In June 2013, Kotaku posted an article called Investigation: A Video Game Studio From Hell. Within it, it’s explained that Jeremy Stieglitz was responsible for creating an unsafe environment for everyone at the development studio.
As with any major exposé, it turns out there was more to the story than that. The article, which entirely focused on the reported failures of Jeremy Stieglitz, completely omitted any mention of Trendy’s CEO and co-founder, Agapitus “Augi” Lye, who shows up alongside Jeremy in the online business records for the company.
Public for the past three years since the article being released was an extensive Imgur album that tells a different story. Unfortunately, the images offer little context unless you have passing familiarity with the individuals involved. Some key people from that era of Trendy Entertainment were not mentioned initially by Kotaku’s investigation, but it’s important to show the other side of the story.
Augi Lye is completely omitted from the Kotaku article, but served as the CEO of Trendy Entertainment. Starting in January 2010, up until at least the time period of Kotaku’s articles in 2013. He’s featured prominently in the Imgur album of social media screenshots.
When referring to Dungeon Defenders overseas, Augi Lye remarked:
“What!! the Gooks have entire websites dedicated to Dungeon Defenders… Come on America you can do better!!”
In early October 2012, Augi lamented on business meetings.
in Munich… about to eat a meter long sausage and hose it down with a gallon of beer…. THEN CONFERENCE CALL WITH THE BOARD .. then back to eating a meter long sausage and hose it down with gallon of beer.
He seems to have really enjoyed himself at Trendy. Reading Kotaku’s article with this information in mind seems to contradict the dev’s claims that it was a miserable workplace. The Kotaku piece notes the following:
Before 2012, according to two people, the studio had some serious financial difficulties. Staff would go unpaid for long periods of time, and many worked 80-hour weeks because they felt they had no choice. Last summer, when Trendy received an $18.2 million investment from a firm in New York City, some at the company thought conditions would get better. They didn’t. Today, employees say the hours are just as excruciating. Worse, people connected to Trendy say, progress on the game is constantly interrupted by Stieglitz’s interference.
It leaves room to question how the money itself was allocated from the investment.
It’s entirely possible that Augi was the one responsible for making salary offers. In the current version of the article, the devs pinned the following on Jeremy and not Augi.
Last year, according to multiple people I spoke with, a man applied for a certain position at Trendy. After some back-and-forth, Trendy offered him the gig at a starting salary of $3,850 a month, but he turned it down.Not long afterwards, according to the people I spoke with, a woman applied for the same position. Trendy offered her $3,000 a month—non-negotiable.That’s a difference of close to $10,000 a year. I’ve seen the e-mails detailing both job offers, and while it’s possible that gender wasn’t the only factor here, one person close to the situation told me that both candidates had the same amount of experience. Others have said it’s a trend.
An oversight on Kotaku’s part was not talking about the Hacker House program that Augi Lye had built. Not only was a house purchased by Augi for the venture, but he made Trendy Entertainment sponsor his side project.
It opens the possibility that Jeremy had to take the reigns of Trendy, because Augi was too busy with other projects. Money could have been tight because of Trendy Entertainment’s direct financial sponsorship of the project. We do not wish to speculate any further than that.
Philip Asher, who serves as the Marketing Director and as a Designer at Trendy Entertainment, also appears to live a “fast lane” lifestyle in publicly available screenshots of his social media activities.
Trendy Entertainment set up these parties alongside the Neon Liger group directly. That same Rodrigo Lizarraga was also part of the Hacker House, as well as a Multimedia designer for Trendy Entertainment from 2010 until July 2014.
Jeremy Stieglitz was painted as being a “dictatorial manager” according to Kotaku’s sources. However, publicly available information, as well as details we obtained privately, seem to indicate that the company’s employees enjoyed working in a relaxed environment free of the rules and regulations conflicting with the narrative presented by the article. Various details, such as the parties and carefree working environment were omitted from the story’s telling in order to paint a much bleaker picture of the workplace.
The motivations of Kotaku’s sources are brought into question. Going back to the article:
One employee tells the story of a cousin who passed away. The employee was too terrified to ask for time off. “I was so afraid of losing my job that I didn’t go to his funeral,” the employee told me. “It was probably one of my lowest points.”
We can confirm that an employee named Marc Singer was most likely the source of this quote.
Anyone who supports ARK: Survival Evolved is supporting someone who forced me to chose between my cousins funeral and my job.
Supporting ARK: Survival Evolved means you support some of the worst people in the games industry and their shady business practices of stealing employees, breaking contracts, and lying to everyone directly in the face.
Supporting ARK: Survival Evolved means you support sexism, racism, forced overtime with no compensation and being verbally berated in front of your co-workers.
Supporting ARK: Survival Evolved means you support people running a studio into the ground, causing many people to lose their jobs, and running away with all of the money.
The people who run Studio Wildcard are literally cancer to this earth and they deserve anything bad that happens to them for the rest of their lives.
Singer was heavily involved with Gainesville Fashion Week by the time of Kotaku’s June 2013 article. While a game developer moonlighting at a second job isn’t unheard of, it brings into question why the same group of people from Trendy all hung out together here as well. Is it possible that the “boys club” was actually the same group of friends that got in touch with Kotaku?
To Kotaku’s credit, there was a follow-up article posted four months later. They acknowledge this other side of the story.
On the other hand, a different Trendy employee has spent the past few months telling me that things aren’t all that great. This employee says the “boys club” mentality cited in my original article still exists at Trendy, and that removing Stieglitz might have cut down on the crunch time, but it didn’t make things better. “The studio is in turmoil, no work is getting done, and the sexist pigs are still running the show,” the employee said.
Jason Schreier was helpful in clarifying to me that he was working with what he knew at the time. My only intent in writing this is adding to what they presented. We intend to follow up on this story with further information and details should anything else come to light.