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PS3 Developer Fired For Comments 131

Next Generation reports on the unfortunate fallout from one PS3 developer's unflattering comments. Early in January, a developer made comments on his feelings regarding the Xbox 360 and its power/design ease vs. the PS3. Thanks to widespread internet reaction, he has been fired from his development position. From the article: "I can't believe how out of control everything got ... It's absolutely absurd how the Internet can take something relatively harmless and turn it into something so insane... Did I knowingly break NDA? I absolutely did not. I would never do that and I would never want to hurt Sony Online. Did I dance in the grey area by even opening my mouth? Yes I did and I was fired for it. So I guess the new rule for me is, don't ever say anything at all about anything. Ever...ever."
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PS3 Developer Fired For Comments

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:28PM (#14629931)
    ...and I think our product is a pain to use"

    Just what the hell was he expecting would happen? They'd give him a reward for breaking ranks and giving his subjective views about Sony's PS3?

    Good luck finding a new job Asshat.
  • by THEUBERGEEK ( 891151 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:28PM (#14629933) Homepage
    in any corporate environment we must all learn to keep our mouths shut. i have lost more than one job for having the "wrong opinion, political view, etc".
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:30PM (#14629954) Homepage Journal
    So I guess the new rule for me is, don't ever say anything at all about anything. Ever...ever.

    Seriously, welcome to the Real World. In college, perhaps, you were encouraged to speak your mind and be free like a little birdie. Big difference: you *paid* to go to college. Within limits, you could do what you want. Things are different when you're the one receiving the money. Within limits, you have to do what *they* want.

    Or to misapply the meme: In college, you owned a Sony. In Corporate [America|Japan], SONY own YOU!
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:31PM (#14629964) Journal
    Now in my opinion it doesn't matter how good the PS3 is. If the XBOX 360 is better, then it doesn't really matter how the cell processors work or how good they say it is. Realistically one of them will be better over all. Now I've spoken with people who are on the technical side of the PS3. I've also talked with people on the technical side of the XBOX 360. The consistent comment I am hearing from people on my end is, "The XBOX 360 is better". They are saying that it is capable of just doing more. (shrugs) Now take that for what its worth. If you watch all the videos on the PS3 they will say how much more powerful it is than the XBOX and vice versa. Im just telling you what I am hearing. They proceeded to go into a lot of technical info that I don't understand. So I just nod.
    Then he hits us with this firing worthy blurb
    The game that we are creating for a launch title is a "just get it out" title in my opinion. It doesn't look next generation. I don't see how anyone could debate otherwise. It looks good. But it looks good for a game that has come out in the last couple years or so. I mean we are talking about a box that will be with us for the next 5+ years! In 5 years will the games we are making today look good? The only way for that to be possible is if the new games coming out for the PS3 are drastically improved. So good that they can stand the test of time until the next system comes out. We've all seen Gears of War for the xbox 360. If that even looks half as good when it comes out then I'll be floored! The game we are making isn't even in the same league as Gears of War. In fact there are many current games out that look just as good and are using the exact same specs. So, on our end we are either not pushing the bar or were just trying to "get a title out". To be fair, this is a business. Sometimes you have to treat it as a business and not make the best title you can.
    He's trashing the game he's working on. What boss would put up with that?
  • by ursabear ( 818651 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:33PM (#14629994) Homepage Journal
    Here in North Carolina, we work in a "work at will" state. This means that you can quit or be fired without ANY reason, other than reasons covered by discrimination precedence.

    It is a tragedy to lose one's job, no doubt. I would wish joblessness on no-one. However, one must always converse about one's product in a very careful way - always think of oneself as a public representative of the company. It is generally best to preserve the interests of one's company. Comments made on the internet are nearly intractable, and will generally find their way to unexpected places.
  • by Concern ( 819622 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:36PM (#14630020) Journal
    I've worked in the industry. Yeah, you would definitely get fired for that. No question.

    There isn't really that much of a "gray area." They give you an NDA that basically just says "SHUT THE FUCK UP." And usually when they give it to you, they narrate that bit for you too. You really aren't supposed to talk about anything to do with the job, ever, ever.

    There are few things in the business more secrecy intensive than a platform launch like this.

    The guy is a big idiot for thinking he could write this and keep his job, without doing a damn good job of remaining anonymous. For that matter, he's just kind of uninformed; this is a 3D artist who obviously doesn't understand much about the hardware or the engines or the development cycle of either, in general....

    OK, you got your 15 seconds of fame. Bye.
  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:54PM (#14630205) Homepage Journal
    It is a tragedy to lose one's job, no doubt.

    Not in this case. I think the correct word for costing your company more money and good will then you're worth, resulting in a firing, is "example".

    Losing your job because your office building burned down and your employer doesn't want to rebuild is tragic. Losing your job because you don't have the common sense God gives a dog is just plain stupid and not really something worth pitying.

    What's worse is that he doesn't sound like he learned a single thing from the episode.

  • by Concern ( 819622 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:06PM (#14630305) Journal
    Heh. The guy is funny. But notice, I said "this is a 3D artist who obviously doesn't understand...

    In other words, I don't think all 3D artists would be unqualified to comment, as this question seems to imply. Just this particular 3D artist. It's more likely you'd get some more informed commentary from a developer or a hardware engineer, and the fact that he's not already should color your expectations a little from the outset, but... let me put it this way:

    I've worked with a lot of 3D artists, and it's a tough goddamn job, a really unique blend of skills go into doing it well... some of these guys were totally capable of doing software development, understood most of it already just from being around it, but just enjoyed making art more. Hey, perhaps I would too, if I had their skill...

    For that matter I've known a lot of artists even outside 3D who also brought really strong engineering aptitude but just didn't enjoy doing that part of the job. Understanding both sides made them invaluable to work with.
  • Re:ZOMG FIRST (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:22PM (#14630421) Homepage Journal
    Wow. I wonder if Google will hire him.

    Obviously you didn't hear about the former Microsoft manager who accidently let a little too much info slip on his blog.

    Google is the LAST place that would hire this guy. The reason why we never know what they're doing is because Google employees don't talk about Google. Period.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:42PM (#14630587)
    Making comments that could potentially steal food out of your own mouth, and the mouths of your colleagues, is just stupid. He even admits to "dancing in the grey area." He fully deserved what he got.

    I absolutely doubt this had anything to do with Sony being a big old baddy and this guy was just an innocent blabbermouth surrounded by fools on the internet blowing things out of proportion. To cite myself as an example, I work at a non-profit organization. We receive donations, grants, and contracts based on our ability to show that we have a positive influence on the community we serve. If I were to publicize that a competing local non-profit was more efficient, maybe had a better client record, or in any other way deserved funding more than my org does, I would fully expect to be reprimanded (if not simply fired outright) for my comments - and I'm not under any kind of NDA that governs such behavior. It would just be a case of my employer protecting their ability to continue operations unhindered.

    He underscores his claim that he did not knowingly break NDA. Well, depending on the NDA he signed, that's irrelevant. Speaking to the detriment of your own work is certainly never wise, but it is especially foolish when you are bound by an NDA.

    And yes, I've read the article. You should too, to see what I'm talking about. Full text cache follows (no longer cached at any of the major sites):

    I've spent some time the past year developing for the PS3. Actually it was a cinematic demo to be shown at e3 in 2005 at a closed door viewing. I was one of the few artists selected to work on it for the demo. My job was primarily asset creation. I was creating assets to populate the path where our camera would be flying during the demo. The company I work for is also working on a launch title that I am quite familiar with. In short, I've spent some time around the PS3 and or the teams developing for it.

    I've really had to sit here and think for a long time about what my first comment about the PS3 would be. Will I say, its GREAT or will I give it two thumbs down. Well my immediate impression of the PS3 is...where is it? Seriously, where is it? They have a case, a controller and a dev kit. But the system still doesn't even exist. So what is there to say? We received one of 5 PS3 dev kits in the United States some time ago. Several companies in the US as well as companies over seas were given the daunting task of creating a demo in less than 9 weeks on a first generation dev kit. Now I'll be honest with you. What most companies do is fake the entire demo. I mean they come up with some great visuals and neat tricks and scripted events. In the end however, its not a real time demo and its not running ON the actual box. We were the only company to my knowledge that showed something that ran it live on the box. Even then it was a scripted event. You could not pause the camera and fly around the scene. So if you saw the demo once, you saw it again the exact same way the second time. Also this was on a brutally early dev box. You could always tell where the PS3 dev box was because it's the room that had the f-bomb coming out of it half the day.

    Lots of time has passed since that demo and the dev box has gone from a totally jimmy rigged computer and box of parts about the size of a small child, to a much more realistic size. Although its still the size of a normal pc. I have been pretty excited about the whole cell processing thing. I am not a very technical person but my understanding of it was pretty clear. (Multiple processors to handle individual events in parallel). Sounds pretty good to me! To hear people talk, you'd thing that a processor revolution was about to happen. So I've been pretty excited to say the least. Now in my opinion it doesn't matter how good the PS3 is. If the XBOX 360 is better, then it doesn't really matter how the cell processors work or how good they say it is. Realistically one of them will be better over all. Now I've spoken with

  • by XenoRyet ( 824514 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:43PM (#14630600)
    He very clearly stated that he does not like, and is not committed to his (formerly) current project. He also clearly stated that he dislikes the platform he's working on, as well as stating that he thinks the competitor's platform is better.

    I would have let this guy go even for stating these opinions privatly. He obviously really does not want to work for Sony. This guy didn't get fired, he quit.

  • by Michalson ( 638911 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:49PM (#14630626)
    In many ways it seems like Sony is becoming the new Microsoft, just as Microsoft replaced IBM as the Big Bad. With the shift in software distribution (internet making it easy to distribute and collaborate on free and open software like Linux) Microsoft's role of "evil" has become nearly moot, much like IBM's hold fell with open commodity architecture.

    At the same time, a new issue has emerged, digital rights, an arena where Sony (a giant corporation representing the MPAA *and* RIAA) is the devil figure (rootkit CDs, locked out storage formats, and the upcoming Blu-ray ultra restrictive DRM).

    Much as IBM, for it's own financial convience, became a "good guy" by supporting Linux and open source, Microsoft may make a similar transformation: They split with Sony over Blu-ray because they demanded that the next DVD format allow consumers to use media they had purchased the way they wanted to (i.e. store on a Microsoft powered media center). Microsoft's position of having no interest in content (Sony) or hardware (Apple) makes it to their financial benefit to demand both sides provide a positive experience for consumers (since Microsoft will have Windows something running in the middle).

    Even Microsoft's own DRM lends to this: It isn't tied to a single music store or mp3 player, and it isn't fixed in what it controls - companies protecting content can choose how restrictive it should be, resulting in open competition for consumers without fractured standards - if consumers don't like the restrictions placed on them by music store A, they can just go to music store B and get the same music, that will play on the same mp3 player, but with less restrictions. Instead of consumers being held hostage to a set of DRM demands, it's the content sellers that have to compete for the sweet spot between protecting the content and giving the user fare use of what they've purchased.
  • by moochfish ( 822730 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:54PM (#14630663)
    the guy was fired for: a) showing a horrible lack of judgement in deciding to post all that in a public location b) disloyalty toward not only his NDA, but his company's product. his comments are hardly flattering toward something his own team is developing. Work as a pastry chef assistant and go tell potential customers about how much the pastries there suck. work as an editor and write a piece about how bad your paper's reporters are. this isn't news. you'd be fired for this in any other mass-market industry.
  • by user317 ( 656027 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @06:59PM (#14630692)
    I would have let this guy go even for stating these opinions privatly. He obviously really does not want to work for Sony. This guy didn't get fired, he quit.

    Great idea.

    Step 1. Fire everyone who finds legitemite weakness in your product, partner or customer.

    Step 2. ????

    Step 3. Profit

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @08:09PM (#14631158) Homepage Journal
    Ever hear of naïveté?

    Chalk this up to a lesson learned the hard way.

    On the other hand, this doesn't leave Sony management covered in glory either.

    First, they called a huge amount of attention to a somewhat amateurish screed that would have fallen into the bitbucket otherwise. In this sense the develper was right. They'd be better off if they publicly laughed it off and said, "We're our own toughest critics. Our platform is the best one there is, and we're not standing still."

    I think a more sutble point is that it takes all kinds of people, and the kind of people who are good or even great developers don't necessarily hatch out of the egg understanding business. By all means punish -- the burnt hand is the best teacher. But if you go too far making an example of somebody, you may foster a culture in which bad news only travels underground.

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @08:18PM (#14631214)
    This guy didn't lose his job for having the wrong opinion... he lost his job for being public about it. If I was his employer, I'd fire his ass too. You don't dis the products of your employer in public if you want to stay employed. Certainly if there was some safety issue going on, or outright fraud, then there is nothing wrong with whislteblowing. Most employers won't even fire an employee for complaining about something like working conditions or benefits in a public forum. That isn't the case here. He publicly stated he thought his employer's product was smoke and mirrors. He shouldn't have been surprised that Sony wasn't too happy about it.

    I work for a LARGE computer company, and I do post to Slashdot about my company's products if questions do arise. While I never make up good things that aren't true about our products, I do adhere to the maxim "if you can't say anything nice, shut the heck up."

  • by st1d ( 218383 ) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @08:19PM (#14631217) Homepage
    Maybe it's just me, but that's the kind of threat my friend's 4 year old son might make. I can't help but agree with you, and to be honest, I wonder if his supposed wonderful new job is actually that great, because if his situation is truly improved, why is he still complaining?
  • Re:So what's new? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2006 @09:16AM (#14634079)
    Speaking specifically about the graphics, have you ever written an OpenGL application where more than one thread was responsible for rendering? More than one processor?

    Seems the main argument against the new consoles is that most games don't lend themselves to a multi-processor architecture, as almost everything ties in with everything else, not that they use some new, wacky, graphics API...
  • by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Friday February 03, 2006 @01:54PM (#14636098) Journal
    When you look at your companies products, you have to realise: It is not your job to praise them or to damn them (in public), that is what you have marketing people for. They can take anything, and talk it up to be the best invention since sliced bread. Your competitor's marketing people can do the same thing.

    That's like saying that it's not the job of the parents to damn or praise their own kids, because the neighbors can do the same thing.

    It's much better to not only allow, but rather, to encourage internal criticism. If the person feels like the internal managers and upper managers are humble and open-minded, and constantly and kindly solicit criticism, then the person will feel quite happy and fulfilled to spill their guts in private to an internal person that matters -- to a person that has the decision power to turn the product for the better.

    The reason people spill their guts in public, is for one of two reasons:

    1. Internally no one wants to listen to them.

    2. The management says they are open, but don't act open and do not solicit criticism humbly and vigorously enough. In other words, not only must they be open in reality, but they must also convey that impression to others convincingly, sincerely.
  • by aeoo ( 568706 ) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @12:41AM (#14640157) Journal
    Agreed. My theory is that people don't just go and willy nilly post stuff on their blogs like that. My guess is that the person felt like no one cared and no one wanted to listen, and consequently wanted to blow off some steam.

    Maybe just some internal listening and acknowledging would have kept this kind of opinion from hitting the web.

    I think, generally, while people are selfish and greedy, they are not malicious. So when something happens that appears malicious, it's most likely because something else has triggered it.

    I understand what the NDA "should" do, but it's a really dumb person who actually relies on "should"s. A wise person would rather rely on a thorough understanding of human condition and reality (how things ARE, as opposed to how we would like them to be, or how they "should" be).

    When stuff like that happens, it's very easy to point finger and lay blame, but it's hard to see the truth: there is no one single cause that can be blamed. Any number of things might have prevented this kind of situation from arising: more discipline on the part of the blogger, more openness on the part of employers, etc. As I see it, the employer is just as responsible for what happened as anyone. They probably allowed a bad vibe to roam in the low ranks, due to upper management detaching themselves too much from the reality of the low ranks where all the real stuff actually happens. In my experience, upper management often has their head in the clouds (to put it mildly) and is way out of touch with what's going on. For example, IIRC, in Microsoft senior execs lied to Gates about the real situation with certain products and Gates only found out thru a wistle-blower email from the lower ranks. This happens all the time.

    People at the top are prone to delusions of grandure and often over-value themselves while people at the bottom often undervalue themselves. This results in people at the bottom shaking in their boots as the people at the top yell at them and apply strong psychological force (using tyrany instead of true leadership, relying mostly on fear rather than respect and inspiration). People at the bottom will then say "all is fine boss", when it's really not. The Boss being delusional, quickly believes it, because that's what he wanted to hear anyway. Then the low ranking employees gather in various areas and stew and stew... And then one of them blows up on the blog.

    The NDA is a really shitty way to deal with this phenomenon.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.