A new AAA studio started by industry veterans has emerged. Emptyvessel, led by former id Software, Naughty Dog, Gearbox, and Activision developers, bills itself as a developer-founded, developer-first company.

New AAA studio Emptyvessel unveiled, with immersive shooter The System in works

Emptyvessel announced its establishment on March 12. Based in Austin, Texas, the studio has already raised an undisclosed sum in a seed round led by Sisu Game Ventures.

It is led by CEO and game director Emanuel Palalic and general manager Garrett Young. They both emphasize the importance of creative independence and freedom.

Palalic is a former senior character artist at id Software (Doom, Quake Champions, Doom Eternal) and lead character artist at Tripwire Interactive (Killing Floor 3). Young also has vast experience in the games industry, having worked in executive roles at Microsoft (helped launch the Forza Motorsport franchise), Activision, Disney’s gaming division, and id Software (helped reboot the DOOM, Quake, and Rage franchises).

Other core members of the Emptyvessel team include:

  • Tech director Wei Ning — with his areas of expertise including rendering, physics, backend networking, and cloud infrastructure, he also worked at Weta Digital and contributed to films like Blade Runner 2049;
  • Senior design director Kevin Powell — former systems designer at Gearbox (Borderlands), game designer at Hi-Rez Studios (Smite), and senior combat designer at Airship Syndicate (Wayfinder);
  • Animation director Rico Flores — former animator at Naughty Dog (Uncharted 3-4), senior animator at BioWare (Anthem), and lead animator at Archetype Entertainment (Exodus);
  • Art director Alex Palma — former senior concept artist at id Software, where he worked for seven years;
  • Tech animation director Jake Gordon — former animator and rigger at companies like Liquid Development, Hi-Rez Studios, and Crystal Dynamics, having worked on games in the Tomb Raider, Batman, Rockband, Fable, and Max Payne franchises;
  • Character lead Colin Thomas — former character artist at Insomniac Games (Resistance 3) and Naughty Dog (The Last of Us, Uncharted);
  • Design director Dan Moditch — former multiplayer designer at Activision/Treyarch (Call of Duty 1-3, Black Ops), senior producer at id Software (Doom), and senior combat designer at Striking Distance (The Callisto Protocol).

Some of the core members of the studio (Image credit: Emptyvessel)

“At Emptyvessel, we take a developer-first approach to our direction and execution,” Young said. “We understand every innovation in this industry has been led by a developer taking a risk — every new IP, every billion-dollar franchise. Gaming’s next massive hit can come from anywhere.”

Right now, Emptyvessel is working on its debut game — The System, a AAA immersive shooter built with Unreal Engine 5. Details about it remain undisclosed, other than that it is inspired by “film, graphic novels, and games set in dystopian sci-fi worlds” and that Mick Gordon (Doom, Atomic Heart) will serve as its composer.

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