Spectrum HoloByte – Blinded by the Light
Have you ever had a job offer that just sounded too good to be true? Well that’s the place I found myself with Spectrum HoloByte, and it was totally my fault for falling for it hook, line, and sinker!
Now it all started after the mass exodus of employees from Virgin Games after we had finished up Aladdin.
With 90% of my team now gone I was left in a quandary about what would be my next move, for I really didn’t see a happy future staying at Virgin Games.
So I started researching other job opportunities, something that were plentiful at the time, seeing my new found fame as the design lead on a number of hit games.
One of the first places I thought about was following my old team over to Shiny Entertainment, something I talked with David Perry about. But from what I was told, the idea was met with strong opposition from Nick Bruty who was originally, not only David Perry’s lead artist in the UK but also his lead designer back then, so that wasn’t an option for me.
My next step was to call a recruiter, which I had absolutely no experience with at the time, but I was told was one of the best ways to go, just to help filter through all of the incoming job possibilities.
That’s when I called Jill Zinner, one of the most well-known recruiters in the video game field.
She told me that Barry James Folsom, the CEO at Spectrum HoloByte really wanted to talk to me about working for his studio in the Bay Area.
I knew that Spectrum Holobyte was into flight simulation software for the PC, but had little info on what they were doing in the console market, so understandably I was curious about why Barry would want to talk with me, so we scheduled a phone call.
Now Barry James is a really smart guy and in an industry that can have some really odd-balls he stands out as a straight-shooter and legitimately a nice guy, so our conversation went really well and I was invited up to the bay area for a face-to-face interview with him and the Director of R&D.
So I drove up to the bay area and we met at a restaurant in Alameda, home town of Spectrum HoloByte.
The interview went really well and the questions were fired at me from Barry and the Directory of R&D, but I had a really strange feeling coming from Director of R&D. Something in retrospect I should have given a lot more weight to, before accepting the job offer.
But the job offer came in for me to be Manager of Cartridge Game Design and at double my salary at the time, and that blinded me to what was to come.
So my girlfriend and I packed up our home, and with Spectrum HoloByte help moved up to the bay area to start my new job… or so I thought!
I didn’t realize until I got there that the Director of R&D and his lead Producer had absolutely no desire to have me there and made it clear nearly daily. In many ways they saw me being there as a slap by Barry James that they couldn’t handle design matters on their own, and from what I saw Barry was right.
They were working on a Star Trek game at the time that have been so over designed that it wasn’t fun, but I was told from day one by the Director Hands-Off, don’t even comment on it!
So for the next few months I focused on developing my own game concepts and helping Clyde Grossman, the external game producer with his projects.
But it all came crashing down just 3 months later when Spectrum HoloByte merged with MicroPros and the layoffs came down.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man so happy to layoff an employee as I did when the Director of R&D called me into his office that morning. I’m only shocked that he didn’t have a bottle of champagne ready for when I walked in his door. He didn’t like me there from day one and this was his victory dance.
Unfortunately for me I had to head home that day and tell the little lady that I was job hunting again, just after she got settled there and we were sitting on a unbreakable lease, oh-joy!
What I really took away from this situation is, never get so caught up in being interviewed by a studio that you don’t interview them as well. Don’t just analyze what is said during an interview, but what is not said and always watch the mannerism of those you’ll be working with and reporting to.
Lastly, the best girlfriends or wives to have in the video game field are those who are not into firearms 🙂