In an interview with game commentary site f13.net, an anonymous ex-Sigil employee speaks out about a company hip-deep in a morass of deceit, indifference and incompetence, and a game that by his account was doomed to fail long before it saw the light of release.
"We gave demos to high-level Microsoft people frequently," he says early on, setting the tone for the balance of the interview. "These demos were often just dog-and-pony shows where content was created specifically for the demo. There was no intention that this content ever be used in game."
According to the interviewee, staff at Sigil Games was kept largely in the dark by management about most company-related matters, including Sigil's split with Microsoft and Brad McQuaid's "disappearance" during the months following the beta 2 testing, and that input from lower-level staff members was routinely ignored by "the decision makers."
Lack of effective management is cited numerous times as the primary reason for the failure of Sigil, and it's flagship title, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. He says upper management "refused to listen to anyone on how to fix what was broken," adding, "they were so pig-headed and arrogant that they believed we were all wrong and they were right." His words for Sigil founder Brad McQuaid aren't entirely critical, however: "I think Brad's situation is an odd one. He's got tons of crazy ideas but he really shouldn't be in charge of anything. He is great as a theorycrafter so long as he was tempered by people who could determine what was possible or not."
When the axe finally came down on Sigil, it was wielded by Director of Production Andy Platter, who joined the company in 2004 as senior web developer. As well as sending the email which led up to the now-infamous parking lot meeting, it was he who delivered management's final message to the staff, despite the presence of company vice-president Dave Gilbertson, who had apparently taken charge in McQuaid's absence. "Though Dave was supposedly in charge all this time," the interviewee says, "Andy is the one who delivered the 'you're all fired' speech, while Dave never said a single word."
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes has faced considerable criticism since its release on January 30, ranging from its refusal to maintain official forums (a stance Sony has since reversed) to the incomplete and buggy state of the game. Approximately 200,000 copies of the game have been sold, although only about 90,000 remain as active subscribers; by comparison, Blizzard's World of Warcraft MMOG currently has over 8.5 million subscribers, while NCsoft's Lineage and Lineage 2 combine for over 4 million.
Although the true scale of the behind-the-scenes turmoil at Sigil Games is only now becoming apparent, the interview paints a picture of a development studio riddled with flaws and crippled by mismanagement for years. While Sony has claimed in a press release since the acquisition that it has no intentions of mandating major changes in Vanguard, in light of this interview it is difficult to imagine them doing otherwise.
"I really wanted Vanguard to be a great game, but it seemed like we were blocked by stupid decision making at nearly every step," the ex-employee says. "Good people busted their ass, only to be shown the door because they weren't a 'culture fit' going forward. There was so much good in the team, so much effort wasted. None of the people listed above should ever work in any position of leadership."
The full interview is available here.