Judging by the Steam charts, players have been enjoying their time with My Time At Portia. The same can't be said for the voice actors, who have spent the past year dealing with poor communication and inconsistent payments by devs Pathea Games. Yesterday Pathea acknowledged their mishandling of the situation, claimed they were currently in the process of ensuring everyone was properly paid, and promised to do better in the future.
Back in October, posts appeared on Steam and a voice actor's forum. Both were from individuals claiming to be in touch with multiple voice actors who'd recorded lines for Pathea, but had been repeatedly messed around.
The allegations were numerous, including requests that the voice actors work for free, subsequent offers of low rates, sudden audition deadline changes, and actors not receiving payment until many months later - or in some cases, not at all. A dev responded to both threads at the time, explaining that a deal was explicitly made where voice actors would be paid some of their fee immediately after recording, and the rest of their money after the game was released. Many other concerns weren't addressed, however. Worse, the dev - back in October - claimed that slow responses to voice actor's concerns were partly due to prioritising emails from fans.
In yesterday's statement, Pathea copped to mishandling the situation - while denying that they'd left anyone in the lurch.
"During the time we've been developing MTAP and been working with voice actors, we have sent out countless payments, and have listened and adjusted our methods and systems several times when we discovered that something didn't work. Did we make errors? Yes, we did, and we are not proud of them. But did we ignore them and leave people out in the cold? Absolutely not. We have attempted to address every case that was brought to our attention, and have always been ready to fix any errors on our part.
"We are still an inexperienced and ambitious studio, and did not have a solid structure in place to maintain adequate links to our actors and maintenance thereof, and this caused several issues. It started from volunteer work, to paid work, then to contracted work."
The post goes on to restate the delayed payment plan, acknowledges the Steam post from October, then explains that after speaking with voice actors they "concluded that periodic payment would be a better course of action".
"We spent the next 3 months establishing direct contact with our actors, attempting to fix line of communication, feeling that was where the issue was. Communication increased, payments were made, but it still wasn't enough. The swift urgency of change brought some inconsistencies and conflicts with our structure, slowing things down, and timeliness not being handled appropriately. On top of that was the initial pay that lingered as an intent to be a part of the full pay. This led some actors to submit a few lines, not meet the 'credit', and then in turn, we asked them for more lines without them having received any pay.
"Over this last weekend, we have been addressing this as best as we can. We sent out payments to all actors whether we had implemented their lines or not, but this still left some people not recieving pay, due to that 'credit'. After interacting with a few of those in question, it was made clear that this just wasn't fair. We removed that credit/deduction, and are currently in the process of getting out the payments as due."
Despite the fact that Pathea are still in the process of paying people, it's worth noting this Twitter thread by voice actor Elsie Lovelock. It echoes Pathea's earlier comment about communication being the primary issue: "It was never a case of them holding money hostage and refusing to pay us, it was incredibly poor organisation and terrible communication on their part, something they also say they’re supposedly trying to work on."
Clearly, a lot went wrong here - though Lovelock's thread suggests that the disputes have nearly been resolved. It's still dismaying that just two days ago, Pathea asked voice actors to contact them if they'd missed payment. They were apparently tracking everyone that worked for them, but not reliably enough. The onus should never have been on the actors to get in touch - and certainly not after a year of being messed around.
"In the future, we will be signing on a professional [voice over] company to handle these things for us", concludes Pathea's statement. "It just didn't work for anyone."