Chris Avellone, who served as co-writer during the development of the recently announced Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, is critical of leadership at Obsidian Entertainment, the studio he helped co-found over a decade ago.
At Reboot Develop, Avellone made it known that while he still admires the company he bluntly stated that “I wouldn’t work with senior management ever again.” While at Obsidian, Avellone had creative leadership roles on games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords, Alpha Protocol and Fallout: New Vegas, but left in 2015.
So there’s a few things,” Avellone explained to VG247. “I think the most important thing is just communication on all levels, because what was really strange is that – even amongst the owner’s circle – 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 Avellone gave was when the art director is not informed of a change to art, which can create a situation where they are unable to inform other team members where problems with the art they are working with are coming from. The art director may have had designs over the direction that assets were going, but now it is ruined by a lack of communication.
Avellone also cited nepotism and favoritism as issues. "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," he 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."
He mentioned that during layoffs, people with personal connections to executive leadership would always be retained and conceded that while there may be good reasons to keep a person, it is best to just remove employee favoritism from the equation.
Since his departure from Obsidian, Avellone has been operating in high demand as a freelancer. He’s contributed to games like Prey, Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Into the Breach. In addition to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Avellone’s name will be attached to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, Dying Light 2 and the System Shock remake.
Avellone ultimately said of his former studio, “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.”
Obsidian Entertainment was recently acquired by Xbox Game Studios. Shortly after, the developer announced The Outer Worlds to great enthusiasm from the gaming public. It was announced recently that the Outer Worlds will be an Epic Store exclusive on PC, and Obsidian said this was a decision made by their publisher, Private Division.
Of the Epic Store exclusivity news, Avellone had this to say: “I feel bad for The Outer Worlds release because I know for a fact that those developers on The Outer Worlds love that game, I know their leads, and I’ve worked with them before. They work hard, they’re good developers. 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.”