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Chris Avellone: The Final Frontier


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Since when is specific QA work a designer's responsibility?

 

In my personal experience, QA can't test my stuff if I haven't had time to put it in.

 

 

QA is weird in the sense that good QA does a lot of good, but inexperienced QA tends to just push their job on the implementors.

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Eh, QA gets overblamed when it comes to bugs and such. QA can test stuff until they're blue in the face, but if the developers keep updating and breaking it again it's no use. Most cases of buggy games can be traced back to QA not having enough time to test and, more importantly, retest. Most game-breakers that games launch with are the result of devs implementing a feature or fixing another bug at the last second, and not leaving time to test if that didn't break something new.

 

But I feel like I oversimplified that. Let's put it differently - who decides what the core game designs are and which are expendable, come time to cut things? In my experience, it's the lead designer. With the exception of massive technical features, if the lead designer says "we have time to do this", the rest of the team generally just has to deal with it and try their best to live up to that, and usually they can't even with deadline crunch. Feature creep is a game killer.

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It is best to be careful with jumping to conclusions before Obsidian has released an official statement, but this is shocking to hear. Very disappointing to hear that a company I hold in very high regard would stoop this low. 

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Since when is specific QA work a designer's responsibility?

 

In my personal experience, QA can't test my stuff if I haven't had time to put it in.

 

We're talking separate issues here. I mean the game's state at release from a QA perspective, not content-wise, which is what contributed to Obsidian's reputation as "Bugsidian" in the early days, even before the extent of the cut content was known.

 

And by the way, I'm not sure how you figure that the planned game was "thrice" the size of what we got. The droid factory was, what, 90% done? The droid planet was ~50%. And there was another planet left on the cutting room floor before any serious work was done on it, right? The disjointed endgame was the result of cutting those two elements and the necessary plot rearrangement late in the dev cycle to get the game out the door for Christmas no matter what.

 

I don't know, looks to me like another half a year could have made for a pretty different game, while still remaining way under the original's development time. At the time there was a lot of rage directed at LucasArts over that.

Edited by 213374U
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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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Regarding KotOR II, I don't have the source on hand right now but Feargus admitted in an interview that he had gotten verbal confirmation for three more months of development time. His (massive) blunder came when he completely neglected to get the contract amended or get it in writing in any other way. Then LucasArts restructured, and the old contract was still in place, whereas Obsidian had been developing under the assumption their deadline was further away.

It was in an interview with Matt Barton. They start talking about it around 3:03:

 

I'll do it, for a turnip.

 

DnD item quality description mod (for PoE2) by peardox

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It is best to be careful with jumping to conclusions before Obsidian has released an official statement, but this is shocking to hear. Very disappointing to hear that a company I hold in very high regard would stoop this low. 

 

Life is complicated man. I hold their work in high regard and hold many of their employees in high regard. But business is business and besides we only have one half of the story. Even if Obsidian was interested in explaining themselves I am not sure we would still get enough information to know everything that was going on there.

 

I am not saying I think Chris is lying or that his experience isn't true. But we have Anthony Davis talking about his experience and I believe him as well. Because it is real life.

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I love that Obsidian probably haven't even noticed this thread on their own boards. Glad you guys can stand the filth over at the Codex and translate it for me here!

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Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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What bothers me the most here is the timing of the comments. The interview was years in the making and he didn't have a say on when it was to be released—that was up to the fine folks of the prestigious KKKodex. But he did make the decision to comment in the thread just a few days before Deadfire is released, which I find hard to reconcile with his other remarks about his feelings towards the people at Obsidian, barring management.

 

This. For all of my private fanboyism of Chris, this right here is why I ultimately find myself unable to completely sympathize with him in this commotion.

 

Since his parting with Obsidian, year after year he's been giving interviews in which he cryptically alluded to the "real reasons" behind his departure. Throughout them all, he's kept up this angle of disagreeing with management-level decisions, but ultimately retaining respect for the work of his ex-colleagues at Obsidian.

 

Putting questions of validity aside, the manner and timing he chose for his revelations makes him look anything but respectful. I'm not saying he's acting out of spite, but right now he sure comes off as someone who wants to gleefully set things on fire just so he can piddle on the ashes.

 

To me, he seems to be going for maximum hurt. So much for respect for his peers, eh?

Edited by Skazz
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Wherever the truth lies, is not for me to judge, but pulling this type of stunt, just before the flagship of the company is released is a pretty big **** move on part of Avellone, which could mean that some people might lose jobs, if this impacts the sales of the game in a meaningful way.

 

And for that very reason, I am more inclined to believe, that Obsidian, is in this case the lesser kind of evil...

Eh, I doubt anyone is going to be losing their job as a result of Avellone's comments on the Codex of all places.

I meant his comments might be reason for lost sales. We had already one person in this thread to cancel his pledge. I am wondering how many more people could do the same...

 

Even 1000 people cancelling, means about 50000 USD to be paid back. And that is basically money for 1 person contracted for 1 year...

 

 

Well, I also meant the sales.  I don't think many care that much about Avellone, or if they do, care enough to abandon the game.  People still buy games from studios where people have reported crunch or some other rough working conditions, after all.  As 213374U said this is the best window to take a shot if that is the case, I just doubt it'll hit.

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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Wherever the truth lies, is not for me to judge, but pulling this type of stunt, just before the flagship of the company is released is a pretty big **** move on part of Avellone, which could mean that some people might lose jobs, if this impacts the sales of the game in a meaningful way.

 

And for that very reason, I am more inclined to believe, that Obsidian, is in this case the lesser kind of evil...

Eh, I doubt anyone is going to be losing their job as a result of Avellone's comments on the Codex of all places.

I meant his comments might be reason for lost sales. We had already one person in this thread to cancel his pledge. I am wondering how many more people could do the same...

 

Even 1000 people cancelling, means about 50000 USD to be paid back. And that is basically money for 1 person contracted for 1 year...

 

 

Or maybe that 1 person is just one person. Or maybe that one person represents 10 percent, which is still just a handful of people. 

 

Honestly the idea that 1000 people are going to cancel over this is fairly absurd. Single digits seems a better bet.

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Since the quoting function's acting up again I'll just throw this in here, it regards Eric's posts about MCA's work on PoE's companions and having to crunch to implement them at all. That reminded me of something I read ten or so years ago.

 

Eric's statements very much echo that of PS:T's producer in an interview way, way back. He basically said both MCA and Colin McComb were, for all their creativity and skill, extremely disorganized and slow and that he repeatedly had to very liberally apply pressure (he likened it to having to apply  thumbscrews) to make sure deadlines were met, cut sublpots and generally having to reign in the feature creep.

 

He also found that experience to be so miserable that he vowed never to produce a game again (left Interplay shortly thereafter). And to this day he states that his contribution to PS:T was always downplayed because as producer on that game he simply had to be the unpopular guy who fired team members for not meeting deadlines and drop content all the time so that they could actually deliver the game in a non-crippled form because Interplay kept bugging him about keeping the release deadline.

 

Source (in German)

 

Not that it matters so much in how Obsidian dealt with MCA leaving, but Colin went on to work on Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, both games that can, I think, be generously called unfinished in their release state. Just like KOTOR II and Alpha Protocol.

 

For the longest of time I simply thought Guido was salty over not receiving enough credit for PS:T. Nowadays I'm no longer so sure about that...

 

*shrug*

Edited by majestic
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No mind to think. No will to break. No voice to cry suffering.

 

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And by the way, I'm not sure how you figure that the planned game was "thrice" the size of what we got. The droid factory was, what, 90% done? The droid planet was ~50%. And there was another planet left on the cutting room floor before any serious work was done on it, right? The disjointed endgame was the result of cutting those two elements and the necessary plot rearrangement late in the dev cycle to get the game out the door for Christmas no matter what.

Getting into this in a spoiler, since nobody wants to see me rant about how much I lament the state of KotOR II yet again.

 

 

I find the idea that the droid factory was 90% finished unlikely. It's got art assets and voice lines. There's nothing in that zone. Even the modders couldn't turn it into more than walking through some cutscenes. Besides that, I'd be hard pressed to say the zones that actually made it in the game are 90% finished.

 

Just talking art assets alone, nothing in the game has finished textures up to the standard of the original, at some point someone seems to have just given up and decided specular maps weren't worth the hassle and the lighting engine is either unused or broken in most of the game. A lot of the geometry is bugged or broken.

 

Outside of art assets there's abandoned stretches of content, placeholder encounters and itemization and the absence of a difficulty curve. But most of that content planned concerns branching story paths and character content. Even ignoring the nonexistent finale, there's still different planned fates of Telos and Atris, Czerka, unfinished or removed companions such as the Devaronian, the third acts of Dantooine and Nar Shaddaa of which fractions were implemented.

 

Even Obsidian's big selling point and the very vocal point of this game's companion design, the influence systen, doesn't work. The interface is in it and it changes some stats, but they never got time to implement the branching paths where it affected the character's fates and personalities. Bao'Dur may be 100% darkside but he'll still chew you out for kicking a puppy. The influence system, pretty much, got cut outside of a basic interface change.

 

Maybe the word thrice was an exaggeration, but I don't think the game Chris Avellone designed ever stood a chance at becoming a reality and tbh my view of him as a designer never quite recovered from that realization.

 

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I think it's fair to say though that Avellone has never given the impression of being a jerk.  The quiet guy in the corner who does his own thing and writes way too much for Durance and isn't the cool kid in the yard like Josh, yes definitely. 

 

But keep in mind he is happily employed as a freelancer at a number of shops and is generally welcomed by a huge sections of the industry on a regular basis.  He was invited back to work on Into the Breach after doing FTL.  You generally do not invite someone back a second time if you don't like them and they are jerks.

 

Meanwhile, looking at Obsidian, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have referred to their fairly poor relationship with Obsidian working on the Stick of Truth, a game that Josh and Trey pretty much gave Obsidian to make as a love gesture to the studio from what I understand, since they are huge RPG fans.  Sequel moves to Ubisoft.

 

It's easier to remain in good graces with everyone when you aren't actively working in the same building with everyone else. You are just doing your own thing and once you are done, you move on.

But once you put those same people into the same office for 10 years, things start to happen.

 

Any source for that Matt&Trey comment? I've missed that.

Ubisoft own the rights though, why would they outsource the game somewhere when they have about 50 studios of their own who can create the game.

 

Hate the living, love the dead.

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From what I gather from the comments so far, is:

 

"If Chris could have Obsidian shut down and doors closed, he would. And that wouldn't necessarily be bad as Obsidian employees would be free of the Tyranny of the studio. Seems that the game Tyranny was fitting with Chris' side of the story being brought to light"

 

That seems to be the general consensus here as well as other forums around the net whom discuss it. I don't see the thread being locked anytime soon though (maybe I'll be wrong). Nothing wrong with discussing Obsidian or Chris' vendettas against each other, it's good for competition :)

Just what do you think you're doing?! You dare to come between me and my prey? Is it a habit of yours to scurry about, getting in the way and causing bother?

 

What are you still bothering me for? I'm a Knight. I'm not interested in your childish games. I need my rest.

 

Begone! Lest I draw my nail...

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From what I've seen of the parties involved I have no trouble believing that 1. Obsidian's management is terrible at running a business and screwed over employees as a result 2. Avellone is an insufferable narcissist that's making half of this up.

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(In case anyone was wondering, non-compete clauses are not enforceable in California.)

 

.....

 

It's a lot of dumb drama going back and forth, but Chris is totally right on one aspect: It never hurts to run paperwork by a lawyer and get their take on it.

 

 

Agreed. Where he went wrong was in trying to trash his former employer in the public sphere. He is famous and may get away it if he doesn't make a habit of trashing former employers, but it is not a good idea for anyone who plans to get another job.

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This really isn't a good look for Avellone.

 

To all of the younger readers, those without a lot of real world job experience,  Avellone is giving you a tutorial on what not to do when you leave a job (unless you aren't planning on ever getting another one).

 

Unless your former employer is breaking a law, when you leave, SHUT UP.  

 

...

IDK, I feel like with things GlassDoor and Indeed that might be changing. Granted, reviews in those places are anonymous but companies will definitely loot at their culture and management if it starts to impact their image.

 

 

Sure. The important word here is anonymous. If there is a systemic problem at a company and the GlassDoor ratings consistently say that the same thing is wrong, a company will try to fix it.

 

 Also note that companies perform exit interviews. If they consistently hear from departing employees that  X is an issue, they will fix X because having a high turnover rate is expensive. Every company cares about turnover rate. 

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From what I've seen of the parties involved I have no trouble believing that 1. Obsidian's management is terrible at running a business and screwed over employees as a result 2. Avellone is an insufferable narcissist that's making half of this up.

I’d have an easier time believing 1. if Feargus didn’t go out of his way to make sure that employees got health benefits, etc when he was first spinning up the studio. That isn’t something you do if you’re just gonna turn around and look for ways to screw good people. Which is also consistent with the Anthony Davis post.

 

As for 2., I get the impression that Chris had successful experiences working on small, self-directed project teams and now believes that all studios can, and should, be run that way. In other words his understanding of team dynamics feels underdeveloped to me. The fact that he’s painting common practices (termination of healthcare benefits, non-compete contacts, etc) as some sort of personal agenda being carried out by “the man” also tells me that he doesn’t really understand the business side of his industry.

 

EDIT: I re-read your post and came away with a different take on 1. than the one I responded to above. Yes, I think Feargus lacks formal business training and is largely self-taught. I think he acknowledges that this has cost the studio in the past.

Edited by Achilles
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"Art and song are creations but so are weapons and lies"

"Our worst enemies are inventions of the mind. Pleasure. Fear. When we see them for what they are, we become unstoppable."

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Wherever the truth lies, is not for me to judge, but pulling this type of stunt, just before the flagship of the company is released is a pretty big **** move on part of Avellone, which could mean that some people might lose jobs, if this impacts the sales of the game in a meaningful way.

 

And for that very reason, I am more inclined to believe, that Obsidian, is in this case the lesser kind of evil...

Eh, I doubt anyone is going to be losing their job as a result of Avellone's comments on the Codex of all places.

I meant his comments might be reason for lost sales. We had already one person in this thread to cancel his pledge. I am wondering how many more people could do the same...

 

Even 1000 people cancelling, means about 50000 USD to be paid back. And that is basically money for 1 person contracted for 1 year...

 

 

Or maybe that 1 person is just one person. Or maybe that one person represents 10 percent, which is still just a handful of people. 

 

Honestly the idea that 1000 people are going to cancel over this is fairly absurd. Single digits seems a better bet.

Yeah, not to mention then maybe I, as someone totally in Obsidian's corner and who can't stand CA's whiny, passive-aggressive narcissism, should pull my support of 'Pathfinder: Kingmaker' because he is involved with that project? It would never even occur to me to do something like that.

 

The only think about this whole thread that blows my mind is that there actually exist people for whom something as utterly stupid and meaningless and laughable as this story evokes such a passionate emotional response in them. I choose to reserve my passionate emotional responses to stories about children being gassed to death in Syria.

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