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Dave Rushton seemed to be a positive guy.  When I first met him in person, he had wonderful stories to tell me about how great Sensory Sweep was doing.  I got hired on when there were around 150 or so employees and it seemed to be going up.  A few friends of mine had jobs there, they had some solid licensed games under their belt and the pay was not that bad all things considered.  After Dave had hired me I knew that within a couple of days, that everything he had told me had been greatly exaggerated.

Dave was a business man, pure and simple.  It was after I discovered this that I realized that meant he was purposefully making things seem better than they were.  He would say he wanted the company to have a “Game of the Year” title, that the engine was an amazing feat of technology and that everyone at the publishers loved their work.   At the time I frankly didn’t care.  It was like a parent commenting on how an ugly baby was the cutest in the world, it’s not hurting anyone so who cares?  I should have cared.

Once things started heading south for Sensory Sweep (around June ’08) the exaggerating came at the employee’s full force.  We would have weekly meetings where Dave would address everyone and tell them all the good things that were headed our way.  Specifically a project that would “save the company” with its long development time and huge payments that would cover payroll and then some.  It gave some of us hope and we went back to our desks not receiving paychecks with the idea that we would be bailed out by this new game!  This was around July.

Then employees filed a lawsuit against Dave because he was not paying them.  When this was brought up in a meeting Dave said “There have been lots of RUMORS that have been saying we are being INVESTIGATED by the State.  Nothing is further from the truth, that is ridiculous.”  That was a lie.

Eventually it became common knowledge and Dave had told the people that stayed that they would be rewarded handsomely for staying loyal to him by not leaving.  They would receive their backpay money first before all those “bastards” that sued him for what they owed.  In a meeting with Dave (he pulled different teams in at different times after a while) and told us the 401k company screwed up and was not depositing the money.  This was an utter falsehood.  He used the money to pay employee payroll, bills, etc.  Someone in the meeting asked “Are you going to email an update?”  To which Dave responded (and I am paraphrasing but this is generally what he said) “No.  Because people are fuckers.  The last time I sent out an email update, someone tried that information to get me arrested.  I will not put anything in writing anymore.”

October, November, December all pass with employee’s getting one check every month to two months.  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are hard to talk about because of the lack of funds.  Let’s just say they weren’t the best holidays I’ve had.  Then January rolls around and Dave is still talking about that HUGE project that will save us.  But the investors on the project are attending the Obama inauguration, so they can’t sign the papers until they get back. . . according to Dave and his kids anyway.

Then health insurance is threatened to be taken away by the health insurance company.  Dave has not paid them, so obviously they won’t give us coverage unless he pays.  We all got letters saying that Dave has not paid.  When people asked him about it, he said that he had made the payment and that we would be fine.  He said he also worked out a deal with them to keep us all covered even though he was late on payments.  People still went to the dentist and doctor.

He lied.  Again.  This time it cost numerous employees money out of their own pockets because once the doctors and dentists billed the insurance companies, the companies declined to pay because Dave didn’t pay them the money that was deducted out of our checks.  So because Dave lied again, it cost people thousands of dollars that they already didn’t have.  About four days after he said that things would be fine, the HR girl told us it was cancelled.

These lies cost us money that could have been saved if Dave actually told us the truth.  These need to be heard so other people in the industry know not to trust Dave Rushton or members of the management team that pushed his lies as truth.

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Dave Rushton has quite a bit of explaining to do it seems.  Currently he has six felony charges leveled against him by the state of Utah.  All tax evasion based.  You see Dave didn’t pay State, Federal or Social Security Taxes in 2007.  He also took money out of employees paychecks to deposit into 401K accounts and he never deposited money into those accounts.   This is on top of owing more than 2 million in backpay to former employees.

You know how far the state has gotten with getting him to pay anything?  Nowhere.  Dave has not paid a single cent back to employees, taxes or 401K accounts.  Pretty sad how useless the government is regarding enforcing its own laws.  There are documents that have been sent out to multiple former employees that state:

“According to Utah Code 34-28-3 (1) (a) an employer shall pay the wages earned by an employee at regular intervals but in periods no longer than semimonthly on days to be designated in advance by the employer as the regualr payday.  DUE TO THE FACT THAT NO WRITTEN RESPONSE from the Employer has been receieved confirming or denying that the wages are owed, the Wage Claim Unit finds that Claimant is entitled to the wages claimed.”

Mind you this is not including the 5% a day interest that the amount owed gets tacked on for 20 days if not paid by the deadline.  In essence everyone that has money owed, according to the state of Utah, is owed double what they filed for because Dave never paid.   Have they done anything about it?  No.

However if a bank robber were to steal 2 million from a bank, they would be on every local news channel.  Until he was caught, thrown in jail and convicted in a relatively speedy process by comparison.  Dave has stolen millions and he is not in jail.  He plans on filing for bankruptcy instead in an attempt to get out of paying the money he stole.  He is a criminal and nobody cares that he is walking around freely.

Justice for white collar criminals once again seems to avoid the governments radar.  For those that care, I will keep posting news as I can ascertain it from the Utah Wage Claim Unit.

There were a bunch of crap games made at Sensory Sweep.  Let’s be real here.  Even projects where they actually had time to develop a solid game.   Why were the games so terrible then?  It was mostly the internal engine known as “Dream Fuel” and the owners obsession with it becoming a profitable tool.  There were capable programmers working on the engine but it never seemed to be what anyone needed.

The idea for the engine was a good one, try and make a powerful tool that empowers designers with limited programming knowledge.  The interface wasn’t bad and the visual scripting was not that difficult to grasp.  However it was constantly crashing, collision was terrible, had no real adequate physics engine, the art pipeline process was far too complex and it was sluggish at best.  The development team was really working with technology that was comparable to when the PS2 first came out.  PS2 launch titles had a better grasp of development tech than this engine did unfortunately.

When programmers brought up the idea that perhaps an established engine would be better suited for the development process, I recall Dave’s response was “If I could have an engine like that, then why would I need to keep around an entire team of programmers?  I would just fire you all.”  That shut them up quickly.  Herein lies another problem though and it was the cost of the programmers who maintained this broken engine.

To license an engine it is quite expensive.  Some companies take a percentage of your profits, charge an annual fee or do both.  However would it cost more than the average income of 10 programmers whose sole job is to work on the internal engine?  The average internal engine programmer employee made anywhere between $50,000.00 to $90,000.00 annually.  (This figure was taken from court documents which showed all employees wages.)  That median is about $70,000.00 a year.  That median multiplied by 10 is $700,000.00 annually.  Crysis, Infernal and Unreal all cost around the same, if not a lower amount of money.

Dave Rushton wasn’t in the game business for the quality product though, he was in it to make money.  The engine itself was a tool he hoped to license out to other developers to make games.  However, who would agree to pay for the license of an engine that could not make round collision?  No one would.  No one did.  There were so many things wrong with the engine that it was outright impossible for the programmers to fix it or bring to last generation’s standards.  Dave wouldn’t hear that criticism though, he thought it was his path to riches.  His delusional thought process cancelled out the ability to face the hard truth that the engine was outdated and costing him thousands of wasted hours fixing the engine, and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to fix an engine that would never start.

Let me begin with a sort of breakdown with how management went.  It is essentially a family tree that cascades from owner to Q.A.  I will do my best to name all related to Mr. Rushton and his family but some former employees may leave comments adding who I have forgotten.  I have worked in the game industry for years and this is the first time I have EVER seen such a flagrant use of nepotism and can only be described as unbelievable.

Dave Rushton was the owner of Sensory Sweep.  Dave had his three children as producers,  (Chris, Tony and Emily) as well as his brother Hal.  Each of these producers would then hire people they knew or were related to, despite their lack of education or experience.  Which made sense because really, that is what Dave did too by hiring his children.

Chris hired Rico who was a childhood friend to be another producer.

Tony hired his wife Corinne to be a associate producer.  Corrine had no experience in the gaming industry.  She also had no real associate production duties.  She mostly watched after their two children which were on the premises everyday.  Tony had also hired friends with no experience to speak of as well.  They spent most of their day playing video games from other companies as if they were at home enjoying the day. . . and they got paid for it.

Emily hired her significant other to be an associate producer and a former girlfriend as an associate producer was also hired despite both of their lack of experience in the gaming world.   Both of which rarely did actual work.

Hal Rushton was actually an experienced veteran of the game industry.  It seemed as if this was one of the justifiable hires.  However numerous employees complained of Hal’s lack of professionalism in regards to his role.  Hal ran the company Saffire before coming to Sensory Sweep.  Dave had worked under Hal and brought numerous projects over to Sensory Sweep from Saffire.  There was a falling out between the two but it seemed to have been mended when Hal was brought on from the failed Saffire to Sensory Sweep.  Hal hired his daughter in law who had no experience what-so-ever to become a designer.

Dave also hired his niece Carrie Cameron Doulgerakis to be in charge of HR.  They then hired Jessica Cameron and Kathy Cameron to finish out the administrative duties and HR related tasks.  Carrie’s husband and brother were hired on as designers despite their lack of experience.   Dave also hired family members in Q.A. as well.
What this essentially boiled down to was lots of people being paid to do limited amounts of work.  There were some that did their jobs that were related.  Specifically I can recall Emily and Chris working hard to get things done in production roles.  However most of the other roles seemed to be just an excuse to pay family members to hang out.  There were ultimately people who worked and people who played video games, watched their pets and or did nothing at all.  This put a huge strain on the competent of us working at Sensory Sweep.  We would work two job titles to ensure the project would be finished.  We would work hours upon hours of overtime to cover for family members who didn’t understand the engine, couldn’t write documents, program or create art of any nature.

The worst part of it all was that there was no way to complain about this because the management was related to the problem.  People had been fired for criticizing this method of management.  It was the McCarthy era with video game development employees.  Nay-sayers who dared question management’s thought process behind anything were fired.

It was bound to be damned from the start and management didn’t care.  Any layoff’s that happened after a project only affected those they didn’t like personally.  Friends and family were protected from managements wrath.  S0 they let go numerous well qualified individuals, and kept unqualified family.  A majority of this happened after Tales of Despereaux was completed.  The problem was, they were the people that knew the internal game engine.  The family never knew the program that well and this is where it really hurt Sensory Sweep.  What shred of credibility that they had left with the employees that were laid off or quit the weeks after that had happened.

Eventually the family even turned on Dave.  The only family to stay by his side after his state tax felony charges and department of labor lawsuit were his children.  Once they realized the free ride was over, they moved onto other jobs that were not in the game industry, jobs that they were qualified for and deserved.  Around 20 related family members worked at Sensory Sweep during its profitable years of operation.

All the names can be viewed on linkedin.com and experience can be checked by searching Sensory Sweep and either the names Rushton or Cameron.

Hello and thank you for reading this blog.  I am a former employee of Sensory Sweep Studios.  For those of you unfamiliar with Sensory Sweep Studios please feel free to google it and you will note a myriad of results.  Mostly gaming press news stories from January of 2009 regarding 2 million dollars that the company owes former employees.

This blog is meant to identify more than just what the press has noted as news worthy.  I am writing this to convey what it was like working at Sensory Sweep Studios under the management of one Dave Rushton.  There are far too many stories of intimidation, theft, sexual harassment, bankruptcy, nepotism and outright lies to be reported in a tiny segment in the press.

Please note that this is not just a former disgruntled employee who needs to vent after leaving.  What I am writing is not an exaggeration in anyway, it is what I experienced while under the employment of Sensory Sweep Studios.  I would also like to point out this was MY experience and that I am in no way speaking for the former employees of Sensory Sweep Studios, although I am sure numerous people will have had similar experiences working there.

Thank you again for taking the time to read this blog.  My hope is that people will see that the company and its management should be held responsible for the deplorable things they have done to many hardworking individuals.  The management of Sensory Sweep has no sense of culpability and has no desire to pay people for their past work.  Just know that I will never stop writing until there is some justice in regards to former Sensory Sweep employees has been attained.  It’s cliche, but it’s true.