X-mas layoffs at WotC


4th Edition

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Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The season is upon us again, and Enworld's Morrus reports that Rob Heinsoo, Chris Sims and Logan Bonner have involuntarily parted their ways with WotC.

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Gorbacz wrote:
The season is upon us again, and Enworld's Morrus reports that Rob Heinsoo, Chris Sims and Logan Bonner have involuntarily parted their ways with WotC.

Damn. Always sad news. Good luck vibes sent to them and their friends and family. Job market's still very rough.

Silver Crusade

That's shocking - those are some prominent names.

Scarab Sages Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Legendary Games

It's the happiest holiday tradition in the gaming industry.

Except not. :(

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Does that leave any big names still at WOTC, besides Slavicsek and the Fabulous Baker Boys?


LPJ Design’s Christmas gesture to the involuntarily parted former WotC employees…

After just reading what happened to several employees by WOTC, I felt a need to have to do something. Last year I also “involuntarily parted ways” with a former employer at Christmas which can mess up your holiday and self-esteem. So I am offer anyone who has “involuntarily parted ways” with WOTC today, That I will offer them a PAID freelance position with LPJ Design on a RPG mash-up Eberron / Spelljammer inspired project we have started working on called “Pirates of the Bronze Sky”, if you are interested. While this might not be a HUGE paying job (I am a PDF company after all) but if you really need the work, the jobs are there. You can email me directly at LMPjr007@aol.com. Hope everything works out either way. Have a good Christmas!

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Celestial Healer wrote:
That's shocking - those are some prominent names.

Seriously.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32

It's not unexpected, but still, losing your job around the holidays and in this economy is a kick in the face. I hope those affected had some warning and were able to squirrel away some office supplies or at least a little cash to help them through the lean times. I'm sorry to see WotC once again kick Santa in the nads. Couldn't you people do this during October?


delabarre wrote:
Does that leave any big names still at WOTC, besides Slavicsek and the Fabulous Baker Boys?

The overworked WotC designers left appears to be Mike Mearls, Bruce Cordell, James Wyatt, Rich Baker in the upcoming 4E titles:

Mike Mearls - Psionic Power, Demonomicon, Monster Manual 3, PH Races: Tieflings, Hammerfast, Player's Handbook 3

Bruce Cordell - Dark Sun Creature Catalog

James Wyatt - D&D Player's Strategy Guide, PH Races: Dragonborn

Rich Baker - Dark Sun Campaign Guide, Dark Sun Creature Catalog, Marauders of the Dune Sea, Martial Power 2

The rumored to be departed designers have their names on the upcoming 4E titles:

Rob Heinsoo - The Plane Above, Player's Handbook 3, Underdark

Logan Bonner - Orcs of Stonegfang Pass HS2, The Slaying Stone HS1

Chris Sims - Marauders of the Dune Sea

If I had to guess, WotC may very well hire some freelancers to take up the workload of these laid off designers.


Happens every year and it always seems, on the surface anyway, to make no sense at all. Seems like I have a yearly ritual of looking up the designers involved and seeing what they were part of (on that note some one really needs to update the RPG database - its great at what it does but is sadly out of date).

I presume there is some kind of method to the madness but its not clear what that method is at all. The designers listed don't seem to share anything in common, Rob Heinsoo is an old hand - we have products he worked on for WotC going back almost 10 years. Logan Bonner goes back around half that time and Chris Sims seems to have been a relatively new addition.

I'd really love it if WotC would articulate what the point of this little Christmas tradition is but I suspect only upper management has any real clue. At a guess part of the plan is likely to be a constant search for new blood and new ideas with the core goal always being that maybe some new guy will be the one that comes up with the brilliant idea that will take the game to the next level in terms of sales while avoiding a situation where you gut your talent pool so badly that you destroy the product (and sales) that you currently have.

I'm not really all that familiar with the hiring and firing cycle for Magic but it seems less common and with more people that are just there forever. Likely this is because WotC values experience in Magic Card design more then they value the same experience in Dungeons and Dragons. Occasionally, in the past, Magic designers have really screwed up and put out cards that essentially destroyed the game (we really saw that during the cycle when Affinity just beat every deck out there until it finally rotated out two years later) so I guess more caution is needed - one also gets the impression that Magic has more or less hit its ceiling. Hugely profitable but not likely to ever get much more popular - hence a management design meant to retain market share with experienced designers versus one where the company gambles that it can increase the market if only they can come up with some idea that will appeal to more people.

Still in the end I'm just speculating - Only the powers that be over at WotC really know why it is they choose to fire some people and how it is they make those choices.

Dark Archive

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
but I suspect only upper management has any real clue.

You've never actually spoken to any upper management, anywhere have you?

;P

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Actually now that I think about it they lay of D&D staff every year roundabout this time (at least the last few years anyway) but do they ever hire any people to replace them?

Dark Archive

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I presume there is some kind of method to the madness but its not clear what that method is at all.

You really want to know... two words 4th Edition

do i really need to give you any more reasons than that.


Kevin Mack wrote:
Actually now that I think about it they lay of D&D staff every year roundabout this time (at least the last few years anyway) but do they ever hire any people to replace them?

presumably - there are always a fair number of job positions available at the WotC website if one goes looking. That said there might be something to the idea that they stock up prior to an editions release and then draw down little by little after it comes out and each years sales are a little weaker then the last year. Still they choose to keep quite a schedule going and they either need staff or freelancers to keep up with that schedule.


DragonBringerX wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
I presume there is some kind of method to the madness but its not clear what that method is at all.

You really want to know... two words 4th Edition

do i really need to give you any more reasons than that.

They did this every year during 3rd as well. Heck the policy seems to predate their ownership of TSR's products. Goes back to '97 or '98 according to an old post by Vic (Vic had an accurate date I've just forgotten which year he mentioned). Hence it remains unclear to me how '4th edition' is the answer to this policy.


I wish those guys the best.

Contributor

Kevin Mack wrote:
Actually now that I think about it they lay of D&D staff every year roundabout this time (at least the last few years anyway) but do they ever hire any people to replace them?

Arguably, previous to today, the previous two rounds of announced layoffs were tied to the failure to launch in full and the costs of the original plans for the DDI (Virtual Game Table, Character Visualizer, etc). Around the same time there were some non-announced layoffs within the DDI team as some contract-to-hire employees reached the end of their initial contracts and were not retained.

Reasons for today? I can't really speculate, and unlike the previous ones with the DDI launch, I don't have anyone still there telling me anything.


Nevynxxx wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
but I suspect only upper management has any real clue.

You've never actually spoken to any upper management, anywhere have you?

;P

OK maybe I should have used 'theory' instead of clue.


Todd Stewart wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Actually now that I think about it they lay of D&D staff every year roundabout this time (at least the last few years anyway) but do they ever hire any people to replace them?

Arguably, previous to today, the previous two rounds of announced layoffs were tied to the failure to launch in full and the costs of the original plans for the DDI (Virtual Game Table, Character Visualizer, etc). Around the same time there were some non-announced layoffs within the DDI team as some contract-to-hire employees reached the end of their initial contracts and were not retained.

Reasons for today? I can't really speculate, and unlike the previous ones with the DDI launch, I don't have anyone still there telling me anything.

But some of the people they let go last time around clearly had nothing to do with DDI. Many did of course but the names we recognize are not usually workers on the DDI (I doubt very many of them know the first thing about coding), we recognize them because they were major contributors to WotC RPG books. It seems they clearly lay off some segment of their core dungeons and dragons design staff every year.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Happens every year and it always seems, on the surface anyway, to make no sense at all.

I know you were mainly commenting that the selection of people made no sense, but this sentence made me wonder if you were also commenting that the timing made no sense. The timing makes perfect sense from a beancounter's point-of-view—annual budget cycles often correspond to calendar years, so getting these folks off the books now means they won't incur costs in the 2010 budget.


This phenomenon is hardly unique to Wizards. Many companies let staff go (or close entire stores) at the end of a calendar year. Doesn't make it right, tho...

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

As much as it sucks due to the holiday season, lots of companies have layoffs in late November/December so that they hit the books at the end of the current year (for companies that have fiscal years tied to the calendar year.) Almost every year at my employer there's some layoffs at this time as well.


LMPjr007 wrote:

LPJ Design’s Christmas gesture to the involuntarily parted former WotC employees…

After just reading what happened to several employees by WOTC, I felt a need to have to do something. Last year I also “involuntarily parted ways” with a former employer at Christmas which can mess up your holiday and self-esteem. So I am offer anyone who has “involuntarily parted ways” with WOTC today, That I will offer them a PAID freelance position with LPJ Design on a RPG mash-up Eberron / Spelljammer inspired project we have started working on called “Pirates of the Bronze Sky”, if you are interested. While this might not be a HUGE paying job (I am a PDF company after all) but if you really need the work, the jobs are there. You can email me directly at LMPjr007@aol.com. Hope everything works out either way. Have a good Christmas!

That's definitely a generous offer. Kudos to you, Louis!

Spoiler:
First a Dark Sun / Ravenloft mashup and now an Eberron / Spelljammer mashup? You're tugging at my heartstrings during the holiday, man!

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
They did this every year during 3rd as well. Heck the policy seems to predate their ownership of TSR's products. Goes back to '97 or '98 according to an old post by Vic (Vic had an accurate date I've just forgotten which year he mentioned).

I was in the very first round of WotC holiday layoffs, in 1995. I'm not saying there have been layoffs *every* December since then, but that was the first of many.


Laying people off right before Christmas == continued asshattery from WotC; how surprising. :/

Best wishes to those who lost their jobs.


Chris Sims confirms he is being canned.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/5018437-post32.html

Paizo Employee CEO

Having been at Wizards and survived a number of layoffs before finally being ousted in 2000, I can tell you that there is usually some method to the madness. Magic: The Gathering generally doesn't have many layoffs because it is usually a star player at WotC, though it doesn't avoid the hatchet every year, just most years. Other teams including D&D, book publishing, organized play, the whole online initiative, Avalon Hill, the miniatures teams, etc. haven't been as successful at various times in the past, and thus, each year, the layoffs help to lower overhead for those teams that WotC/Hasbro deem need the lowered costs. Sometimes you may not realize that an employee that you think works for one team, has really been working for another team. Jonathan Tweet is a perfect example from last year. We all think of him as an RPG designer, but I believe he was on the team that did other TCGs and things like Dreamblade at the time of his layoff. A lot of the people who were laid off last year were part of the online initiative, which included some D&D stuff but also Gleemax and their aborted online games thing on Gleemax.

The three guys from this year's layoffs all worked on the pen and paper aspect of D&D as far as I know. What conclusions you derive from that are your own to make. There are implications here that only WotC knows and we can only speculate about. But they don't lay people off at random. There is a method to it, even if it may seem a bit mad or even random. A lot of good friends and talented people have been laid off in the past, so this doesn't reflect on the individuals at all.

I hope all find new jobs and can unleash their talents once again into this industry!

-Lisa


Yikes!

Unfortunate time for this to happen. I have a friend that I see every year at Ambercon NW in Portland who works for WOTC's Digital Stuff. Cort Odekirk. Fun guy, does a great Captain Jack Harkness. I hope he escaped the cuts.

Lone Shark Games

Layoffs destroy morale. The constant drain on talent was one of the major motivators in my resigning from Wizards' RPG division in 2001, and eventually from the company in 2003.

Rob Heinsoo is a great designer, and will undoubtedly be doing phenomenal things for someone else very soon.

Mike


Lisa Stevens wrote:

Having been at Wizards and survived a number of layoffs before finally being ousted in 2000, I can tell you that there is usually some method to the madness. Magic: The Gathering generally doesn't have many layoffs because it is usually a star player at WotC, though it doesn't avoid the hatchet every year, just most years. Other teams including D&D, book publishing, organized play, the whole online initiative, Avalon Hill, the miniatures teams, etc. haven't been as successful at various times in the past, and thus, each year, the layoffs help to lower overhead for those teams that WotC/Hasbro deem need the lowered costs. Sometimes you may not realize that an employee that you think works for one team, has really been working for another team. Jonathan Tweet is a perfect example from last year. We all think of him as an RPG designer, but I believe he was on the team that did other TCGs and things like Dreamblade at the time of his layoff. A lot of the people who were laid off last year were part of the online initiative, which included some D&D stuff but also Gleemax and their aborted online games thing on Gleemax.

The three guys from this year's layoffs all worked on the pen and paper aspect of D&D as far as I know. What conclusions you derive from that are your own to make. There are implications here that only WotC knows and we can only speculate about. But they don't lay people off at random. There is a method to it, even if it may seem a bit mad or even random. A lot of good friends and talented people have been laid off in the past, so this doesn't reflect on the individuals at all.

I hope all find new jobs and can unleash their talents once again into this industry!

-Lisa

Thanks for this - its insight into the questions I was curious about.


Lisa Stevens wrote:


The three guys from this year's layoffs all worked on the pen and paper aspect of D&D as far as I know. What conclusions you derive from that are your own to make. There are implications here that only WotC knows and we can only speculate about. But they don't lay people off at random. There is a method to it, even if it may seem a bit mad or even random. A lot of good friends and talented people have been laid off in the past, so this doesn't reflect on the individuals at all.

I hope all find new jobs and can unleash their talents once again into this industry!

-Lisa

Not that I actually know anything but continuing with the speculation. The game is moving into something of a watershed year. The need for game designers drops from this point forward - its already made and most of the bugs are either worked out or one is more or less resigned to their continued existence because fixing them is more trouble then its worth. WotC seems loath to release a revised edition so designers no longer have as much value at least until they decide to reboot.

Presumably what they really need to focus on is material meant to keep the sales as high as possible until they get to the point where they decide to do a full reboot. I'd think they would be especially driven to keep pumping out DDI content in order to keep the subscriptions coming in as one gets the impression that the DDI has been a real golden goose for them (of course I have nothing to back that theory up).

Not sure how they will go forward in this department - one option is emphasis on writers on staff so that they can make DDI articles in house. Another option would be aiming to keep or hire good editors in order to utilize freelancers.

Shadow Lodge

Add Steven Rodney McFarland into the mix...

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I'm kind of shocked by Rob Heinsoo being on the list. While I don't think I've ever seen him talking at a con or anything, his name is on SOOOOOOOO many third edition books and it seems like every 4e book. Just shocking.


18DELTA wrote:
Add Steven Rodney McFarland into the mix...

He was fired as well?

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Vic Wertz wrote:
Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Happens every year and it always seems, on the surface anyway, to make no sense at all.
I know you were mainly commenting that the selection of people made no sense, but this sentence made me wonder if you were also commenting that the timing made no sense. The timing makes perfect sense from a beancounter's point-of-view—annual budget cycles often correspond to calendar years, so getting these folks off the books now means they won't incur costs in the 2010 budget.

I was going to make this comment that the timeing sadly makes perfect sense. I have seen several companies do that for the same reason. Still sucks though.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Apparently, several artists and "tech" folks were laid off as well.

Shadow Lodge

DaveMage wrote:
18DELTA wrote:
Add Steven Rodney McFarland into the mix...
He was fired as well?

Thats what the Enworld Thread is saying.


Gorbacz wrote:
Apparently, several artists and "tech" folks were laid off as well.

Don't suppose you have a post or a link? Not that I don't believe you, but just because I know some folks...


It really stinks for the folks that got laid off. The only consolation I can think of is that I've always heard that the severence packages from WoTC were generous. I hope that is still true.

Good luck to all those involved. That's quite a pool of talent.

I continue to wonder at a company that can only seem to make its budget by continually laying its employees off. Sure, sometimes it may be the only way, but it sure seems like a habit for Wotc, which leads me to believe it's not just because of current economic times.

Comments by Darrin Drader over at ENworld seem to indicate that those that are chosen for layoffs has a lot to do with who they know and how well they get along with management.

After Lisa's observations, it makes me wonder how things are going internally at WoTC, and what exactly the relationship currently is between sales and expenses.


Watcher wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Apparently, several artists and "tech" folks were laid off as well.
Don't suppose you have a post or a link? Not that I don't believe you, but just because I know some folks...

It's in the ENWorld thread - I think posted by Rodney, who as a courtesy didn't mention any specific names.


For a minute there, I thought this post title was "X-Man layoffs at WOTC". Which would have made my head hurt.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pawns, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

I can't wait until 5e rolls around. Bill Slavicsek is gonna have a lot to answer for it they try to promote another electronic product. All he did during the 4e launch panels was keep promising the gaming board software wouldn't turn into another 3rd edition's E-Tools. Well, each year they lay off more and more people and grow quieter and quieter on all DDI fronts.


SirUrza wrote:
I can't wait until 5e rolls around. Bill Slavicsek is gonna have a lot to answer for it they try to promote another electronic product. All he did during the 4e launch panels was keep promising the gaming board software wouldn't turn into another 3rd edition's E-Tools. Well, each year they lay off more and more people and grow quieter and quieter on all DDI fronts.

Talking about the DDI, without any trolling or angst against D&D4, where is the Character Visualiser we were promised ?

This was one of the rare tools i was interested in, as it is non-relevant to rules.
That would be a very useful accessory for many players who are not good with drawing and still want to make up their character's portrait.

I won't even talk about the 3D game platform. Oops, i just did.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

I removed a post. Please don't troll other members of the community.

Contributor

Seldriss wrote:


Talking about the DDI, without any trolling or angst against D&D4, where is the Character Visualiser we were promised ?
This was one of the rare tools i was interested in, as it is non-relevant to rules.
That would be a very useful accessory for many players who are not good with drawing and still want to make up their character's portrait.

I won't even talk about the 3D game platform. Oops, i just did.

I don't believe it has been worked on since the DDI was passed from its original outsourced coders (Radiant Machine) to WotCs in-house group (which is now only a fraction of its original size). That outsource studio no longer exists, and virtually all of the DDI upper management from the original DDI and Gleemax era are no longer with WotC. The art pipeline for that stuff was also heavily outsourced, and has not been active since then either as far as I'm aware from the folks I've talked with.


SirUrza wrote:
I can't wait until 5e rolls around. Bill Slavicsek is gonna have a lot to answer for it they try to promote another electronic product. All he did during the 4e launch panels was keep promising the gaming board software wouldn't turn into another 3rd edition's E-Tools. Well, each year they lay off more and more people and grow quieter and quieter on all DDI fronts.

Given the truly tremendous amount of support put out for the current DDI applications, I don't think it's in any danger of going the way of E-Tools. The Character Builder and Monster Builder have been almost universally praised (even by those who don't like 4th Edition) as great examples of digital game tools. WotC isn't releasing more applications because they want every app they release to be of that same high quality. About a year ago they decided they were going to take the same stance Blizzard has towards their digital games: don't talk about upcoming releases until you are positive you can deliver on what you talk about. That's what they've been doing in the year since, and it's been working well for them.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32

Scott Betts wrote:


Given the truly tremendous amount of support put out for the current DDI applications, I don't think it's in any danger of going the way of E-Tools. The Character Builder and Monster Builder have been almost universally praised (even by those who don't like 4th Edition) as great examples of digital game tools. WotC isn't releasing more applications because they want every app they release to be of that same high quality. About a year ago they decided they were going to take the same stance Blizzard has towards their digital games: don't talk about upcoming releases until you are positive you can deliver on what you talk about. That's what they've been doing in the year since, and it's been working well for them.

It's just too bad that they gave us a good product after spending six months promising us an amazing one. They shot themselves in the foot by talking it up to the point where they couldn't possibly live up to their own standards. Even if the current incarnation is good, those of us who remember their pie in the sky marketing are still waiting for the magic to happen, thus engendering even more distaste for WotC. It's too bad and a classic case of promising too much, delivering too little, too late.


SirUrza wrote:
I can't wait until 5e rolls around. Bill Slavicsek is gonna have a lot to answer for it they try to promote another electronic product. All he did during the 4e launch panels was keep promising the gaming board software wouldn't turn into another 3rd edition's E-Tools. Well, each year they lay off more and more people and grow quieter and quieter on all DDI fronts.

I doubt that really hurts Bill Slavicsek over at WotC as he was just mouthing the company line.

As to the DDI - despite some significant birthing pains, I suspect that its actually everything that WotC ever wanted of it and more - in the sense that its become a 'must have' product with 4E players most of whom probably can't figure out how they ever survived without it.

Thats good for WotC which, I'm sure, loves the subscription fees rolling in every month and it even allows them so other interesting options. For example they have the ability to increase 4Es bloat past what they could do with 3.5 because the 4E buying public does not feel the downside of the bloat nearly as much. Truth is there are already a lot of books out there but I don't notice that when I'm building my cleric due to the fact that the program is so well organized. I very much noticed this in 3.5 when leveling up required that I have half a dozen books layed out in front of me.

Liberty's Edge

James Martin wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:


Given the truly tremendous amount of support put out for the current DDI applications, I don't think it's in any danger of going the way of E-Tools. The Character Builder and Monster Builder have been almost universally praised (even by those who don't like 4th Edition) as great examples of digital game tools. WotC isn't releasing more applications because they want every app they release to be of that same high quality. About a year ago they decided they were going to take the same stance Blizzard has towards their digital games: don't talk about upcoming releases until you are positive you can deliver on what you talk about. That's what they've been doing in the year since, and it's been working well for them.
It's just too bad that they gave us a good product after spending six months promising us an amazing one. They shot themselves in the foot by talking it up to the point where they couldn't possibly live up to their own standards. Even if the current incarnation is good, those of us who remember their pie in the sky marketing are still waiting for the magic to happen, thus engendering even more distaste for WotC. It's too bad and a classic case of promising too much, delivering too little, too late.

The DDI character gen is what made me give 4e a good go rather than just sit on the side lines complaining that WotC had killed D&D and they get my subscription for this product alone. So for me WotC haven't failed electronically at all.

I am concerned about the upcoming products however with the loss of Rob H. etc. Wish them the best for the future. Hmmmm, I think they should re-release Alternity....

S.

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