Monday, January 6, 2014

My resignation email at Origin Systems June 19, 1998

A few months ago, I found my old .PST file from Origin. Here's a little sample of what I found! I had posted this as a Facebook note a while back, but wanted to share it here as well.

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From: Cain, BillySent: Friday, June 19, 1998 3:54 PMTo: ML EVERYONE @ OSI; ML EAWORLD @ OSI, PO01; ML EVERYONE @ BALTIMORECc: 'Email - thenuthouse@worldnet.att.net - my home address'

Subject: SPAM: Giving Notice

This is not easy (to say the least.)

I've turned in my resignation, effective today. Quite simply, I've been offered a position that I couldn't refuse, and I'm looking forward to it with mixed emotions (scared, reflective, happy, amazed, you get the drift). Origin has been my home away from home for over five and a half years. Wow.

(Please excuse the bad grammar and changes in tense.)

I was one of the first employees when EA bought us, and since I had been trying to get a job here for over a year, I knew exactly what I was getting into. I knew that Strike Commander was going to take a lot longer than EA expected, and I knew that crunch mode was going to be a mantra for years to come. I didn't care. I wanted to be part of a fantastic organization that allowed people to follow their dreams. I wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people I had ever met, creating games and universes that lived and breathed on their own. I got the job thanks to Mike Sims and a need on the Super Nintendo team run by Alan Gardner. We were known as Origin Siberia, since the 'real' teams were in another building, working on PC products. I spent enough time in the second building to know that we weren't well respected. But that was okay, because I knew that (eventually) things would come around.

Time passed quickly, and after a while, the Wild Basin home (and tons of Green Guns matches after hours) became too small, and we moved over to north 183. The Rockbusters (thanks Dicko!) made a lock-in at the new building feel like a new home. We shipped our SNES games, and even finalled one that never shipped. 

Around this time, I had been trying to make an impression on anyone, so I could 'get my chance.' An EA exec that had been in the office a few times promised me a jacket if I came to his office. I was sent out to San Mateo for a focus group on a game we were working on, and I 'ran into' Rich Hilleman (the aforementioned exec) in his office. After a while I asked about the jacket, and discovered that they had to be ordered in advance. So much for the jacket. But I left a pebble of an idea in San Mateo: Give me a chance.

Time passed, and one day Rich gave me a call: "Can you pack for England by Friday?" Apparently EA Sports Rugby '95 was a crucial product for the UK office, and they needed an Associate Producer (that understood "carts" - now called "consoles") to handle details and help get the game done by Christmas. I took the chance. I met the team and after 3 months of curry, bad Tasty Bite breakfasts, and showing the team how an ice maker worked, we managed to get the game done in time for duplication for Christmas. But I had to return to Austin.

Upon coming back, I got a position working with Eric Hyman as an Associate Producer. I worked with Paul Steed on Cyclone Alley and then with Paul Isaac on Prowler. Neither projects managed to ship, but I learned a lot about helping people and how much I needed to learn about calming down.

Eric's group was eventually dissolved and Joye and I (we were both APs in the group) tried to find places for everyone. Some were good fits, some weren't. Some left, and some stayed. It was really painful. I managed to stay faithful, hoping to be able to make a contribution. Then Abuse came across my desk, and Mike Grajeda asked if I'd help make it multiplayer with the guys from Crack dot Com. This got me back on my feet believing I could make a difference again.

Soon after that, Rich (again) was trying to help wrangle the Maverick team after Chris decided to leave. My ragtag group of PlayStation(esque) people were brought over to the Maverick team to help with Wing Commander 5 (the Code Name at the time). December came again, and with it came a big budget cut from EA. Time to cut back on the team. By this time, Rod Nakamoto had come on board and we had to make some really tough decisions to help keep Maverick afloat. The Playstation version had to be cut. Another very painful, emotional time for our group, but those of us who were left managed to pull through and get an idea to run with.

Then Phil W. (the real lead designer on Wing Prophecy) decided to leave, so I could 'just finish up.' Yeah right. Over a year on crunch and a lot of takeout meals later, Prophecy shipped, and I really have to say that I am proud of the work done on it. The team (you know who you are - Maverick, Loose Cannon, QA, Customer Service, Creative Services, and on and on) did a fantastic job, under UNBELIEVABLE conditions to get it done and out by Christmas.

After a while of vacation, Rod, Frank and Neil all offered me a job as Project Director on a new title. The team (Andy, Rob, and Will) were tasked with creating a world based around Barbarians (insert subtle nod to Frank Roan here), and they took to it with fervor. Frank suggested we use Golden Axe as a game mechanic, and we all agreed. Even to the point that there's a machine in my office right now (for reference).

That about brings us up to the present. Eric Hyman has been working at Kinesoft, reassembling a team (his empire) in Chicago, and just opened an office in Austin with a great group of people that I'm pretty familiar with (and some others that I don't know much *yet*). Eric asked me over to the office to meet everyone and I have to say that there are a lot of good people that really seem to want to do a great job. Eric says I'm just supposed to help them find a direction and get to the finish line. I think I can do that. 

Hopefully I will be able to help them realize their dreams and if I get my way, it'll be a place where they want to be and stay.

Well that about sums it up. Here's to your continued success.

My closing thought for Origin - both exec and front line workers: You have a great group of fantastic people that all desperately want to do a great job. The only thing that stops them is the systems that we (yes myself included) have put in place. Find ways around those systems, and help your people succeed as much as they want to. Try to remove the barriers and let the creativity run loose. You'll find that there is more energy in this building than you ever realized possible. I tried to do this, and I know many of you are doing it as well. This will be the answer to many of your problems in the future. 

Oh yeah, I've got one more comment I couldn't pass up: "It's all about people."

In case anyone is wondering, I believe in what EA and Origin are doing, but I must go my own ways for my own reasons. I wish all of you the best of luck, but you don't need it nearly as bad as some of you think.

Thanks go out to everyone I've met in EA World, including but certainly not limited to:

Mo Channon - for being the BEST!
John Guentzel - for all the rides, and listening to my morning babble.
Rob Irving - for proving that you can indeed manage your overdesign.
J. Allen Brack - for keeping a list of what you need to do better within sight.
Frank Roan - for setting up great systems and taking me running.
Rod Nakamoto - for leaving us alone.
Mike Grajeda - for giving me the chance with Abuse.
Rich Hilleman - for believing in a loud-mouthed punk.
Kevin Buckner - for being the best all around producer I've ever worked for.
Hugh David - for saying we'd work together again and meaning it.
Jon Law - for those damn grey stones in Rugby!
Chris Roberts - for creating Wing and giving me a world to help build.
Richard Garriott - for creating a culture that inspires and endures.
Jeff Hillhouse - for what you did to Alan Gardner at my house in the kitchen.
Alan Garnder - for giving me the chance in the first place, and hopefully forgiving me.
Eric Hyman - for letting me head to England before swapping to your group.
Andy Sommers - for being willing to listen about design meeting programming.
Pete Shelus - for being the Angry Scotsman.
Cindy Wallingford - for taking the pictures!
Jason Hughes - for knowing when to cheat.
Mark Vearrier - for not killing me like I'm sure you wanted to.
Adam Foshko - for letting me run around like a crazy person.
Jules Burt - for "Dueling Banjos."
Robert Garriott - for getting your conversational train thrown off course over lunch.
Ben Potter - for "SHOES!"
Grant McDaniel - for all the trips to Wal*Mart.
Bing Gordon - for Redneck Rampage tips during Prophecy brainstorm sessions.
Pat Becker - for constructive "feedback."
Paula Singleton - for being a 'proper' vegetarian.
Rhea Shelley - for being Mr. Liner notes.
The Ultimate Frisbee guys - for picking a better field.
Kent Raffray - for really believing that you're not like Elvis, even a little.
Nathan Daugherty - for loving Ronald Reagan.
David Downing - for taking big chances, since those are the ones that matter.
John McLean - for billing it to Frank.
Keith McCurdy - for letting me bill it to your room.
Starr Long - for keeping the bass fisher alive.
Joye McBurnett - for listening when it really mattered.
Cathy Cantieri - for the boogie nights.
Craig Miller - for Mr. Owl.
Trey Hermann - for being another cog.
Jennifer Davis - for telling it like it is at lunch in a chinese rood restaurant.
Greg Barwis - for being number one with ALL the hardware.
Kenny Hott - for just being the Hottman. 24!
Al Carnley - for letting us sing for your wife in Padre.
Meg Curtis - for getting us quarters for laundry.
Mark Day - for having the balls to oppose people - literally!
Mark Baird - for being the fastest sketchman in the world.
Eric Lux - for being a believer in getting me into the Eidos party.
Rupert Easterbrook - for taking me out like a pro.
David Ladyman - for telling me 'it will be fun.'
Dave Beyer - for being honest. Always.
Danny Garrett - for telling Dewey 'Hi!'
Jim Franklin - for continuing to take your meds.
Micael Priest - for swapping palettes in DPaint.
Richard Mather - for being Dicko.
Sam Laskowski - for being an ant.
Eric Lund - for being a singing bandit.
Paul Isaac - for passing me up on my Strike Commander interview.
Leland Madren - for bringing the beer for the long nights at E3.
Jay Mahavier - for all the printed notes on the walls.
Dean McCall - for bequeathing the Falcon and the guitar.
Brian McLean - for letting me know I'm a Jedi Bastard.
Ric Neil - for being a bastard.
Stan McKee - for not stopping the arm wrestling match.
Flora Lee - for never complaining about my stock option info requests.
Steve Pietzsch - for talking about work.
Chris Primozich - for staying in touch.
Paul Tidwell - for the stormtrooper.
Phil Wattenbarger - for the California trip and leaving me holding the ball.
Chuck Zoch - for being Chucky Z and kicking ass!

And there are SO, SO, SO many more of you that I simply cannot thank enough for making my stay here memorable and so great. Please forgive me if I didn't say thanks on this list. I have so many great memories... they'll last a lifetime.

With that... I'll see you all later!
bjc

PS Tonight, there is an impromptu gathering at Copper Tank. Come if you wish!

PPS On August, I will be having a birthday party at my house. Email me at home for directions. thenuthouse@worldnet.att.net

PPPS Please send me your physical addresses and home email addresses so I can have them. Jacque and I have gotten married and we need to send you all invitations to the reception sometime in the Fall or Spring.

PPPPS If you want to go 'over the top' push a business card under my door so I'll have a remembrance of everyone here at Origin! :)



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Billy Joe Cain started his game industry career at Origin Systems in 1992, and has participated in the creation of over 200 hit games for home game systems, mobile platforms, and PC / Mac, and has launched three game development studios in Austin, Texas. He believes that games are going to save the world through improving brain plasticity in adolescents as well as making education fun. 

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