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Layoffs at Obsidian

Ausir April 26, 2011 User blog:Ausir

According to tweets and LinkedIn updates collected by Obsidian forum users, it looks like there has been a wave of layoffs at Obsidian Entertainment, with some of the Fallout: New Vegas developers having to leave the company.

Programmer Justin Reynard tweets:

Today marks my 3 year anniversary working at Obsidian Entertainment. To my coworkers (and sadly the ones we've lost) you guys are amazing.<3

Justin Reynard, Twitter

Producer and designer Akil Hooper:

11 years, nearly a dozen shipped titles, Designer, Lead, Producer. 1 cancelled game, survived 7 layoffs, 8th got me. Not a bad track record.

Akil Hooper, Twitter

Producer Jason Fader:

*sigh*

Jason Fader, Twitter

QA tester Ashley Betters:

No longer work at Obsidian. I guess this means I will have to start buying my own pens.

— Ashley Betters, Twitter

Chris Avellone has written LinkedIn recommendations for some of the people leaving Obsidian:

Art director Joe Sanabria:

I worked with Joe Sanabria while he was Art Director on Fallout New Vegas and on all the Fallout DLCs, and during that time, it's a testament to Joe's ability that I never had to worry about the art pipeline for the project, it was always being handled and handled well. Joe kept his team informed, established a consistent tone and direction, provided feedback both personally with his artists and in paintovers if he felt a paintover would be easier to work from, and he also took care to give visual theme presentations of the artistic goals for each DLC with key props, weather systems, color palettes, and character designs (usually coupled with extensive reference photos and art he had gathered from his library and his own research). Also, Joe just doesn't stop... he loves the craft. He's always got a sketchbook in hand, drafting concepts for vistas and characters, and often spends his off-hours drawing for the sake of the project, then bring the images in the next day to show how to take an area, cinematic, or vista shot in a cool direction. Joe was a leader - he wasn't just someone who provided feedback, he actively encouraged folks to take initiative with their tasks, take responsibility, and also worked hard to improve the art community at Obsidian. When someone shined, Joe was always there to let the owners and production know of someone going beyond the call of duty and specifically called out the positive contributions they'd made to the project. He took critiques well, stuck to his guns when he felt he was right (and was), and never once did I feel Joe was not receptive to a suggestion or critique without weighing it and respecting the person's opinion. Working with Joe was a positive experience, and I learned a great deal from his approach, both in the creative and managerial sense. He cares about what he's working on, he cares about the company he works for, and most importantly, he cares about the team he's a part of. He can not only speak confidently and strongly on a game's theme and direction, he is able to create the vision for a project and work hard to bring it to completion. I'd gladly work with Joe again, and I feel he's a strong leader and an asset to whatever team he becomes a part of. April 22, 2011

Junior designer Sydney Wolfram:

I worked with Sydney Wolfram on Fallout New Vegas and the Fallout DLCs. Obsidian initially hired Sydney to assist with the technical aspects of world building for Fallout, she exceeded our expectations for the position and moved quickly into a full time world and level building role. Not only did she flesh out many areas of the Mojave wasteland in New Vegas, she also designed a number of praised levels for the title as well, including a number (Vault 34) have been frequently cited as being a much-needed challenge for hardcore players. There's a lot to recommend about Sydney's drive and the way she tackle problems - she can't abide bugs in her area, and the way she systematically killed bugs and addressed feedback in her area was rapid and thorough. Sydney also helped us with appraising future world designer candidates for Fallout, helped mentor them on best editor practices, and in addition, she put in many long hours across the Fallout titles to make the design shine. It wouldn't be unusual to make a request of Sydney, ask her to appraise the idea to see if she had time to tackle it, then come in to discover the next day that it was in the build, done, and fun. Lastly, while future Fallout releases will prove the strengths of this, Sydney had the extremely challenging task of designing almost an entire world zone for Fallout on her own, measuring its performance, gameplay pacing, and making it fun and engaging for the player, and by my count, she succeeded. The moment you step into the DLC in question, you'll see everything she brought to life in one huge vista shot, and to this day, I feel it's one of the most amazing shots I've seen in a Fallout title to date. I believe Sydney has a lot to offer any development team, and if the opportunity presented itself, I would work with her again in a heartbeat. April 21, 2011

Associate producer Tess Treadwell:

I worked with Tess on Fallout: New Vegas, she was helping to head up production on the title and track art and design across the many areas in the game. There's a number of strengths that Tess brings to the table in her role as producer, and I'll list a few of them: One, energy - if you point Tess at a problem, she'll attack it relentlessly until it's dead. Two, her willingness to put in the hours necessary to make the game shine - there were many nights on Fallout New Vegas where Tess would stay late, much later than others, to insure that work was done and the game was in good shape for submission and QA. Lastly, Tess routinely went outside of her production roles and looked for other ways to help the company by playing our titles, offering feedback, and solutions for how to address art, level, and gameplay flow in all the titles she played. It became customary in the projects that we'd have a "Tess phase" where we'd ask her to stomp up and down on a build to help with critical feedback as well as her gamer feedback on a title. I can't speak enough to Tess's energy, her passion for her job, and her willingness to work hard to make a title (and all a company's titles) shine. I think for any studio looking for game design or production assistance, she's someone that can bring a lot to the table, and she's proved it repeatedly over the years. April 21, 2011

Junior designer Jessica Johnson:

Jessica worked at Obsidian as a level designer on Fallout New Vegas and again as level designer on the run of the Fallout New Vegas DLCs. We hired her from a pool of applicants as her test stood out as showcasing a fresh take on a sample Fallout level coupled with interesting quest design and a visually compelling design layout. She proved herself further once she became a level designer at Obsidian - she helped flesh out the Sierra Madre casino for FNV DLC1: Dead Money, and also created a number of cool quest areas for the future DLCs as well (tba). Among our designers, artists, and QA, Jessica was cited as especially easy to work with, and she had a natural ability to work with the environment artists to create visually stunning levels. In addition, Jessica is modest and low-key about her own accomplisments, but her contributions to design and the larger themes for the DLCs speak for themselves. Even seemingly minor hooks and character references provided good fuel for tying into larger narrative hooks for the DLC, and the DLC narratives benefited a great deal from the quest seeds she placed in her area. In upcoming DLCs, Jessica had a great deal of involvement in the formation of character personalities, end slides, and other cool adventure hooks that wouldn't have been present without her involvement, and the DLCs would have been weaker without her design skills. It's worth noting that Jessica also took on a number of what could only be described as "heavy lifting" for much of New Vegas. She spent a great deal of time fleshing out the technical design elements for New Vegas, and during this period, not once did she complain, she simply tackled every task in turn thoroughly, quickly, and efficiently. She proved herself able to be relied on not just for design flow and aesthetics, but she didn't shy away from the more difficult routine tasks either, which is one of the qualities of a hard-working, dedicated designer. Furthermore, she was able to take what she had learned and use that to help evaluate future applicants and provide valuable critiques as to what skill sets were necessary for expanding the scope of technical design at the company. Jessica is a modest, hard-working, and skilled level designer, and she's an asset to any company she chooses to work with. Not only would I recommend her work and work ethic, I would work with her again if the opportunity presented itself.

Design intern John Lewis:

I worked with John on the Fallout New Vegas DLCs, he was one of the designers brought on board to assist with area creation, level design, propping, and assisting with the navigation and pathing for the DLCs. Not only that, he also assisted in art duties as well, and is responsible for the arrays of end slides, world map images, and other artistic touches present in the DLC as well - as the result of his efforts, we delivered a much sharper design more quickly, and his efforts helped the DLC shine. The Fallout NV DLCs would have been much more difficult to finish without his presence, and not only would I strongly recommend John for any game development studio, but if the opportunity presented itself, I would actively seek to work with him again. He is easy to work with, works hard, and is an asset to any development team. April 19, 2011

Design intern Ryan Zingler:

I worked with Ryan on the Fallout New Vegas DLCs, he was one of the designers brought on board to assist with area creation, level design, propping, and assisting with the navigation and pathing for the DLCs. As the result of his efforts, we delivered a much sharper design more quickly, and his presence made the DLCs shine. His initiative in taking on more work and willingness to pitch in also proved to be helpful to other projects at Obsidian, and he helped in carrying Dungeon Siege III and assisting the design team there with a variety of duties at the expense of his own free time. Throughout all of this, he was pleasant, agreeable, and always eager to pitch in and lend a helping hand. The Fallout NV DLCs would have been much more difficult to finish without his presence, and not only would I strongly recommend Ryan for any game development studio, but if the opportunity presented itself, I would actively seek to work with him again. He is an asset to any development team. April 19, 2011

Environment art intern Rose Gomez:

I worked with Rose on the Fallout New Vegas DLCs, she was one of the artists brought on board to learn the Fallout art pipeline and assist us with asset creation, area propping, and both playing and fixing environment art issues in the DLC. She not only handled these duties quickly and efficiently, but she proved to be one of our star hires, able to be counted on for a variety of tasks. She was a huge help to the senior artists, and learned quickly, taking on more and more responsibilities over time. We found Rose to be a gold mine, extremely helpful, and I would not only strongly recommend her, but if the opportunity presented itself, I would seek to actively work with her again. She is an asset to any development team. April 19, 2011

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