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Default General News - Chris Avellone Interview

May 4th, 2018, 03:05
Originally Posted by henriquejr View Post
That old song already asked: "Why, MCA?"
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I'd rather talk about how capitalist business culture destroys creative and collaboratibe work. But then it's a general discussion and not about evil Obsidian.
So maybe we could open another thread in the Politics, Religion & other Controversies forum. As I would love to see more opinions about Gaming Politics in America.
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May 4th, 2018, 04:10
I knew it was only a matter of time when this thread would turn into gold! That video just made my day.
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May 4th, 2018, 04:20
Wow. Just, wow.

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May 4th, 2018, 04:36
NDA or not, this is all pretty cringeworthy on Chris's part. His legion of fanboys finally inflated his head to bursting.

It's ok to leave your place of work and seek greener pastures. Not so much to piss in the face of your former coworkers simply because there's no contract barring you from doing so.
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May 4th, 2018, 06:14
lol, what a shitshow.

I've been one who thought Avellone was way over hyped and oversold in rpgs, and didn't think he was "all that". But, I'm of two minds here. I do like that he is "letting it rip" and telling the unvarnished truth about his working experiences at Obsidian. It's cool to get an insider's look at what really goes on behind the scenes at one of the top rpg developers out there, and one that has been celebrated by old school rpg fans for some time.

It seems that Obsidian has been underpaying their people, and doing shady things in terms of business practices. Do I care about this? Not really. I said the same thing about similar reports coming out of Witcher developer CD Red re:mistreatment of employees. As a customer, for me the end product is what I really care about, and not much else. Call me a mercenary or a cold hearted capitalist/consumer, but there it is. (and let's be fair, nobody working at Obsidian is working in slavery-like conditions, they are working in a first world luxury wealth bubble, to be blunt)

On the other hand, I can't help but wonder why Avellone is dropping this nuke at this time. It does make you suspect there are ulterior motives at play, and that maybe he is just doing this out of pure spite and revenge. Because he is all but saying don't buy Pillars of Eternity 2, and giving some gamers pause as to whether they should purchase the game. Because he must know there are a lot of rpg fans in the same old school community who would buy POE 2, and who put him on a pedestal, are huge fans of his, and that he has a lot of influence as a kind of rpg "rock star" to them.

The other possibility is much darker. That perhaps Avellone is ill, and has made a decision to go nuclear, because of some personal health issue that is unrecoverable. I am just speculating here, and not trying to offend anybody…I'm probably wrong. But the possibility did occur to me.

Anyway, I may have to skim that thread on the Codex. But it seems we are getting all the juicy nuggets being picked out already, heh. And come on, who doesn't like a bit of drama?
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May 4th, 2018, 09:42
Some more drama:
Chris Avellone said:
Artyoan said:
So ideally what would you like to see happen Chris?

I know you don't wish upper Obsidian management to see another dime but there is an awful lot of collateral damage to the Anthony Davis' of the company. The timing of this article and the dirty laundry in the aftermath seems obvious its meant to be destructive on some level.
I would occasionally read comments saying “you were upper management” and “he must have gotten a big payout” and “he signed an NDA, got severance, etc.” and it made me realize most people didn’t know how that all shook out, so I answered it. It wasn’t a great time in my life to deal with all that bullshit with everything else going on, so when I hear something to the contrary, I correct it.

I’m not management, I got nothing, but that was ultimately a good thing for the freedom it allowed, it just took a little time to get there.

As for collateral damage, I might have said this before I don’t think defending Obsidian’s upper management translates into helping Obsidian employees, either financially or job security wise. Even if an employee is kicking ass at their job, they can still be yelled at, blamed, or let go for something that’s not their fault – but is often more the responsibility of the upper management that caused the issue (fighting with publishers, money problems, etc.). Hell, an employee may not even been aware they’ve been earmarked for being let go months before it happens (that’s hardly something that happens solely in the games industry, though).

It is symptomatic of some of these issues that Obsidian rarely can work with the same publisher twice, even if they’d like to – a number of publishers don’t want to deal with Obsidian’s upper management twice in a row. I do think this means that Obsidian’s increasing efforts to work to publishing things on their own is a good thing – it’s one of the only ways their process is going to work in the long-term.

And I’ve said this before: I like the Obsidian devs (although I don’t know many of the new ones, obviously), I still see many and talk with them, I work and help the ones who are still there when I can and the ones who left (even working with them again), and I like the games. If Obsidian does well, however, that often doesn’t trickle down to the employees. If I support bad management practices, I don’t think that helps anyone there.

I do think that if the issues are raised, there is a hope that management will course correct in the hopes to prove to everyone they aren’t like that in an effort to defend themselves – and by doing so, would be good for the employees overall.

That said, the performance and reception of a good game will help employees (esp. reputation and resume building), but that’s not the issue here – my issue is the management. I think they are disorganized and cause a lot of problems, and they are not responsible for what makes the company’s games good - in fact, they arguably do a number of things to damage the process (while I'm skeptical of Glassdoor reviews, I am less skeptical about the common points among all of them).

(Myself included, I’m not blameless – I’ve never claimed to be a good manager, and I wasn’t even a manager at Obsidian unless I took on a specific design role.)
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May 4th, 2018, 09:44
And some more damning info (very damning):
Chris Avellone said:
To give a little more detail on the financial issues raised shortly before (and then after) the departure:

Note the financial issues were only part of the discussion points, and we did continue to debate them after the departure. They amounted to:

- I asked about making the company’s finances more transparent, since those were often a mystery. This lack of clarity also interfered with the review process (in short, you can’t do reviews and give raises until finances are in order, and we always got held up on that as part of the process, sometimes for months, even if reviews had been written – this is apparently still the case).

- Feargus as CFO had total control over this part of the process. Unfortunately, it was hard to see behind the curtain, and that curtain was not only Feargus himself, but HR and also a number of long-time friends who worked offsite. I have never felt Feargus to be good with money and budgeting, and we had much different approaches on how to save, spend, and what amounted to raises and equal pay for employees. Our usual lack of funds ended up causing a lot of problems with publishers because we were very, very dependent on their payments, so we had little or no leverage or breathing room if disagreements arose - if we had funds in the bank, there's a number of things we could have handled differently.

- The problem is when we did have a lot of money in the bank, Feargus tended to spend it freely and rarely checked with other owners before doing so. Worse, when we had little in the bank, you learned to avoid him, as he’d interpret the depletion in funds as somehow a failing on your part (even if you weren’t being paid for months at a time, or worse, if you’d given the company loans to make payroll).

- Strangely, this particular point is likely one of the big triggers for the de-ownering: I asked why family members who didn’t work at the studio were doing on our payroll – notably, Feargus’s wife (other employees have spotted this as well and brought it up to me after I left since they saw her on spreadsheets, so either it didn’t get fixed or is still the norm). To be fair, I don’t know if she’s still on payroll or not as of today, but even for a while after my departure, she was still employed by the studio, and while she was, I had no idea what she was doing for us.

- I asked why the Fair Market Value of the company hadn’t been adjusted in 10 years (it was still sitting around what the company’s initial value was, which was almost nothing). It turned out none of the procedures for voting on this had ever taken place according to the company’s own bylaws. So I asked we resume our own procedure and vote on having it evaluated – which was ignored, then interrupted by being de-ownered before the shares could be re-evaluated (which was also good business, but again, poor ethics). I don’t know if not doing a FMV evaluation is legal or not, but guessing it is.

Any of these could have been a trigger for de-ownering, even the last one, but there were other issues brought up as well (non-financial) that continued to be discussed before or after I was no longer an employee. These weren’t resolved.

For the record, I would have been far more comfortable if the finances were managed by someone else, including any other owner (and despite my other feelings about the owners and their organization/communication, I would trust any of them more than Feargus with finances because at least they understood the basic principles of how to maintain a positive cashflow).

As an added benefit, you’d also remove a good deal of any potential defensiveness by having it managed by a neutral party when inquiring about it - hopefully. That may be naive, but I'd like to think so.

As another benefit, removing this aspect of his job would have been one less thing to distract Feargus, since he was already overseeing and doing too much that arguably he shouldn’t be doing, and he couldn’t keep track (or remember) the tasks he was asking for anyway. This was certainly the case in dealings after the departure, which made the problems more apparent. This may have changed since – any of this may have, but they were issues at the time.

Anyway, this wasn’t all the issues brought up, but it’s a good chunk of the financial issues that were causing problems overall.
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May 4th, 2018, 10:33
This is nuts.
I'm now following the main codex thread, and as posted above, Avellone is still posting about this, in the middle of the night, answering questions.

Chris Avellone is rapidly becoming the Edward Snowden of the rpg industry.
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May 4th, 2018, 10:35
Originally Posted by Arkadia7 View Post
Chris Avellone is rapidly becoming the Edward Snowden of the rpg industry.
So he'll soon be inXile?
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May 4th, 2018, 10:43
Originally Posted by Arkadia7 View Post
It seems that Obsidian has been underpaying their people, and doing shady things in terms of business practices. Do I care about this? Not really. I said the same thing about similar reports coming out of Witcher developer CD Red re:mistreatment of employees. As a customer, for me the end product is what I really care about, and not much else. Call me a mercenary or a cold hearted capitalist/consumer, but there it is. (and let's be fair, nobody working at Obsidian is working in slavery-like conditions, they are working in a first world luxury wealth bubble, to be blunt)
Well said and I agree as the end product is all that matters to the consumer. As I and probably most gamer's not on the Codex don't care about his working conditions.

Bottom line the end product only matters and publisher's/developer's know that. Now bring on POE 2 this month, and I await their announcement of the next RPG.

Link - https://www.pcgamesn.com/obsidian-rpg-take-two
Originally Posted by Arkadia7 View Post
This is nuts.
I'm now following the main codex thread, and as posted above, Avellone is still posting about this, in the middle of the night, answering questions.

Chris Avellone is rapidly becoming the Edward Snowden of the rpg industry.
So he'll flee the country next to avoid criminal charges.
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May 4th, 2018, 10:49
Originally Posted by Morrandir View Post
So he'll soon be inXile?
I see what you did there… very well done.
You hit multiple dimensions with that one.
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May 4th, 2018, 11:10
I'm hoping he hasn't gone full Peter Finch.

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May 4th, 2018, 11:52
Originally Posted by Drithius View Post
It's ok to leave your place of work and seek greener pastures. Not so much to piss in the face of your former coworkers simply because there's no contract barring you from doing so.
I haven't seen him "piss in the face of […] former coworkers".
Chris was a co-owner. From the viewpoint of a normal developer this means he was perceived as an employer, not an employee. Of course his exact legal status at that time is unknown to us, because we don't know the paperwork.
He wrote a lot of harsh things about "the upper management", read: the other co-owners. His words regarding the normal developers were either friendly or more carefully chosen.
I don't see why he shouldn't talk about the happenings at his old company. If what he says is true - the others, especially the CEO, pushed him out, tried to exploit his situation and didn't pay him anything for his share - then he doesn't owe them loyalty any more. Again, he wasn't employed, he owned a part of the shop. That's an important difference IMHO.
The company could have ensured his silence with an NDA in exchange for paying off his shares. It seems this was being negotiated but no agreement has been reached. So far Obsidian didn't react. We'll see if they issue a statement or sue MCA and risk a trial. Especially the stuff about Paradox looked rather risky to me. Making such claims without being able to prove them can get quite expensive.
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May 4th, 2018, 12:00
Seeing the other post about the problems during and after his de-ownering, I think it was a huge mistake to negotiate on his own. He should have lawyered up and let an uninvolved pro take his side.
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May 4th, 2018, 12:53
Based on what we heard so far, it certainly doesn't look good for Obsidian. On the other hand, we're still missing the other half of the story, so I reserve my final judgment for when we eventually hear it.

It is however quite an entertaining chain of events. MCA certainly isn't pulling punches.
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May 4th, 2018, 12:53
Anyone willing to summarise this 100 post thread for me?


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May 4th, 2018, 12:53
Originally Posted by Arkadia7 View Post
I see what you did there… very well done.
You hit multiple dimensions with that one.
Yeah, these are the highlights I'm having every decade or so.
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May 4th, 2018, 13:09
To be serious for a moment, I can imagine what it might be like to be in a poor state while losing your mum, and not deal with life's practical demands for a while. If he felt he was ruthlessly treated at a very weak moment, when he couldn't respond and fight his corner as he might, I can imagine why that might leave you with a desire to seek justice later.

As we've said, though, I don't see how we can pass judgement hearing only one side of a story from a nasty divorce.
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May 4th, 2018, 13:09
So many posts about gameplay. Maybe not.
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May 4th, 2018, 16:37
So much for either party taking the high road in this dispute!
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