, or another Rockstar Games studio.


As Barking Dog Studios (1998–2002)[edit]

Barking Dog Studios was founded in May 1998, by Brian Thalken, Peter Grant, Sean Thompson, Christopher Mair, Glenn Barnes and Michael Gyori.[1] All four had previously been emplyoed at Radical Entertainment.[2] Barking Dog Studios' first project revolved around Valve's first-person shooter Counter-Strike, at the time still in beta: Working with the game's designer, Minh Le, Barking Dog Studios developed around 90% of Counter-Strike's Beta 5 version update,[3] including its de_train map,[4] which was released in December 1999.[5] Counter-Strike went on to be fully released in November 2000.[6]

Around the same time as Counter-Strike Beta 5, Barking Dog Studio was contracted by Sierra Studios to create a stand-alone expansion (or "semi-sequel") for the 1999 real-time strategy game Homeworld.[7] The game was announced as Homeworld: Cataclysm in February 2002,[8][9] first shown at the 2000 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May 2000,[10] and released in September 2000.[11] The game was developed in conjunction with Relic Entertainment, the makers of the original game,[12] after Homeworld saw high commercial success.[13] Homeworld: Cataclysm was well-received by critics, with the game receiving high review scores,[14][15][16] and journalists saying that the game improved on the already acclaimed original game.[17] While Homeworld and its 2003 sequel, Homeworld 2, were remastered and re-released as part of the Homeworld Remastered Collection in March 2015, Homeworld: Cataclysm remained mostly unavailable.[18][19] However, in June 2017, the game was re-released unremastered on the platform for digital distribution.[20] For that particular release, the game's name was altered to "Homeworld: Emergence", since Blizzard Entertainment held the trademark for the term "cataclysm", which was used for the title of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (2010).[21][22]

Following the release of both, Homeworld: Cataclysm and Counter-Strike, in November 2000, Barking Dog Studios was rumoured to be about to announce a tactial first-person shooter,[23] which was, in December 2000, announced to be Global Operations, developed in partnership with Crave Entertainment.[24] At the time, a Barking Dog Studios employee claimed the game to be "100x better than Counter-Strike",[25] with the media describing it as a "putative Counter-Strike killer".[26] Global Operations was released in March 2002, in a co-publishing agreement between Crave Entertainment and Electronic Arts.[27][28] In April 2002, Michael Gyori of Barking Dog Studios revealed that they were working on their own game engine, titled ARES, which would be used for their upcoming real-time strategy game, set to be announced at that year's E3.[29] The game was uncovered to be Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon, based on Disney's Treasure Planet movie.[30][31] The game was released by Disney's Disney Interactive division in November 2002, to positive reception.[32][33]

As Rockstar Vancouver (2002–2012)[edit]

On 1 August 2002, Take-Two Interactive announced that they had acquired Barking Dog Studios for US$3 million in cash and 242,450 shares of resitrcted common stock.[34] As part of the deal, Barking Dog Studio became part of the Rockstar Games company tree, and was renamed Rockstar Vancouver.[35] So to avoid between Rockstar Vancouver and the already existing Rockstar Canada in Oakville, Ontario, the latter was renamed Rockstar Toronto.[36] The acquisition was assisted by Jamie Leece, formerly president of Take-Two Interactive's Gotham Games subsidiary.[37] In the time following the acquisition multiple employees of Rockstar Vancouver, including founding members, left the company to open new, independent studios, such as Ironclad Games (founded in 2003),[38] Kerberos Productions (2004),[39] Slant Six Games (2005),[40] Big Sandwich Games (2006),[41][42] Hellbent Games (2006),[43] and United Front Games (2007).[44]

Rockstar Vancouver's first game under Rockstar Games' oversight would have been Spec Ops, a new entry in the eponymous series.[45][46] In a March 2005 interview held by James Montgomery of MTV, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age revealed the he and Alain Johannes would be scoring the game, which they expected to release at the end of that year.[47][48] The game was in development for PlayStation 2, however, was cancelled for unknown reasons.[49] Rockstar Vancouver's first game to be released was 2006's Bully (titled Canis Canem Edit in Europe),[50] an action-adventure game, which was announced in May 2005.[51][52] The game attracted a lot of controversy, mostly attributed to its title, regarding the glorification of school violence.[53] Regardless, Bully was met with very positive reception.[54] In a 2014 retrospective, PC Gamer edtior Sam Roberts depicted the game as Rockstar Games' "softest and silliest game, with the warmest heart".[55] While the original Bully was released exclusively for PlayStation 2, Mad Doc Software developed a remastered version of the game, Bully: Scholarship Edition, which was released for Microsoft Windows, Wii, and Xbox 360 in 2008.[56] Furthermore, a remastered version of Bully: Scholarship Edition, Bully: Anniversary Edition, was developed by War Drum Studios in celebration of Bully's tenth anniversary, and released for Android and iOS in December 2016.[57][58]

In October 2008, rumours started spreading that Rockstar Vancouver was developing a third instalment in the Max Payne series, originally developed by Remedy Entertainment.[59] The game, titled Max Payne 3, was officially announced in March 2009,[60] with a release slated for late 2009 announced shortly after.[61][62] The development on the game was led by Rockstar Vancouver at first, but later evolved into a project spanning all Rockstar Games studio, foremost Rockstar Vancouver, London, Toronto, and New England.[63] In January 2010, an open letter written by wives of Rockstar San Diego employees, which claimed that their husbands were regularly working overtime, as well as that the studio was suffering heavy mismanagement from higher-ups, sparked controvers and criticism directed at Rockstar San Diego and Rockstar Games.[64] This letter was echoed by multiple people who had quit their jobs at various Rockstar Games studios, including Rockstar Vancouver,[65][66] where such mismanagement was said to have caused Max Payne 3's missing of the 2009 release window.[67] Some sources stated that Bully was developed under similar circumstances.[68] By November 2011, Rockstar Games' creative director, Dan Houser, anticipated Max Payne 3 to release by 2012,[69] and in January 2012, Rockstar Games announced the final release date of May 2012.[70] At that point, Houser explained that they chose for Rockstar Vancouver to develop Max Payne 3 instead of a sequel to Bully, due to what he described as "limited bandwidth"—more games they want to make than they are able to make.[71][72][73] Upon release, the game was met with perfect to near-perfect reviews,[74][75][76] and received multiple accolades, such as "Best Animation" at the 2012 Machinima Inside Gaming Awards.[77][78]

On 9 July 2012, two months after the release of Max Payne 3, Rockstar Games announced that Rockstar Toronto would be moving into a new, bigger, and custom-built studio within their Oakville, Ontario location, into which Rockstar Vancouver would be merged,[79] effectively closing it and disbanding the "Rockstar Vancouver" name.[80][81] All of Rockstar Vancouver's 35 employees at the time were given the possibility to move to the newly-expanded Rockstar Toronto, or any other Rockstar Games studio.[82][83] The expansion and move was partially financed by the Government of Ontario.[84][85] Jennifer Kolbe, vice-president of publishing and operations at Rockstar Games, stated that the move intended to make a single Canadian team that "will make for a powerful creative force on future projects",[86][87] and aimed at making room for 50 new positions at the company.[88][89] Rockstar Vancouver continues being a legally-registered entity; on 23 November 2012, the company was legally renamed from Rockstar Vancouver Inc., over Rockstar Games Vancouver Inc.,[90] to Rockstar Games Vancouver ULC, as such becoming an unlimited liability corporation under the laws of British Columbia.[91]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title Platform(s) Publisher(s) Notes
as Barking Dog Studios
2000 Homeworld: Cataclysm Microsoft Windows Sierra Studios N/A
Counter-Strike macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Xbox Support developer for Valve
2002 Global Operations Microsoft Windows Crave Entertainment, Electronic Arts N/A
Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon Disney Interactive
as Rockstar Vancouver
2006 Bully Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360 Rockstar Games N/A
2012 Max Payne 3 macOS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Developed as part of Rockstar Studios


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