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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Obsidian Entertainment - Cancelled: Project North Carolina - Layoffs

Default Obsidian Entertainment - Cancelled: Project North Carolina - Layoffs

March 14th, 2012, 20:36
Gamebanshee got a tip yesterday evening that Obsidian had to lay off a number of people due to Project North Carolina being cancelled. The lay offs also affected the people working on the South Park rpg. Credibility to this can be seen in these comments below:
Tweet from Andre Nguyen, animator
Fellow Obsidianites who were laid off today…I was lucky, but I've been on the other end of that. Your talents will take you far!
A tweet from Jason Fader, producer Project North Carolina
So long, Obsidian. It was a great 3.5 years. I'll miss everyone :-(
A Google+ post from Michael Bosley, programmer:
Obsidian laid off a bunch of folks today. I'm still there, but it's sad (and part of the biz) to see so many good folks let go.
BuckGB from Gamebanshee writes this at the end of the announcement on GB:
…..it was indeed Project North Carolina that was cancelled, and that the devastating news comes after "the owners weren't paid for 6-7 months" and "401k matching was halted" for employees. Hopefully Obsidian lets us throw our money at a Kickstarter project soon, or I'm going to really start to worry.
So do you think Obsidian is going to make it through this?
More information.
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March 14th, 2012, 20:36
Good luck to Obsidian and all the people who were let go!
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March 14th, 2012, 20:40
Bad news indeed.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:01
I don't know.

But Obsidian is a true big budget 'indie'. And it seems this is how it has akways gone for obsidian. For example when the Aliens RPG got cancelled.

Obsidian lives project to project. The only ways the cycle breaks is if 1 They have their own ip and actually own it, 2 go the kickstarter route or 3 get snubbed op and become an 'owned' or in-house studio.

BTW Is project North Carolina the wheel of time rpg or a different project altogether?
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March 14th, 2012, 21:01
What is/was "Project North Carolina?"
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March 14th, 2012, 21:04
Wonder what the "the owners weren't paid for 6-7 months" bit actually entails as I have a hard time believing they'd sustain a project for 6-7 months after the client missed a milestone payment although it does sound like it was the publisher's lack of finances at fault, not obsidian's doing.

Obsidian had 3 great opportunities with kotor2, nwn2 and fonv, and with fonv it actually looked like they made a great name for themselves regarding publishers, in record time(cheaply) with no previous experience with the tech they made an on-par sequel to a GOTY that managed to sell as much or even more than the original.

I wished it was their ticket to being given more breathing room by publishers to invest in better quality/deeper games so it's disappointing to see them following it up with more slamdunk projects like DS3 and South Park or still dealing with unreliable publishers.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:13
I am frankly amazed they've managed to last as long as they have. Obsidian has always reminded me of Troika — talented game designers with poor project management and technical execution skills. They tended to bite off more than they could chew. I was expecting them to follow Troika's three-and-out, but they managed to go about twice that far.

Alpha Protocol was their shot at an original IP and they botched it. I wish them luck at pulling this out, but based on history I'm not optimistic.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:28
It doesn't sound like the company would go under from one project being canceled, I think they've got at least two others in development and given how quickly they hire&fire it seems that they can easily take on new projects or staunch the money bleed from canceled ones(wouldn't want to work there though, they're prolly advertising and hiring suckers straight out of college). Only thing that could bring them down is going a sufficient amount of time without getting funded for any project(troika), which doesn't seem likely given their concurrent slam dunk projects m.o.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:29
Originally Posted by khaight View Post
Alpha Protocol was their shot at an original IP and they botched it. I wish them luck at pulling this out, but based on history I'm not optimistic.
Alpha Protocol was a great game, but maybe it was sitting between the chairs.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:32
In this context a great game is a game that sells greatly.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:37
Originally Posted by khaight View Post
I am frankly amazed they've managed to last as long as they have. Obsidian has always reminded me of Troika — talented game designers with poor project management and technical execution skills.
Yep, I concur, although I can't think of any Obsidian games (other than F:NV) that match up with Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire: Bloodlines. Buggy as they were upon release, those were some truly great games that I have replayed to death… can't say the same for Kotor 2 and NWN2. They weren't bad but once I played them, I was done.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:42
Originally Posted by khaight View Post
I am frankly amazed they've managed to last as long as they have. Obsidian has always reminded me of Troika — talented game designers with poor project management and technical execution skills. They tended to bite off more than they could chew. I was expecting them to follow Troika's three-and-out, but they managed to go about twice that far.

Alpha Protocol was their shot at an original IP and they botched it. I wish them luck at pulling this out, but based on history I'm not optimistic.
Based on history I actually think this is 'business as usual' for Obsidian.

It no doubt sucks for those fired, but this is how Obsidian (or any other) independent big game studio works. I don't see how it is different from when the Aliens RPG got cancelled.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:50
Originally Posted by KapitanUnterhosen View Post
Wonder what the "the owners weren't paid for 6-7 months" bit actually entails as I have a hard time believing they'd sustain a project for 6-7 months after the client missed a milestone payment although it does sound like it was the publisher's lack of finances at fault, not obsidian's doing.

Obsidian had 3 great opportunities with kotor2, nwn2 and fonv, and with fonv it actually looked like they made a great name for themselves regarding publishers, in record time(cheaply) with no previous experience with the tech they made an on-par sequel to a GOTY that managed to sell as much or even more than the original.

I wished it was their ticket to being given more breathing room by publishers to invest in better quality/deeper games so it's disappointing to see them following it up with more slamdunk projects like DS3 and South Park or still dealing with unreliable publishers.
Everyone thinks Bethesda made New Vegas.
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March 14th, 2012, 21:54
Originally Posted by JuliusMagnus View Post
Based on history I actually think this is 'business as usual' for Obsidian.

It no doubt sucks for those fired, but this is how Obsidian (or any other) independent big game studio works. I don't see how it is different from when the Aliens RPG got cancelled.
The "the owners weren't paid for 6-7 months" bit is the real bad news. It's an unwritten business law that the owner should always pay himself before he pays his employees.
If the founders didn't take money and the 401k matching was indeed stopped, things aren't looking good at all. Both are clear signs that the company is in trouble. In how deep trouble remains to be seen.
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March 14th, 2012, 23:15
I'm not close enough to comment with certainty but I believe they have >150 staff (or had - not sure of the exact current count), so 20-30 shouldn't be fatal. They also show 10 current vacancies on their website.

Whatever the situation, best of luck to all.

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March 14th, 2012, 23:22
Originally Posted by Grimlorn View Post
Everyone thinks Bethesda made New Vegas.
That's the case with gamers, not publishers.
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March 14th, 2012, 23:30
This is unfortunate, but it's not difficult to understand why the company is in trouble; sandwiched around the solid Fallout: New Vegas (critically and commercially) sits two underwhelming releases, Alpha Protocol and Dungeon Siege 3. (It pains me to put AP in that category because i really enjoyed it, but in order to be objective, I have to point out that it was rather rough around the edges and poorly executed in some areas). Unless you have a massively valuable brand name with significant publisher backing (and perhaps the paid reviews that come with it ) like Bioware, you just can't be successful when you release average games.

I know Obsidian lives from project to project, but I wish they had been more careful with the projects they agreed to work on. Dungeon Siege 3? South Park? Really? These are styles that don't fit Obsidian's strengths (or in the case of South Park, seem outright ridiculous), and there must have been better projects to work on, especially on the heels of New Vegas. It also doesn't make sense to me for a mid-sized developer to attempt the Bioware route by working on several games at a time with 100+ employees; that's a dangerous path unless, once again, you have significant and consistent backing. Why not stick to one core team, such as Pirhana Bytes, CDProject Red, or Larian Studios? Why over-expand when you are already struggling to establish your company and stay afloat?

By having separate teams to take into account, I feel that Obsidian has left themselves at the mercy of what comes to them rather than being in a situation where they can forge their own path, at least to some degree, and with this model, they will always be scrambling to stay in business. The quality of a game like DS3 and inevitably the South Park RPG (barring a miracle where it actually turns out to be very good) hurts the value of their brand/reputation, which is why a "less is more" approach - as in, a smaller company to reduce management headaches, lower payroll, and focus on one good project at a time - might be the best approach for them in the future. They have tried to follow in the footsteps of the heavy-hitters like Bioware, and it hasn't worked financially. I hope they can sort this out and come of this situation as a stronger and more organized company with a tighter scope.
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March 14th, 2012, 23:37
Originally Posted by Falchor View Post
Yep, I concur, although I can't think of any Obsidian games (other than F:NV) that match up with Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire: Bloodlines. Buggy as they were upon release, those were some truly great games that I have replayed to death… can't say the same for Kotor 2 and NWN2. They weren't bad but once I played them, I was done.
Does that last bit about NWN2 include MotB? I hate ranking games, but if I had to, I would say NWN2 MotB is in my top 10(that's just me though).

-Back on Topic-

Wouldn't crowd sourcing already be on the table for, say, a skeleton crew before Obsidian calls it quits? Perhaps this is just a re-shuffling of the deck, so to speak… Regardless, I wish them well.
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March 14th, 2012, 23:57
First: I feel for the people that have been fired . It is not easy finding jobs right now.
In the game industry, however, there seems to be a place for talented people - always.
I hope they find jobs and work quickly

And now to the comment:

The interesting to me is that people and by that I mean not the hardcore gamer, but gamers in general seem to think that NWN2 were made by Bioware, and someone also think that PS: Torment were made by Bioware. It as if Black Isle/Interplay never even existed, it seems. On the other hand, all these games do make use of the Bioware engine, the Infinity Engine.

Also, when the owners of a gaming studio e.g. Josh Sawyer, MCA, etc. haven't been paid in 6-7 months things are not looking that well financially. In one of the comments to this on the BG site, a person said that today publisers pay a flat rate to game developers. Do they do this or do they still pay royalties?

As I see Obsidian they are a hired contractor being contracted to make the game the publisher wants them to make. As such, DS3 might have ended up the way it did because the publisher (square enix?) wanted it made a certain way?

As for Obsidian having two-three projects going on at once, I think Larian Studios have the same? And they have as many employees as Obsidian, I think? The point is this: If you're a small, medium or even big indie developer that is dependant on contracts from game publishers, it is good to not lay all your eggs in the same basket as we say in Denmark. It means that you need to spread your risk a bit.

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March 14th, 2012, 23:58
I'm not close enough to comment with certainty but I believe they have >150 staff (or had - not sure of the exact current count), so 20-30 shouldn't be fatal. They also show 10 current vacancies on their website.

Whatever the situation, best of luck to all.
No one else thinks it is messed up they fired 20-30 people while they are recruiting for 10? You'd figure they would reasign people. These evil money-grubbing companies are pure evil. We should occupy inxile.
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