The Decline of Obsidian?

Discussion in 'NMA News and Information' started by TorontoReign, May 6, 2018.

  1. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign No Original Thought Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    The past few days have been enlightening to say the least with what started as a Chris Avellone interview on Codex turning into a full reveal of shady business practices before he left Obsidian. It boiled over into Reddit but the mainstream gaming press has been silent thus far.

    Of course Codex being Codex it quickly devolved into discussions about Communism, but Chris has been popping in from time to time to answer questions on both Reddit and Codex.

    Read the Codex and Reddit threads for more detailed info. It's a dense read. Expect more in the days ahead.

    More juicy MCA quotes:

    When asked why the gaming press has yet to comment on this Chris responded:

    The discussions vary on different parts of the web. Some are like Arnust and think Chris is a dick for saying this stuff right before Obsidian launches their next game. Personally I say you treat somebody like a piece of shit they can say what they want when they want if asked about it and he was. I think a little transparency in a fucked up video game industry is needed personally. I'm sure if people still want to buy whatever generic fantasy crap Obsidian is putting out next they will.

    The whole ordeal can be read (minus the shitposting) right here at this handy dandy Codex Google Doc.
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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  2. Arnust

    Arnust Maybe you've seen it, maybe, in a dream...

    Feb 2, 2016
    Some of my thoughts:

    - He has some nerve to have waited all three years since his departure just to drop the bomb just before their biggest project yet as an independent studio, yet pretend to wish the best for them and call Darren a selfish coward. If he really was sincere in his claims I don't see why he's not in his intentions.

    - Kind of weird to be allegedly SO terrible with budgeting and time management in the last years despite those years also containing their most polished and round releases of all their collective career without significant overtime or crunch. All accompanied by the studio increasing in personnel, offices and general reputation, enough to have another AAA developer take interest in them again. Hmm...

    - Pulling under the rug back to over a decade, previous studios and work dynamics? See the first point. More over, if the idea was to actually fuck them over on verge of a game, couldn't it have been for time of Tyranny's release? "Maybe" it had something to do with him having worked on it...

    - All of this pretty much solidifies my idea on MCA's general attitude as of today. There's a reason why he how freelances into every bullshit he's asked if no matter how little he actually does, sometimes even "working" for free (that comment of "I've got more money than obsidian" rubbed me the wrong way), while also participating in pretty much any podcast (even ours), and why he doesn't commit to any meaningfully long projects. He's a rockstar writer. Office writing of thousands of fluff lines isn't gonna cut it. It's why you can tell from miles away what his contribution to the aforementioned games actually is just thanks to how obvious it'll be. Just you try thinking of another famous RPG (or just game) writer in a short time and you'll see it's a way less glamorous profession than he'd like. It only makes sense then for that attitude to cause significant friction with management and studio leads, all that drama only getting his name on people's mouths again. I definitively can see some claims having a foundation in truth but for the most of it it feels like a jealous girlfriend burning all your clothes.

    - Also, even news outlets are keeping relatively quiet waiting for it to clear out. Furthermore, I feel something's up with acting out and opening Pandora's box on some Internet forum instead of having an official article or announcement, neither showing face for none of this. It's not like he has nothing to fear not having signed ANY NDA's and the self claimed little fortune.

    Bonus: That must had been the easiest de-ownering ever. And I'm not even to go on the claim of sexual harassment. Again, even if this all is true it boils down to being them vs. him, not particularly spread employee abuse and bad practices. It's gonna be pretty annoying to have people really act on this while the CDPR drama was WAY more grave and founded yet it went pretty under the radar besides adding some worry about Cyberpunk.
    Last edited: May 6, 2018
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  3. Black Angel

    Black Angel Grand Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus

    Mar 21, 2016
    That's because 3 years ago he's not ready and not prepared. He was at the lowest of low point of his life, with family issues (prominently his mother currently fighting cancer at the time) and literally left the company with no (!) dime or compensation at all.

    Having said that, he's dropping these bombs with no malicious intent toward the devs at all, he wasn't even doing this to ruin the developers at all but the upper management, for obvious reasons:
    1. If he really wanted to fuck with Obsidian Upper Management™ (and he's made it clear that he DO want to fuck with them), now of all time, he could have did it by not posting on a niche forum that discuss a niche genre, and instead, making the right phone calls to the right people (or get interviewed by game journalists of mainstream gaming media outlets, like IGN for example).
    2. I don't know how big Versus Evil is compared to Paradox, but I think we can safely assume they've shelled out bucks big enough to buy positive review from mainstream gaming media outlets, so I doubt any of them would publish or even make articles based on some allegations made in a niche forum considering the timing.
    3. Based on the reputations they've build and the new audiences they gained by way of PoE1 + DLCs and Tyranny, it's safe to say PoE2's launch condition would be mostly secure for a company as big as Obsidian Entertainment of this present time.

    So, based on 3 points above, aside from the lost of potential sales and/or cancelled preorders from people who's well aware of Obsidian's track record and/or Avellones fanboys (that is, if this whole thing get to them at all)... yeah, PoE2's launch would most probably secure for the moment.

    "without significant overtime or crunch."? Source?

    Also, all those new personnel, at the cost of talented personnel like George Ziets, Travis Scout, John Gonzales, obviously Avellone himself, with the most recent departure being Eric Fernstermaker (and it's hinted by Avellone there would be someone new who's gonna leave after PoE2's launch), and who knows who else have been driven away because of all the mismanagement.

    I haven't played any of the new games that have MCA involved in it, but I will ask: How's Prey to you? I remember you liking it. How's MCA's work in it, at least for you?

    Also, if you've been following his updates on the whole subject, you will know he have many new projects where he's much more involved but can't comment on for the time being. One of the more prominent from the look of it is he's working with Ken Levine and the folks at Ghost Story Games (formerly Irrational Games) on a project and that's the only thing he can say about it for now. He also mentioned how, after his departure, he's got calls from many other companies and how from the projects that he's done working on after his departure from Obsidian, he got offered another work opportunity by the exact same companies (which probably falls under the category of 'can't comment for the time being' because of lack of elaboration).

    Dude, did you even pay attention to what he's been saying so far about the upper management? So far, any counter commentary from Eric Fernstermaker and Anthony Davis didn't actually address any of MCA's statement, and instead came out as an attempt at preventing bridge-burning and damage control. Read up MCA's posts about his contribution to the company; how he wanted to set clear expectations from people who's placed at certain position, clear hierarchies, clear communications, etc etc. and how Feargus just throw it all out of the window, after having that process going on after 8 years. Not to mention the upper management trying to use MCA's mother currently fighting cancer to force him signing an agreement where he might not get to work on RPGs ever again...

    Of course, we can't really point fingers here, and we can only wait until probably after Deadfire's launch to see Obsidian's reaction to the whole thing (or if when MCA bring this matter to the court), but to dismiss that, "It only makes sense then for that attitude to cause significant friction with management and studio leads," means you haven't really paying attention to Obsidian's track record from ever since the company was established all the way to MCA's last moment in the company.

    Exactly. MCA knows what he's doing, hence why he's bringing it up in the Codex and Reddit, not just because it's only the Codex who's been asking question, but also because no one would really take some forum posts seriously. This is also the obvious signs that he's, indeed, cared and wished all the best for the developers at Obsidian Entertainment, but not the Upper Management™.

    Because it was a really shitty deal, and MCA was still a relatively young man back then making contract with a guy who already have an experience of running (from what I remember) one company (Black Isle Studio). I wouldn't dismiss it as 'easiest de-ownering ever' however, since from what MCA said it's actually pretty elaborate process (from not updating the Fair Market Value, to other owners increasing the amount of shares to the point where MCA's own are literally worthless and can be bought out by the other owners).

    Also, MCA haven't made any claim of sexual harassment. It was actually a jape made by one of the Codexers because MCA talked about his horrible experience with HR, and the only one experience that's known to the public is that of Obsidian's, and Obsidian's HR is a female who happened to be Chris Parker's (one of Obsidian's founder and owner) wife, Tina Parker. The whole thing is taken as an actual claim of sexual harassment by some people, however, because Infinitron responded to a question on Obsidian forum asking about who Obsidian's HR with a link to Tina Parker's bio 'as if it is a fact'.

    As for my own personal thought to the whole subject: if even half of what MCA said is true, then I'm utterly disgusted at Obsidian's upper management, especially Feargus Urquhart. The whole thing has been an eye-opener for me, too, because I was thinking about beginning a start-up business with some of my closest friends, and we even had few meetings to discuss it, but now I think I want to back down from the joint start-up and try to do it myself, because I don't want to ruin my friendship if I happen to be a shitty business partner.
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  4. Risewild

    Risewild Venerable Relic of the Wastes
    Modder Orderite

    Jun 14, 2014
    I don't doubt these things are true at all. I have been bashing Obsidian's leadership for years now (I am pretty sure I have several posts here where I say that I believe Obsidian's leadership sucks at managing their business contracts, managing their finances and managing their relationship with publishers). I like many Obsidian's games, but I have noticed all of these problems quite a while ago.

    All the signs that made me think this for many years now seem to confirm what MCA is saying. Obsidian's almost went bankrupt several times, Obsidian changes publishers with each new game (once and I would think it might have been the publisher, but the last games have almost all being released by different publishers, and no publisher that worked with Obsidian once have ever worked with them again after they left the partnership), the way Obsidian's head signs stupid contracts with no regard of the consequences (FNV Metacritic score bonus, anyone?).

    I thought they were just incompetent, what I had no idea was that it seems the leadership is not only incompetent but also rotten. That is the only surprise I got from Avellone's words.
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  5. Big No

    Big No Watch as I open and close this door

    Oct 28, 2014
    Chris actually brought up the New Vegas situation in one post.

    I'm not going to say Bethesda is innocent, they've been either too clumsy or devilish in their antics for that, but judging by this it at least seems like Obsidian had their own issues during the development cycle which helped lose them the MC score.
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  6. PlanHex

    PlanHex Legislative Senator oTO Moderator Orderite

    Nov 4, 2007
    gief link to reddit, I want moar juicy drama

    edit: nvm, found them:

    Also, protip:
    MCA's codex account is set to private so you can't view his posts directly from his profile page, but you can use the XenForo search to search all his posts in the thread if you click the search bar, pick him as the user you want to find posts for and mark the checkbox for searching only in that specific thread. Enlightening read.
    Last edited: May 6, 2018
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  7. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign No Original Thought Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005

    The Polish are onto it. I wager IGN and Kotaku in a day or two. Also, Arnust you are a piece of work.

    And more:,3329320.html

    One Codexer pointed out drama from long ago that leads me to believe much of what Chris said is true and not just jealousy due to9 Obsidian's latest shitty game.

    Last edited: May 7, 2018
  8. Jabberwok

    Jabberwok Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Jun 7, 2008
    The part mentioning VO cuts and standards just reconfirms to me why voice acting is a bad idea for RPGs. I still find it weird that even the 'classic' RPG studios like Obsidian and Larian are insisting on it.

    And Chris wasn't the only one who found it jarring. I did not like the voice acting in PoA.
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  9. ironmask

    ironmask Where'd That 6th Toe Come From?

    Mar 10, 2018
    This disappoints me, I'm a obsidian fan and I love some of their games and I was looking for Pillars of Eternity 2. But to hear how rotten their upper management is saddens me, I don't think I will buy their new game now if what Chris say is true.
  10. Cobra Commander

    Cobra Commander Water Chip? Been There, Done That

    Dec 6, 2016
    this is sad. :(
  11. 0wing

    0wing Все умрут, а я волномут

    Mar 23, 2015
    Pillars of Autism?
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  12. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign No Original Thought Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    MCA is really riled up over there. Hard to see from all the felatio going on.
  13. Kohno

    Kohno Water Chip? Been There, Done That

    Jul 30, 2009
    Wow, he seems to be letting it all out once and for all now.

    He's been posting there for hours on end.
    Last edited: May 7, 2018
  14. PlanHex

    PlanHex Legislative Senator oTO Moderator Orderite

    Nov 4, 2007
    lol 80 pages
  15. Mr Fish

    Mr Fish ...The pain of being dead...

    Sep 11, 2010
    Christ that's gonna take a long time to read...
  16. JDogindy

    JDogindy Tribal with a Baked Brain

    Feb 20, 2015
    It's not his call anymore, but I still consider Chris as the Godfather of Fallout, but taking that away from the current context, it sucks about how terrible management is and why Obsidian can't keep a consistent record for games.

    I mean, lesser studios like South Peak Games manage to survive due to deals with Deep Silver, but that requires meeting demands by the publisher, and the bosses at Obsidian rarely do this.
  17. Jabberwok

    Jabberwok Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Jun 7, 2008
    Haha, not sure where I got that from...
  18. Eumesmopo

    Eumesmopo Learned to love the bomb

    Dec 6, 2012
    And it goes all the way back to Black Isle too... I guess we now know who the culprits are for the Fallout franchise being butchered with all of those shitty spinoffs and then sold over to Bethesda, all of that as Interplay crashed and burned from all the poor management and lack of good games to sell. To think that we could have had some actually good sequels for Planescape Torment if only there weren't so many assclowns at management positions.
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  19. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Half-way Through My Half-life

    Nov 26, 2007
    That should be a bumper sticker; it applies to the whole of civilization.
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