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Bloomberg insight article into studio transition from Star Theory to Intercept Games


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1 hour ago, pandaman said:

Did you actually read the bloomberg artical?  (I copied this from the quote in the OP of this thread)...

“We are offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits,”

Ok, before you point it out, the words 'increased salary' are not specifically mentioned here, but I think 'excellent' could be assumed to imply at least equal to their current salaries.  Oh, look.... it mentions  'cash sign-on bonus', 'bonus eligibility' and 'other benefits' too.

I'll grant you the bouns bit. However, just because Take-Two calls the salary "excellent", that means it's excellent? Dude, you know damned well that's an entirely subjective description. That's corporate lingo for "see how well we're taking care of them? nothing to see here"

29 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

I am not going to bat for anybody.

I'm explaining why freaking out and tossing wild accusations around is not and never will be productive.

I don't think anyone's legit "freaking out", and which "wild accusations" are you talking about?

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5 hours ago, Kerbart said:

I’m not privy to the contract but projects like these usually have milestones with dates on them. It’s not inconceivable that medio December multiple milestones were missed and some tough discussions had taken place on where the project actually was, where it was going to end up and when.

What I'm wondering is this:

If Star Theory did miss a contractual deadline then it seems like the development team were more likely responsible for the shortfall than the management (who I presume would be pushing them to meet the deadline.) So why did TTI decide to extend a hiring offer to the entire development team that failed to meet this hypothetical deadline?

Edited by HvP
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6 minutes ago, HvP said:

What I'm wondering is this:

If Star Theory did miss a contractual deadline then it seems like the development team were more likely responsible for the shortfall than the management (who I presume would be pushing them to meet the deadline.) So why did TTI decide to extend a hiring offer to the entire development team that failed to meet this hypothetical deadline?

A thousand cooks in the kitchen can’t cook a steak any faster than 1. 

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4 minutes ago, HvP said:

What I'm wondering is this:

If Star Theory did miss a contractual deadline then it seems like the development team were more likely responsible for the shortfall than the management (who are more likely to be pushing them to meet the deadline.) So why did TTI decide to extend a hiring offer to the entire development team that failed to meet this hypothetical deadline?

It almost sounds like the motive wasn't that the studio wasn't delivering, doesn't it? *I asked facetiously.*

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1 hour ago, HvP said:

If Star Theory did miss a contractual deadline then it seems like the development team were more likely responsible for the shortfall than the management (who I presume would be pushing them to meet the deadline.) 

No.

It's always a Management problem.

They agreed on a impossible deadline, or hired people unable to accomplish the task.

In a way or another, it's ALWAYS a Management problem.

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Short version: insufficient data.

Long version: I've found most of the flak leveled at Take Two laughable, with this being the first real concern. What reassures me somewhat is that job offers were extended to nearly the entire team. This likely was not a cost cutting measure: you don't offer incompetents a job or needlessly disrupt an effective team.

It's entirely possible that one too many insults was passed at the negotiation table and Private Division went for the nuclear option. Never discount ego: businesses are made of people, and people occasionally do irrational things.

A bit of time will help clarify things: if this was a one off event, or if Private Division will make a habit of hostile takeovers. 

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On 6/5/2020 at 7:34 AM, KerikBalm said:

Who needs a KSP2?

There was this game Operation Flashpoint that was an unexpected hit from a small devloper, which was partnered with the Publisher codemasters. Things between the two went south, Codemasters had the rights to the name "Operation Flashpoint" they made a sequel, but the franchise is dead... I don't care.

The small developer made a "spiritual successor", named Armed Assault (Aka, Arma), and the Arma franchise continues to this day.

If TTI is unethical, and if there is a boycott that works, all that happens is the name KSP dies out. The market for such a game does not die out. The Simple Rockets devs could fill the void. Former Squad and Star theory (the non-poached ones) employees, prominent modders, could collaborate on a new spiritual successor, taking... I don't know a mod name as the new franchise name: "Beyond Home" or something.

The message it would send is that there is a market for space similation games, but that particular customer base cares more about ethics than sports franchise fans... or whatever.

A boycott only fails to achieve results if the customers collectively make it fail.

 

That said, I'm still open to hearing TTI's side of this, and I'd rather not wait for a "spiritual successor".

Nobody "Needs" video games at all, so I'm going to assume you mean "Why would i want KSP2". KSP has many longstanding issues with it that would likely be fixed with a new game, and KSP2 has seen at least some development before this excrementsstorm. That makes it preferable to starting completely from scratch if the option is available.

And i'm gonna be pretty frank here; i consider it a miracle that KSP ever made it to market in the first place. You're correct that there's absolutely nothing preventing anyone from making another soft-sim rocket game, but because of how niche it is and the types of developers and staff needed to make it happen the largest issue is finding anyone willing to fund it that isn't a massive publisher. Crowdfunding and the like could be used, but also just as easily could be turned into a meme.

But my overall point wasn't that "Don't Boycott KSP2 because i want my new shiny toy", it was that "Every boycott iv'e seen in the past related to gaming hasn't changed the final outcome, so good luck with it folks"

But your last point? Completely agreed with, and that's even though i don't really put any stock in either party at this point.

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9 hours ago, Pthigrivi said:

Companies typically keep 3-6mo worth of expenses cash on hand for events like this. More than that (should you be so lucky) is a waste and should be reinvested in retaining staff and growth. Assuming the spigot turned off abruptly in Dec its not surprising star theory didn’t last long. They may have made it if they were able to quickly land new projects, but COVID closed off most hope of that. 
 

That said, we really have no idea what really happened so this is all conjecture. 

Barring any knowledge-breaking insights, this can help us understand a little more about what the spectrum of possibilities is. 

On one extreme, T2 had a clause in the contract allowing them to terminate it whenever they want, or at least immediately. So the contractual protection of S.T ends in December. Then, given about 3 mnts of pay as per your comment, stretched out over not the full staff as some left for Intercept, Star Theory ran dry their funds and closed on March 4th (which is roughly consistent with these three months of pay), sending their employees home "with a months pay and 2 months health insurance", as per the Bloomberg Article. In this case, the answer to the question "why would you fire a studio months before a deadline" would need no explanation, they could per the contract, and negotiations/relations broke down, so they did. In this scenario, you could reasonably have the moral qualm as to why TT is able to so quickly fire a studio in the contract in the first place, given what the result would be in general for the studio and its people if T2 were to do that.

On a less extreme case, TT had to wait until some milestone deadline somewhere in between December and march. This means that S.T could have survived a little longer, and was more protected from willynilly mood changes at TT. Then a question for TT becomes: why do you have milestones that could end the contract built into said contract, which are months before a deadline to deliver the final product? Why would TT want the ability to go like: "well ehh, everything has been going good so far, but you missed the last milestone, and so you are fired for a game people expect next month". It doesn't make sense to me to put this in a contract. But hey, I've got no business experience, but as for moral qualms, you could take issue with this.

On the other extreme, S.T was protected against TTs attempts to break the contract until it expired, which is probably somewhere in March but at least in the spring before March 21, when T2 fiscal year ended. Given the savings we expect star theory to have at that point, there must have been a lot of foresight into the hopelessness of the future for S.T to shutter on March 4. This could be the case as well, since the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the conference central to their survival strategy (conventions don't happen every month), and made publishers more privy in general (making backdoor pitches harder). The employees also go extra pay and health when ST closed, so there needed to be funds for that left. Think about the history of the coronavirus, and think about how far in advance you would cancel a GameDev Conference scheduled in Mid March, whatever the cancellation date, you'd expect it to be close to March 4. This means the cancellation could have been the actual trigger that made ST close down, giving us an insight into how ST saw their chances.

Again, barring knowledge-breaking insights, what happened is somewhere in between these extremes.

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7 hours ago, Lisias said:

No.

It's always a Management problem.

They agreed on a impossible deadline, or hired people unable to accomplish the task.

In a way or another, it's ALWAYS a Management problem.

This is absolutely true. If you ever hear your management say that the deadlines were missed because employees didn't work hard enough, look for another job. Even if you aren't implicated, start looking.

That said, there's a bit of a difference between "Didn't deliver what's promised on time," and "Expectations expanded". It sounds like negotiations weren't just for extra time, but for larger scope of the game delivered at a later date, to which T2 were amicable, all based on reception of the teaser and consequent information in 2019. If the game was to be released in spring 2020, by early fall, the team should have been polishing and fixing bugs. If instead, they were working on new features based on T2 verbal assurances that they'll get more time, then by the time formal negotiations started in late fall, early winter, there was no way to ship the game in spring 2020, and that wouldn't be ST fault. They were working towards later release date in good faith. Nonetheless, it would be sufficient to give T2 grounds for contract termination at this point, because the existing contract did technically specify an infeasible date.

We don't know if that's what actually happened. In general, deadline extensions are a tricky business. Both sides have to work in good faith, or at least one will get screwed. If ST continued to work towards spring 2020 release despite talks with T2 about extending deadline, a lot of that final polish work would have to be re-done. The game would take even longer to release, and it would cost more money to make, which would have to be reflected in new contract. If ST starts working towards new release date immediately, then they are technically in breach of contract until new contract is signed, giving T2 a lot of leverage.

Of course, it's also possible that spring 2020 was never a realistic date, and that the game was heading for a delay even under original scope. That would give T2 a lot more reason to be upset. But it still doesn't explain why Take Two was happy to just hire back majority of these people, including creative director, to continue working on the project. If you have a studio that slips deadlines and negotiates in bad faith, it's never just one or two people at the head of the studio. It's always a team effort of at least several senior people in the studio. Primarily, because good managers simply won't work for awful ones. So the fact that T2 hired a huge chunk of leadership suggests things couldn't have been all that bad with the delay.

Naturally, all of this is still speculation. It's hard to say exactly what sort of promises were made behind closed doors, and what sort of mistakes people made based on partial information rather than due to malice or negligence.

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10 hours ago, Starman4308 said:

Short version: insufficient data.

Long version: I've found most of the flak leveled at Take Two laughable, with this being the first real concern. What reassures me somewhat is that job offers were extended to nearly the entire team. This likely was not a cost cutting measure: you don't offer incompetents a job or needlessly disrupt an effective team.

It's entirely possible that one too many insults was passed at the negotiation table and Private Division went for the nuclear option. Never discount ego: businesses are made of people, and people occasionally do irrational things.

A bit of time will help clarify things: if this was a one off event, or if Private Division will make a habit of hostile takeovers. 

What, exactly do you find laughable?

A lot of things are entirely possible. What i find peculiar, is that some of you seem so willing to give Take-Two the benefit of the doubt, but won't extend that same courtesy to Star Theory.

Also, this was NOT a hostile takeover, it was something far worse.

Edited by Numberyellow
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1 hour ago, Numberyellow said:

Also, this was NOT a hostile takeover, it was something far worse.

People are probably giving Take Two the benefit of the doubt because people [snip] keep saying blatant falsehoods like this against them.

Edited by Vanamonde
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35 minutes ago, Numberyellow said:

What i find peculiar, is that some of you seem so willing to give Take-Two the benefit of the doubt, but won't extend that same courtesy to Star Theory.

You're making an assumption here. I'm willing to give BOTH the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because there is just SO MUCH doubt it's easy to spread around.

No one is claiming that Star Theory is trying to ruin everything, so there's no reason to argue against them.

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1 hour ago, MechBFP said:

People are probably giving Take Two the benefit of the doubt because people [snip] keep saying blatant falsehoods like this against them.

[snip]

Here is the definition of a hostile takeover: " A hostile takeover is the acquisition of one company (called the target company) by another (called the acquirer) that is accomplished by going directly to the company's shareholders or fighting to replace management to get the acquisition approved. "

This was, by definition, NOT a hostile takeover.

1 hour ago, Superfluous J said:

You're making an assumption here. I'm willing to give BOTH the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because there is just SO MUCH doubt it's easy to spread around.

No one is claiming that Star Theory is trying to ruin everything, so there's no reason to argue against them.

It doesn't seem like you're willing to give Star Theory the benefit of the doubt..you've stated that you don't believe the information presented in the article, which was acquired from people who worked in the company. You've characterized people's reaction to what is clearly lousy, as "freaking out", and flinging "wild accusations". The way in which you word your posts leads me to believe you don't really think Star Theory was wronged, and that Take-Two didn't really do anything wrong.

no one is claiming that Star Theory is trying to ruin everything, and no one is really claiming that Take-Two is trying to ruin everything.... we're reacting to Take-Two having done something really disgusting, entirely out of the ordinary for the industry, yet, completely in line with their corporate personality, as supported by their track record of bad behavior.

Edited by Vanamonde
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You are correct it doesn’t meet the classical definition/style of a hostile takeover but the end result appears to have been the same thing. The only real difference is they didn’t acquire the actual company name in this case. They obviously got a significant portion of the employees and apparently all the work the project team did in the last 2 years as well. It just looks like the name of the company wasn’t important enough to acquire. 

It is possible they expected more people to jump ship, but it is also possible they assumed a number of people would quit anyway in a classical hostile takeover strategy.

Had ST been the owner of whatever work they had completed, T2 definitely wouldn’t have been able to go this route though.

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2 hours ago, Numberyellow said:

What, exactly do you find laughable?

A lot of things are entirely possible. What i find peculiar, is that some of you seem so willing to give Take-Two the benefit of the doubt, but won't extend that same courtesy to Star Theory.

Also, this was NOT a hostile takeover, it was something far worse.

What I've heard about Take Two:

An boilerplate EULA whose more plausibly threatening terms were never enforced.

They briefly shut down a mod for GTA that did break EULA and permit breaking DRM.

None of us know for certain what went down, but given the kneejerk reactions many have to anything Take Two does and the sensationalism that surrounds it, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I'd give Star Theory the benefit of the doubt as well, but Star Theory is no longer in existence. I can't not-boycott a company that folded.

Overall, I'm glad for this thread, because I did have a very negative reaction based on that Bloomberg article, and some of the comments here made me remember "oh yeah, media coverage is frequently sensationalist and there may be much more to the story".

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32 minutes ago, Starman4308 said:

What I've heard about Take Two:

An boilerplate EULA whose more plausibly threatening terms were never enforced.

They briefly shut down a mod for GTA that did break EULA and permit breaking DRM.

None of us know for certain what went down, but given the kneejerk reactions many have to anything Take Two does and the sensationalism that surrounds it, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I'd give Star Theory the benefit of the doubt as well, but Star Theory is no longer in existence. I can't not-boycott a company that folded.

Overall, I'm glad for this thread, because I did have a very negative reaction based on that Bloomberg article, and some of the comments here made me remember "oh yeah, media coverage is frequently sensationalist and there may be much more to the story".

media is often sensationalist, because that's what sells papers, gets subscriptions, and clicks....it glues butts to seats, and eyes to screens. The Don Henley song "Dirty Laundry" nailed it decades ago.

Schreier is a great example of why we should never take anything the media tells us at face value, unless it's a relay of information from first-party sources.

Anyway, you're forgetting what Take-Two did to Supmatto. All he did was report on information that was accidentally leaked by a careless Gearbox employee, and for that, they Harassed him with "private investigators" (actually thugs) whom the company sent to this guy's house, to intimidate him. They had all of his social media accounts nuked, after falsely claiming that he was using them to distribute stolen proprietary information...i think they even sued him. They utterly destroyed this guy's life, in order to cover for a mistake made by a gearbox employee. What they did to this guy, is why i'll never buy another of their products. What they did to Star Theory just reinforces that decision.

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1 hour ago, Numberyellow said:

It doesn't seem like you're willing to give Star Theory the benefit of the doubt..you've stated that you don't believe the information presented in the article, which was acquired from people who worked in the company.

I do not believe I ever said that. What I feel is that the article does not contain the truth, but snippets of truth designed to tell a story that will garner ad views and clicks. I also believe that there are other truths that were not in the story - either because they were and still are not known or because the author decided they were not in line with the story they were telling.

I would be shocked to learn that I said I thought anybody who was interviewed lied. If I even implied that, I retract it without reservation.

1 hour ago, Numberyellow said:

You've characterized people's reaction to what is clearly lousy, as "freaking out", and flinging "wild accusations". The way in which you word your posts leads me to believe you don't really think Star Theory was wronged, and that Take-Two didn't really do anything wrong.

What I don't believe is that we know enough to know.

I also believe very strongly that nobody has any obligation to deliver us any of this information, nor do we have any right to expect it.

I further believe that anybody other than those directly involved who is proposing to deliver this information has an agenda, and that agenda is almost assuredly not "oh these poor programmers."

I'm not going to trawl this thread for instances of people wildly accusing or freaking out, as I don't have the time or willingness to and any specific instances will just cause a "no it's not," "yes it is," back and forth. I'll take it back as a wild accusation itself.

Here's what I know, from the article with all the cruft cut out:

  • Star Theory failed to meet at least 2 deadlines. This could be the fault of either party or no party. But it's a fact. Twice the release date has been pushed so at least twice, a deadline was not met.
  • The three main creative leads of the project left immediately when offered a new job. Maybe they were scared of losing their job. Maybe they only cared if they could work on KSP2 and not who for. Maybe they hated their old bosses. Maybe maybe maybe. I don't care why because I don't know why and I can't know why. They left immediately. I got this from the article and see no reason to not believe it as a fact.
  • 1/3 of the programmers followed them immediately. Over 1/2 did eventually. This I also got from the article.

In my opinion the rest of the fallout is immaterial. COVID19 hit. Star Theory couldn't remain solvent. Same thing happened to the taco place down the street and I've spent a lot more money there in the past than I have on Take Two games. I'm also a lot more upset about it but that's not really the point of this post. The point is it happens. Companies fail especially when hit with multiple instances of bad news.

Here's an example of something that may have happened. Maybe the two business leads of Star Theory were bad at their job. They were overworking the programmers and making unmeetable deadlines and propping up the company with metaphorical sticks and canvas, hoping to sell to Take Two, make a bunch of unearned money, then cut and run. But Take Two didn't like the terms, so negotiated long enough for the ruse to become obvious when the second deadline (which the programmers were furiously trying to meet in spite of it being impossible) passed unmet. At this point, the contract became void and Take Two could release themselves from it. So they had two choices: Drop Star Theory like a hot potato and star over, or head hunt Star Theory's best resource - the actual people who did the actual work - and continue making the game.

I'd be interested in facts that don't back this scenario up. Note I'm not calling this scenario a theory, or a hypothesis, or even a possibility. I'm using it as an example of one of hundreds of scenarios someone could come up with that reasonably fit the real, actual data we have. Data that is so scant that no one can really come up with anything that fits it that they can say with any assurance is the truth.

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8 minutes ago, Superfluous J said:

Things and stuff

Ok, this is all entirely reasonable. I do wish we had more information..

one thing i will push back on is that we don't have any right to expect information. Take-Two did something that a lot of us are saying is really lousy. A lot of us are unwilling to buy the game now, BECAUSE of this. In order to save reputation, and maximize sales, it would be in their best interest to tell the people they are hoping will buy their game, what exactly happened. I don't think that's unreasonable. But that's just me. We don't hafta agree.

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22 minutes ago, Numberyellow said:

it would be in their best interest to tell the people they are hoping will buy their game, what exactly happened

I would like to agree with you on this one. I agree that it SHOULD be this way. But I really don't think it is. The sad truth is people have short attention spans and the first gameplay video or sneak peak will pull a lot of die-hard petition signers into the Hype Train ticket line.

And at the very least, Take Two would need a full office of lawyers to pen up the statement so as to not get sued by someone for something, and that statement would reek of lawyer speak so much that no one would take it seriously.

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1 minute ago, Superfluous J said:

I would like to agree with you on this one. I agree that it SHOULD be this way. But I really don't think it is. The sad truth is people have short attention spans and the first gameplay video or sneak peak will pull a lot of die-hard petition signers into the Hype Train ticket line.

Yeah, it SHOULD be that way... And sadly, you're kinda right....People these days lack resolve, and conviction. I don't have that problem. I already had plenty of reasons to not buy anything Take-Two publishes. Yeah, it sucks that i hafta miss out on things, but whatever....there are plenty of OTHER things to keep me occupied.

 

Quote

And at the very least, Take Two would need a full office of lawyers to pen up the statement so as to not get sued by someone for something, and that statement would reek of lawyer speak so much that no one would take it seriously.

Ain't that the truth..

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3 hours ago, Numberyellow said:

Take-Two did something that a lot of us are saying is really lousy. A lot of us are unwilling to buy the game now, BECAUSE of this.

You got a pretty good point here.

Playing the Devil's advocate, I want to remember that Companies are essentially sociopaths: any one that would try by itself any if the dirty tricks a Company usually does, and this poor stand-up guy will face a hell of a backslash from friends to family. Do you would invite a relative to dinner with your kids if the guy is a drug dealer?

Being all companies essential sociopaths entities, I'm starting to think this leakage to the press is part of a hidden agenda....

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@Numberyellow you summed it up perfectly. Ksp is so well along that it is  a great game and I’d be fine playing with the more recent updated version of ksp then ksp2. I probably will still buy ksp2, but I’m going to wait and see what it’s like first.

 

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3 hours ago, Numberyellow said:

In order to save reputation, and maximize sales, it would be in their best interest to tell the people they are hoping will buy their game, what exactly happened.

This assumes that telling exactly what happened would paint them in a more favorable light, that is far from obvious. 

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with Superfluous Horseman. We don't have all the facts, we likely will never have all the facts. Stuff happens. 

I try not to play politics with gaming. If the game is appealing to me I'll buy it, I don't care what people say about the company. If the game is not appealing I will not buy it, no matter how awesome the company. I think the gaming market in general reacts this way, so if they are concerned about sales by far the best thing they can do is produce the best possible game by whatever means they have. 

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13 hours ago, Lisias said:

You got a pretty good point here.

Playing the Devil's advocate, I want to remember that Companies are essentially sociopaths: any one that would try by itself any if the dirty tricks a Company usually does, and this poor stand-up guy will face a hell of a backslash from friends to family. Do you would invite a relative to dinner with your kids if the guy is a drug dealer?

Being all companies essential sociopaths entities, I'm starting to think this leakage to the press is part of a hidden agenda....

It's an interesting way of looking at things.... but i don't agree. See, i don't buy the whole "corporate personhood" thing..

Individuals can be sociopaths, companies cannot, because companies aren't alive. I believe corporate boards are made up almost exclusively of sociopaths. It's almost like it's a prerequisite for being on a corporate board.

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