"38 Studios Spouse" Letter Details Anger, Anguish

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"38 Studios Spouse" Letter Details Anger, Anguish

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A "38 Studios Spouse" has written a powerful letter about how the collapse of the Kingdoms of Amalur developer has turned her family's life upside down.

Back in 2004, an anonymous blogger calling herself "EA Spouse," later revealed to be Erin Hoffman, wrote a scathing inside account of life at Electronic Arts, where developers faced crazy hours with little or no overtime compensation. It caused enough of a stink to lead to significant changes at EA and other major publishers, not to mention a handful of lawsuits, and today remains a famous and inspiring example of how anger, properly channeled, can lead to positive change.

In a similar vein, a letter published today expresses outrage with the situation at 38 Studios, the Kingdoms of Amalur developer that officially declared bankruptcy last week. Written by the wife of a former employee, the "38 Studios Spouse" letter tells the tale of the studio's collapse from a ground-level perspective and explains some of the damage done to employees who were kept in the dark until the last possible moment.

The employee in question actually came to the studio fairly late in the game, moving to Rhode Island to join the operation at the end of December 2011. Things were already in disarray at that point, she wrote, but the family put its faith in "laws and safety nets" and apparently hoped for the best.

"On the 15th of May I sat down to pay bills and upon checking our bank account noticed we had not had our direct deposit made by 38 Studios. I called my husband and asked him to check on it when he got to work," the letter says. "When he came home that night he told me that he had to stay for a 5 o'clock meeting to find out they didn't make payroll. He was unhappy, but said that he was promised they were working on the problem and sure they would have it worked out by the next day."

So it went for more than a week, during which time he continued to report for work because if he quit, he'd be stuck with the cost of relocation. Finally, he was officially laid off on May 24, shortly after which another nasty surprise landed: Thanks to a "tiny print" clause in his contract, he was being stuck with the relocation costs anyway.

The Spouse is obviously disappointed with 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling, who she said "should have done better," but has far more vitriol for Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who opposed the deal prior to his election. "It is a shame that certain politicians couldn't get past the need to prove a point about being against 38 Studios and see they were harming their state in the long run," she wrote.

But ultimately, it's the shady behavior of executives at 38 Studios, presumably excluding Schilling in her estimation, that she fingers as the root cause of the trouble. "I blame a company named 38 Studios and all of their executives for moving so many families while knowing they weren't paying bills, weren't going to hit their dates, and were running out of money," she concluded.

The dissolution of 38 Studios means it won't have the long-term impact of EA Spouse, but this is still a sad and sobering looking at the damage that can be caused by poor planning, overconfidence and high-level duplicity. But maybe it'll do some good, too, even if it's only to convince a few people to pay more attention to what they're getting themselves into when they're considering similar offers in the future.

Source: Gamasutra

Permalink

That really does suck.

38 was doomed the moment they thought opening with an MMO was a good idea.

The whole debacle certainly had one positive effect in my mind. Because of this, I think other Developers are going to see that building their house on sand, so to speak, and putting all their eggs in one basket is not the viable business plan that so many in the Industry seem to think it it.
Hopefully we'll see less developers having to sell out to E.A and get shut down eventually anyway after this, people making smarter plans for getting their games out.

Mcoffey:
That really does suck.

38 was doomed the moment they thought opening with an MMO was a good idea.

Going to have to concur. Sorry the Employee's had to suffer. Hope people understand that the word "MMO" is an excuse to run away from the job interview now.

And no link to the original post/letter? :(

In the winter in the Summer
Don't we have fun
Times are bum and getting bummer
Still we have fun
There's nothing surer
The rich get rich and the poor get bills
In the meantime, between jobs time
Ain't we got fun?

My basic attitude is that there is no way to tell when this kind of thing is coming if the company is involved in information control. The only way to really deal with this would be for the goverment to force more public disclosure by companies, but people have been trying that for years and it hasn't worked.

While I feel for the family in question (losing a job sucks, especially in this economy, and in New England... as I can tell you from first hand experience), it can also be argued that you can't get blood from a stone. By all accounts 38 Studios is totally bankrupt and like most such situations it couldn't pay the employees even if it wanted to.

How responsible investors should be is a debatable point. Investors choose to put so much money into a company to gamble with. While they might have some say on overall policy, they don't manage things from day to day. The idea of an investment being that if something is going to fail, you can cut your losses. If investors could be chased down and made to pay for collateral damage beyond what they put into a company, the cost of failure would be too high and nobody would invest.

As a result I'm not really sure what "38 Studios Spouse" hopes to accomplish with her letter, especially anonymously. I don't think there is any money there to be distributed. Even without the fine print the most that could probably be done would be to auction off the actual property of the studio and split it among the workers, and typically that doesn't come close to covering their losses.

But then again I can understand how venting relieves stress.

Damn...just....damn....

I hope that those people can get through all this because that's just dirty.

Even if I could code, I don't think I would ever want to work for a game developer. It just looks like a nightmarish job to have.

"Bawww my meal ticket lost his job so now I can't go shopping baww!!!"

That about sums this "letter" up. Sickening, really.

TheMadJack:
And no link to the original post/letter? :(

The Gamasutra post has a full transcript.

She's being pretty generous to Schilling. Even if he is a moron who did stupid things because he has no buisness sense, and others at the top should have stopped him, he was still part of the problem.

Hungry Donner:
She's being pretty generous to Schilling. Even if he is a moron who did stupid things because he has no buisness sense, and others at the top should have stopped him, he was still part of the problem.

Indeed. It seems kind of odd considering that people are attributing 38's failings (as we can see in this thread) to attempting to enter the MMO market with Project Copernicus and it's highly likely that Schilling's personal love for MMOs was a major reason behind them doing so. He's probably quite culpable, actually.

itsthesheppy:
Even if I could code, I don't think I would ever want to work for a game developer. It just looks like a nightmarish job to have.

Only the bad ones. Its just a job like any other...you just gotta be careful what you get yourself into. I would never relocate without checking for company history and future plans.

Enough with the F*cking Spouse letters already.It's like these people mentally deficient and requires someone else to think for them.

Mcoffey:
That really does suck.

38 was doomed the moment they thought opening with an MMO was a good idea.

Random clicking led me to Yahtzee's Amalur review last night. Now his comments on the MMO feel seem somewhat prophetic. And incredibly uncomfortable.




Ympulse:
"Bawww my meal ticket lost his job so now I can't go shopping baww!!!"

That about sums this "letter" up. Sickening, really.

Sorry, doesn't even make my troll-o-meter twitch. Try being less obvious next time.

Therumancer:
How responsible investors should be is a debatable point. Investors choose to put so much money into a company to gamble with. While they might have some say on overall policy, they don't manage things from day to day. The idea of an investment being that if something is going to fail, you can cut your losses. If investors could be chased down and made to pay for collateral damage beyond what they put into a company, the cost of failure would be too high and nobody would invest.

This really is the new greatest lie the devil ever told.

People invested in business before incorporation because the payoff was still immense: the highest quality of life possible.

All incorporation has done is remove any semblance of personal moral accountability while socializing, to some extent, the costs of failure. It's not like the ability to "cut your losses" removes those losses from the equation. They just get put on someone else. Usually people like "Studio 38 Spouse" and her family.

But yeah, let's keep propagating the lie that we somehow need additional incentives for investment beyond the fact that it's always been the best way to make money and enjoy the good life - provided you know what the fuck you're doing. Let's protect people who do the stupid shit these executives and primary shareholders did at the expense of the families they screw.

It sucks when businesses go under, and it sucks worse when the people working there get screwed. BUT let's just take a look at what the underlying complaints are, shall we?

1) "My husband got a job at a fledgling game production company that had never made any games before, had one title that didn't do well, and it went out of business". This isn't an unusual occurrence, and while unfortunate, is by no means unexpected. They should have presumed this outcome from the beginning - the only reason to take that job is either desperation or willingness to take a risk for the chance of success.

2) "The company my husband worked for went out of business and missed its last payroll (or 2 or 3)". That's kind of the definition of going out of business and it sure as hell happens. I don't know what the "moving expenses" thing is about, but if moving expenses aren't paid up front or immediately after the move, you are likely not going to get it ever, so don't count on it.

3) "The gubmint should have bailed them out". Nah, not really - companies that make products people don't buy aren't good bets for public support, and there was no reason for Rhode Island to support 38.

So yeah, it sucks - but she's got no more reason to complain than anyone who has ever worked for a company that failed.

Mcoffey:
That really does suck.

38 was doomed the moment they thought opening with an MMO was a good idea.

Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning was an MMO?

cefm:
had one title that didn't do well

LOLwut? Kingdoms of Amalur did pretty damn well.

Amnestic:

Hungry Donner:
She's being pretty generous to Schilling. Even if he is a moron who did stupid things because he has no buisness sense, and others at the top should have stopped him, he was still part of the problem.

Indeed. It seems kind of odd considering that people are attributing 38's failings (as we can see in this thread) to attempting to enter the MMO market with Project Copernicus and it's highly likely that Schilling's personal love for MMOs was a major reason behind them doing so. He's probably quite culpable, actually.

Exactly. It's not like Schilling was just a financial backer here, he was deeply involved in the company. He may not be responsible for every wrong turn, and he may have been unaware of some of the ways 38 was about to screw over its employees, but this was still his company.

Zachary Amaranth:

Mcoffey:
That really does suck.

38 was doomed the moment they thought opening with an MMO was a good idea.

Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning was an MMO?

Originally. They couldn't get funding to make an MMO just yet so they converted Big Huge Games RPG already in development it into a Prequel for the MMO. Either way, Massively Multiplayer was always in the cards.

Feel really bad for the developers and their families who have had their lives ruined by the mismanagement of the 38 Studio execs. I hope this starts a change in the industry so employees can get better treatment, as it stands this industry is quite poor for employee protection.

Amnestic:

TheMadJack:
And no link to the original post/letter? :(

The Gamasutra post has a full transcript.

Thanks.

Did anyone else start hearing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when they read the header "A "38 Studios Spouse" has written a powerful letter about how the collapse of the Kingdoms of Amalur developer has turned her family's life upside down."

FieryTrainwreck:

Therumancer:
How responsible investors should be is a debatable point. Investors choose to put so much money into a company to gamble with. While they might have some say on overall policy, they don't manage things from day to day. The idea of an investment being that if something is going to fail, you can cut your losses. If investors could be chased down and made to pay for collateral damage beyond what they put into a company, the cost of failure would be too high and nobody would invest.

This really is the new greatest lie the devil ever told.

People invested in business before incorporation because the payoff was still immense: the highest quality of life possible.

All incorporation has done is remove any semblance of personal moral accountability while socializing, to some extent, the costs of failure. It's not like the ability to "cut your losses" removes those losses from the equation. They just get put on someone else. Usually people like "Studio 38 Spouse" and her family.

But yeah, let's keep propagating the lie that we somehow need additional incentives for investment beyond the fact that it's always been the best way to make money and enjoy the good life - provided you know what the fuck you're doing. Let's protect people who do the stupid shit these executives and primary shareholders did at the expense of the families they screw.

Well, yes and no. Your looking at it entirely from one perspective and at the problems with the system rather than the reason things are like they are.

Let's say you win the lottery, and a friend of yours approaches you to invest in a widget factory he wants to start up. It's a gamble but he thinks you can triple the money you put into the company inside of a year. Your pretty wealthy, and the guy is a friend so you figure "what the heck" and decide to put five million dollars into his company because you figure you can afford to lose that much if things don't work out. Two months after opening though you find out that The Chinese violated your friend's widget patent, secretly opened a factory a month before yours, and due to using sweatshop labour have undercut you below your minimal production costs and try as you might your business is now a bust (or pick whatever reason you want). Like all failed businesses the people the company you bankrolled hired are going to be out of a job. It sucks, but your already paying for the failure because you lost five million dollars, which you decided you could afford to gamble before you went in. To say you should be put into the poorhouse too is kind of ridiculous, and honestly would you have risked investing that money if you knew that?

Overall it's quite fair, you invest your money, you take your chances with the money you invest. The problem though is when you get operations beyond what I'm describing above. Situations like where you have investment groups of bankers who perform their investments using money that technically isn't theirs to begin with (a simplistic definiton of a bank is that you give it to them to use to invest and make money and in return they pay you interest for it's use). You wind up with executives who wind up buying companies just to polish them up and sell them for more money, or who invest in backing other groups of investors through loans and such. In such cases the guy in question might pay himself millions of dollars as a salary for his "management" out of the funds, and when things go to crap it's no big thing since it wasn't his money to begin with, and he just walks away with whatever he decided to pay himself to begin with. That's incidently how CEOS of companies managing numerous companies vote themselves pay raises, they are basically taking more money from the bank they run and personally pocketing it, with the money they are running their investments from all being the money people stored in the bank in exchange for interest.

The thing is the law has to be universal, in the eyes of the law where the money is coming from is more or less irrelevent as long as it's legal. The typical "fat cat" who wallows in the misery of others is a guy who never actually had a personal stake in what went under.

With 38 Studios from the way it looks to me, the investors, including the State Of Rhode Island, all took a bath here. It sucks for the employees, but all the people who put up money are probably reeling from it as well, granted as people who presumably invested spare money aren't in dire straights, but they still took a pretty substantial loss.

It might suck for those who were employed and lost their jobs, but being fired or laid off is always one of the risks, as is the company going belly up. It's not that I don't feel sorry for them, but in this case I don't think the State or investors like Curt Shilling really owe them much other than what might have been contracted (and of course the state has to pay unemployment and the like).

We will probably have to agree to disagree. To me this is just a sucktastic occurance that nobody wants to happen to them. Unless I find out more about how the business was run to change my mind (other than it being based around a stupid idea... making a WoW knockoff) I can't really find it in myself to get angry. I have no problem with investors as a concept. I do on the other hand have problems with bankers, and corperate investment groups. I think most of the problems occur when the people making the investments don't have a personal
stake in what's going on other than perhaps their reputation. Everyone involved here seemed to feel it, it wasn't a situation where 38 Studios got written off because it only made 10 million dollars in profits rather than 100 million, and the investors want to put everyone out of work so they can take the money slated for it and stuff it into another project they hope will be more profitable, and the people running the other business (which wasn't failing in any real sense) be damned.

The company was doomed from the start because of a two-fold problem. One, they should not have tried to start out with an MMO. That's a very dangerous prospect, even more-so for a new developer. Secondly, they had no business accepting that loan from Rhode Island. Anybody should have been able to see that taking it would have been a grave mistake.

How bout's you read you contracts before whinin'.

Ouch..

Scumbag fine print...

:(

Nicolaus99:
Did anyone else start hearing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when they read the header "A "38 Studios Spouse" has written a powerful letter about how the collapse of the Kingdoms of Amalur developer has turned her family's life upside down."

Duh da dodo do-ooh
Duh da dodo do-ooh

In Rhode Island State we moved to stay,
On an MMO was where we got all of our pay.
Coding, reloading, our computer skills
made the models which paid the bills.
When a couple of execs who were up to no good,
Refused to pay us for our livelihood,
I got laid off on a thursday with no warning,
and though I'm still owed money I won't get anything.

This, this sucks.
But maybe it will send messages for other devs to learn from.
Don't have an author write your game. They do well with an insane level of structure, but veido games don't have that same structure.
Don't have a toy maker for art design. I own several figures made by Tood MacFarlene, and they're all well and good. But, yeah. They're toys. His Jabberwock figure couldn't even be bothered to look like the Jabberwock.

And of course the other lessons about planning and budgeting.

Hero in a half shell:

Duh da dodo do-ooh
Duh da dodo do-ooh

In Rhode Island State we moved to stay,
On an MMO was where we got all of our pay.
Coding, reloading, our computer skills
made the models which paid the bills.
When a couple of execs who were up to no good,
Refused to pay us for our livelihood,
I got laid off on a thursday with no warning,
and though I'm still owed money I won't get anything.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this years winner of the internet.

Hero in a half shell:

Nicolaus99:
Did anyone else start hearing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when they read the header "A "38 Studios Spouse" has written a powerful letter about how the collapse of the Kingdoms of Amalur developer has turned her family's life upside down."

Duh da dodo do-ooh
Duh da dodo do-ooh

In Rhode Island State we moved to stay,
On an MMO was where we got all of our pay.
Coding, reloading, our computer skills
made the models which paid the bills.
When a couple of execs who were up to no good,
Refused to pay us for our livelihood,
I got laid off on a thursday with no warning,
and though I'm still owed money I won't get anything.

i love you. that made my day. it was a piece of my childhood and a true story fucked and had a kid.

chiefohara:

Ympulse:
"Bawww my meal ticket lost his job so now I can't go shopping baww!!!"

That about sums this "letter" up. Sickening, really.

go fuck yourself.

Seconded. And I really hope you don't get banned for this.

As for this letter: It's a really sad state of affairs, especially since, as a studio they did show a lot of promise.

Although I'm still waiting for the general public to blame EA for this one.

chiefohara:
go Buick yourself.

Great, now that you've fed him, he'll keep coming back.

O.T: I know that business is a cut-throat world, but watching fledgling companies go under is always a bit sad. Who knows what they could have become? Ingenious innovators or purveyors of garbage, I guess we'll never know.

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