Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

You’re Fired! Losing your job in the game industry…
Part 4

So I was transferred to a new company instead of fired. Not so bad a situation if the new company proved to be more competent than the last. I mean, how could it not be? The last place was a monument to mismanagement of talent and promotion of the stupid. I was pretty certain that an industry veteran like myself was going to find some compelling work to do at this new place.

My first job was to copy and paste text.

To COPY AND PASTE TEXT!

This is not an exaggeration… I was to copy text from one place, and put it in another document. I soon learned that this would be pretty much the ENTIRETY of my job. To copy and paste text… Clearly the mismanagement of talented resources was not confined to just the original company I had been at. This was a veritable disease that had spread through every limb of the conglomeration of companies and was festering in every corner, waiting to spring on talented people and chain them to a desk where they would be forced to waste their time on tasks that any trained monkey could do. What possible business model to success could they have been following?

Yet, the leads did seem more competent and capable at this new place. Though they were not amazing, they certainly had some sense of what they were doing. Unfortunately, there was a power struggle amongst them and they had three leads for one body of work. I couldn’t help but think it would negatively impact the game they were working on, and sure enough it had. It was a mish-mash of disconnected ideas, mini-games and plot-lines. You honestly could not follow the logic from one objective to the next or any of the story. Sadly it was another movie game adaption, but fortunately for me I wasn’t going to be doing any work that required me to think. Unfortunately for them that makes me not want to be there, so I stepped up my job search.

Over the next few months I copied and pasted text like a good little monkey, but because my job was so mind-numbingly boring, I wouldn’t stay late unless there was some sick deadline (of which there were several as they needed my work to be completed in order to record dialogue). Then I kept coming in a little bit later each day. My heart just wasn’t in it. Nothing will destroy the soul of a game industry veteran faster than making them do mind-numbingly stupid work over and over. That’s why the running joke is that EA is where the pros go to die. Yet despite getting the work done, I was still getting the evil eye for not staying late and for coming in late. Did they really expect me to work overtime for no extra pay on what could possibly have been the most idiotic job in the world?

Just when I had given up all hope, I got a hit on my job search. An old friend needed someone with my talent set to come work on new intellectual properties! Finally, I would be working on something I would enjoy. Nothing beats the freedom of being able to create worlds in any way that you choose. But I felt bad about ditching the current company when they were so close to certain deadlines. I (stupidly) delayed the new job for a couple months so that I could wrap up the final few bits of copying and pasting and thus not screw my current employer. Apparently I had a conscience, but it did not serve me well.

When the receptionist who never talks to you on a normal basis comes by your desk and whispers that they need to see you in the HR ladies office, you know you’re about to be fired. I mean, let’s be honest here, no one is that dumb. If you REALLY want to trick someone, tell them that there’s a problem with their 401k and they need to sign some paperwork in the HR office. Then they can be all shocked and awed when they get there to find out they’re being fired. Of course, management is practically mentally retarded at this particular group of companies, so knowing I was about to be fired, I copied some personal files I needed to my flash drive, deleted pretty much everything else that wasn’t work related and decided not to send out an e-mail because I really didn’t care enough to write one.

When I walked into the HR office, one of the three leads for my position was there along with the HR lady and a couple of others. This was going to be fun… I had trouble containing my smile as I asked where I had to sign to get out of this hellhole. They then had the nerve to start talking about how I wasn’t staying late and I was reducing morale for the team. I told them that if they wanted to reduce morale, they should try copying and pasting text for several months and see what that does for them. I also pointed out that my work was getting done but more importantly, they were absolutely stupid for putting an industry veteran like myself on such a simian task. I was given some paper to sign which I scribbled on, and the HR lady wrote my name under the scribbling (not legally binding when you write someone’s name for them). I then pointed out how idiotic they were to fire me before I was done and that given their policy of shutting down computers when firing people, they had probably just lost an entire day of work that I had been doing. I picked up my “you’re fired” packets and was escorted out by HR to my car.

I’m not one to take things out on HR, it’s really not their fault or decision. So I was actually smiling and laughing once we got outside. I felt… Free. I would not be copying and pasting text anymore as a job ever again. I was horribly overpaid considering, and now I had to try to move up the start date of the new job I had lined up (which it turned out I couldn’t) but I scrounged together enough to make ends meet until I did start at the new place.

The difference between the two companies is night and day, which is probably why I’m able to reflect on the past right now without feeling any real bitterness about it. However, people still work at those companies, so maybe they’ll learn a few things from this. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some other people who experienced similar events, and then I’ll try to summarize what you should do when working at such companies… It’ll be fun.

posted by CommanderHate at 3:50 pm  

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You’re Fired! Losing your job in the game industry…
Part 3

Sometimes you go to a company and everything seems fine on the surface. The people seem good, the project seems right up your alley, the office seems okay at first glance. Then you actually start working there and you slowly realize you’ve been tricked. That huge salary increase was in actuality hazard pay for having to deal with one of the shittiest development cycles ever imagined by man or demon. Your boss is an alcoholic power mongering dominatrix, your co-workers are on auto-pilot and don’t really give a damn about making a good game (or perhaps any game at all), and the roof of the office leaks water ONTO YOUR COMPUTER threatening you with DEATH BY ELECTROCUTION…

Being thrust into that situation would make most people with any talent turn around and immediately leave, but I have a thing about completing projects I start on. So I bared with it and though the end product was a miserable pile, I did get to do a lot of writing and design which I enjoy. Certainly, I’ll never see any acclaim for it given that the product as a whole resembled a 5th grade student’s C- science project, but I feel good about my contributions and am fairly certain that the game would never have shipped at all without them. In fact, I was told exactly that on numerous occasions by various members of the company. Despite that, I was planning on moving on to a new company until I heard what the next project would be.

The new project was pretty compelling for me and I was given a slight promotion (though not to a lead position) so I decided to tough it out a bit. Sadly, despite having an entirely new team to work with, the people in charge were still simpering morons who had no idea what they were doing. This time, instead of being an alcoholic, my lead was a complete idiot who had probably not played a video game of any sort since 1992. The rest were no better, and some thought that they should be allowed to get their noses into my business even though they were in a completely different field and had no clue what they were talking about. I love feedback and suggestions, just not stupid ones.

But I worked diligently on the project, sometimes going around or above my lead to get things done and often being slapped on the wrist for doing so. It’s the only time in my entire career where I would consistently be punished for trying to make things better and attempting to get my job done. What I found was that after a certain amount of being smacked down for doing a good job, you tend to cease caring about getting your work done and start concentrating on fixing the problems that hinder you from getting your work done. In my unfortunate case, all of the problems were people, and the company had a strict policy of only putting incompetent people in positions of power over their talent (sometimes extremely talented people, mores the pity).

My dilemma was also compounded by the fact that no one in a position of power above the morons in charge of me would know the difference between a person who does my job well and one who does it incredibly poorly. I was also having trouble finding a new job at the time. It seemed that just as I was getting into talks with a company, there would be mass layoffs and whoever was going to bring me in for an interview was gone. In furtherance of that, my reputation had been so tarnished by my boss from my first industry job (see Part 1) that anyone who had previously worked there and was now at a new company would deny me an interview because of what they had heard (and that was 3 years ago, people can change ya know).

I didn’t want to work there, but I couldn’t collect severance if I quit and finding a new job that I actually wanted wasn’t working out. I had only one logical out. I needed them to fire me.

You see, in my state, you can’t tell anyone that you fired someone or anything about the incident that caused it. To do so would get you immediately sued (and though I’ve never personally sued anyone, nor do I want to, the money you can get from such lawsuits can be many years worth of salary so companies tend to keep things very hush-hush). I already had an idea of what I wanted to do to make it happen as well.

In the recent past the company had worked with a publisher wholly owned by one person. That person was an ego-maniac with a Napoleon complex, so I knew it wouldn’t take much to set off a chain reaction that would end in my expulsion. The company no longer worked with this person and I’m 100% certain they never would have again, so I wasn’t going to be hurting any friends who stayed at the company if I did something dramatic with the ex-publisher. But they had a good parting of ways so I knew that there would be an instant cry for retaliation if I hit him where it hurts (his ego). In addition, his involvement in the game was what ultimately turned what could have been a fun new platformer into a flat and boring brand advertisement. The majority of the exciting moves the character was able to do early on in the game were pulled out when the publisher cried out that they weren’t realistic enough. Cause that’s what people want in games… Realism… (sarcasm off, no wait, it’s stuck in the on position).

What made me think of this particular publisher was a press release that had come out that stated that the publisher had found a new development team to handle his next project. He likened the new team to working with a star basketball player. He claimed it was like writing plays for Michael Jordan and then watching him execute them. So I wrote him an e-mail. I told him that it was indeed just like that. Except that whenever Jordan would start leaping into the air for a slam dunk, the publisher would rush out and stop him, claiming that his jumps were unrealistic.

I didn’t even have to wait a day. I was summoned to the HR office that afternoon. You see, the great thing about having morons in charge, is that trivial matters like a publisher you’re never going to work with again being insulted by one of your employees becomes top priority since they have no idea what they’re doing the rest of the time. This was a raw event that even a simpleton could grasp. The outcome was a foregone conclusion. At least, I thought it would be. Turns out I was wrong.

I was talked to and despite being belligerently lacking in remorse, I was not fired. I signed a piece of paper acknowledging that I’d been talked to and despite me telling them that were I in their position, I would have fired me, they simply filed the paper away and kept on. Well, for a while at least… Apparently they had other plans to punish me.

I was moved to one of their sister companies… And that is a whole other tale.

posted by CommanderHate at 5:53 pm  

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You’re Fired! Losing your job in the game industry…
Part 2

When I first started in the game industry I was working in Quality Assurance. Back in those days, firing was kind of a ridiculous affair. When you were fired you were summoned to the QA manager’s office where you were given your final check and perhaps an exit interview. I never went through this particular process so I’m not 100% sure what went on in there. What I saw was what went on outside.

Your computer was locked out almost the moment you stood up to go to the manager’s office. In the office you’re given your final check and a cardboard box. Then the HR guy would escort you to your desk where you could pack up the junk you’ve collected over however much time you’ve worked there (and at a game company, this can be an epic pile of geeky crap). At this point you’re being walked around the cubicle aisles towards the exit, which we in QA termed “The Walk of Shame(TM).” What was funny about this is that no one would make eye contact or even talk to the person being fired (except maybe me who would say bye if I liked them at all). They would get marched all the way out to the parking lot where the HR guy had to watch them until they drove off the lot.

I’ve heard worse stories about being fired in the game industry. My favorite being the one where the entire company was forced to go on a walk to the coffee shop. It was mandatory so no one was allowed to stay behind and keep working. When they got back, the doors were closed and locked and a note was on the door letting them all know they’d been laid off. I never got to experience anything that fun, but the second game company I worked for had an interesting way of closing up shop.

I had worked there for about 2 years (but for some reason had never gotten a review, which should have been my first clue something was up) and we had finished our game and were just doing some final foreign language testing before moving on to the next title. Unfortunately, the publisher had decided they didn’t like the owner and was screwing us on advertising. That left them in a bit of a pickle cause the game needed to do well for the company to stay afloat. You see, the owner had also burned almost every bridge he had ever come across. I think he was a bit of a pyro in that way…

So I was not terribly surprised when they informed me that I (along with about 1/3rd of the rest of the company) was being laid off. After the previous debacle, there was nothing left in my soul that could feel even a minute bit of sadness over this. So I said, “okay.” I then went over all the problems that their company had over the past year and suggested ways to fix them, as well as trying to course correct the way the owner dealt with publishers (cause, let’s face it, no publisher = no money). The HR guy was shocked that I was taking it so well, but apparently my first firing had hardened my heart into solid granite against just this sort of thing.

They kept me on for another three weeks but wouldn’t let me work on the new project. Since the foreign language stuff was pretty much wrapped up and they wouldn’t let me anywhere near their new IP, I asked if I could “work from home” for the last 2 weeks and they agreed (probably sensing my extreme frustration at not being able to do any real work). If I have to surf the web all day, I’d rather do it from home. =p~

I’d like to say I was surprised when I heard a few weeks later that their new project had been canned and everyone else had been let go (except the core owners of course), but I really wasn’t. The vibe was in the air the entire time after the project had shipped (which went on to get critical acclaim but had no commercial success), and I honestly knew the boot was coming for everyone. Sadly it had been my experience that warning people that their jobs were on the chopping block just makes them hate you with the burning heat of a thousand suns. So I didn’t say anything. The owners of the company packed up their stuff, left everyone behind and moved to the Bay area… To do movies I think.

That was probably the most pleasant end at a company that I’ve had. The next two were pretty rough…

posted by CommanderHate at 12:04 pm  

Monday, January 28, 2008

You’re Fired! Losing your job in the game industry…
Part 1

I’ve had the honor of being fired on two occasions in the game industry. The first time was after five years of “meritorious” service. I was called to come down to the main conference room, but no meeting had been scheduled. I should also point out that my boss thoroughly despised me and had consistently smeared my name and work ethic across the entirety of the company for the past 2 years (I guess he didn’t like being beaten at Starcraft, on which occasion he ran over to our office, slammed his hand against the wall and cried out like a beleaguered child that I had zealot rushed him when he didn’t even know the map. QQ, neither did I). So as soon as I picked up the phone and was asked to come down to the conference room, I knew I was being fired. I even announced it to everyone in the office I shared. “I am being fired.”

Sadly, I only took one of the appropriate actions. I delayed the inevitable by telling them that I just had to finish one thing or hours of work would be lost and it would be about 5 minutes. That, was smart. Sadly, it was the only smart thing I did.

What I then should have done was plug in my flash drive and open the carefully prepared goodbye letter that I keep on it, stating why I must leave at this critical point in my career, how much I appreciated working with everyone, and how I felt that despite the gaffs and foolishness of the people rising in power, that those people under them would continue to make the difference between shipping the epic titles we do and the crap that would likely come in their absence. You know, a “power to the people” sort of speech. That always gets under the skin of the higher-ups. I then should have sent it to the entirety of the company as I downloaded all my critical files onto the drive before shutting it down.

I then should have reached for my backpack and put the two personal affects that I keep at work in it, walked down to the conference room, demanded my final paycheck, refused to sign anything and left without another word.

That’s what I wish I had done. Sadly it was my first industry job and I was not prepared for such a thing. Even though I had known it was coming for almost a year (what can you do when your boss hates your guts). Instead I mumbled I’m being fired all the way down to the conference room where I found that I was in fact being fired. I demanded to know why and after several attempts at bullshitting (all of which I called them on) I gave up. I took my final check and a hefty severance package (someone felt guilty about it), and stupidly signed a non-compete (which is non-binding in CA and they cannot withhold your final check to make you sign it btw). I was then led to my office where I began packing LOADS of toys, lego Star Wars, and other geek crap that I should never have brought in to begin with. I wept as I did this. Pathetic…

After a few trips to the car with some help from my friends, I took the last two items, my swords and carried them calmly to my car. It was kind of cathartic. I said my goodbyes to the people who cared enough to see me go and thus ended my days at my first game company.

Many lessons were learned, but did I follow them the next time this happend?

I’ll tell you more tomorrow.

posted by CommanderHate at 6:04 pm  

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Value of Life

I get asked about twice a year why I don’t believe in God (i.e. an atheist). Most people find it curious to begin with because I seem (when not hating on something) like a genuinely kind person. In addition, I’m a reverend of the Universal Life Church, but they have only one “commandment” and that is: “To do that which is right.” It’s all sort of good in a generic sense. Of course, good is a term defined by mankind…

The problem I have with a God is that it makes human life in general inconsequential. Who cares what we do day to day? There’s a creature out there that can wipe us all out in the blink of an eye and then recreate us as talking finger puppets if it chooses. The same can be said for people who believe in aliens or that a comet might hit the earth (again) and wipe us all out. You tend to become a bit of a doom sayer when you think that way. But not all religious types think that way.

Some religious types actually seem to care about other people. They treat everyone with respect and they help out others who are in need. They are deeply religious and believe in Christ (or Muhammed, or whoever) as their savior and they tend to do good things for the world. The problem there is that they’re not being kind or doing nice things because they believe it’s the right thing to do. They do it because they believe it’s the only way to get into heaven. It all rings rather false at the end of the day if the only reason you gave a bum a hot meal is because you didn’t want to roast in the eternal fires of hell while satan fucked your skull.

You see, one of the HUGE problem with religion is that it absolves us of our ability to choose for ourselves. Yes, in the bible it says you have “free will,” but given the choice between being burned alive for all of eternity and living in the rapturous light of a benevolent God, which one would you pick? It forces your hand towards doing the “right” thing (and includes some bullshit like converting others), which generally means that people aren’t doing things because they feel its right, but because they fear hell. Is that a good way to raise your children? Using fear instead of instilling proper values? Telling them to do the right thing because satan will consume their soul and rape their ass in hell if they don’t?

I personally believe in humanity. The only thing that can make each of our lives better, is caring and understanding for one another. That’s the entire purpose of a marriage, is it not? Yet, the bible perverts even that as the purpose of marriage in the bible is to spawn children and teach them about your religion. Seems pretty sad to me. I won’t even go into the various religions demeaning of women (thou shalt not suffer a woman to speak in church, etc), but the biggest problem I have with religion is how it devalues all life.

You see, if there is an afterlife, that means that what we do now in life is much less relevant. Who cares about someone dying of hunger if you believe that when they finally do die, they’ll go to another place where things will be better (or much worse)? Abstaining from helping others isn’t necessarily a sin. That’s why those missionaries are so irritating. They say they’re going to “help” people in other countries but what they’re really doing is converting them to their religion. I won’t go into how these same missionaries will also give or deny food based on the destitute¬† people’s willingness to accept Christ as their savior, but I think you get the idea (and yes, not all of them are this way, but they only have a certain amount of supplies and the vast majority of their supplies are bibles, not food).

So what should people believe? It’s really simple. When you die, there is nothing. The only thing that matters in this world is how you treat other people because THAT is the legacy that you will leave behind. If you were kind, if you inspired others to do good, if you helped everyone around you, those are the things that will inspire others to do the same.

At the end of the day, if you remove all the “son of God” garbage and miracles bullshit, isn’t that the real idea behind the mythology of Christ?

posted by CommanderHate at 6:16 pm  

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wasting Your Votes

Every time there’s a presidential election the debate begins again. Who is electable? Who is not electable? Who are you voting for? Oh you’re voting for him? That’s like throwing your vote away.

First off, let me begin by saying that any vote is not a thrown away vote. The fact that you participated in our election system alone is the important thing, who you voted for (to me) is irrelevant. Secondly, the only time you are truly wasting your vote is when instead of voting for who you think represents your ideas best, you vote for someone because they are the lesser of two evils and you think (for whatever reason) that the person you REALLY want to vote for is unelectable.

You see, if everyone votes for the more “electable” candidates instead of the person they actually want to see be president, what do you think will happen? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They’re only unelectable because you think they are. At the end of the day though, you still end up with some asshole that you really didn’t want in there. He’s just slightly better than the other asshole (as South Park put it, Turd Sandwich or Giant Douche). Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone you actually believed in as the President of your country?

In Canada they can issue a non-vote, which they do by marking the ballot a certain way. If there are enough non-votes, they scrap their candidates and find new ones so that people can vote again. Seems smart…

I honestly hope that one day, people will stop meta-gaming the voting system of our country and start voting with who they honestly believe will do the best job. If they ever do, I expect the family dynasties built on the political aristocracy will come crashing down. The day someone funded by micro donations from normal people over the internet wins instead of a political animal funded by blood money from corporations, is the day that America finally pulls its head out of its own ass and corrects the last 30 years of stupidity.

Concerning that last analogy, I think we’ve also had diarrhea the last 8 years.

posted by CommanderHate at 5:04 pm  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Innocence Lost : The Corporatization of Game Companies

I had the pleasure of starting in the game industry at one of the most passionate development companies of our era. You literally had to love games in order to work there, and if you didn’t have a passion for them, you likely would not get the job. But as I moved up through the ranks the company as a whole was growing. Departments blew out from 20 people to 50. People were hired and fired in waves. Corporate policies had to be created to prevent the stupid few from ruining work for the rest of us. Of course, those same policies often ended up ruining it for the rest of us anyways.

It was around the 200 person mark that I realized the game studio that I had originally started at was pretty much gone. Maybe I had been naive and not seen the reality of the situation, but I used to be able to tell you the name of every person who worked there. I used to play Magic The Gathering at one of their houses. We used to have a Counterstrike team that would try (and fail) to play in tournaments. I used to have access to the entirety of the building… But all those things faded away as the company grew to epic proportions.

What came instead were the policies. Get to work on time, only take an hour for lunch, watch what you say… What? You should do those things anyways? Well, yes if you’re in a corporate environment, you should. But we creative types need a little breathing room to do our thing. Sometimes we work late into the night and might come in an hour late the next day. I guarantee you allowing that freedom makes those types of people more productive (and more creative). I highly doubt that any of the more unique games you’ve seen come out in the past few years were done by people who were following strict corporate policies.

Now franchises are the big coffin nail in the death bed of the game industry. These are exactly what the corporate types want to create. I can recall being told by the president of one of these companies that it would be ideal for them if they could score a movie franchise game and its subsequent sequels all in one contract.

Yes, they wanted to do not just one movie game, they wanted to do 3 movie games in a row, all from the same source material. First of all, what publisher would want to secure a contract for 3 movie games in a row that might COMPLETELY SUCK!? None that I know of… Secondly, what sort of mindless brain dead development team must you have for them to WANT to work on essentially the same game for the next 3-5 years?

Yes, if it’s their own intellectual property… If they’re allowed to innovate in new directions… If they can make the source material their own… Then maybe, they might just want to work on sequel after sequel of the same damn game. That’s not what these corporate styled studios want though.

They want to crank out these sequels like an assembly line thinking that this will somehow equate to profit. I guess if you can score that kind of contract, it would ensure the money for that duration of projects, but in the meantime your development team will be pulling their own hair out.

I don’t know anyone who got into the game industry for job security. They got into it because they love games. If they wanted job security they’d go learn finance and become a bank teller or something. Any development team worth their weight wants to innovate and create something new. Even a reimagining of an old franchise might be fun, but only if they’re allowed to go in any direction they choose. Copying something else that’s already been done or playing it by the book and attempting to copy the storyline of the source material (like movie games seem to do) is not fun for anyone (especially the player). It’s more like a problem that needs to be solved, but the real problem isn’t that you’re trying to translate a book or movie into a game, it’s that you’re working on a fucking book or movie game and you already know it’s doomed to fail.

Game companies were founded on the idea that a group of people could create something both new and fun that others might enjoy. As soon as you take that away and begin cranking out sequels or movie games, you’ve lost the entire reason to be in the game industry. Though you might think that securing a multiple game contract equates to job security, you’ll find that anyone with talent and creativity will soon leave the company to form their own studio or join another person’s innovative game vision. Worse, you’re going to end up with a crappy game that the publisher will NOT want a sequel of and at the end of the day, your corporation will lose its contract and all future business.

Job security? Not so much…

So I suggest that all those corporate mucky mucks who somehow got to be in charge of a “game company” re-examine why people are even in the industry. If you go to a game studio to give a speech and the words “multi-sequel contract” come out of your mouth, you’ve failed the people you’re in charge of.

posted by CommanderHate at 2:56 pm  

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Game Industry Overtime

“Don’t you know we’re trying to burn the candle at both ends?”

It’s ridiculous how producers seem to think they can get away with torturing their own development team, and then somehow, miraculously they’ll make a great game from nothing. It starts with them telling people to get their work done, no matter what it takes. In most cases, getting your work done just means fixing bugs and “completing” tasks, but as everyone in the industry is aware, this does not usually equate to a fun game. So any game developer with a conscience who doesn’t want their name going on a box filled with steaming dog shit will make some extra effort to perfect whatever it is they’re working on. This takes some extra hours and though in most cases the production staff will never SAY you should work late, you inevitably MUST work late, and they know this (and abuse it).

They don’t seem to understand that it’s against the law because those very same developers almost never get paid overtime. You would think the EA and Blizzard lawsuits would have shored up this little bit of industry idiocy, yet it still continues. Perhaps a few more lawsuits are in order? Maybe so…

Regardless, the development team puts in the extra effort, stays the extra hours and gets the job done (usually right depending upon how late they had to stay up to do it). Now when you stay up late, you’re going to sleep late, it’s only natural to assume this. Unless you happen to be a complete moron, or in this case, a producer on a video game. You see, they seem to think that despite your many hours of unpaid overtime working late into the night and occasionally early morning, you must still get to work on time the next day (sometimes the same day) and warm your damn chair even though your zombie like visage would clearly indicate that no productive work could possibly get done without another 2-3 hours of sleep.

Yes, back in “the day(TM)” the development team might crank through work for 48 hours straight by drinking mountain dew and eating twinkies, but as it turns out it’s NOT HEALTHY nor does it necessarily make for a good game. As anyone with half a brain knows, working late into the night stimmed up on caffeine makes you more likely to make POOR decisions as opposed to good ones. Is it any surprise that work checked in past midnight rarely ever comes through without some sort of grievous error that wrecks the game horribly? It shouldn’t be… And of course because they were out so late, the developer is sleeping in now and everyone is held up unless someone else knows how to fix that error. It’s a vicious cycle because the later you stay, the more mistakes you’ll make, and the earlier you’re required to come in the next day, the worse those mistakes will be. People need sleep to function well, it’s a fucking fact.

Wouldn’t it be smarter to schedule things out such that no one ever needs to work any overtime? I’ll pause here for the collective nodding of heads from anyone who is an actual developer of video games, were it to make a sound, no matter how slight, the world would have just been deafened.

Of course, there’s always the naysayers who will tell us that you can’t possibly plan for everything, but the fact of the matter is that the JOB OF PRODUCTION IS TO PLAN FOR EVERYTHING! Yes, your job, as a producer is to PLAN OUT EVERY ASPECT OF PRODUCTION! If you do not do this, the failing is not on the development team for not working ridiculous hours, it is YOUR failing for not producing a proper schedule for them to follow. That’s why I’m of the personal belief that overtime pay should come from the producer’s salary… You know, incentive… I suppose that’s a foreign concept to a lot of game studios, but incentive is what you want to give people so that they will want to work overtime to make a great game. Taking away game playing during lunch and after work does not make a gamer want to make a great game (and it can actually reduce their ability to make a great game as they fall behind on the latest and greatest titles). Of course, taking away their SLEEP is fundamentally retarded from any perspective and a sure sign that you won’t have to worry about their schedule for too much longer as they’re probably staying up extra late now to work on their resume…

What I find most ridiculous on the production side of things is how they can never seem to take your word for how long it takes to do something. Unless I am mistaken, a producer is not an artist, a programmer, or a designer so they really should be relying on people in those fields for the time line on how long it takes to complete their own tasks. Right?

Yet, inevitably, they always take whatever time they are told by those experts of their own fields, cut it in half, shave off a few hours to make it fit on their excel sheet, push it a week forward so it lines up properly with their subheading title, and then make sure to overlap it with 5 other tasks that are all dependent on the same group of people such that even with a time machine and an instantaneous cloning device there is little to no hope of ever completing any of the tasks by the date they have been set for completion.

Add on to this the producer’s inability to complete the calendar chart of work tasks before the tasks are set to begin and you have to wonder how they ever thought that the developer would be able to complete a 12 day task they just learned was due three weeks ago.

It seems so simple, yet it’s rarely done (I’ve personally seen it done once, maybe twice in almost 10 years of game development), but when you are building your schedule, use the time estimates that the people who must complete the tasks gave you. Do not “adjust” them based on your idea of how long it “should” take because you really don’t have any idea or you’d be doing their job. In fact, if anything, you should be ADDING time to their tasks because as we all know, those times will blow out as unforeseen factors come to light (broken tools, broken computers, broken hopes and dreams).

Even if you are one of those producers who happens to have some experience in another field, you still must trust their estimates because between tool changes and everyone’s individuality (that’s right, individuals can take different amounts of time to complete the same task) they still know better than you how long it will take to do their work.

posted by CommanderHate at 2:52 pm  

Monday, January 21, 2008

Resolution of Boredom…

People have been telling me to do this for years. Now they’ll finally understand why it was such a bad idea to begin with.

posted by CommanderHate at 7:35 pm  

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