‘I wouldn’t work with senior management’
In a recent interview with VG 24/7, Chris Avellone (co-founder and ex-creative director of Obsidian) pretty bluntly stated that “I wouldn’t work with senior management” when speaking about Obsidian. Ever since leaving the company in 2015, Avellone has been pretty vocal about the issues he took with the studio. Those problems were given a bit more clarity when Avellone was asked how he felt about the direction of the company at the Reboot Develop conference this weekend.
“I think the most important thing is just communication on all levels,” Avellone explained. “There might be two owners who might actually really know what was going on with a certain project, with a certain issue, and the others might be in the dark. And that would happen at all levels.” An example he gives is with the art director not being informed of a change to art, which creates a situation where people’s toes end up getting stepped on. Someone would radically alter a piece of art, but the art director had a specific goal in mind that is then ruined.
Nepotism is something Avellone doesn’t think highly of, either. “Even if your friend or your family member is the best at their job, bringing in someone like that causes problems. Other people will view them differently,” Avellone said. “It isn’t just about perception, either. Humans are a flawed species and we’re not always aware of our bias, so there’s a chance we could subconsciously treat a family member differently to regular staff.”
Avellone then detailed a scenario where, during layoffs, people with connections to the CEOs would often be retained on staff. “Often when there were layoffs – for Sega, for Armored Warfare, whatever it happened to be – there would always be some people that were always retained, and those would usually be in the nepotism circles,” he stated. “You might even actually have a good reason for keeping that person, but that connection, that’s going to be employee favoritism, so it’s best to just remove that from the equation entirely.”
Since leaving Obsidian, Avellone has become a freelance writer for various projects (including Prey, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2), so he’s had the freedom to select which publishers and developers he works with. When questioned about Obsidian, Avellone responded, “I don’t bear them any ill will, it’s just that I don’t think their management style is healthy. However, the developers who left Obsidian, I still work with them, and the ones that are there I definitely would work again, because they’re a hardworking bunch.”
Capping everything off, Avellone was asked about his feeling on The Outer Worlds and its publisher’s decision to release exclusively on the Epic Games Store for PC. “I know for a fact that those developers on The Outer Worlds love that game…So when the Epic news came out, that is a management issue that is now ruining the perception of the product which was otherwise great. So that just sucks.” I can’t say I disagree with him on that.
“I wouldn’t work with senior management” at Obsidian ever again, says Chris Avellone [VG 24/7]