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Ori Developer's Culture Reportedly 'Oppressive,' No Longer Working With Xbox (ign)

kingfey

Banned

Moon Studios, the developer behind Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel, is reportedly an "oppressive" place to work that has myriad issues with crunch, verbal abuse, and poor organization. This is according to a new report by Gamesbeat, which reports that Xbox is no longer working with the studio following what was said to be a "difficult relationship."

The lengthy report details a range of allegations, most of which center on the studio's founders, Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol. They include reports of "constant arguments," a crunch culture in which developers were expected to be available at all hours and on weekends, and a steady stream of racist, sexist, and anti-semitic banter.

"It's an oppressive workplace, for sure. But it’s hard to pinpoint one thing because, in isolation, all of these incidents, if they happen once, you would think they are small things," one developer is quoted as saying. "When you're dealing with that for [multiple] years, you're going to see the decline of people’s mental health. I can say that for myself, personally, I was properly messed up after we finished. I've never been depressed until that moment. I lost my passion for my job because they drummed it out of me."

Another developer is quoted as saying, "Were the founders both belligerent? Yes. In my opinion. Was it limited to those two? Yes. Unprofessional on an hourly basis? Yes. Harassing? Yes."

The full report paints a picture of a studio with a "perfectionist" culture that rarely provided positive feedback and burned out developers. The story also covers issues with bonuses and other problems. Developers reportedly compared the issues at Moon Studio with those of Bungie and Activision Blizzard, which have captured headlines with their own problems.

Moon Studios originally found success with Ori and the Blind Forest in 2015, with Ori and the Will of the Wisps following in 2020. Both games were gorgeous Metroidvanias, and were some of the rare bright spots in the Xbox One's lineup of exclusives.

But while Moon Studios was closely associated with Xbox, it reportedly had a fraught relationship with the platform holder, filled with missed deadlines, conflicts over funding amounts, and constantly changing scope. Moon Studios' next project is reportedly an action RPG that it is developing in partnership with Private Division.

IGN reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story with their response. Mahler and Korol responded to the allegations in a lengthy statement to Gamesbeat:

"We don’t believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day — nor do we believe they are representative of the experiences of former members of our team. In fact, we are very proud of our history of making people happy, advancing their careers, and contributing to their financial success.
We built Moon Studios with a simple premise. First, we wanted to create a distributed studio that is not limited by geographic boundaries enabling us to draw the top talent from around the world. Second, we wanted to foster a vibrant culture where our team thrives and delivers the very best work in our industry. And finally, from day one we set out to share the profits and rewards of our efforts with the full team. We believe we have succeeded.
What makes our team so powerful is our global and cultural diversity — we have team members working from more than 40 different countries across four continents — and a flat studio structure that allows everyone to speak honestly and directly and to challenge and push each other to do our very best work. We purposely set out to create a different kind of studio — one that encourages creativity, open communication, collaboration, and performance.
The result has been two award-winning games — with more on the horizon — and a team of professionals who enjoy working together, are excelling and breaking new ground in our industry, while also sharing in the financial success of Moon Studios. If at times we are brutally direct in our critiques and challenges, we are also genuine and vocal in our praise. We are incredibly proud of everything we have built and achieved together.
Finally, we appreciate the irony that we — an Austrian and an Israeli Jew — started this multicultural enterprise. We view each other as brothers. And, like brothers, we sometimes argue and frequently tease each other. We have made jokes at our own expense about the differences in our backgrounds — and there may have been times that our teasing of each other has come off as insensitive and may have made others feel uncomfortable.
Moon Studios has prospered for 12 years. We have grown and learned so much over all of these years. We have been privileged to work with many, many great, and extremely talented people. We are truly grateful and proud of our team — those who are here today as well as those who spent time at Moon and have since moved to other ventures – and we are happy to have made a positive difference in their lives. We are not perfect but we deeply care about our talent and are constantly working hard to improve. If we have ever made anyone feel uncomfortable or let anyone down — we regret that and we will always strive to do better."
The Moon Studios report is part of an ongoing reckoning with abusive work cultures throughout the games industry. On the same day that Gamesbeat released its report, investigative Youtube channel People Make Games released a new video focusing on abuse within three major indie studios. The growth of gaming from a hobbyist pursuit into a multi-billion dollar global industry has laid bare the issues with crunch and abuse that has dogged game development for many years now.

Outside of Moon Studios, Xbox must deal with the issues at Activision Blizzard, which it recently acquired. For more info, check out our timeline outlining the issues at Activision Blizzard, which are ongoing.
 

Bernkastel

Ask me about my fanboy energy!
T thomasmahler

Update: Reading more into it, this "news" is trying to imply that Microsoft just cut ties with Moon Studios and they just decided to go third party after Microsoft seemingly abandoned them due to this outrage. Pretty weird that people who complain about clickbait titles in other threads went along with this story.
There's only this part:

But while Moon Studios was closely associated with Xbox, it reportedly had a fraught relationship with the platform holder, filled with missed deadlines, conflicts over funding amounts, and constantly changing scope. Moon Studios' next project is reportedly an action RPG that it is developing in partnership with Private Division.​
We already knew this for almost 2 years.
 
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Pejo

Member


*heavy breathing*
 

Bryank75

Banned
Isn't that a common thing in Japan?

Maybe my impression is wrong but I seem to hear really horrible things about the workplace in Japan.... maybe not screaming and shouting at people but just generally unpleasant-ness.
 

M1chl

Currently Gif and Meme Champion
So I am confused is this coming from Xbox themselves or is it studio internally?
 

anthony2690

Member
Huh now his outbursts towards Xbox males him come across as bitter if they don't want to work with him anymore.

Huge shame as I loved Ori will of the wisps, one of my fave games ever.

I always thought his outburst towards Microsoft were extra strange though as MS allowed them to port their game to switch too.
 
The studio, nothing to do with Xbox, they are independent.
There's only this part:

But while Moon Studios was closely associated with Xbox, it reportedly had a fraught relationship with the platform holder, filled with missed deadlines, conflicts over funding amounts, and constantly changing scope. Moon Studios' next project is reportedly an action RPG that it is developing in partnership with Private Division.​
 

GHG

Member
I know, but it felt like there is some push from Xbox to act like that. But maybe my comprehension after days work isn't the best.

Well there will be agreed deadlines which could lead to crunch and pressure. But honestly, I'd like someone to describe a utopia where that doesn't exist in any industry.

So it's hardly the fault of Xbox in that sense, money is involved, deadlines need to be agreed. It's the studio's responsibility to manage things appropriately and ensure the working environment/culture is as positive as possible even despite long hours and pressure - it sounds like they've failed in that sense.

There's only this part:

But while Moon Studios was closely associated with Xbox, it reportedly had a fraught relationship with the platform holder, filled with missed deadlines, conflicts over funding amounts, and constantly changing scope. Moon Studios' next project is reportedly an action RPG that it is developing in partnership with Private Division.​

See above, this is the real world. What do you expect Xbox to do? Tell them there are no deadlines, they can take whatever amounts of money they want and they can generally do what they want?
 
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splattered

Member
Well there will be agreed deadlines which could lead to crunch and pressure. But honestly, I'd like someone to describe a utopia where that doesn't exist in any industry.

So it's hardly the fault of Xbox in that sense, money is involved, deadlines need to be agreed. It's the studio's responsibility to manage things appropriately and ensure the working environment/culture is as positive as possible even despite long hours and pressure - it sounds like they've failed in that sense.



See above, this is the real world. What do you expect Xbox to do? Tell them there are no deadlines, they can take whatever amounts of money they want and they can generally do what they want?

Agreed.. in the case of Scalebound everyone blamed Microsoft, but in this case it again shows developers that work WITH microsoft as the publisher actually can be at fault for their own internal issues. Just like it was with Scalebound.
 
What do you expect Xbox to do? Tell them there are no deadlines, they can take whatever amounts of money they want and they can generally do what they want?
I only pointed what it had to do with X box. But I'm not taking either side, usually if there's a difficult or "fraught" relationship, it wouldn't surprise me if both sides were at fault.

Although it's interesting they worked together for 2 games so something must have changed, but we'll never know the full picture.
 

Bridges

Member
Not saying crunch is good or that I don't feel for people in bad work conditions, but will a conversation ever occur about what it actually takes to make a masterpiece?

The two Ori games are incredible, top of their class works and are highlights of Microsoft first party in the XB1 era. Would this still be the case if they worked less days, less hours and under management with a less "perfectionist" mindset?
Would a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 ever see the light of day without crunch?

I think these are questions that need to be raised while the industry rushes to make a value judgement on work culture.
 

Jennings

Member
First game was great. Second game wasn't great. I don't know anything about their feelings on Microsoft, but they need to do what it takes to get their studio back to the shape it was in during the development of the first game so we don't get future games like the second.
 

BeardGawd

Gold Member
Don't some of these complaints fall under glassdoor.com company reviews? Some companies work their employees harder than others. It sucks but news worthy?

The owners should have been more careful with the inappropriate banter at work. Anytime you make jokes like that in a worl setting you better be damn sure everyone around you is cool with that.
 

Modrot

Member
Not saying crunch is good or that I don't feel for people in bad work conditions, but will a conversation ever occur about what it actually takes to make a masterpiece?

The two Ori games are incredible, top of their class works and are highlights of Microsoft first party in the XB1 era. Would this still be the case if they worked less days, less hours and under management with a less "perfectionist" mindset?
Would a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 ever see the light of day without crunch?

I think these are questions that need to be raised while the industry rushes to make a value judgement on work culture.
The problem is that publishers want the game as soon as possible.

I'm sure most studios would LOVE less workdays and no crunch, but the industry doesn't care.

So they feed temp workers into the machine, promising them "experience, while also the full timers are wrung out because the publishers want the game on X date.

Really precious that there are big publishers talking about this while doing an about face to scold the studios under them.

Never forget the impact journalism also has on these deadlines too, by the way.

The entire industry is sick.
 

kingfey

Banned
Does that mean their next game will come to PS5?

Some good news to come out of this.
They are having internal issues. If Xbox is distancing themselves from them, I doubt Sony would want to work with them. Considering they produced 2 quality Ori games for xbox.

We will see in the future what will happen to them.
 

M1chl

Currently Gif and Meme Champion
Well there will be agreed deadlines which could lead to crunch and pressure. But honestly, I'd like someone to describe a utopia where that doesn't exist in any industry.

So it's hardly the fault of Xbox in that sense, money is involved, deadlines need to be agreed. It's the studio's responsibility to manage things appropriately and ensure the working environment/culture is as positive as possible even despite long hours and pressure - it sounds like they've failed in that sense.



See above, this is the real world. What do you expect Xbox to do? Tell them there are no deadlines, they can take whatever amounts of money they want and they can generally do what they want?
Thanks this makes complete sense to me. It's better written than the article.
 

arvfab

Member
I'm not going to comment on this particular news itself, as I'm pretty sure every single company has some skeletons in the closet.

But I can't understand why people clearly unsatisfied with their working conditions don't just quit their job. Especially when currently every studio is struggling with talent acquisitions, making finding a better work place easier.
 
Considering some of his posts on resetera where he's been flat out disrespectful towards his industry peers I'm not surprised.
Yeah I dont know the guys or anything but his comments on exclusivity seemed really oddly naive and bizarre. Does that make him a horrible person? No. But I dont fault MS for the "difficult relationship."
 

kingfey

Banned
I'm not going to comment on this particular news itself, as I'm pretty sure every single company has some skeletons in the closet.

But I can't understand why people clearly unsatisfied with their working conditions don't just quit their job. Especially when currently every studio is struggling with talent acquisitions, making finding a better work place easier.
My old job was toxic, because the management didn't give a crap about us.

Once management sees you as a replacement, they wouldn't give 2 shit about you.
 
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Ellery

Member
Huh I thought they were fully owned by Microsoft. Always said Ori was my favourite Xbox franchise. Love those games. 100%ed both
 
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