Carbine Employees Trash Wildstar Dev on Career-Building Site - Update

Carbine Employees Trash Wildstar Dev on Career-Building Site - Update

WildStar Engineer 7

Carbine Studios currently holds a 2.5-star rating on Glassdoor.com, with former and current employees anonymously complaining about management problems at the Wildstar developer.

Update: We have spoken to a former Carbine Studios employee on the condition of anonymity. The employee's account didn't echo the major concerns of poor management and workplace toxicity shown in the Glassdoor reviews, but did say this about the environment: "When you have key people who leave, it leaves a void." In August of this year, Carbine's President stepped down for health and family reasons, and "when a studio head leaves... commitment and passion leave with it."

In regards to recent layoffs, the employee acknowledged that "workforce reduction" is an unfortunate but unsurprising occurrence in most industries. "Once the game goes out the door" it takes less people to maintain than it did to launch, hence the frequent layoffs in gaming. The anonymous employee enjoyed the time spent at Carbine Studios, and said "Just like any other job, these are things that happen."

Original story: Layoffs are a sad reality of any profession, but it seems they happen far too often in the video game industry. Last month, NCSoft's Carbine Studios cut 60 employees from the MMO developer, which was explained as "a restructuring of key operations within NC West." As expected, former Carbine employees are hitting job-finding websites like Glassdoor.com, the mission of which is "to help people everywhere find jobs and companies they love." It appears that some former and current Carbine employees would not define the studio as a "company they love," as its page has been flooded with negative reviews criticizing the management, toxic environment, and lack of communication, among other things.

"Seriously, management is the problem," writes an anonymous member who identifies as a current employee of more than five years. "I don't think certain individuals [in] management, after five years and ten promotions between them, can use any of our tools; yet somehow they want all these things and will go to any developer who can give them what they want (thus obliterating the production schedule and/or scheduled sprints)." Another current employee claimed that "everyone talented" was gone and left this laundry list of complaints:

-Abysmal wages, morale, and job security.
-Astonishingly inept resource allocation.
-Disregard for employee and player incentives
-Inability to put the word to the deed: deadlines routinely missed, poor quality assurance, sweatshop workplace conditions.
-Amateurish design, management, PR.
-Boys' club.

Many of the negative reviews were quick to praise their coworkers and even the MMO Wildstar, which launched in June. One of the most positive comments, a four-star review, listed the free snacks, benefits, and laid-back work environment among the pluses, but still listed management and communication as negatives.

As for the employees' advice for management? "Fire yourselves," "stop making plans to make plans," and "listen to your developers" are among the suggestions. As of this writing, 41% of reviewers would recommend Carbine Studios to a friend as a good place to work, 40% approve of its CEO, and 39% have a positive business outlook. Out of five categories that factor into a company's rating, Senior Management ranks the lowest with 2.1 out of five stars. Distribution shows two-star and one-star reviews outnumber higher rankings.

We will be reaching out to Carbine Studios and will update if and when we get a comment on these claims.

Source: Glassdoor

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Sad really. This happens all over the place. Big companies have these figure heads in place that really don't know the ends and outs of the actual positions they are managing, yet they have complete control over every move.

This is just another example of the traditional hierarchy unable to meet the needs of current and upcoming generations. It's like an unwritten rule that you have to follow this system to be respected by your fellow peers at the top, yet preferences point toward a much flatter hierarchy that removes most of those layers of management.

I'm not surprised. Sounds like a really top heavy organization, which is not all that uncommon in the game industry I feel. Though, lets be honest, can those reviews be trusted? Not entirely. Every studio lays off employees after a game launches. And MMO's tend to have a much bigger developer force than most games. I certain star rating means nothing when it comes from so few reviews. 60 laid off employees, only 18 reviews, some by people who still work there.

C'mon guys, you can do do better than some sensationalist bullshit. I know you have it in you. This isn't real industry news, it's cage rattling.

Sarah LeBoeuf:
"I don't think certain individuals [in] management, after five years and ten promotions between them, can use any of our tools; yet somehow they want all these things and will go to any developer who can give them what they want (thus obliterating the production schedule and/or scheduled sprints)."

Dr.Awkward:
This is just another example of the traditional hierarchy unable to meet the needs of current and upcoming generations. It's like an unwritten rule that you have to follow this system to be respected by your fellow peers at the top, yet preferences point toward a much flatter hierarchy that removes most of those layers of management.

To me it sounds an awful lot like the so called Peter Principle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle

Baresark:
I'm not surprised. Sounds like a really top heavy organization, which is not all that uncommon in the game industry I feel. Though, lets be honest, can those reviews be trusted? Not entirely. Every studio lays off employees after a game launches. And MMO's tend to have a much bigger developer force than most games. I certain star rating means nothing when it comes from so few reviews. 60 laid off employees, only 18 reviews, some by people who still work there.

C'mon guys, you can do do better than some sensationalist bullshit. I know you have it in you. This isn't real industry news, it's cage rattling.

I dunno, I think the backlash is pretty newsworthy by the Escapist's standards.
Besides, even if it's common, that's all the more reason to point it out.

Hmmm, well my first reaction is that it's a lot of disgruntled employees who have been laid off. But then again I was someone who was very excited about Wildstar before it launched, but kind of underwhelmed with the game itself, like a lot of MMOS. In this case however I saw a certain potential present that had been squandered by some truly terrible central ideas and concepts which I wasn't sure could be corrected without fundamentally redesigning the entire game.

My impression of Wildstar was that the problem was probably throughout the entire design team, not just at top, but also with a lot of the designers and developers. If things self destructed this way it seems to me that your probably seeing a lot of finger pointing between two sides of an equasion, both who are at fault. I'd also imagine NCsoft being a publisher doesn't help much either, as from what I've seen and heard they seem to hardly be hands off, put a lot of pressure on games, and care entirely about the results right now rather than what the problems are or solutions being worked on (or helping to enable those solutions). I've heard grumbling from failed games like "Auto Assault" and a lot of stuff being said about what happened behind the scenes with "City Of Heroes/Villains" which shut down all of a sudden, amazingly right after a content expansion (a new power set), catching a lot of people by surprise. How true this is, is something we will likely never know however.

That said my experience has shown that "flat" management structures might be popular with employees as a concept but generally do not function, the few exceptions where it has worked are greatly outweighed by the cases where it's failed. As a general rule it tends to work best when you've formed some kind of "think tank" and have high end, very smart, people in great numbers. In that case a traditional management structure wastes talent. In such cases however it can also be said there usually IS a management structure for all intents and purposes, it's just not formalized, and stepping out of line can have repercussions. One thin about "flat" management structures is also that every person out there thinks they are special, our educational system pretty much indoctrinates people this way, when really most people are not, which means that environments that work for top tier human beings do not work for the everyman as horrible as this sounds. The casinos where I worked were huge, some people might have the wrong idea about them, and operated as almost self sufficient cities, they had everything there. Indeed Foxwoods was called "The Emerald City". Over the time I worked there you saw various departments speak in favor of organizing themselves around a more "flat" style. The end result of this however actually amounted to lower production as lack of a "whip" so to speak lead to more people goofing off or doing things the company did not need done at the time (thinking they knew better than people with more information), sometimes leaving the workload on a comparative few. Such departments of course meant that security would start paying more attention to them to make sure they were working, checking breaks, etc.. it didn't happen frequently, but almost invariably attempts to experiment with things like this lead to people being walked out and a more traditional management structure re-imposed (sometimes with the department absorbed into another one), which in many cases improved whatever kind of productivity was expected.

In the industry I hear a lot of talk about how great Valve is supposed to work for, and how they have little in the way of a management structure except that Gabe is at the top (that said I'd expect a definite pecking order to be present even if not formalized). The thing is though that Valve also famously recruits a lot of top tier talent, and also gets people in by recommendation from people that are already inside based on how well they will produce in this situation. They aren't dealing with the everyman, your typical coder or programmer that finishes college and goes looking for game design. It should also be noted that Valve also doesn't produce much either, so far it's been able to bank on it's big successes through things like STEAM. Their management structure has pretty much lead to very uneven game development, a lot of pet projects that seem to go nowhere, and things like "Half Life 3" are in limbo largely because it seems like nobody at Valve actually wants to develop it, or at least not enough people to do it right, being interested in other things. That's all fine when management is content with the money they are making, can support what most would dictate "massive waste" and so on, most companies aren't like that though and expects a lot more production from it's employees than Valve does. Sure the few things they produce are great, but honestly I have a feeling if it wasn't for the virtual STEAM monopoly the Valve of today wouldn't survive.

At any rate, we'll see what happens. I'm used to snark from disgruntled game development employees, directly or indirectly. EA Louse, Rockstar Wives, etc... seems like we get something like this at least every couple of years. Not exactly the same thing, but similar enough.

As far as the Peter principle goes, yeah the idea of "The job of a manager is not to do the work of ten men, but to get ten men to do their work" is important to a healthy business. HOWEVER understand that this leads to other problems, where you might have competent managers, but ones who know little about the business themselves because they are specifically dedicated to management. What's more management tends to be rather impersonal, and truthfully that's how you wind up with a lot of these cold blooded layoffs and such. Ideally you want management that is both competent at what it does AND comes from working within that company and actually producing, however that can be very difficult. In part I think it comes from American society where as a general rule Management tends to be a very specific career track, trained for in college, and that's what people look for. As a result we wind up with not only a glut of managers (as everyone wants to lead and avoid grunt work) that contributes to the economic and employment problems, but managers who are entirely detached from the realities of the workplace for everyone else, whether they personally think otherwise of themselves or not.

I'll also say flat out that as a worker I tend to think the system that works best (not that any are perfect) is a good, old fashioned, seniority system. The idea that whomever has worked a job the longest moves up into higher positions when they open. While this can lead to incompetence as people who are not suited to lead wind up in such positions, in general it usually works out because someone who has worked for a business for years usually has a good idea of how it functions in a practical sense. Things like the so called "Peter Principle" start with the idea of merit based promotion, which sounds more appealing and empowering, especially to new employees with hopes of not staying on the bottom long. The problem is that it becomes incredibly subjective since of course management at the time decides who has merit and who does not, which of course means that whomever makes them look best winds up being promoted, and there is no guarantee of knowledge or ability that comes from having lasted at a job for years ahead of time. Merit based systems wind up giving management, as opposed to employees, far more power, and that also means management problems tend to compound much more quickly. Seniority systems wind up being a lot less subjective, as when implemented properly it takes a lot of the decision making out of upper management, everyone knows what is going to happen, and as a general rule the odds are your going to at least know the guy directing the job has done it. I've never been a big believer that "professional management" contributes much, except perhaps from the perspective of a bean counter at the top who is separated from anything but the numbers (which happens frequently). Which in many cases has the lulzworthy effect of seeing high numbers one moment, followed by a massive company crash (and lay offs) as the methods professional management used to get those numbers right then literally blew the foundation out from under a company.

Sad, I would not want to work there.

Also, recently tried Wildstar, found it very dull to begin with, very barren and unwelcoming, the interface was not very nice and the rigid wow-like movement was unpleasant and archaic for the modern age. Shame as it was all very pretty.

"We will be reaching out to Carbine Studios and will update if and when we get a response on these claims."
Okay, but why?

that game went south quite quickly

i never expected anything all that great, but damn

NuclearKangaroo:
that game went south quite quickly

i never expected anything all that great, but damn

I tried the game during its "open beta weekends" and it never grabbed me, but near the end of September they were sending out guest passes to try and get me to try the game for a week. I might have taken them up on the offer, but with the stipulation of "only one guest pass per account ever" I didn't bother. Now I wonder how long it might be before they change their minds and implement a free to play setup.

I was having a bet with myself "which goes F2P first, TESO or Wildstar?".

Wildstar is now looking to be a bit closer to that than TESO :P

Aaron Sylvester:
I was having a bet with myself "which goes F2P first, TESO or Wildstar?".

Wildstar is now looking to be a bit closer to that than TESO :P

TESO had a heavily installed fan base, and a premise a lot of people could get into. Wildstar had some good gameplay ideas but didn't polish them well enough, and simply put I think it's just too bloody silly. Potential is there, but it's debatable if they could ever fix it without re-doing huge portions of the game. The sad thing is that the failure of Wildstar will probably convince future companies of MMOs not being viable (already a trend) and move things further away from science fiction.

Truthfully I would like to see more serious, science fiction RPGs. I'd also like to see people try and do more games like "Star Trek Online" where you have both ground and space components (RPG style), which really is an idea nobody else seems to have ever wanted to touch, probably because of how much development it would take.

At any rate, yeah, I'm guessing Wildstar will go down first. I think that while TESO could make more short term money by going FTP, it has enough fanatical fans due to the branding that it can support subscriptions for quite a while before they need to worry about FTP transfusions, providing Bethesda doesn't get too greedy.

Huh. I wasn't aware there was so much Wildstar hate out there. My room mate plays it all the time and he says it's the funniest game he's ever played. I think the silliness is a point in the game's favor, really. It's a different take from what other MMOs offer.

I can't say I am shocked.

NCSoft is the only publisher I boycott, regardless of how good the games look.
Their treatment of Paragon Studios was horrible and their history has many closures.
Their account system is the worst in MMO history (even worse than FFXI).

I feel sorry for all the employees who are hurt from this, but NCSoft is the place good games go to die.

Okay some insight from a long time player, a bit of a post mortem people cry NCSoft but it was hardly them except doing what any pub would do;

I played Wildstar beta from october 2013, for the majority of the beta phases the game felt smooth, had some genuine innovation a ton of launch content with more promised - it also had some crippling bugs but beta is beta.

When they announced they'd be scrapping at least one whole beta phase and the closed beta testing started having massive gaps then they announced 'we're launching!' a lot of members of the community were worried but gave them the good faith and benefit of the doubt.

(Likely this was an NCSoft fuckup ^^)

At launch, a lot of promised content and areas were cut for 'future update' but the core systems felt okay, then the shitstorm happened.

Almost EVERY SINGLE content update was rushed out the door, massively breaking EVERY SINGLE system, bugfixes to dungeons brought even more bugs or very annoying ones just remained unfixed, the entry/gateway 20 man raid was plagued with bugs long into launch, especially their 2nd floor with bosses hard failing enough to have to wait for server reset or the last boss just being outright broken, but hey at least pvp was actually amazing because of the fluidity and fun of wildstar combat but was not without issues.

So then in a Classic Carbine turn, their pvp update: 'Sabotage' colossally BROKE pvp, did nothing to address the pvp issues that were plaguing the launch (wintrading in arena, balance issues, and item/currency gain) and all the of hardcore pvp'ers left the game - but hey, at least they fixed their pve content - yeah right.

Of course it BROKE the classes - key resource gainers bugging and not functioning, class mechanics failing mid fight - and this is not even anything to do with balance, that was completely out due to the bugs (some classes positive use of bugs were apparently the cause of their failure to balance).

So here we are october 2014 - the last proper class update and content patch was sabotage back in August - they 'fixed' the positive benefits of the classes so many are in a terrible place, the game is hugely unfun for many people and they walked, servers were ghosttowns and I would be amazed if more than 50k people total are playing, they took literally months to fix crippling mechanical bugs and merged the servers which was good leaving us with the promise that 'next patch in november!!' will fix everything.

I hate to invest so much time in a game only to quit, but all good will and faith from the playerbase of this game as evaporated for the most part and I respect those who are left are 'hardcore' enough to endure it but I doubt that is what they had in mind when they wanted to make a game for the 'hardcore' audience.

I will return in 6 months, it is a real gem with some amazing potential but ... the decisions made by the developers are just beyond ridiculous and the pressure from the publisher will not make that easier to get out of the 'death spiral' - Good riddance to the upper management, but I just bet that many of the 'good ones' that could actually fix things lost their jobs in the recent culling.

With such anonymouse reporting sites theres always two groups posting negative feedback. disgruntled employees trying to harm the company and people with legitimate complains. Sadly, its impossible to determine which side is bigger as it differs on case by case basis. Often the wording says quite a lot about the feedback and often more than the words themselves.

As far as the anonymous employee interview goes. I dont know if its the news authors doing, but it felt extremely sterile. almost like a copy of PR speech, and thus i have my doubts that may be undercover PR person. unless the news author heavily edited it.

Kajin:
Huh. I wasn't aware there was so much Wildstar hate out there. My room mate plays it all the time and he says it's the funniest game he's ever played. I think the silliness is a point in the game's favor, really. It's a different take from what other MMOs offer.

It's a pretty fun game, unless you do not care for 20 or 40 man raids and the meta-game hassle involved in organizing them. One of the first raid bosses in the progression is called the "Roster Boss" because it causes guilds to fold by losing members.

TBH, I think, like most video games, the product that was hyped and the product that was delivered are two very different things. In the case of WildStar the target demographic (elitist raiders) is the worst possible group to build a game for (IMO). As a filthy casual I really dont care if an ability procs twice instead of three times, but there were fairly serious class bugs that progression raiders had a fit about. Carbine simply couldn't fix the game fast enough for people who care about mechanics to stick around.

In short, the game alienated casual players in a number of ways from difficulty to accessibility (tedious dailies, amp drops, raid sizes) and could never possible satisfy the angry raiding 1% crowd.

Comocat:

In short, the game alienated casual players in a number of ways from difficulty to accessibility (tedious dailies, amp drops, raid sizes) and could never possible satisfy the angry raiding 1% crowd.

As one of the angry raiding 1% it was not even that, it was perfectly accessible to people with a reasonable amount of time its just there was NOTHING to do when you got there for most raiders even, they literally made bad design choices and 'balance' fixes.

Its totally development and endgame designs fault or whoever signed off on them, the game is disjointed like no team spoke to each other, this is most clear in gear drops and itemisation:

Since the start of the game the best equipment is crafted or random non dungeon drops - you can roll in as a new level 50, jump on AH buy your blues and there you go done, the attunement quest was such a ballache but ultimately when the game was new it kept people playing because dungeons are pretty fun it does not take too long (if you're engaged with your class and know how combat works) but everything you get in those dungeons is worthless.

There were loads of people playing and getting to that stage, no the 'roster boss' is people attuned, who quit because theres nothing to keep people engaged beyond that raid.

It was just freakin' boring. I have 1800, I have been in 2 separate guilds to Ohmna, I have max skills, but DID NOT want to make the leap to Datascape because the only guilds with any chance in there are the 5+ days a week guilds not because its tactically challenging but because it takes so much bloody time to raid in wildstar.

If even one person dies in a fight (due to RNG - there is lots of RNG) it causes a cascade failure and the whole group is likely to fail. This is terrible design. Not the publishers fault, a DESIGN failure - they just make bosses longer so RNG has a chance to kill someone and you basically fail, even people who understand the whole fight can wipe a lot on a boss because its so bloody long (enough for one person to die) - its a very gentle skill check, and a masochistic endurance check.

This is no longer a problem once you HAVE the gear to do the DPS but the transition from crafted to this stage is basically the 2nd lass boss of the first raid dungeon, and then the encounters are trivial until you get to DS and then the cycle starts all over again.

 

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