EA Louse Archive

Why Warhammer Failed

posted October 12, 2010

Hi everyone,

I would think myself to be part of some noble cause, like the original EA Spouse trying to save her husband from a hellish work environment at EA. That had a happy ending, however, with tons of publicity and a total change of overtime wages and salaries and how they are handled within the company. I do not expect a happy ending, so I’ll be personal and selfish, and this is just for me.

So just call me EA Louse.

I found out recently that I will be dismissed from Bioware Mythic during the next round of layoffs EA coming this November. I’m sick of seeing EA outsource their art and find every excuse to get rid of us and still not achieve anything. Mythic is dying, and its not us who killed him but we’re taking the fall.

But if you want to know what really went down with Warhammer, I’ll tell you right now.

First, the project leaders did not know what they were doing. Jeff Hickman was the saddest excuse for a producer I’ve seen. All he did was drink the Koolaid and suck up to the right people. He was the perfect yes-man, and this reached down to almost all managers.

My boss who will not be named, again and again would tell us that Rob Denton, one of the original owners, said we should “do this” and “do that” and we would say “omg it makes NO sense, please explain A, B, and C to him. “And then he’d come back and tell us, after we thought he had gone to talk with him,” No, Rob wants in this way. Jeff agrees, this is what we’re going to do. Understood? ” They never actually talked back to Rob. We didn’t talk back to them.

Rob said jump, our leaders said, “How high?! And on who?”

So we shut up and did what we were told, by people too afraid to tackle real problems. It is a culture of fear, especially since Mark Jacobs was fired.

Oh, he left voluntarily you say? No, he was fired, and everything placed on his shoulders by those closest to him so they could divide his salary and annual bonus. I bet Rob is enjoying that sweet new Maserati he bought after leaving the knife in his partner of 15 years.

Want to know more? Keep reading. I can keep ranting.

Rob was never there during the development of Warhammer. We always joked about when his next weekly holiday was coming. (Answer? Next week!) Mark was not available, was way too head down trying to design his own contributions or whatever. Rob always handled things. We were told NOT to speak with Mark in person, never, or else we would be explaining to Rob.

The coup began long before Warhammer, and Jacobs did not even realize it.

And yet, this is common gossip in the company, and nobody in this industry seems to get it. So get it! Rob was responsible for the entire project, then blamed Mark when things went wrong.

Ah, but could not do it alone. No, he needed Jeff Hickman, promoted from customer service to produce the Warhammer project. Wait, let me let you have that sink in. The man running customer service, on the theory that the management of a large team of CSRs qualified him to run a game development project, was put in charge of a $50 million project with no previous experience.

And he needed Eugene Evans, the man who brought you the almost non-existent marketing campaign behind Warhammer. We could not even believe how bad they fucked up the marketing campaign. There was almost none. We slaved for years, and this is how we were rewarded for it by Eugene and the people of EA? Being told that Warhammer was not “worth” a lot of money spent on it? LOL. Now he’s in charge of Bioware Mythic.

Oh yeah, and he needed Paul Barnett. You know him as the crazy British dude that appears in random videos at EA to promote his latest bullshittery. We know him as the crazy British dude who we have no idea of how he still has a job. This man was supposed to be the savior of Warhammer’s vision and design. Now all he can do is promote his strange ideas about his little secret project web Ultima game that’s been almost universally criticized by all of us and focus groups. What’s that? You didn”t know Paul loves one of those old Ultima games sooooo much he’s making a literal copy of it for Facebook? Well, the cats outta the bag. Too bad it sucks ass.

So what do they all have in common? All of them failed, badly, in Warhammer, and each of them is in a position of authority in the new company, while the rest of us are facing pink slips. How do they sleep at night? They spin aruond, blame everything on Mark, divide his old salary between them, and never speak about it again. Oh, and they fuck us little guys as well.

Almost makes me congratulate them for having the balls, but after watching them work, it’s obvious they don’t have any. They’re cowards running scared trying to hide under the wing of Bioware, now that Rob has become a general manager of EA.

And Bioware? Don’t make me laugh. They’ve spent more money making the Old Republic than James Cameron spent on Avatar. Shit you not. More than $ 300 million! Can you believe that?

And you know what they’re most proud of? This is the kicker. They are most proud of the sound. No seriously. Something like a 20Gig installation, and most of it is voiceover work. That’s the best they have. The rest of the game is a joke. EA knows it and so does George Lucas,they’re panicking , and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.

Old Republic will be one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA. Probably at the level of the Sims Online. We all know it too ……

Anyway, back to Warhammer. We shouldn’t have released when we did, everyone knows it. The game wasn’t done, but EA gave us a deadline and threatened the leaders of Mythic with pink slips. We slipped so many times, it had to go out.

We sold mor ethan a million boxes, and only had 300k subs a month later. Going down every since. It’s “stable” now, but guess what? Even Dark Age and Ultima have more subs than we have. How great is that? Games almost a decade make more money than our biggest project.

So there it is. Rewarding the incompetent. Firing the competent.

I say it anonymously so I can keep my next few paychecks coming.

So I’m a louse. A big fat EA louse.

Want some more questions answered? Ask away.


The Truth

posted October 14, 2010

Dear online news sites,

David Jaffe’s socalled “response” is a total joke compared to Jeff Preston’s. If youre going to do the fair and balanced thing then here you go. Anonymity is for cowards <- Best negative response so far.

Also. More people are speaking out. Cover this too. The Truth About IceFrog: Behind the Bullshit

Finally for all the people who have read my initial rant and wanted more there will be more. What I did was rant though and whine and bitch and moan and play the attention whore. Here is a response that needs real attention from another anonymous dev at Mythic. It is balanced and fair. Well spoken. I have highlighted important things in bold.

kno won says:

October 14, 2010 at 12:54 am

Hi everyone,

Call me insider. I’m going to spare bullshit and dive right in. First I’m ignoring SWTOR in this post. We have less than 15 people in our studio working from all departments as merely far far backup assistance for them. Trust me, we are not going to change the course of that game. Hell our studio is down to probably what? 150 people if you include in game CSRs. Anything said on it is purely conjecture IMO. Even our studio doesn’t have beta access… aside from a few >.>

Moving on. Because sadly his comments on SWTOR have detracted from the point of the topic. Warhammer online.

Reading this post is extremely conflicting for my emotions. I have been with this company well before we were aquired by EA. I was in the area on 2. Listening to Jacobs talk about how this was great for us, the doors it was opening. How it was on OUR shoulders. Hoping in my heart this endeavor would be a lucky one and turn out for the best. In a lot of ways what people from Mythic have posted previously is true regarding the buyout. EA is concerned about the money folks. They figured if we were successful all was well and best not to get involved. WE dealt with GW, we GREW because of their budget for us. I think sadly what people are missing in this is EA was not the problem haha. WE were the problem. No EA coporate execs came our way. No one MOVED to the studio from EARS as overseers. We did acquire someone from EA chicago when they dissolved years later. Only one sadly. Good guy, I digress. In the end what the employees saw was a lack of direction. We saw management being promoted beyond need. Anyone who challenged their newfound authority and “EA managment” status, debunked. You have to understand this was on all fronts in departments. Who doesn’t want their shot at promotion in a studio? EA of all places, a giant studio. They all dreamed of what was happening, it went right to their heads in most cases. So let’s get this over with.

The part about Hickman being the manager of customer service is true. Some might think talent can come from anywhere. I am one of those. You would have thought someone of his roots would have been humble to those around him. It would appear not.

It was really obvious from our persepctive that our marketing was suffering. I can’t say why, maybe we didn’t have the funds. I don’t know I wasn’t in marketing. I’m amazed with the commercials for other EA games we didn’t beg them for assistance though. I can only speculate here as well. Though I admit it was heavy on the heart to see us spend the kids college money to blur for a CGI intro and then never run a single TV ad. Hell Bethesda covered the metro signs for fallout.

This brings me to Paul. He tried to sell a game, true. He was a great face for War, and advertised well in his blogs. Why that comes into play with design choices and influence is beyond me. His newfound glory and long time standing with Hickman are prone to speculation though at work currently. They both made out really well in the end. On a seperate note, office relationships should be addressed. Especially since they work for the same game now. I’ll leave it there.

So many choices made by management leave us with bitter tastes in our mouth every day. To “them”, and I know they will read this. Remember your choices have consequences far greater than you can see. Careers, friends, loved ones and families are collateral. We were, and still can be a great studio. Some accountability is needed. Love for your employees would be a great place to start the rebuild too. Start open discussions amongst teams allowing for input. Teams NEED to be able to guide directions of working titles and no one person has all the answers. There is no I in team.

To EA corporate, your hands off approach to this company helped lead to it’s failure thus far in regards to WAR specifically. I’m not saying you needed to come crack the whip, but as a smaller studio you could have help guide us a little bit better down the roads of multi million dollar projects. It’s like the ugly divorce and no one is winning. We can come out of it with our heads high though and a bit of dignity. We forged DAOC. We helped forge some of the great mmo pvp concepts in the industry and we can return to that. **We don’t need anymore existing IP’s**. We had our own and it was something to be proud of. Come up with something new if you can’t commit to DAOC. Hell we poured/are pouring our hearts and souls into Warhammer and did the best we could. Now come talk to us, ask us what WE think went wrong and where we want to go. Let’s start again. Look at UO and DAOC now, for those of you who are fans, we have some of the best talent in those games now. Calvin and Stuart have assembled amazing teams and are still creating awesome content and ideas. Our two oldest games are our money makers. We did something right there and we need to rediscover it. EA Louse, you are obviously upset and I won’t discredit you. I personally believe you were/are an employee. I know you are entitled to your opinions and that is what you saw from your standpoint. It’s actually rather funny no one is really quite sure who you are at the studio.

Now I’ll be honest. If Warhammer were a person in the middle of a circle. And surrounding it are doors all around. My point of view is askew. I see what I see. Not what others do from other departments. I can’t speak for his art department or anyone elses. I can offer no proof in the end haha. None to support you, my difference with you either. Sadly its all speculation. It is a widely shared speculation though. I want to say who I am but I can’t… I am sorry. I can’t let this person be thought a liar however, because I do in part think he’s right. Anyone at our studio is capable of greatness. We saw people rise in our studio above what we thought or what they were originally hired and come up with great ideas and take on new positions well. We all come to work with more layoffs looming in the back of our minds. We’ve already lost so many. What we need are lines of communication open. We need inspiration and collaboration. We need to be Mythic again. I dont think of this as the end, more like a crossroads with two distinct paths.

Thank you, “insider.” That’s what these people needed to hear. Not my hate filled tirades.

EA. Save Mythic, don’t just shut it down. Save the good people and the good products.

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