Brad McQuaid, co-founder and former CEO of Sigil Games Online, has spoken out in an interview on f13.net, covering topics ranging from Sigil’s relationship with Microsoft to his absence from the parking lot announcement of Sigil’s demise.
Central to the interview is McQuaid’s assertion that the breakdown of the Sigil-Microsoft partnership – the first public indication that not all was well with the company – was due to problems at Microsoft, not Sigil, brought about primarily by management shakeups due to Microsoft’s new focus on the Xbox 360. “The lower level people were put in charge of our project were people who didn’t have any MMO experience,” he said. “They had done Zoo Tycoon 1 and 2. We tried very hard to bring them up to speed and with open arms to show them the differences and similarities between developing an MMO and a single-player game – the scale and things like that. That just didn’t seem to work.”
As time passed, Microsoft also became more demanding with their expectations, according to McQuaid. “They wanted detailed schedules going out for months that were fairly inflexible,” he said. “The more artistic a project is, the less schedulable it is down to the long term.”
Eventually, requests for more time and money began to fall on deaf ears. While early in the development process, Microsoft was “totally cool” with Sigil’s requests for budget increases, the growing focus on the Xbox 360, coupled with the inexperience of the Zoo Tycoon management team overseeing the Vanguard development, led to a situation in which Microsoft became increasingly critical of Sigil’s practices, as well as more heavy-handed in their oversight. “More and more Microsoft people would come down to try to analyze what was going on,” he said, “where we were ‘messing up.’ What they could do to ‘help us.’ Until finally they flat-out said no.” At this point, according to McQuaid, Microsoft cut off funding completely, and demanded a firm release date of July 2006.
Sigil’s inability (or refusal) to meet this release target ultimately led to their split from Microsoft, which according to reports heralded McQuaid’s increasing absences from the office. Rumors flew fast and furious, but McQuaid claims it was simply a matter of necessary marketing, and one he wasn’t especially fond of. “The executive producer side of things is more fun than the CEO business side of things,” he said. “But it had to be done, right? So it was a bummer leaving a lot of that behind and it simply had to be done.”
The interview covers a wide range of other topics, from charges of nepotism within the company to the influence of McQuaid’s religious beliefs on his game designs, and why a fairly unknown employee like Andy Platter, rather than McQuaid himself, dropped the hammer on the Sigil staff. Near the end of the interview, he states that as CEO of the company, he takes full responsibility for its demise; a touch ironic, given that he spends the bulk of the interview up to that point laying responsibility elsewhere.
Brad McQuaid’s side of the story can be read in its entirety here.