Once again I have returned to bless you all with some random snippets of news from the past week and my horrendously worded opinions about them! Huzzah! This time Randy Pitchford is in the news again, Ubisoft have announced a new Ghost Recon, John Wick is getting a video game and NetherRealm are investigating accusations of horrible working conditions.
Randy Pitchford vs Claptrap Actor David Eddings
Oh look, Randy Pitchford is in the news again. Jesus Christ, would someone just disconnect his internet already?
Actually, to be fair, this story is a little more complicated and ultimately boils down to Randy’s word versus someone else’s.
Things start with David Eddings, the original voice of Claptrap for Borderlands, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Eddings posted a Tweet stating that he wouldn’t be reprising his role. Eddings replied to a Twitter user asking if he would be voicing Claptrap, saying “No. For the first time, I insisted on getting paid for my performance and all of a sudden they couldn’t afford me. Now I’m not telling them how to run their business but maybe next time they should put the $12M payment from 2K in the Gearbox bank account instead. Just sayin’… “
I was fine moving on after Gearbox. But when my former boss starts mouthing off about various aspects of my employment including “how highly compensated” I was and how “generous” he is, I feel obligated to correct the record.— David Eddings (@davideddings) May 7, 2019
In the previous games Eddings was working at Gearbox and voiced the character for free. According to Gearbox they offered the chance to voice characters in their games to all of their employees, but it was never mandatory. When approached to reprise his role Eddings was no longer working at Gearbox (having left in 2017) and thus asked to be paid for his work.
Eddings comment about the $12-million payment is referring to an ongoing lawsuit in which Randy Pitchford is accused of having pocketed a $12-million payout from 2K that was intended to go directly to Gearbox as a whole.
Randy Pitchford later stated:
Mr. Eddings was paid very handsomely during his employment. After his employment he was made a relatively generous offer to reprise the role. Unfortunately, he turned that opportunity down.— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) May 3, 2019
According to Pitchford, Eddings was offered 2x the standard industry rate but no agreement could be reached. After a quick bit of research it seems standard union rates for voice-over work is about $400 per hour, thus Pitchford is saying that Eddings turned down about $800 per hour.
However, Gearbox’s official Twitter account says that they offered him industry standard rates, contradicting what Pitchford said. So far, so confusing.
Eddings also stated that, “I ultimately offered to do it for “free” in exchange for past royalties owed plus an apology for something I’ve never spoken about publicly until now: Randy physically assaulted me in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis at GDC 2017. “
In regard to royalties Eddings previously mentioned that Gearbox employees take lower salaries with the promise of royalties to come. Presumably said royalties were going to amount to a large sum if Eddings and Gearbox couldn’t reach an agreement. According to another Tweet from Eddings he would have lost money accepting the job, which was unacceptable especially as he has a lot of responsibilities.
Then there are the serious physical assault accusations. I recommend reading Eddings interview with Newsweek for a proper breakdown of events. In short Eddings was informed that someone inside of Gearbox was attempting to get a price on the company. Eddings told Randy Pitchford who responded angrily and then shoved Eddings. Eddings believes that Randy Pitchford was already aware of the person trying to get a price on Gearbox and was somehow involved, and that Pitchford merely wanted him to tattle on his source. As a result Eddings said he was fired by Pitchford the day after the assault, though Eddings did also report the incident to Human Resources.
This is a hell of a story, and honestly trying to piece it together feels impossible. Most of it has come from Tweets, so trying to get a clear timeline is awkward and questions regarding specific details remain unanswered. At this point I’m not even sure if Eddings was actually offered payment. Given Pitchford’s history of lying and his volatile temper I’m inclined to believe Eddings in this case, but this is an example of “he said, she said” with nothing but words. The only exception is that Gearbox co-founder Landon Montgomery says he did witness Randy getting angry and shoving Eddings.
Finally, I can’t even figure out how this started. There doesn’t seem to be an inciting Tweet that I can track down. I have no doubt that there are huge chunks of this story missing, so judgement should be reserved for the moment. In the meantime, I appreciate Eddings also pointing out that his problems are with Pitchford and that he views Gearbox as a terrific company.
Ubisoft Announce Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
Ubisoft spent some time teasing a new Ghost Recon game then got their who plan ruined by an accidental leak. Ah well. They went on to officially announce Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, a sequel to Wildlands from 2017. This one takes place straight after the Operation Oracle DLC for Wildlands and has Ghost Team going up against Cole D. Walker plus an army of drones.
Along with the official announcement Ubisoft put out some gameplay which showed a couple of cool new features. There are different types of camo, for example. At one point in the gameplay video the lead character (no idea what his name is) covers himself in mud to avoid detection.
I also liked the emphasis on getting wounded. Being shot seems to lead to things like limping, loud groaning and even losing the use of an arm so that you have to wield guns with a single arm.
Nothing in the gameplay reveal really blew me away, but from what I hear Ghost Recon: Wildlands has a lot of fans. I’ve got Wildlands sitting in my Uplay library, so I need to fire it up and give it a whirl. Hopefully Breakpoint will build on that foundation and deliver a strong sequel for the fans.
John Wick Game Announced, But It’s Not What I Imagined
The John Wick films have become some of my favourite action flicks in recent memory. Keenu Reeves nails it as the titular John Wick, the action is sublimely choreographed and shot and the world that the films take place in is fascinating. They’re perfect fodder for a video game adaption, perhaps some sort of third-person shooter in the vein of Max Payne. Well, there is indeed an official John Wick game, but it’s not quite what I imagined it would be.
Titled John Wick Hex it’s going to be a turn-based XCOM style strategy game. The narration sells the concept by describing combat as a chess game, one that John Wick is a master of. It makes sense, I suppose. The trailer doesn’t really show much of the mechanics, but it does give us a glimpse of the strange art style. I can’t say I’m a fan of it, but perhaps it’ll grow on me.
No proper release date was announced, but apparently it will appear on consoles, PC and Mac. Those last two will be in the form of a timed Epic Store exclusive.
UK Games Chart
Right, the UK games chart data is live and….oh for fuck’s sake, who the hell keeps buying GTA V? I mean, seriously.
1. Days Gone – Sony Interactive Entertainment
2. Mortal Kombat 11 – Warner Bros.
3. FIFA 19 – Electronic Arts
4. Red Dead Redemption 2 – Take 2
5. Grand Theft Auto – Take 2
6. Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Nintendo
7. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – Nintendo
8. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 – Ubisoft
9. Forza Horizon 4 – Xbox Game Studios
10. Anthem – Electronic Arts
Look at that, GTA V is right behind Red Dead Redemption 2. How does that even happen?
Anthem is managing to stay in the top ten despite its own sub-Reddit declaring the game dead multiple times. Reports of BioWare staff moving on to new projects have gotten players worried, too. This isn’t exactly surprising: live service games like Anthem typically have a small team devoted to them while the rest of the studio move forward with other projects. However, since Anthem is still seriously lacking in content and other issues the fact that resources are being moved may not be a good sign for the players who are still sticking with Anthem.
It’s great to see Days Gone taking the top slot. I’ve been enjoying it so far (review soon) and it seems to have been really well received by the gamers.
NetherRealm Investigating Work Conditions
Work practices within the video game industry have come into focus over the past year or so, far more than ever before.
Last month former NetherRealm employee James Longstreet took to Twitter to say that working on Mortal Kombat 9 had “nearly killed” him. PC Gamer then put out an article talking to former employees of NetherRealm who all confirmed how bad things had been and still were. Longstreet himself said that they did pre-crunch to make sure they were ready for the actual crunch. He also pointed out that this was on the work schedule. It wasn’t an unofficial request or anything like that.
Anyway, the PC Gamer article paints a poor picture of the work conditions within NetherRealm. The company has now officially responded by saying, “At NetherRealm Studios, we greatly appreciate and respect all of our employees and prioritize creating a positive work experience. As an equal opportunity employer, we encourage diversity and constantly take steps to reduce crunch time for our employees. We are actively looking into all allegations, as we take these matters very seriously and are always working to improve our company environment. There are confidential ways for employees to raise any concerns or issues.”
It sounds like the problem wasn’t employees failing to raise concerns, but rather the concerns just being ignored.
At the end of the day, overtime, crunch and absurd work hours are never okay regardless of the industry. It inflicts a massive toll on humans, and I’m glad to see these practices getting the spotlight shone on them.