Pathfinder Online Layoffs; Ryan Dancey Leaves Company
  • Pathfinder Online Layoffs; Ryan Dancey Leaves Company


    Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens has announced that Goblinworks has had to lay off nearly the entire staff of Pathfinder Online. "We knew we needed a certain amount of money to finish to build the game, and we came really damn close, but we just couldn’t find the last bit of funding that we needed. […] Last Friday, we had to lay off most of the staff. […] I couldn’t pay them anymore. We gave them lots of warning, so they all knew this was coming." Not only that, apparently Ryan Dancey left the company two weeks ago! That leaves three employees (who are continuing work on the game), who are being moved to the Paizo offices; the Goblinworks offices are being closed. The company is seeking $1-$2 million from other investors to finish the game.

    Pathfinder Online was being produced by Goblinworks, a new company spearheaded by Ryan Dancey and Lisa Stevens, amongst others. It has had two successful Kickstarters already - one for a million dollars, and the other for a $300K technology demo.




    Here's the full announcement from Lisa Stevens:

    To the Pathfinder Online Community

    From the beginning of the three year journey to create Pathfinder Online, the one constant has been the support of our community and for this I thank you. We have had ups and downs including heated debates on design, implementation and overall gameplay. We have literally battled together (or against each other) and I know you enjoy playing the game as much as I do. I also know that the community comes together during tough times, and it is probably no surprise that we are currently in a tough spot right now. There are a number of things that have occurred in the past two weeks that you need to be brought up to date on.

    As we have been on this journey to create Pathfinder Online with you for over three years now, we have striven to be as transparent as possible with you. We just shared the following message with the community during our weekly Keepside Chat. In full transparency, here is a quick run down of the state of our game:

    EE10.2 is on ZOG for final testing and should roll out to live on Thursday or Friday morning.

    EE11 is targeted for the end of September

    Ryan Dancey has had to resign from the company for personal reasons (Lisa Stevens will be acting CEO)

    Finances are tight at Goblinworks, which has resulted in the layoff of the majority of Goblinworks staff

    CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles continue to push the game forward (your monthly subscriptions are what keep these three employed and the server up)

    Goblinworks is in talks with multiple game publishers to take the game on and bring it to Open Enrollment

    I know that is a lot to take in, so I will share what details we can below:

    Game status (EE10.2 and EE11)

    We are in final testing before pushing EE10.2 to the live server with its fully revamped and improved new player experience, buy orders for the auction house as well as auction sales histories, settlement chat, and the new crystal ogres monthly event, as well as turning the previous event (The Wrath of Nhur Athemon and its Shadow counterpart) into an ongoing escalation, and making a bunch of bug fixes and improvements. The team has been working hard on this and on EE11 for most of July and August. EE11 is done in design, almost entirely done in art, and just needs a bit more programming to get it to the point where we can test. It will take settlement activities to the next level by allowing you to customize and build your settlements the way you want to. Building a settlement will be a large group task, with lots of raw materials to gather and refine before buildings can be erected. We will also have the dark elves monthly event ready, providing more PVE content for those who are focused on that aspect of the game. The core team has the goal of shipping EE11 by the end of September, and we'll keep you updated on our progress.

    Ryan Dancey

    Ryan Dancey needed to resign from the company for personal reasons. We were very sad that he needed to leave us, but supported his decision because it is in the best interests of Ryan’s life outside Goblinworks. In Ryan’s absence, the board of directors has appointed me Acting CEO.

    Finances

    We have always known that we would need a certain amount of money to make Pathfinder Online a reality. Some delays in getting the game to market coupled with some anticipated funding falling through have left us about 75% short of the money we need to finish the game and bring it to Open Enrollment. We knew that we could cut our burn rate (the rate at which expenses burn your cash reserves) by having folks participate in Early Enrollment and that was always the plan, though we never thought that the Early Enrollment subscribers could carry the company to Open Enrollment. We knew we needed that full investment amount to do that. We had numerous times this year where the full funding was dangling in front of us only to be snatched away at the last moment. Very frustrating, but we moved forward and kept looking for somebody to come through with the money we needed to see the game through.

    Due to the commitment that you have made to the game, your current subscriptions are able to keep the core team employed and the servers live. We will continue to move the game forward with that team and keep the servers live as long as the continued financial support from the community is there. But that means we need you, the Pathfinder Online Community, to continue to support us with your monthly subscription fees. They are very literally what is keeping the servers paid for, and keeping our core team employed, working on EE11, and talking with various potential partners about purchasing the game so they can finish it. If you wish to see the game through to its finish, we need you to support it financially for the next few months, and if you know people that want to support it, encourage them to subscribe now. (During this period, we will offer only month-to-month subscriptions.)

    On August 28, we had to lay off the majority of the Goblinworks staff. Continuing to push the game forward are CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles. We have been keeping the staff abreast of our efforts to find funding for Pathfinder Online and that we would likely have to lay them off on the 28th. We felt it was super important to give our employees warning so they could plan their lives accordingly. Their efforts to line up new jobs led to some of the rumors about layoffs. So why didn’t we announce this earlier? Because there was and still remains a chance for Pathfinder Online to get its funding and continue forward, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that we would have to lay the staff off until Friday, the 28th.

    Future

    For the past few weeks, we have been shopping Pathfinder Online to a number of other game publishers, looking for a good fit to take the game on and fund it over the finish line. There have been quite a few companies coming out of the woodwork to discuss this with us and we are in ongoing talks with a number of them about the possibilities. More companies enter the fray every day. These kinds of things take some time, though we are motivated to see them through as quickly as we can. At any moment, one of these publishers could agree to buy the game and we could quickly ramp up to full tilt again. Due to confidentiality, we can’t provide information on these negotiations. Rest assured that you will be the first people we tell when there is news we can share.

    This isn’t a super rosy picture, but we aren’t dead yet! The Goblinworks team and the Pathfinder Online community have been underdogs for pretty much the entire project’s history. But we have persevered and survived. Sometimes it is darkest right before the dawn. When I was at White Wolf, we were close to having our electricity and phones shut off in the month before Vampire: The Masquerade released and became a huge hit. At Wizards of the Coast, we had to lay off the entire staff for 9 months before Magic: The Gathering launched and became one of the most successful games in history. You have my word that I will work relentlessly to find the right partner to take Pathfinder Online through to the finish line. The team has brought the ball down the field to the red zone, and now we just need somebody to punch it over the goal line.

    I will be hosting another Keepside Chat on Wednesday, September 8th at its normal time of 5pm PST. You can join the chat live by going to:

    Golarion.mumble.com

    Port 3093

    The ability for us to make Pathfinder Online has always been entirely dependent upon you, the Pathfinder Online Community and the support you have given us. I would like to thank the Pathfinder Online community for your fierce dedication, support, feedback, and drive to see this game made well. The only reason to make Pathfinder Online is you, our customer. I hope you will stay with us over the next few months as we search for that proper partner to finish the game. It is your support, literally, that will allow this to happen. Without you, there is no Pathfinder Online.

    You have my eternal gratitude,

    Lisa Stevens
    Acting CEO
    Goblinworks Inc.






    Original post:
    Goblinworks has laid off all but three of the Pathfinder Online staff.

    Comments 110 Comments
    1. Superchunk77's Avatar
      Superchunk77 -
      Hate to say it, but I called this from the very start of their kickstarter. Way too many red flags for a game of this magnitude.
    1. Ravenheart87's Avatar
      Ravenheart87 -
      Unexperienced team, small funds, full sandbox pvp, not listening to the fans, asking for subscription even in the alpha, using a unique system despite being called Pathfinder... This game was doomed from the beginning.
    1. DLIMedia's Avatar
      DLIMedia -
      Yeah, honestly, I can't imagine anyone being surprised at this.

      The demos I've seen haven't exactly blown anyone's socks off, either.
    1. jimmifett's Avatar
      jimmifett -
      It sounded lame from the first kickstarter, like a watered down version of other mmos like DDO
    1. Ravenheart87's Avatar
      Ravenheart87 -
      Quote Originally Posted by DLIMedia View Post
      The demos I've seen haven't exactly blown anyone's socks off, either.
      Demos? There is a fifteen day trial. I thought I'll put my prejudice away and give it a chance. I'll copy-pasty my comment from MassivelyOP:

      Pathfinder Online is a new record holder for me with the shortest MMO session after I wanted to delete a game.

      Character creation starts with selecting race and looks. There aren't too many options yet, which wouldn't be a problem in early access if there was at least a single human male face that doesn't look like a retard or a rapist. I didn't check other races, but I'm convinced that PFO might be the first game to do something against the "sexy elf chick" stereotype since Mialee from D&D3e Player's Handbook. Boy, that illustration still gives me a few weeks of erectile disfunction.

      After selecting the least ugly face you arrive in an empty generic forest, and start reading boring texts, doing short kill quests, getting mauled by monsters, talking to bland NPCs, trying to wrap your head around the advancement system, etc... Oh yeah, there is pvp too, but for that you'd need to find other players which game seriously lacks.

      One of my favorite parts of the game is combat, where animations, sounds, and the attacks' effects live their own little lifes totally independent from each other. Advancement is level- and class-less, you spend your XP to buy feats, which you can combine as you wish. That sounds good on paper, but... I usually say that I hate talent trees, but I'm not judging them any more because but this game has a feat jungle with no visual help to make it at least a bit transparent. So if they managed to capture something from pen and paper Pathfinder it's being bloated and hard to digest.

      While PFO might have some other features other than being ridiculously boring and empty, the first hours weren't enough to convince me that I want to do anything else besides clicking on the red X on the upper right corner. I feel pity for those who were ripped off during the Kickstarter and I can't imagine if there's really someone out there paying subscription for this.
    1. Corrosive's Avatar
      Corrosive -
      Ouch. Unlike others I am surprised. I wasn't following it closely. But I never expected Paizo of all people to be involved with an undelivered Kickstarter. I hope they manage to get the funding and pull it through, because you don't want a failed Kickstarter on your company's list of achievements.
    1. billd91's Avatar
      billd91 -
      Software R&D is always risky, that's why people should always consider investing in it very carefully. I dropped a little money on the kickstarter knowing there was a good chance I wouldn't see much from it just to see how well the project could do. I'm not really disappointed, but then I also kept my investment to no more than I was willing to lose.
    1. Greybird's Avatar
      Greybird -
      Absolutely not surprised. They were entering into an oversaturated market with an outdated business model that nearly every other competitor has abandoned. They were making a game that was 15 years out of date. In the era of Ultima Online, this could have been popular, but today? Few people were interested. The fans of the license looked at their core design concept and pointed out the flaws, but they refused to listen (not only was it a bad design concept, but the concept didn't match the 'feel' of Pathfinder itself.)

      This left them with an unmarketable product that would have to be redesigned from the ground up to be profitable, and now they're surprised that nobody wants to invest money into it.

      The only sad thing, in my book, is the squandering of the license. Paizo could have done great things with the Pathfinder license. Give it to Harebrained Schemes. Give it to Larian Studios. Give it to Beamdog. If you insist on an MMO, talk to Trion Worlds. They'd probably all love to work with a well-documented setting like Pathfinder, and they have proven (in advance) that they can make great games that do justice to their licenses.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      I took part in the Kickstarter way back when because I was then a tabletop PF player, and while not a computer gamer was interested in seeing PF stories and setting 'ported online. I am happy with the paperkback Thornkeep book I received, and the other books and such, and suppose I'll use them at some point in the future. Over the long duration of this process I lost interest in PF and switched to 5e, and yet still held out hope for a decent computer game I could dabble with on my own.

      When I was able to get access not too long ago I was really disappointed. The graphics were lame; movement was jerky; and gameplay was flat as a board. It reminded me of a lame(r) version of Star Wars Galaxies, about 7 years ago, when I got a trial membership for a week and was bored silly, stuck on that stupid station, after a few sessions.

      I don't have a sense of schadenfreude over this, and I hope that people will not pile on and gleefully spout "I told you so" over what is a business failure that's led to people losing their jobs. That said, it's a crappy game, and deserves to be a failure as it stands now. Bummer.
    1. Cristian Andreu's Avatar
      Cristian Andreu -
      A sad thing. I participated in both Kickstarters with a pretty decent amount of money (also got a buddy in for the second), so I had a lot of hopes for this game. Though I was a bit underwhelmed when the first playable versions came out, I'm a very patient man and thought to check back in a couple of years. I do admit I felt some degree of unease at the pace and manner in which things were developing, but I wasn't quite expecting this to happen, to be honest.

      At least I got a nice and fully autographed Thornkeep book out of it.

      Best of lucks to Paizo and the Goblinworks staff. Even if it didn't work out, the attempt was inspiring.
    1. BrockBallingdark -
      Like everyone else, not surprised whatsoever. Also like lyle.spade's last post, I lost interest in PF and moved on to 5E.
    1. Valador's Avatar
      Valador -
      Guess Paizo should stick to milking the work someone else created the foundation to...
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      Wow.

      I have not followed this at all but knew it was taking a long time, and periodically they were looking for more cash and whatnot.

      What does this mean for people who supported the KS and other funding? SOL?

      And man..Lisa gave a bit of a guilt trip to current "subscribers" about keeping those 3 people remaining there/employed....she's generally more professional than that.
    1. billd91's Avatar
      billd91 -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffB View Post
      Wow.

      I have not followed this at all but knew it was taking a long time, and periodically they were looking for more cash and whatnot.

      What does this mean for people who supported the KS and other funding? SOL?

      And man..Lisa gave a bit of a guilt trip to current "subscribers" about keeping those 3 people remaining there/employed....she's generally more professional than that.
      A lot of the benefits were for things like early enrollment and beta access to the game and I've been receiving messages about that right along. So I don't think I'd say anyone supporting the kickstarter are SOL based on what was offered.
    1. Dog Moon's Avatar
      Dog Moon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Greybird View Post
      Give it to Harebrained Schemes.
      I'm currently playing through Shadowrun Hong Kong and even though it wouldn't be the MMO Paizo was looking for, I know if they had Harebrained Schemes do a Pathfinder rpg computer game, it would be an awesome game.

      I've had no real interest in the Pathfinder MMO, though I know when I put money in for the Kickstarter it was only for the Emerald Spire pdf. I got the pdf and am fine with it. Sucks though that a campaign that got over $1.3 million is still failing. Sadly, they apparently need another 1-2 million. Seems like something wasn't right from the beginning. I suppose good luck to them to finding the money and good luck to everyone who put in money; let's hope it wasn't wasted.

      *I'm not saying I told you so because I have never said anything positive or negative about the project other than I wasn't interested.*
    1. TreChriron's Avatar
      TreChriron -
      My best wishes to everyone at Goblinworks who had to go seek out new opportunities. May you all land squarely on your feet and in good fortune.

      My best wishes to Paizo to continue making products a GIANT bunch of people love. I think it was smart to make this a separate endeavor as software dev does pose risks that publishing does not come close to touching.

      To all those snarky, horrible and mean commentators: Way to kick someone when they are down.

      Has everyone forgot how amazing it was when Paizo took up the 3.x torch and revitalized a segment of our hobby that seemed like it was going to disappear? That these same people were the care-takers of Dragon and Dungeon magazines when WOTC might have dropped them? How this niche company with a passion for gorgeous and fun Adventure Paths grew into a JUGGERNAUT pumping out an incredible number of works based on what their fans wanted? Has there ever been a company this fan-focused?

      Damn people. You just crapped all over not only one of the most significant groups of creators in our hobby, but one of the best champions of gaming fans that ever existed. If it isn't obvious I COMPLETELY disagree with you and am appalled at your meanness.
    1. JohnnyZemo's Avatar
      JohnnyZemo -
      I supported both Kickstarters, but never had an interest in playing the game. In the second Kickstarter I got a nice Emerald Spire Superdungeon hardcover book, some cool miniatures, a Pathfinder Tales paperback, and a bunch of Flip-Mats to go along with the Superdungeon. So, I am happy with what I got out of the Kickstarters.
    1. Meliath1742's Avatar
      Meliath1742 -
      This goes to the top of Paizo as far as it being an ill conceived idea. A completely new game is risky even for giants like Sony. And as stated this is an extremely full market...MMO's are everywhere!
    1. Benji's Avatar
      Benji -
      I've never bought Pathfinder Product, played Pathfinder or been part of the community: during the 'edition wars' I just ran Mutants & Masterminds or Old World Of Darkness and waited for 5th. But I've always wished Paizo good luck, because they made some damn good product during the 3rd era and seemed to always be trying new stuff. It's sad for them the MMO didn't work. I have no idea why it didn't: I don't play any type non-tabletop games, it's a world I left a long time ago. Sorry to hear it though, hope it doesn't have a knock-on to their adventures/Product. I'd agree with Tre, let's not get to vicious and put the boot in to far unless Paizo staff at some point laughed at your pain.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyZemo View Post
      I supported both Kickstarters, but never had an interest in playing the game. In the second Kickstarter I got a nice Emerald Spire Superdungeon hardcover book, some cool miniatures, a Pathfinder Tales paperback, and a bunch of Flip-Mats to go along with the Superdungeon. So, I am happy with what I got out of the Kickstarters.
      Ditto and ditto and yup. Perhaps that's a side note to this that's not getting any attention: the setting for the MMO is good. Thornkeep is interesting and could make for a solid homebase for a new campaign, or a good place to plug into an existing one. The levels beneath the town are worth exploring - and who doesn't like good, pre-fab dungeons for use when your creative juices are a little low? Same goes for the massive Emerald Spire dungeon.

      Again, I don't play PF anymore - too crunchy, too many books to keep track of - but translating those locations and encounters into 5e, or another game, would be easy.

      This is the positive on which I've (easily) settled as one of the KS backers. I'm happy with what I got, and glad that they developed interesting story fluff, regardless of the MMO's fate.
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