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Come to GDC for tips on depression-proofing your studio culture

GDC 2016 organizers a great Advocacy track talk that should offer you some guidance in how to create a more positive culture for your studio. …


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Gameloft shuts down New Zealand studio

“Around 160 people” have been laid off from the studio, the latest in a long line of closures for the mobile giant. …


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Payday Creator’s New Studio Working On Cooperative First-Person Shooter

In 2015, Payday creator and Overkill co-founder Ulf Andersson left behind the studio he helped found in 2009. Upon his departure, he founded 10 Chambers Collective, which today revealed some details about its first game.

While the title doesn’t yet have a name, Andersson suggests that it will follow Payday’s cooperative pedigree. "The best and most memorable moments in life are often ones that you share with others and we believe the same goes for gaming" Andersson says. "In our new game, cooperation will be essential as you progress through the game, the further in you get the more you have to work together."

We’ll share more details as they become available. For now, it seems like Andersson is building upon what he knows from his time working on Payday.

 

Our Take
While I’m not the biggest Payday fan, I’m always eager to see developers find new ways to bring players together. I agree with Andersson about sharing breeding memorable experiences. The question is whether 10 Chambers Collective will be trying to play in the space Destiny defined and The Division is set to join.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Partners With Elijah Wood’s Studio For VR Project

Prepare for synchronization – Ubisoft is partnering with
SpectreVision, the production company of The Lord of the Rings' film star
Elijah Wood, to make virtual reality games. The Ubisoft team involved in the
partnership includes Dean Evans, creator of the radical Far Cry 3: Blood
Dragon.

The division of Ubisoft partnering with SpectreVision, Fun
House, is responsible for smaller-in-scope titles like Child of Light and Grow
Home.

"As a longtime gamer, I'm first and foremost a fan and
admirer of Ubisoft," says Wood according to IGN's report from the Sundance
Film Festival in Utah. "So to be collaborating with them within the realm of VR is
an incredible treat!"

SpectreVision, established in 2010 by Wood and partners, uses
film, music, and now games to "tell heartfelt, character-driven stories
tackling real emotional and social issues that test the boundaries of the genre
space," according to its website.

SpectreVision CEO Lisa Whalen goes on to emphasize that
Ubisoft's position as a leading publisher and developer will help the partnership
succeed in creating new experiences in a "bold and original new format."

Creative director of Ubisoft's neon-drenched '80s action
film tribute, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Dean Evans, revealed on Twitter that he's
been involved in this collaboration between Fun House and SpectreVision. To
what degree Evans is involved is unclear. We've reached out to Ubisoft for
comment.

Ubisoft hasn't confirmed which VR platforms the collaborative games will launch for.

[Source: IGN]

Our Take
As someone who is hopeful for the future of VR, I'm happy to see a titan of industry like Ubisoft partnering with a studio like SpectreVision which appears to revel in taking risks and supporting unique projects. The big question is which VR platforms the future projects will release for: Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, or HTC Vive.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Prime 1 Studio Shows Off New Batman: Arkham Knight Bust

If you've ever dreamed of having a brooding masked man on your shelf, Prime 1 Studio has exactly what you're looking for. The new customizable Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Bust gives you the ability to swap out expressions or even opt to unmask the Batman.

Once you have the head of Batman in your possession, you can decide if you want to display him in his signature cowl with a normal or angry expression, or show off Bruce Wayne as he appears in Batman: Arkham Knight. In addition to looking great on its own, this premium bust is also compatible with a full-body statue which is sold separately.

The bust is limited to 2,000 units and is priced at $ 229. To see more photos of this bust – including what it looks like when placed into the full statue  head below for the gallery. If you're interested, you'll be able to place your order at Prime 1 Studio's website.

[Source: Prime 1 Studio on Facebook]

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Rockstar’s Leslie Benzies Departs Studio After An Extended Sabbatical

One of Rockstar’s most prominent leaders has left the company. Leslie Benzies, who was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2014 along with Rockstar founders Dan and Sam Houser, has departed after 17 years.

Benzies joined Rockstar North in 1999 when it was still DMA Design. While there, he went on to become producer beginning with Grand Theft Auto III.

He was later promoted to lead the studio, which he did through the developer’s most recent release, Grand Theft Auto V. He also had a hand in Red Dead Redemption and the Manhunt games.

Prior to his departure, Benzies was on extended sabbatical. He temporarily stepped away from the studio in September 2014 before deciding not to return.

Kotaku, which first reported the news and received confirmation from Rockstar, indicates that Aaron Garbut, art director on Grand Theft Auto V, and Rob Nelson, art director on Max Payne 3, are now leading Rockstar North in Scotland.   

[Source: Kotaku]

 

Our Take
Leslie Benzies, while not a household name, has been instrumental in the development of the Grand Theft Auto Series for more than 15 years. His departure, while not catastrophic, is a significant change at one of the most storied studios in the industry. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Diablo Creator David Brevik Steps Down As CEO Of Marvel Heroes Studio Gazillion

David Brevik, who is often credited as one of the key minds behind Blizzard’s Diablo has announced his departure from his most recent post. He recently stepped down as CEO of Marvel Heroes studio Gazillion Entertainment, a position he held since 2011.

Brevik announced the news this week in a statement on the Marvel Heroes forums.  “As CEO, I spent most of my time running the company,” he writes. “I played the game a lot, talked about the game a lot and added lots of feedback and new ideas, but that is a very different job than being a Creative Director. After doing this for several years, I really want to get back to developing games and programming. I got into this industry to make games and I miss the day-to-day creation process.”

He mentions that his next endeavor will be as part of an indie team. The company he leaves behind continues to improve its Marvel Comics-inspired, free-to-play action-RPG.

The title saw a rocky launch in 2014, but smart changes in 2015 raised its profile. The company is planning another major overhaul early this year, which will see the game renamed Marvel Heroes 2016 (after the year was appended for the first time in 2015).

The company has named Dave Dohrmann as acting CEO, with a search underway for a permanent replacement. Brevik, who founded Condor, which later became Blizzard North, will be attending GDC to present a post-mortem of the original Diablo.

We’ve reached out to Gazillion for comment. The company provided the following statement:

After six years with the company, David Brevik has moved on from CEO of Gazillion to other opportunities. David has played an integral role in the growth and success of Gazillion, most notably leading the development of the acclaimed Marvel Heroes 2015 – and we greatly appreciate his many contributions to the game and the community. 

“Creating Marvel Heroes has been a work of passion for over six years. It was my first opportunity to work on a live-service product and interact with our amazing community and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m very proud of all the work our talented team has done together,” David said. “Though the time has come for me to move on, I’m excited about the future of Marvel Heroes and look forward to what’s next from Studio Director Jeff Lind and the team.”

The Gazillion team thanks David Brevik for his vision and leadership, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

[Source: Marvel Heroes ForumsGamesBeat]

 

Our Take
One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Diablo II and Marvel Heroes are the respective studios’ desire to refresh and revise content based on feedback. Marvel Heroes may have had a challenging start, but when I played it last year, I had a blast. I look forward to hearing about what Brevik will be doing next and eagerly await his GDC post-mortem.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

[Update] Firefall Studio Red5 Finally Pays Employees After Missing Christmas Payroll

Update 2: Multiple current employees at Red5 indicate that the company did disburse payment as promised today. We are still awaiting an official comment from the studio, but did manage to reach someone there.

Yesterday, website MMORPG.com accused Red5 of spying on employees via a closed Facebook group frequented by current and former staff members. We reached out to Steven Na, marketing and business development manager, who was allegedly responsible. Na flatly denied MMORPG.com's report that he or anyone at the company had been collecting information about those discussing the matter via Facebook.

MMORPG.com has since retracted its statement. 

Update 1: Following our report this morning regarding Red5's failure to pay employees on Christmas Day for the most recent two-week period, the company held an all-staff meeting this morning. At that meeting, management confirmed that due to potential investments falling through, the company could not pay employees on time.

The company says it will try to issue payments via direct deposit on December 30. However, the promise comes with a hint that problems may continue. Red5 is considering moving employees to a monthly pay cycle starting as soon as January, though no decision has been made. In addition, the December 30 payment will only be for the two weeks owed, meaning that if the company remains on a two-week cycle, another disbursement will be due on January 8.

Payroll companies typically require an employer's account to hold enough to pay employees and handle required state and federal deductions two or more business days in advance of disbursement. If Red5 does pay employees on December 30, it could find itself in the exact same position just one week later. The company has still not responded to our requests for comment.  

Original Story:

Over the weekend, we received multiple reports that Firefall developer Red5 Studios was unable to make payroll recently. We've spoken with employees who corroborate the information and offer additional details about the studio's failure to communicate with staff as it missed the Christmas payday.

Red5 has had a hard road in its decade of operation. The company was acquired five years into its life by Chinese publisher The9, and the board of directors eventually ousted founder Mark Kern (who previously worked on World of Warcraft) in 2013.

The studio has taken a significantly more dire turn in recent days. The company suffered significant layoffs in November, and as of last week, the developer has failed to make payroll. While it is never a good sign when a company can’t pay its employees, this particular missed payday fell on Friday, December 25. 

Employees were not informed in advance of the situation, and few have even received responses from management on the matter. An email circulating via social media, which we can confirm to be accurate, was sent by Red5 management to a handful of individuals. The communication printed below confirms that there were not enough funds to make payroll.

Hi Team, I regret to inform you that Red5 currently does not have the funds necessary to meet our payroll scheduled for today Friday, December 25. Due to this, there will not be payroll paid this week. Red5 and The9, our parent company, is currently working to resolve this, during the holidays, as soon as possible. We are hopeful we'll be able to resolve this and will update the team immediately.

Red5 has not reached out to the entirety of its employee pool of approximately 80 individuals to inform them. This left many to discover that their scheduled direct deposits didn’t arrive on Christmas as anticipated. One Red5 employee, who asked to remain anonymous because he is still with the company, indicated that the studio's third-party payroll provider offers a website to track disbursements. There, employees saw a deposit amount followed by indication that the transaction was voided.

Multiple sources also indicate that the company typically issues payroll on Thursdays when bank holidays, like Christmas, fall on a Friday. The previous payroll disbursement was also anomalous. The entire company was issued paper checks instead of direct deposit, as Red5 cited a "bank error" and assured employees there was no reason for alarm. When asked about receiving a direct deposit instead of a paper check for that two-week period, employees were told that it was not an option.

This news follows confirmed layoffs in late November that occurred right after Firefall’s launch in China. At that time MMORPG.com reported that approximately 40 individuals were let go across departments, including senior staff. MMORPG indicates that a source affected by the layoffs suggested that the cuts amounted to 20 to 25 percent of staffing. Both of our sources confirm the approximate number of layoffs and the portion of total staff they represent. 

We have also been told that three more employees were laid off on December 23. We reached out to Red5 three times and gave the company more than twenty-four hours to participate in this story. As of this writing, we've received no word back.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. Other members of the industry have started a GoFundMe campaign to assist employees who suddenly found themselves without pay on Christmas. In speaking with one of our sources, we inquired about how he discovered he hadn't been paid and what it means for him.

"I'm pretty much the breadwinner," he told me when we discussed his family. "I was pretty depressed, but I was setting aside my feelings so I could at least have a good Christmas Day with my family. I was going crazy inside. This situation has possibly left me in a position where if I can't come up with something in the next three weeks, I might not have this apartment." 

 

Our Take
Red5's current problems are what we call an "open secret," as employees have been discussing the situation and comparing notes among themselves via a number of channels. Everyone knows they didn't get paid on time. They know that the company has not addressed its employees en masse.

It's tragic when a company falls on hard times, but management can avoid making it worse by letting employees know whether they are going to get paid at all. I'd love to hear that this matter is resolved tomorrow when work begins, but the pattern of the past two pay periods is alarming.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

[Update] Firefall Studio Red5 Will Try To Pay Employees On December 30

Update: Following our report this morning regarding Red5's failure to pay employees on Christmas Day for the most recent two-week period, the company held an all-staff meeting this morning. At that meeting, management confirmed that due to potential investments falling through, the company could not pay employees on time.

The company says it will try to issue payments via direct deposit on December 30. However, the promise comes with a hint that problems may continue. Red5 is considering moving employees to a monthly pay cycle starting as soon as January, though no decision has been made. In addition, the December 30 payment will only be for the two weeks owed, meaning that if the company remains on a two-week cycle, another disbursement will be due on January 8.

Payroll companies typically require an employer's account to hold enough to pay employees and handle required state and federal deductions two or more business days in advance of disbursement. If Red5 does pay employees on December 30, it could find itself in the exact same position just one week later. The company has still not responded to our requests for comment.  

Original Story:

Over the weekend, we received multiple reports that Firefall developer Red5 Studios was unable to make payroll recently. We've spoken with employees who corroborate the information and offer additional details about the studio's failure to communicate with staff as it missed the Christmas payday.

Red5 has had a hard road in its decade of operation. The company was acquired five years into its life by Chinese publisher The9, and the board of directors eventually ousted founder Mark Kern (who previously worked on World of Warcraft) in 2013.

The studio has taken a significantly more dire turn in recent days. The company suffered significant layoffs in November, and as of last week, the developer has failed to make payroll. While it is never a good sign when a company can’t pay its employees, this particular missed payday fell on Friday, December 25. 

Employees were not informed in advance of the situation, and few have even received responses from management on the matter. An email circulating via social media, which we can confirm to be accurate, was sent by Red5 management to a handful of individuals. The communication printed below confirms that there were not enough funds to make payroll.

Hi Team, I regret to inform you that Red5 currently does not have the funds necessary to meet our payroll scheduled for today Friday, December 25. Due to this, there will not be payroll paid this week. Red5 and The9, our parent company, is currently working to resolve this, during the holidays, as soon as possible. We are hopeful we'll be able to resolve this and will update the team immediately.

Red5 has not reached out to the entirety of its employee pool of approximately 80 individuals to inform them. This left many to discover that their scheduled direct deposits didn’t arrive on Christmas as anticipated. One Red5 employee, who asked to remain anonymous because he is still with the company, indicated that the studio's third-party payroll provider offers a website to track disbursements. There, employees saw a deposit amount followed by indication that the transaction was voided.

Multiple sources also indicate that the company typically issues payroll on Thursdays when bank holidays, like Christmas, fall on a Friday. The previous payroll disbursement was also anomalous. The entire company was issued paper checks instead of direct deposit, as Red5 cited a "bank error" and assured employees there was no reason for alarm. When asked about receiving a direct deposit instead of a paper check for that two-week period, employees were told that it was not an option.

This news follows confirmed layoffs in late November that occurred right after Firefall’s launch in China. At that time MMORPG.com reported that approximately 40 individuals were let go across departments, including senior staff. MMORPG indicates that a source affected by the layoffs suggested that the cuts amounted to 20 to 25 percent of staffing. Both of our sources confirm the approximate number of layoffs and the portion of total staff they represent. 

We have also been told that three more employees were laid off on December 23. We reached out to Red5 three times and gave the company more than twenty-four hours to participate in this story. As of this writing, we've received no word back.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. Other members of the industry have started a GoFundMe campaign to assist employees who suddenly found themselves without pay on Christmas. In speaking with one of our sources, we inquired about how he discovered he hadn't been paid and what it means for him.

"I'm pretty much the breadwinner," he told me when we discussed his family. "I was pretty depressed, but I was setting aside my feelings so I could at least have a good Christmas Day with my family. I was going crazy inside. This situation has possibly left me in a position where if I can't come up with something in the next three weeks, I might not have this apartment." 

 

Our Take
Red5's current problems are what we call an "open secret," as employees have been discussing the situation and comparing notes among themselves via a number of channels. Everyone knows they didn't get paid on time. They know that the company has not addressed its employees en masse.

It's tragic when a company falls on hard times, but management can avoid making it worse by letting employees know whether they are going to get paid at all. I'd love to hear that this matter is resolved tomorrow when work begins, but the pattern of the past two pay periods is alarming.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Stop using Early Access as a funding source, says Studio Wildcard co-founder

“If many games look at it that way and lots of games don’t ship or fail to come to market, this model is going to go away.” …


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