I Hate it When Mom And Dad Fight - Chris Avellone v Obsidian



Chris Avellone is one of the best writers in games, and my Game Designer Husband, and he left Obsidian Entertainment a few years ago. Now he’s opened up about some of the stuff about why he left and man it is bad. Anyway, thought I’d share it.

edit: CW to anyone following links to the RPGCodex Forums: the RPGCodex Forums are pretty trash tbh and there’s a lot of bad shit there.

Chris Avellone comments on work culture/management at Obsidian

Whoa. Obsidian, being still one of the greatest storytellers in the industry even with the absence of Avellone, needs to get their shit together and/or someone needs to save J.E. Sawyer from that sinking ship.


There’s so many talented people who have worked there/still work there, and they have made so many games that I love that their dysfunction makes me really sad.


Could you pick a different source?

TechRaptor is a gater site that helped organize harassment campaigns.


my bad - I’d never heard of them

RPGCodex is fucked up too, but here’s the interview, which is interesting


I’m not sure anyone else is talking about it, which is strange considering that this seems like a pretty big story


It’s roughly a week old, but if you’re gonna do a good follow up you’ll have to interview a bunch of people, because a lot of Avellone’s beef is coming in the form of forum posts.


Yeah but I’d rather we just not, you know, give clicks to nazi enablers.

Looking at the Codex interview, it is thick.


Yeah people have been posting grabs of the posts on SA, I could move them over here. RPGCodex is a shithole, he’s been hangin out there for a few years and I lost a lot of respect for him over it, though he’s certainly not the only notable RPG dev to do so. Regardless there’s some stuff comin out of this that is worth paying attention to I think.

EDIT: RPGCodex is a “shithole” in the sense it’s got the political character of /pol/ but isn’t anon. You can get flaired with a star of David and blood libel. They’ve got a stock of racist emotes. “Just interested in military history,” type shit.


jesus CHRIST 


My reaction to this last week was that I was more disappointed that anyone at Obsidian would even post on that hellhole more than I was bothered by all the other shit and I most certainly was bothered by all that

Pillars Of Eternity 2: Deadfire, let's talk about it?

Yeah I made my thread on it with the hopes of getting the Waypoint crew’s attention but I’m too timid to @ anyone and figure it might get lost in the noise. I figure if they’re interested they could probably get interviews with people, better than it all bein on that site for sure.


I think it might be worth quoting/screengrabbing the key posts and sharing them here so folks don’t have to wade through that site. I’m not familiar enough with the issue to do this, but I think it would be a good idea.

A general summation/summary post would be super helpful, so maybe an enterprising poster can dovetail the two and put together the definitive post for us.

For what it’s worth, @-ing staff members is something we (as mods) discourage (since it can be very bothersome for them). If you want to bring something to the attention of staff, having a robust discussion here is one method of doing so (and forum topics have been shouted out before, particularly good & robust posts). I might encourage writing into the staff with a question to the podcast by dropping an e-mail to gaming@vice.com with the subject “QUESTION”.

I can’t guarantee it’ll go on the podcast, but these are the best channels to get in touch with staff. Sometimes some stories won’t get covered (for a whole host of reasons – time, ongoing story, legal guidance, among many other others!), of course, but you can do your part to bring it to people’s attention.


EDIT: You’ll have to blow up the images below to read the text, they’re small here but large in their own tab.

So if you follow Obsidian or just Chris Avellone closely you probably remember that when he left a few years back, it did not seem to be on good terms. Or at least, the language both Avellone and official Obsidian comments on his leaving were…terse, certainly for someone who’d been at the studio so long, was CCO, did a ton of writing and headed up multiple projects for them. I didn’t read too much into it at the time, no way for us to know what went on there, I figured.

So not long after Chris Avellone starts posting on RPGCodex in Pillars of Eternity threads. I was familiar with the site before that but I would still drop in to read dev posts if I heard about them. RPGCodex is focused entirely around cRPGs in the vein of either Infinity Engine games, Wasteland, Avernum, Wizardry. They talk about other types of RPGs but those are the core that the site identifies with the most and what most of the shitflinging and arguing centers around. On the whole they really don’t like Pillars of Eternity, viewing it as a massive disappointment (sometimes “betrayal,” because gamer man-children,) for reasons that are not relevant to this topic. So Avellone shows up and starts at that time talking about the development of that game; he’d been on the site before talking about NV and PS:T mostly but he became a more regular presence by this point. At that point he’s talking about cut content/planned content for the companions he wrote, Durance and Grieving Mother, about how the main plot ended up like it did, details of some tensions around the kickstarter, people threatening to leave if it didn’t go live, etc. Nothing damning for the company itself, but he was clearly upset about how some things went down. This was almost two years ago by this point.

I got sick of going to RPGCodex to follow devs I liked around, which was convenient because I’d become less enamored with them for posting on cRPG /pol/, so I only ever saw stuff that got posted in between then and the most recent goings on every now and again on other forums, all of which was design notes, talking about who did what quests etc. Not harmless because the gremlins there derive a sense of legitimacy from all the devs that post/have posted there, which they are very loud about, but nothing on Obsidian’s business and firing practices.

A lot of this seems to center around the practices of the Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart. Here it’s said that he was dodging paying money they owed to employees who had given up paychecks to keep the studio afloat and that it took another owner to talk him into it.

Some of this stuff gets into very personal territory that I’m not sure is kosher for the forums or not so lmk if it could cause issues. Anyhow here it talks some pretty abusive sounding practices regarding the relationship of employees lower on the rung, hours, how work was being distributed etc. as well as threatening to fire people in important positions such as Project Director if they couldn’t get the game out by a certain deadline - not illegal I don’t think, but pretty shitty regardless.

This seems to have been connected to another post regarding literal nepotism wrt family members. If what he says in this post about Feargus trying to hire on his two young children is true, that is truly bizzare and fishy.

There’s more that I’ve seen but I have work in a little bit, I may trawl through RPGCodex and get some screengrabs myself after I clock out, I’ve been taking these from the POE II forum threads on Something Awful, where I do not have an account and thus can’t reliably go back to those threads. I believe he’s been posting somewhere on Reddit too, but I’m not sure which subreddit exactly, so I’ll look into that as well. I have personally heard some pretty terrible stuff over the years about sexual harassment, pink slips after pregnancy leave, things of that nature at Obsidian from people who said they were former employees, but I can’t substantiate any of that though of course that wouldn’t be out of character for our society or the games industry.


So I just read this article and, whilst I don’t want to derail the topic away from the current goings on and into criticism of their games, I wanted to share it in the context of, say, people at Obsidian posting on shitholes like RPGCodex and having gross worldviews in general.


I appreciate that article’s willingness to not pin the blame on one person and I think it makes a very good point about the culture of Obsidian and how that has carried into games like Tyranny but also the reason I point out Tyranny specifically is that it is the first one without Chris Avellone as one of the major writers and he has long been known to be more than a bit of an edge lord

That doesn’t necessarily mean much here in regards to how the place is run, but might explain why you see pushback from some members of the staff still at obsidian


Even the Avellone games have problems with writing women. KOTOR 2 particularly has problems letting anyone in the female cast have real agency beyond wanting to bone the male exile. This generic tragic love story crap also hits one of the party members in Planescape: Torment. There’s just so much other amazing stuff in there that it doesn’t get noticed as much.

Avellone, though, strikes me more as a guy with blindspots, too busy to really bother paying attention to the culture around him. The rest of Obsidian…eh, a bit worried.


My point was Avellone is likely where a lot of that starts and that article points out that Tyranny in someways does better, with my overall point being that the reason some people at Obsidian seem to be popping up to counter some of his claims may be due to them being tired of reining him in. And with Carrie Patel being one of the lead writters on Deadfire I am optimistic about some of the direction in that regard. Though Josh Sawyer being the lead has me extremely wary of the colonialism aspect

I hope Chris continues to find work, seems like a nice enough dude on the whole who could maybe work on some of his wrotting to say the least, and Obsidian seems to a bit of a hellhole at the but it’s worth pointing out there’s likely a reason those he works with might not be as enamored with him as others are


I really can’t take Avellone’s criticisms seriously anymore because of how constant they are, the timing of them, and where they are popping up. Sawyer being so transparent about the development of Deadfire and the kickass writing staff they have for their team tells me this might be purely personal beef between Feargus and Chris.


As much as Obsidian stumbled (Honest Hearts maybe most prominently) I still think their writers, Avellone included, were/are creating things far better than what most triple A studios focusing on “story” are cranking out (Ubisoft, BioWare, Bethesda). I would put them in the top tier with like Supergiant or Arkane or something in terms of skill at world-building. I’m trying not to take this chance to talk about how much I love New Vegas but it had a bunch of LGBT characters (several of whom were companions), a mute character, several with PTSD, and I think a lot of it is handled well and made that world one I wanted to see more of across like the 300 or so hours I’ve put into it by now.

Given his history I doubt he’ll have trouble finding work. He would be a good asset to another studio, hopefully one that has diverse voices to give him some more perspective and hone his writing some more. I think it’s an understatement to say that Obsidian absolutely doesn’t sound like the place to be right now, I hope their staff in general finds a less hostile place to bring their talents as well.