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ForumBot 0.8 beta
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on: May 17, 2007, 08:38:12 AM

The Hub of All Blame: A Postmortem

This is the transcript of an interview with Brad McQuaid via telephone which began at 1:40AM and finished at 3:09AM on May 17th, 2007. As before, I am adding no personal comments to this article outside of what is presented in the interview.

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Ironwood
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Reply #1 on: May 17, 2007, 08:43:47 AM

Um.

"Mr Soft Owl has Seen Some Shit." - Sun Tzu
schild
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Reply #2 on: May 17, 2007, 08:46:00 AM

What?
Ironwood
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Reply #3 on: May 17, 2007, 08:47:43 AM

I don't actually know where to start.  Hence, Um.

That's, er, a stark contrast to the previous interview...


Bunker apologies for the most part.

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Signe
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Reply #4 on: May 17, 2007, 08:48:40 AM

That was fun.  Do you have his number?  Just for crank call purposes, of course.  Keep it up!  (not in a pervy way, of course)

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slog
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Reply #5 on: May 17, 2007, 08:54:15 AM

I wish you had asked him if he every played WoW....

Other than that, good stuff.  While  I don't think he's lying at any part of the interview, I do think he just didn't know what was going on in his own shop.  For example, the one QA person.  He may have thought there was more than one but was too far removed from day to day operations to actuallly know....

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Ironwood
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Reply #6 on: May 17, 2007, 08:55:55 AM

He's either lying through his teeth or completely delusional to the point of Insanity.

I'm glad he missed the 3 big events because he's such a jolly old softy who'd have cried at all 3.

Give me a break.

"Mr Soft Owl has Seen Some Shit." - Sun Tzu
Tisirin
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Reply #7 on: May 17, 2007, 08:57:10 AM

Fantastic job, Schild.  I believe that it's very important for people to see this kind of information.  Learning from mistakes is crucial to becoming a more mature industry.

However, from reading this article, it doesn't look like a lot of learning is taking place yet.  The hiring processes and philosophies were eye-opening.  As was Mr. McQuaid's notion that he should still be operating in a public-facing role.  I don't know Mr. McQuaid and I really hope that everything turns out ok for him and everybody.  But he needs to stay away from message boards for a while, certainly in an official capacity.

Ironwood
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Reply #8 on: May 17, 2007, 09:00:17 AM

But He REALLY ENJOYS posting on message boards ?

Why are you so mean ?

"Mr Soft Owl has Seen Some Shit." - Sun Tzu
Simond
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Reply #9 on: May 17, 2007, 09:02:22 AM

He's either lying through his teeth or completely delusional to the point of Insanity.
I'd vote c) Both of the above.
Jesus.

"You're really a good person, aren't you? So, there's no path for you to take here. Go home. This isn't a place for someone like you."
Hutch
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Reply #10 on: May 17, 2007, 09:07:16 AM

So, the project ran off the rails because god damn Microsoft switched management teams?

Shenanigans. Blaming M$ is easy; almost everyone in the target audience will happily believe that they were the bad guys.

(Note, by "target audience", I don't mean F13 regulars. Brad knows that the vanbois are still out there.)

It is impossible to believe that the change in Microsoft caused a destined-for-greatness AAA title to transform into an utter failure.
We already believed that no one at Sigil was performing any sort of project planning, or rigorous project management. This sort of blame-my-publisher spew will only reinforce that belief.



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Simond
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Reply #11 on: May 17, 2007, 09:23:19 AM

Also note how careful he was in implying that Sigil's problems were due to MS mismanagement, but denied it when asked outright.

"You're really a good person, aren't you? So, there's no path for you to take here. Go home. This isn't a place for someone like you."
SnakeCharmer
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Reply #12 on: May 17, 2007, 09:24:17 AM

I got alot of "It's Microsofts fault!" and "It's the 360's fault!!" out of his responses.

It was stand up of him, I suppose, not to throw named people under the bus within Sigil and instead blame the company that nearly everyone loves to hate.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2007, 10:03:32 AM by SnakeCharmer »
Murgos
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Reply #13 on: May 17, 2007, 09:35:52 AM

A lot of the stuff that Microsoft was asking for, that Brad seemed to think was unnecessary or unrealistic for an MMO, seemed like exactly the sort of things you would need to have for any realistic chance of success for a 30 million dollar software project.

I'm an ASIC designer, the project I am working on blows the Vanguard budget out of the water, we have no less than 6 design teams just for the ASICs and 6 more for the software to run on the ASIC's and numerous other teams for the boards and everything else.  You may be able to argue that it's not as 'artistic' a process as MMO design but make no mistake it is a creative process.  None of this stuff existed before.  All those numbers that Microsoft wanted from Brad are all numbers we report on, meet and discuss weekly.

What if an idea doesn't work out?  You report it, what if you come up with a better way?  You report that too.  You give predictions on time and effort and cost and risks involved.  How long will it take to create a dungeon?  I don't know, but you can be damned sure that if I had been working on MMO's for 8 years I would have a ball park figure and a list of risks and what they would mean to the timetable and costs.  That he didn't know, or was unable to make an educated guess at, those numbers speaks volumes.

Good article Schild, it really shows that you put a lot of effort into knowing what to expect for answers before you started the interview and that is something you almost never see in game journalism.

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ShenMolo
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Reply #14 on: May 17, 2007, 09:40:19 AM

Zoo Tycoon 2 killed Vanguard?
Mandrel
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Reply #15 on: May 17, 2007, 09:42:04 AM

Awesome work Schild.

The thing that really gets me is his "problem" with having to fire people.  If you think you have the ability to hire and lead a group of over 100 people, you better be able to handle firing them when the need arises.  If it's your best friend, you have to be able to tell them that they aren't doing a good job.  It is a display of serious lack of leadership when firing the "person who really deserved it" tears you up so much that you have to take time off.  In that situation, you have to look at the bigger picture, the culture you are building in the office, and the image you are projecting to the rest of the employees.

Most people don't enjoy having to let people go from a job, but when it needs to be done the person responsible needs to do the deed.  I did notice the lack of an HR professional on the Sigil team.  Having someone in that capacity may have helped with some of the other office issues as well.
Modern Angel
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Reply #16 on: May 17, 2007, 10:00:58 AM

Floored. I like the end: the buck stops here...



...but I passed the buck to faceless people at Microsoft and ohgodI'macryercouldn'tbetheregottagoBYE!
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Reply #17 on: May 17, 2007, 10:04:56 AM

I cannot express my feelings with a simple smiley.

It may, in fact, take two of them.

 Hello Kitty Hello Kitty

Jesus christ.

But that Captain's salami tray was tight, yo. You plump for the roast pork loin, dogg?

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Arthur_Parker
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Reply #18 on: May 17, 2007, 10:06:10 AM

Well I don't own an xbox but I hope those of you that do now feel guilty   rolleyes
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Reply #19 on: May 17, 2007, 10:12:49 AM

Well I don't own an xbox but I hope those of you that do now feel guilty   rolleyes

Nah, man.  We Xboxers aren't to blame, it those damn Zoo Tycooners!  Hang 'em high, I say!

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Reply #20 on: May 17, 2007, 10:15:25 AM

A lot of the stuff that Microsoft was asking for, that Brad seemed to think was unnecessary or unrealistic for an MMO, seemed like exactly the sort of things you would need to have for any realistic chance of success for a 30 million dollar software project.

Murgos, you read the same thing I did and I could not agree more.  I work for a large corporation, at least in a bureaucratic sense since we only have 50k employees in The Company itself (yes, we capitalize it like that, go go Gadget Corporate Drone), and it is obvious that Brad just isn't cut out for Big Business.  It's cutthroat, it's ponderous, it's slow, it's the largest game of CYA and finger-pointing you could ever play (outside the government perhaps).  If he had to work here, he would lose his God-damned mind.

Management wants reports.  They also want things they can understand.  They are not technical people, they are business leaders.  Pie charts, Gantt charts, bar graphs, massive Powerpoint shows, weekly justifications... unless it's an important project, in which case daily briefings might be necessary.  I had to do that once, daily meetings about performance problems, it was ridiculous but all part of the job.  Yes, that shit totally interferes with doing "real" work but the fact is that 90% of the screwups in large projects are due to communication problems and the meetings are far and away better for the company than just sitting in your cube and pounding out something that doesn't align with the project.

The funny thing is that the reports and meetings held for the benefit of upper management are almost always there to ensure that the workers are aligned with The Project, and if you replace The Project with The Vision then the irony might just cockslap you.

Oh, yeah... good interview Schild.

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Reply #21 on: May 17, 2007, 10:25:05 AM

To clarify, the relationship between April and Jeff was not some horrible saucy romance. It was an open secret in that they were dating and Jeff and Michelle were going through a divorce. This is absolutely confirmed by the people involved.
Ironwood
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Reply #22 on: May 17, 2007, 10:28:30 AM

Doesn't really matter tho, does it ?

Professionalism and shagging your colleagues do not go hand in hand.

See:  Clinton.

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Reply #23 on: May 17, 2007, 10:29:25 AM

Nice work, schild. And thanks to Brad for giving his version of things.

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Reply #24 on: May 17, 2007, 10:30:41 AM

Well I don't own an xbox but I hope those of you that do now feel guilty   rolleyes

Nah, man.  We Xboxers aren't to blame, it those damn Zoo Tycooners!  Hang 'em high, I say!

Bashing the Zoo Tycooners are you?! Well, we'll see how brave you are when you meet my pet elephant (a consultant on that game, I might add)! Get him Stampy! Kill!!!
Riggswolfe
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Reply #25 on: May 17, 2007, 10:33:12 AM

Good interview. For what's its worth, I think he was telling the truth about why he wasn't there at the massive firing. At least partly. I think it really would have torn him up. Especially because that moment was pretty much the death of Sigil as Brad envisioned it and the sign that his dream was over. That had to be hard for him to deal with. So yeah, that part is very understandable.

All of the MS stuff...you guys are right. He just didn't know how to deal with upper management. From what I read it looked like Sigil desperately needed two people: An HR person and a project manager who would interface with upper management in MS. I think they cut Sigil loose not because of the 360, but because they weren't getting anything from them except "deadlines? goals? reports? We want money, you'll get a game eventually!"

One final note, the stuff about the QA guy actually sounds fairly plausible to me. To some extents Brad was counting on MS to be the infrastructure and Sigil was going to be the creative end of things. When that relationship fell apart...well...any chance at all was gone. I'm not even sure why SOE bought Vanguard.

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voblat
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Reply #26 on: May 17, 2007, 10:36:29 AM

I just want to post a thanks to schild for the two interviews, finest piece of MMO related internet journalism Ive read.


The big thing for me is the denial of culpability, he says the words that the buck stops here, but the preceeding dozen answers reveal he doesnt actually believe it.

The only thing I got is that he really isnt capable of holding a position of power within any company, he lacks the man management skills and temperament for it.

I also get that , given another $30 million, he would make the exact same mistakes again, because his denial suggests he has yet to learn anything.
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Reply #27 on: May 17, 2007, 10:39:53 AM

Wow.  Just... wow.

Hahahaha!  I'm really good at this!
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Reply #28 on: May 17, 2007, 10:40:21 AM

Wow, nice job schild.

While I respect the fact Brad was willing to talk about the situation as much as he did, I really got the feeling there was giant disconnect between him and reality.

To be sure, he should never be in any sort of managerial role, let alone a position where he holds financial responsibility again.  The whole microsoft discussion show he honestly believes MMORPG development to be so different from any other sort of game development as to not have to abide by ANY development standards at all.  "When it's done and perfect we'll release; until then pay us more" is not a standard, nor an even slightly reasonable position.  

The rest of the Sigil inner workings are just a bonanza of poor management and leadership, capped by the back alley mass firing.

Rock star's make poor CEO's.


"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Abelian75
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Reply #29 on: May 17, 2007, 10:42:48 AM

These are some pretty impressive interviews you're getting, schild.  Bravo, a really interesting read.
Hayduke
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Reply #30 on: May 17, 2007, 10:45:27 AM

Wow, 1:40 in the morning.  I guess the only thing that could follow this is if Smedley posted tonight that Brad has been under great personal strain and has been regularly self-medicating with alcohol, last night was one of his episodes and he has decided to check himself into a treatment center while we add more sites to Brad's firewall blocklist.
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Reply #31 on: May 17, 2007, 10:46:31 AM

I like this new guy.
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Reply #32 on: May 17, 2007, 10:52:57 AM

     Very interesting read. Thanks Brad and Schild.

LK
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Reply #33 on: May 17, 2007, 11:01:22 AM

This was awesome.  I've got a lot of respect for you schild.  Very professional.

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Reply #34 on: May 17, 2007, 11:02:54 AM

I'm about to explode from all the popcorn!  I suppose I should make another batch.

My Sig Image: hath rid itself of this mortal coil.
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