Crowfall has transitioned from a game in it’s “launch” stage to it’s full “live” stage. This is from the week nine post-launch founder’s update :
“This update will cover the state of the Live service right now and a quick look at what’s coming next. I’ll start with some sad news, in that we lost some teammates as we shifted from launch mode to a live service operation. We’re working with all these folks in helping to identify new positions for them as quickly as possible. “ The article also mentions the new global conflict month that features a global (cross-region) and timezone dregs and shadow campaigns with improved EK and Siege performance. They also mention that the Crow Recruits buddy program has been expectedly extended to october 31st, and there will be twitch drops for qualifying Crowfall Affiliates from September 13th to the 30th (make sure to check out Ezzo on his channel twitch.tv/ezzorathtv to get some drops!)
I’ve been an affiliate for Crowfall for just over a year now, and I’ll be creeping up on a year and a quarter of playing the game (partially) full time throughout that period. I’ve had a good chance to witness lots of changes to Crowfall and I’ve worked with and seen lots of changes within Artcraft Entertainment. My thoughts are impacted by this, and information disclosed by ex-Artcraft employee “Hanseshadow” who accidentally may have shed some light on the situation from their personal anecdote. The majority of this post will discuss the lay-offs at Artcraft Entertainment and my expectations on what they mean and how they are moving forward.
What dawned upon me with these lay-offs, while reading Hanseshadow’s anecdote and diving deep into the team behind the game that has led me to dedicate thousands of hours of my life to, was that many of these employees at Artcraft were overqualified, and potentially overpaid for the work they did on Crowfall. When seeking out a team to build the core and the foundation of the game, Jtodd Coleman and Gordon Walton did a good job doing just that, and they found lots of former Ultima Online workers, perhaps past acquaintances to help them with their new exciting Product, Crowfall. However, they found some of the most overqualified (and with that, most likely overpaid) employees they could at that time. Lots of these workers at Artcraft Entertainment were not indie developers nor new to the gaming industry at all, they were already giants that had developed giant games in the past. Quote from Hanseshadow “ EA Paid me $125,000 back in 2000-2005 on average” “I got let go.” - “I’m a millionaire. I don’t give a fuck.” and these are just some of the words of ex-Artcraft employee Hanseshadow, keep in mind that this is only one employee’s opinion. Now, I may be jumping to conclusions - but if Hanseshadow was really a Millionaire, does that not mean to justify working at Artcraft entertainment, he had to be being paid at least a comfortable six digit salary? In all reality, it is not sustainable for an indie game like Crowfall to permanently employ people like Hanseshadow. Their purpose for building the Crowfall game has already been used, and their expenses to remain at the company are genuinely too high. This is what happens when you become overqualified for your workplace in any job, and they can no longer meet a justified salary for you. In Crowfall’s case, they managed to fund these salaries of giant developers from the kickstarter of the game, which the kickstarter was capable of funding.
After the soft-launch of Crowfall, and as we transition into the live stages of the game the revenue for Artcraft entertainment appears to be less than what the kickstarter provided. Again, I may be jumping to conclusions, but this just seems like a smart game-industry move for Artcraft to be making. With developers like Hanseshadow making comments after leaving the company like, “I’m a millionaire, I don’t give a fuck” - how much could we expect those same developers to be pouring the passion we want to see into the game that we pour into playing it? Perhaps this is where Artcraft made a mistake, employing such successful developers that their future products did not threaten nor impact how comfortable they are. On the upside, some other Artcraft developers left on a much more positive note, thanking the community and the game company for everything they had done for them. Quoted from Debysue Wolfcale (ex-marketing director at Artcraft) “Today is my last day at ACE. I have enjoyed working with all of you and I am excited to turn you over to the capable and experienced hands of Tiggs!... I cannot say, how much I have enjoyed working with all of you! I will be watching you and cannot wait to see the new opportunities that emerge as this part of the business continues to grow and expand in so many areas! Hopefully, our paths will cross at some point in the future! Good luck, Crows! “ Debysue is another example of a potentially very over-qualified employee. She was extremely successful for years with Bioware and Star Wars the Old Republic, continuing and helping with the foundation of Crowfall. It is not disclosed whether she was part of the lay-offs, or is leaving on her own terms, but either way we could expect that a smaller indie game company like Artcraft could not sustainable keep her around much longer alongside many other developers.
So what does this mean next? Well, my take on the situation is positive. As I mentioned, if you don’t really care about your salary at a game company, are you really going to work that hard? Artcraft couldn’t meet the salary standard some employees would expect. Artcraft will have to seek new developers for the project that want to work to the quality standard we the players want to see. The hardcore realization here is that money fuels the gaming industry as much as it does any other. In this process, Crowfall may have gotten rid of some bad apples and is now seeking some good ones. I hope that the next developers Crowfall can pick up will bring a continued level of passion and hard work we can enjoy.