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Ex-Ensemble dev attacks "workaholic" culture

As Pandemic veteran admits that lack of discipline saw studio "f**k everything up"

Former Ensemble Studios developer Paul Bettner has blamed himself and Ensemble's studio culture for the company's demise and has refused to condemn Microsoft for the developer's closure.

Speaking at the recent Game Developers Conference (GDC), as reported by sister site Eurogamer, Bettner commented: "The reality is that every single game we shipped took twice as long as we said it was going to take, and cost twice as much to make."

"Microsoft is a public company, they answer to their shareholders, and we were simply too expensive."

Bettner went on to blame himself for the poor quality of life at the studio, where "everyone was a workaholic", and for the cost and inefficiency of running the studio.

"I watched this happen and I did almost nothing to stop it. As an employee, and later as a manager, I didn't take a stand. I just kept hoping for that next high," said Bettner.

Referring to claims of similarly destructive work environments at EA and Rockstar Games, Bettner claimed that over a third of people in the games industry intended to leave within five years.

"This is a horrible vicious cycle. We burn out all our best people. We destroy these precious artists, we wreck their families and we sacrifice their youth," said Bettner. "So they leave, and they take all their experience with them."

A twelve year veteran of the Age Of Empires and Halo Wars developer, Bettner has subsequently gone on to found iPhone developer NewToy with his brother David.

Bettner's talk during one of many "rant" sessions at GDC received a standing ovation and his comments were also echoed by former Pandemic Studios developer Carey Chico.

Closed by EA in November 2009, Chico indicated that Pandemic also suffered from a lack in internal accountability and a failure to hit milestones.

"We were very good for a long period of time in the middle there," said Chico in reference to the company's more celebrated titles such as Full Spectrum Warrior and Mercenaries.

"Then, we got our own money. And that was probably the beginning of the fall."

Access to greater funding lead to the decision to develop the company's own technology and take games closer to completion before selling them to publisher, but according to Chico the studio lacked the discipline to execute this business plan successfully.

"When you have your own money, what happens is that you have to maintain your own accountability internally, and if you don't have that, you just f**k everything up," said Chico.

Chico, who recently became president and COO at Globex LA, claimed that having to follow publisher milestones and schedules "are actually good restraints in a lot of ways".

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