Factor 5 And The Blogger

I was just reading this article about Factor 5 and the Blogger Sam Baker.

Basically Factor 5,- a San Francisco based developer best known for it’s Rogue Squadron series -, had a deal with Brash, the publisher who just closed up shop. The deal has gone south in so far as there is no money to finish it and Sam Baker – who was an animator at Factor 5 – blogged about this and the internal state of Factor 5 in terms of medical health insurance premiums being canceled and so on.

Now Factor 5 has let quite a lot of people go recently; as much as half their employees so it’s rumored and Sam Baker is now rumored to be the potential target of litigation.

Now my problem with all of this – the possibility of legal action at Factor 5 – is total distraction. Sure, people are upset at these websites – I know I would be if I were running either of these two companies. But slapping a law suit on a young and inexperienced developer (who, lets not forget, has already resigned and will forever be known as “the guy who did that blog post”) isn’t going to solve anything. What exactly is this going to do in terms of Factor 5′s perception?

The fact is that even if Factor 5 does sue Sam Baker it doesn’t magically start people getting paid again. The damage to public perception has already been done. That cat is already out the bag, the horse has bolted. Suing the people who exposed it doesn’t make that bad perception any better; it just makes the companies look like they have something to hide and that they are paying attention to the wrong things.

Now I’m not gonna defend either the blog post or the website as the right thihg or appropriate. Neither are smart, neither was the right thing to do and both are ultimately going to put their creators in a world of hurt. If I were working at either one of those companies I’d be royally pissed at whomever was washing our dirty laundry in public; neither has any class.

But suing them isn’t the answer. Paying your employees and trumpeting that fact is the answer.

Ultimately I do wonder at the litigation part of Factor 5′s approach. In terms of libel laws if the statements made are true and provable (which in this case would be pretty easy to prove or disprove) then it’s not libel – there is a thing called free speech in this country. I have to say again though that just because you can doesn’t mean you should – for either the website or the blog post. Doing either was very sloppy thinking.

In terms of revealing confidential company information I think they (the companies concerned) may have more traction, certainly in terms of harming the companies ability to do business – that line between the public need and companies insistence to keep this kind of thing secret has traditionally been a very hazy line and defined by the highest priced lawyer, but still I ask again what is to be gained by this?

The gentleman concerned already doesn’t work for Factor 5 any more and will have to live this down. Suing him gets you what? Money? He’s broke. A judgment in your favor? How does that help? You’ve just sued the whistle blower and the entire industry is watching this. Think you’ll have done much for your perception as a company that sues it’s own employees?

I hope that saner heads prevail over this.

It’s sad that either company has to go through this; much like the Ion Storm stuff in the Dallas Observer story back in the late 90′s this kind of public muck raking does no one any good. Factor 5 should be allowed to stand or fail without stuff like this in the public forum.

I can only empathize with the people still working at these companies. It’s been a crap year for game development what with EA laying 600 people off with the promise of more in the future, Brash shutting down, Midway ceasing to exist, Factor 5 laying people off, Gearbox laying people off, Ensemble ceasing to exist, I hear Hands On just laid 80 people off.

Landing on your feet is going to be harder than expected.

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