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Chris Avellone: The Final Frontier

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It's not just you against a bleak world - we're out there, people like you. Don't give up just yet.

I'm going to step in to make sure I sound like a complete and utter moron. Aw well, I believe what I'm saying at least. The thing is, the battle for decency is something for the long haul. You're only as good as you do, and that means being a decent person isn't something you do one time with one person. It's not how you feel about yourself. It's a habit. It's a practice. Right now it's about midnight where I live, and so I've indulged in adult type beverages in family size quantities, so please bear with me. The thing isn't to pretend that Avellone and company are perfect. Of course they're not. The thing is to forgive them for acting like human beings. Anyhow, I can go on for quite some time preaching, for which you could justly apply your boot to my ass. Anyhow, brother, I'm pushing 50 right now and I'm one of the most idealistic people I know. Not necessarily naïve, but certainly idealistic in that I figure I can't reach a perfect world, but that doesn't mean I can't fight for one. This stuff with the Obsidian people won't mean much to most of us in the long haul, but it sure seems like it's a source of lifetime angst for them now. I remember when Obsidian split off of BIS. I wonder what their younger selves would've thought about where it all stands at this moment in time...
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Actually what I read from this is that while Chris knew that this is legal, he feels that is was not the good way to run a business. And it is not. A CFO without accounting or financial qualifications? Family members on a payroll just because? I know there are companies like this out there, but it is still not a good way to run a business.

 

Where does it say that he lacks accounting and financial qualifications? Chris repeatedly mentioned that curtain, which I interpret as he doesn't know much at all about that.

As for Feargus's wife, who's to say she didn't do some consultative work for the firm? Once again, the curtain. Chris doesn't know, but rather he frowns on the little he knew, just like lots of folks in this thread, and probably in those Codex threads as well.

Edited by IndiraLightfoot
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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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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 bull**** 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.)

Understanding the evil Avellone.

 

 

 

 

 

Actually what I read from this is that while Chris knew that this is legal, he feels that is was not the good way to run a business. And it is not. A CFO without accounting or financial qualifications? Family members on a payroll just because? I know there are companies like this out there, but it is still not a good way to run a business.

 

Where does it say that he lacks accounting and financial qualifications? Chris repeatedly mentioned that curtain, which I interpret as he doesn't know much at all about that.

Should I link Feargus' Linkdin profile (which he did himself) or you can find it yourself? He doesn't list any education regarding financies or accounting.

Edited by Zack Fair
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J_C from Codexia

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Actually what I read from this is that while Chris knew that this is legal, he feels that is was not the good way to run a business. And it is not. A CFO without accounting or financial qualifications? Family members on a payroll just because? I know there are companies like this out there, but it is still not a good way to run a business.

 

Where does it say that he lacks accounting and financial qualifications? Chris repeatedly mentioned that curtain, which I interpret as he doesn't know much at all about that.

As for Feargus's wife, who's to say she didn't do some consultative work for the firm? Once again, the curtain. Chris doesn't know, but rather he frowns on the little he knew, just like lots of folks in this thread, and probably in those Codex threads as well.

 

ITT:

 

"Chris was an owner and part of management, so he was part of the problem!"

 

also ITT:

 

"Chris doesn't really know anything by his own admission, so his expressed concerns are not based on fact!"

 

If we could at least get our speculation to be internally consistent, that would be great.

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- When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.

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Actually what I read from this is that while Chris knew that this is legal, he feels that is was not the good way to run a business. And it is not. A CFO without accounting or financial qualifications? Family members on a payroll just because? I know there are companies like this out there, but it is still not a good way to run a business.

 

Where does it say that he lacks accounting and financial qualifications? Chris repeatedly mentioned that curtain, which I interpret as he doesn't know much at all about that.

As for Feargus's wife, who's to say she didn't do some consultative work for the firm? Once again, the curtain. Chris doesn't know, but rather he frowns on the little he knew, just like lots of folks in this thread, and probably in those Codex threads as well.

 

ITT:

 

"Chris was an owner and part of management, so he was part of the problem!"

 

also ITT:

 

"Chris doesn't really know anything by his own admission, so his expressed concerns are not based on fact!"

 

If we could at least get our speculation to be internally consistent, that would be great.

 

 

 

Agreed, but most weirdly, my edited version of your quote here below is telling in spades about how untenable and weak Chris' side of the story is right now: 

 

 

 

 

 

ITT:

 

"I was an owner and part of management, so I was part of the problem!"

 

also ITT:

 

"I don't really know anything, so my expressed concerns are not based on fact!"

 

 

 

Edited by IndiraLightfoot

*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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also ITT:

 

"I don't really know anything, so my expressed concerns are not based on fact!"

 

 

 

 

I'm browsing his comments, but I can't find this quote from MCA. Did he really say that?


J_C from Codexia

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also ITT:

 

"I don't really know anything, so my expressed concerns are not based on fact!"

 

 

 

 

I'm browsing his comments, but I can't find this quote from MCA. Did he really say that?

 

He sure did, repeatedly. See for instance his mentioning of "the curtain".

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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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I've struggled for years trying to get the things I've written finished, let alone published. I always looked at that as the battle, the hill I needed to climb. Logging into all of this, when I really came on to do was generate my Deadfire key . . . it left me feeling sad and empty. Sad because I don't like the idea of people that have worked on things I've enjoyed, for years, being at each others throat's for reasons good or ill. I don't want people to mistreat others, be it focused or by neglect. Life's a challenge all on its own, without complicating things further for one another.

 

Empty . . . because it made me realize the battle doesn't end. If one day I do get what I've worked on, so hard and long, out there, into the wild, it can just be stepped on through neglect or direct ill intent. The battle doesn't end. If something can go so wrong for a writer whose talents I've a great of respect for, whose known and lauded, what hope is there for a nobody like me, or any other world be talents out there?

I'm not sure if it will make you feel better, but please know - remember - that you are not alone in feeling like this. The inability to understand why people would hurt other people over inconsequential things is a question that haunts me in my waking hours, and a major reason why I've been on medication for the past ten years. It's also why I avoid these grand conversations of social order or politics like a plague. The existence of the internet sure doesn't make it any better, especially when one is forced to watch the unraveling of something seemingly as pure in concept as one's childhood heroes.

 

I don't know you, so forgive me if I am missing the mark here, but you're probably a bit like me: both very naive and very idealistic. As such, I wish I could offer you the comfort you need, and I hate myself for being bad at important words when it matters. Still, for me, it feels better knowing that there's at someone like you around.

 

It's not just you against a bleak world - we're out there, people like you, people like me. Don't give up just yet.

Definitely time for a bunch of sensitive and empathic people like us to give each other a group hug, close our browsers and then go and sit outside on the porch, in the sun, enjoying a nice chilled beverage :D.

 

Also @Grumpy, neglect and ill-intent is one thing... But please don't forget that people also work the other way around and take risks by giving a chance to people who just need a little bit of help to get where they want to go. I could actually give you some examples from my own personal life, if you'd like to hear something positive for a change.

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I think the only concrete truth to be gleaned from all this is that Chris really doesn't like Feargus. >.>

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Before it sounds like bad communication and management leads to tension and people at each other's throat.

 

Now all I can think of is "Mr Chris Avellone,if every thing you said is true, you should be talking with a lawyer about suing Obsidian's ass off on the day you leave, instead of posting on a forum years later."

Edited by jf8350143
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Go read read some decent literature, video games are not the bastion of world class writing, and he is no where near a great author.

Umm, has anyone here said that, or has this anything to do with the hand at matter? And for the record, Chris was always humble about his writing, and contrary to other "writers" in the industry, he never tried to write a novel (cough cough, Dragon Age books anyone), probably because he knows his place. The most he did is some novellas for Kickstarter games. And if you don't think that his writing is pretty good in terms of videogame writing, you don't know what are you talking about. So thank for your insight, it meant a lot.
Actually, he did try to write a novel. It was one of the Wasteland 2 backer rewards. Back then they said the novel is shaping up great and it is so good that they wanted to make it bigger or something, which is why it got delayed. It hasn't been released till today if I remember right, and I'm guessing inXile hopes everyone forgot about it already.

 

Other than that, he wrote a lot for comics and pen and paper games and stuff like that. So your point of him only writing for games is simply wrong.

 

Wasn't there also a planescape book that was awful similar to all the stuff in planescape torment? Some folks claimed he took plenty inspiration from it years ago. Don't really remember the details about this, though, so might as well just have been BS.

Edited by Lexx

"only when you no-life you can exist forever, because what does not live cannot die."

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Wow, I can't believe I just spent 30 minutes reading board posts about posts on other boards about how a guy who left a SW development company didn't like his old job. The game development "industry" is certainly an odd duck that such a thing even IS a thing.

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Wasn't there also a planescape book that was awful similar to all the stuff in planescape torment? Some folks claimed he took plenty inspiration from it years ago. Don't really remember the details about this, though, so might as well just have been BS.

 

 

Pages of Pain, by Troy Denning.

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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 bull**** 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.)

Understanding the evil Avellone.

 

 

 

 

 

Actually what I read from this is that while Chris knew that this is legal, he feels that is was not the good way to run a business. And it is not. A CFO without accounting or financial qualifications? Family members on a payroll just because? I know there are companies like this out there, but it is still not a good way to run a business.

 

Where does it say that he lacks accounting and financial qualifications? Chris repeatedly mentioned that curtain, which I interpret as he doesn't know much at all about that.

Should I link Feargus' Linkdin profile (which he did himself) or you can find it yourself? He doesn't list any education regarding financies or accounting.

 

 

Formal accounting skills alone for instance don't make great CEOs. In particular in a field such video games development. A CEO of such company should be be aware of the medium and understand more than just finance or accounting. He is leading the company and can always hire experts for accounting purposes. What he can't hire are experts to say where the company should take direction.

 

I think in his critical function Urghart has more or less proved himself. Remember that he has been doing this since Black Isle days. I'd like to think that he has picked quite many skills and learned quite a lot during 20 + years as he has lead independent studio focused on rpgs.

Edited by Carados
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Hah, see those mismanagement stories I can accept easily. Last company I worked for before quitting the game industry, the CFO was the CEO's best friend from college and he was only still there because they started the company together, his daily job as "CFO" was to get coffee essentially. The CEO himself took on most financial duties but often failed in both capacities because he was too busy 3D modeling art assets, because he'd hired two dozen interns to do that but as expected, that doesn't really work. My job was animation and motion capture technician, but I ended up doing stuff like writing risk analysis documents for projects, a job that I'm wholly unqualified for. I googled how to do it. And here's the part that really blew my mind, a really high level publisher in the mobile market once said no one else had as thorough documentation as we did. The game industry is insane.

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The sky had never seemed so sky, the world had never seemed so world.

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I think the only concrete truth to be gleaned from all this is that Chris really doesn't like Feargus. >.>

Not entirely true:

 

RPG Codex said:

Chris Avellone dream scenario:

 

1) Obsidian owners resign in shame

2) Tim Cain appointed acting CEO

3) During Project Indiana's development, Obsidian acquired by Take Two Interactive

4) Chris Avellone appointed as General Manager

5) The purge begins

 

Chris said:
Based on these steps, I wouldn’t do a purge – and I also wouldn’t want some of the owners to go, either – but they would need bosses. I'd even consider working with Feargus if he had someone watching him (production-wise and accounting-wise, I wouldn't let him near finances).

 

I also wouldn’t want to be a GM, I’d want Cain (and Boyarsky) to do whatever they’d like and support them because I believe based on their track record, that would pay off in the end – for everyone, including them.

 

But, before you think I’m being overly kind, the poorly-performing nepotism hires would, yes, all be let go. They are evident even to the folks still at Obsidian, and it causes problems to this day to see some underperformers getting special treatment for no other reason than, well, "the owner knows them and drinks beer with them."

It doesn't seem to me that he hates him entirely, just some of his ways doing business.

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J_C from Codexia

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Tried to read up on all of this, skimmed a fair bit.

 

I don't really know what to make of it. I think I'd just prefer to judge Obsidian as it relates to what is relevant, that is: How good are their games (above par for RPGs thus far and one of the few I follow after losing interest in Bioware) and how malignant is their strategy when it comes to releasing? (Fine overall, some of the silly 'editions' nonsense but not microtransactions as with the Deus Ex Mankind Divided crap)

 

I don't really like getting too involved in internal Obsidian stuff. Maybe CA is telling the truth, maybe he's a jaded employee - either way, what am I supposed to do with it?

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Tried to read up on all of this, skimmed a fair bit.

 

I don't really know what to make of it. I think I'd just prefer to judge Obsidian as it relates to what is relevant, that is: How good are their games (above par for RPGs thus far and one of the few I follow after losing interest in Bioware) and how malignant is their strategy when it comes to releasing? (Fine overall, some of the silly 'editions' nonsense but not microtransactions as with the Deus Ex Mankind Divided crap)

 

I don't really like getting too involved in internal Obsidian stuff. Maybe CA is telling the truth, maybe he's a jaded employee - either way, what am I supposed to do with it?

I have to agree. While I'm leaning more to believing Chris, and I don't like the picture which is painted of Obsidian's management, in the end I won't boycott the company or something because I like their games. But I understand that someone who worked there, and who founded the company has a different perspective. I assume for Chris, it is not enough to make games which players like. Because it is an industry, and he'd rather have Obsidian's inner workings to be better. And as much as people think that his aim is to make Obsidian suffer or sunk the company, I see it more as a way to force them to change. Putting out the dirty laundry is not the best way, but I don't think he can do much more now, since he is not working there.

 

 

Anyway, some more from Chris:

 

Well, I hope that anyone reading anything I wrote would not accept it blindly. I don't preach, I do want people to question and ask and contradict. And it's fine if they don't agree, and I freely admit I've been wrong countless times.

 

As for Tim and Leonard (and Jason), I feel that the franchises they created (inc. Bloodlines) resonated with a lot of RPG gamers and shouldn't be ignored, but respected for what this accomplished. That's all I meant - and yes, there might be a large and uncomfortable upfront cost to that, but imo, it would prove itself out over time, and I would support that looking at their work history.

 

I don't think broken processes always even out at all - but I think there are performers who you should bank on based on their track record because they do things players enjoy.

Edited by Zack Fair
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J_C from Codexia

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See, I was following Chris still he said,"Well, I hope that anyone reading anything I wrote would not accept it blindly. I don't preach, I do want people to question and ask and contradict. And it's fine they don't agree, and I freely admit I've been wrong countless times."

 

I feel trolled. Well it was entertaining, can't complain I guess. 

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See, I was following Chris still he said,"Well, I hope that anyone reading anything I wrote would not accept it blindly. I don't preach, I do want people to question and ask and contradict. And it's fine they don't agree, and I freely admit I've been wrong countless times."

 

I feel trolled.

 

I don't blame you. What exactly is he hoping to accomplish, then?

 

Chris Avellone right now, probably:

 

tumblr_p3aiehsCkx1r5eua4o1_1517183723_co

Edited by Skazz
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Anyway, some more from Chris:

 

I hope that anyone reading anything I wrote would not accept it blindly. I freely admit I've been wrong countless times.

 

 

 

 Once again, these are just his view on things, and he doesn't understand all the stuff that's been going on.

I'd say he's not trolling, but whatever we should call it, he does cause Obsidian quite some harm atm, unfortunately.

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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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I missed a few pages and I'm caught up now, which led me to remind you all that the forum guidelines do prohibit namecalling and such against devs, Obsidian OR otherwise.

 

Some posts were a bit over the line. If you hate Chris or Feargus or Josh or the entire of Obsidian that's fine. But let's be civil about it, okay? Thankfully most of you are good folks. :)

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The sky had never seemed so sky, the world had never seemed so world.

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I think the 'disowning' was actually a buy out, ie. buy back his shares. Chris mentioned that these shares were not revalued since their founding, of which he said that is was commercially sound in this case, meaning they paid him relatively little. These remarks only make sense in a context of a buy out.

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Honestly, Chris Avellone is sounding more and more like Derek Smart in all of this.

Derek Smart is near deranged, Avellone isn't near that yet.


Why has elegance found so little following? Elegance has the disadvantage that hard work is needed to achieve it and a good education to appreciate it. - Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

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