Microsoft’s new Xbox studio, The Initiative, has hired another developer from The Last of Us studio Naughty Dog to work on the company’s first game. Lauren Garcia, who was the character shading technical director on The Last of Us: Part II is now working at The Initiative as a senior shader technologies developer.
Garcia announced the news on Twitter, saying, “This is an incredible team working on something truly special.” The Initiative’s first game remains unannounced, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer has offered a tease that it could be a reboot of a classic series.
So happy to announce that this week I joined at The Initiative. This is an incredible team working on something truly special. It was so hard to left behind my friends at NaughtyDog. But I need to say thank you to @Xbox @XboxP3 to allow me be part of Xbox family! <3
— Lauren Garcia (@MrLGarcia) October 13, 2020
The Initiative was announced at E3 2018 as part of Microsoft’s wider announcement of new studios and acquisitions. Based in Santa Monica and close to Naughty Dog’s offices, the company says its ambition is “about craft, creating story, innovating, and looking ahead to the next big thing.” While the company is owned by Microsoft, it claims to operate independently.
Even if we don’t know what The Initiative is working on, design director Drew Murray’s young daughter does. Murray recently let this small human play the game, and she reported that it’s gotten a lot better.
Garcia is at least the third Naughty Dog developer to have joined The Initiative. The Last of Us II sound designer Jordan Denton and Last of Us II designer Robert Ryan are also working on the new Xbox game.
All of these new hires join a team that is already stacked with talent. God of War veteran Brian Westergaard is the director of production, William Archbell (343 Industries) is the technical director, and Blake Fischer (Xbox) is director of world and narrative. Daniel Neuburger, who worked on Rise of the Tomb Raider, is The Initiative’s game director. The Initiative also hired Rockstar Games veteran Tom Shepherd, while among the other high-profile hirings include Red Dead Redemption 1 writer/designer Christian Cantamessa.