×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Dark Side of Making L.A. Noire

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the games-are-serious-business dept.

Games 242

JameskPratt writes "Long-time readers have no illusions of how awful the video game industry can treat its workers. Eleven ex-employee of Team Bondi, who made LA Noire, have now cited 60- to 110-hour work weeks, unusual compensation rules, and the 7-year development cycle as reasons for frustration and discontent. They claim their boss, Brendan McNamara, crushed office morale with verbal abuse and unreasonable goals. As the saying goes, the two things you don't want to see being made are law and video games." The International Game Developers Association will be investigating the matter.

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

242 comments

No way... (5, Funny)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 2 years ago | (#36607978)

Asshole bosses and ridiculous work hours? In the software industry? Say it ain't so!

Re:No way... (5, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608016)

You're doing it wrong.

I've had a pretty reasonable software career so far. 10 years, decent money (nothing spectracular, but decent) and outside of about two months of actual, genuine, crunchtime in there I've never worked more than 38-40 hours a week. Often less!

There are some parts of the industry that are not managed by psychopaths, or permanently in OMG PANIC mode.

Re:No way... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608148)

but this is about the GAMING industry.. quite a different environment.

Re:No way... (3, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608302)

Oh sure, a friend of mine started out there and reported much the same as TFA, which is why he left for more sensible parts of the industry. But the OP said "software industry", not "games industry" which is what my reply was about.

Re:No way... (5, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608154)

>>There are some parts of the industry that are not managed by psychopaths, or permanently in OMG PANIC mode.

Yeah, and even game development doesn't have to be crazy like that. LA Noire, IIRC, was handed the GTA engine on a platter, so they didn't/shouldn't have needed to worry about implementation details too much except their game-specific stuff (interviews and the like).

I'll have the occasional crunchtime... but I generally see crunchtime as a sign of bad time management skills, on my part or someone else's. Or, very infrequently, as the result of a crisis.

When I used to work doing game development, it was a 9 to 5 job, and I had a perfectly reasonable manager and very intelligent co-workers. YMMV, in other words, in the game industry and outside of it.

Re:No way... (2)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608260)

I think the problem is that more people would put up with that kind of crap for "their dream job programming teh games". Just like illegal immigrants put up with crap to "live in teh americas".

And possibly also the personality type that's attracted to making games. That's usually the type that "I like games, so I will learn how to program" rather than "I like to program, so maybe I will program games". In my experience the former ain't as smat.

Re:No way... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608642)

horseshit

Re:No way... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608272)

LA Noire, IIRC, was handed the GTA engine on a platter, so they didn't/shouldn't have needed to worry about implementation details too much except their game-specific stuff (interviews and the like).

It bothers me when people say this. L.A. Noire was written entirely from scratch. They were handed nothing "on a platter". If some of the mechanics resemble those in GTA, that's probably a direct result of the people paying the bills making some calls.

Re:No way... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609042)

>>If some of the mechanics resemble those in GTA, that's probably a direct result of the people paying the bills making some calls.

If they reimplemented the engine and all the details from GTA, then that was a horrendous waste of time and resources.

Well, game development is prone to crunch time (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608934)

Simply because, as Duke Nukem Forever is an excellent example of, assets have a short shelf life. Once you have things ready to assemble in to a game, you have to do it fairly expediently, like a year, so that things don't get stale.

Now that doesn't necessarily result in crunch time and sure as hell should be all the time crunch time, but you can see why it is a situation that can favour it for a bit on a project.

However that said there's a real difference between "The game ships in a month, we need you to do what it takes to get the final testing and polishing done in that time," and a perpetual, 80+ hour a week crunch.

Re:Well, game development is prone to crunch time (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609396)

Simply because, as Duke Nukem Forever is an excellent example of, assets have a short shelf life. Once you have things ready to assemble in to a game, you have to do it fairly expediently, like a year, so that things don't get stale.

Yeah...that's why Valve is in such a rush to get Half-Life 2 Ep 3 out.

Re:No way... (5, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609280)

Yes, I'd say really that situations like this are even the exception in the industry rather than the norm now too.

From what I understand, much of Rockstar has historically always been like this, I have a close friend who worked in Rockstar Vienna before it collapsed, he got out about a month beforehand and was telling me long before it collapsed how messed up it was with very similar issues as those mentioned here.

The game industry has had to improve somewhat because developers have begun to realise that there's far more money in business software, and far less stress, because employers are more frequently treated like humans.

I've also never had a problem doing software development, my hours are 8:30 - 4:30pm Mon - Thurs, and 8:30 - 4pm Friday and I've never had to work a minute of overtime. My last job was only slightly worse in that I finished at 5pm each day, and the pay wasn't as good, but that's really just because of career progression.

Re:No way... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608482)

There are some parts of the industry that are not managed by psychopaths, or permanently in OMG PANIC mode.

As an overall industry though, it does seem to have more than its fair share of sociopaths in management positions.

Re:No way... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609238)

I am in a different industry but a team I left recently went exactly that way. A new (and not very good) management team were brought in and suddenly it was panic panic. Everybody run around at a mad pace trying to get the work done. I suggested a process improvement to get around a data transfer which was costing them 12 hours at a time but they ignored it because there "wasn't enough time".

I say bad management but really upper management see people being goaded into working long hours. Job done.

Re:No way... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608578)

I read this a lot on /., but some of us have not been so successful or lucky. It can truly suck especially if you're working for a a non-software company writing internal applications and supporting them at the same time.

I've been happy with my salary even though all the salary surveys I've seen told me I wasn't being paid enough, but I've had some shit bosses who felt that I didn't need sleep or a social life.

40 hours is a great week. 60 hours is not uncommon. 110 hour weeks is not unheard of although rare IME.

Some of the worst employers I've had actually started out really great, but merged or were sold. At one place I was the 6th full-time developer along with a part-time contractor when I joined. When I left, they were down to 2 (including myself) and they had added another facility that we not only had to customize the application for but also had to support.

Re:No way... (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608812)

It's a shame when that stuff happens.

If you are in 'crunch' mode all the time then it's a sign of bad management. If it gets really bad then it's probably a sign that the company is on its way to failure. Or it could be they just don't care about their employees.

I'd say "Get the hell out, now", but I recognise that there aren't always more jobs around for the taking whenever you feel like. I would seriously be considering a career change if your average working week is more than about 45 hours and there's no other programming work around. I don't know what I'd change to mind!

(Note: I said that *I* would be considering a career change, other people have other priorities. Hell, some even get paid overtime.)

Re:No way... (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609442)

That's almost sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. Working sixteen hours a day is downright unhealthy and I would be surprised if anything over about four hours a day per person of actual real work got done due to fatigue and stress.

Re:No way... (3, Funny)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608046)

Yeah, I'm gonna need you to come in on the weekend... um, yeah...

Re:No way... (2)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608180)

Oh, I almost forgot, we're gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday as well... see, there's this group of crybabies that didn't want to work 110 hour weeks and just walked out, so... we sort of need to play catch up. Mmmmkay?

Re:No way... (2)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608324)

Sure, it really must be hard when you can't find the coders and are always trying to catch up. I'm sorry but I can't make it this weekend, I have a "private" (you don't burn up excuses and you don't need to make one up) family emergency to deal with. How about we discuss a pay rise Monday and I should be available next weekend.

If they are needing to work lots of overtime it is a sign of two things, they can not get any more coders for what they are paying and you are being underpaid, leverage use it but use it politely.

Re:No way... (4, Interesting)

j-stroy (640921) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608150)

Percentage of overall software sales should be mandated by law for employees and contractors. The boundary for this should include coders, artists & platform port teams, but stop somewhere before functionaries such as translation and printing ad copy. It avoids but does not preclude the "union" issue. The residual would accumulate after the percentage accumulation passes the salary earned on the project. It would protect against the disenfranchisement and emotional/fiscal abuse that occurs, yet still allow producers to have a reasonable break even point.

This whole "brand" licensing thing has funneled the money away from those who actually do the work, and the trend towards short term contractors leads to the littlest guy taking the hit on fair wages, job security and benefits to protect the bottom line of the gorillas in the room and the monkeys that fight each other all the way to the bottom to kiss gorilla butt..

speaking from experience of being a crucial (yet by monkey madness necessity cheap) monkey employed sub-whore for several triple A titles, I have seen lots of monkey companies go down, with the same individuals being re-hired by different outfits for the same project. Just sayin.

Re:No way... (2)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608850)

Percentage of overall software sales should be mandated by law for employees and contractors. [...] It avoids but does not preclude the "union" issue.

Why don't the developers form/join a union? That would seem the best way to get that law written.

AFAIK there isn't a specific union for IT workers here (though one could be started). Prospect [prospect.org.uk] is the union for professional engineers. I work for the government, so some of my colleagues belong to PCS [pcs.org.uk] (Public and Commercial Services Union) and are going on strike tomorrow.

That's fine (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608966)

So long as you don't want up front pay/benefits. You can't reasonably expect a company to give it to you both ways. If you are willing to be a part of the financial risk of a project, meaning your pay, or lack thereof, depends on how well it does then sure you can have part of the profits. That is basically how it works for all small business owners. How much they get depends on how well they do. However that means you have to accept that you only get paid when it makes money and that if it bombs, you don't get anything.

On the other hand if you want the company to front the risk, to put up all the cash for something, to pay you a regular salary and so on while you work, then you need to accept that they get to reap the rewards if there are some, because they'll also eat the failures. They need the reward from successful projects to cover the costs from unsuccessful ones (if you think ever game makes money, you are dreaming).

You can't have it both ways where they are expected to pay you up front, to bear all financial burden, and then to give you the profits when something succeeds, yet not to dock you when something fails (which they cannot legally do).

Re:No way... (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608292)

Well would you think it was "normal" if a company regularly took one of its best and most productive teams and just shot a few of them, you know, just for shits and giggles? Time and time again, study after study, it has been shown that ridiculous hours destroy creativity and slow production because you simply can't be at your best when you are worn out. Then you have to figure in the loss of morale, the loss of experienced employees to burn out, etc.

The quicker these ass clown PHBs in the games industry get it through their thick head that 40 hour workweeks weren't just pulled out of a hat but instead help to keep your teams productive the better. if it takes some massive lawsuits to get that message through? Oh well sometime you gotta crack the mule upside the head to make the stubborn ass listen.

Re:No way... (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608386)

The problem is most PHBs aren't qualified to know good code from bad. They don't realise that the extra hours are just churning out garbage, they just know "Ooh, we wrote an extra X thousand lines of code in the same time period as my predecessor". They'd probably have a better product in about half the time if they restricted work hours and made sure their employees were well rested.

Re:No way... (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608948)

See my little rant here [slashdot.org] for my take and some examples i ran into of THAT problem.

I would say a BIG, as in Hiroshima nuke style big problem we have in this country is "upward failure" where time and time again stupidity is rewarded by those dipshits that did said stupidity either moving up and out of a dept so they don't get the blame, or using their 'success story" to move to another company like a wafting fart. I've seen morons get a promotion for 'saving significant resources on the IT budget" when all he did was fire everyone who knew WTF they were doing and hire green ass kids that didn't know shit. Needless to say by the time the excrement hits the bladed cooling device they have moved on or are no longer connected to IT therefor don't get the blame.

This is a serious problem in this country and one that if we don't fix frankly will leave the USA in even worse shape than it is now, which I would argue is in due to no small part the above herp derp. Nobody thinks beyond the quarter, nobody looks at the long term costs or even if what they are doing is just turning a small problem into a big clusterfuck, all they notice is the immediate "gains" which as you pointed out can often be so much smoke in the rectum. Just look at how Circuit City when faced with Best Buy fired all the experienced sales people because they "cost too much". Result? Dead company. But I bet the herp derp that fired them got a nice bonus and was long gone by the time the crapola hit the wind generator.

Bad Industry (0)

Renraku (518261) | more than 2 years ago | (#36607982)

And why do you suppose she was allowed to do this?

Because she had done it before and had gotten away with it. Don't like it? Find another job. That's the industry for ya.

Re:Bad Industry (5, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608070)

The problem is that it's destructive to society. There is a halo to the Film and Game Industries. They seem like they're super exciting and people invest a lot of time and money on training to be able to get a job doing it--and then a year in discover that the reality of 10 100 hour weeks back to back is very different than the idea of it.

So yes, they do eventually quit. And a whole new batch of young and naive fools fall into the meat grinder. The normal market forces where you run out of talent just don't exist.

Another problem is expectation. As it said in TFA most of these people were told it was a 12 month job and that they would get bonuses/overtime if they stuck around to the finish. You get into the Gambler's fallacy pretty quick. "I've already put in 6 months. I can tough out another 6 for a huge fat bonus." And then 12 months promised turns into 5 years so they quit having put in longer than they had hoped but gotten less than promised.

The real tragedy is that it doesn't need to be that way. As was pointed out in multiple interviews with ex-staff you have huge waste. You don't have to run a 24/7 crunch for 8 years. That's just poor management excusing their incompetence. I've seen it before many times. The leadership treats the people as dispensable. The people quit. They fall behind. They treat the next people like shit. They quit. They fall further behind. If they had paced themselves at the beginning and been honest that they couldn't match their deadlines then ultimately they would be more productive and finish sooner. But they also have the publisher breathing down their neck and they know that admitting to needing a 100% larger budget will end the project. Asking for 10 10% extensions to not "let the work done so far go to waste so far" keeps their death spiral alive.

Eventually the game gets released. Eventually if it's halfway decent it'll probably make its money back. The whole fucking fiasco looks like it was the right decision and they do it all over again.

Re:Bad Industry (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608492)

That pretty much encapsulates the whole problem neatly there. It might also be a good descrition of the internal environment of many web 2.0 companies.

Re:Bad Industry (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609072)

What bothers me isn't just the shitty treatment (and subsequent brain drain) of programmers.

It's the focus on hours.

Profitable companies force their employees to get the job done. Stupid companies force their employees to work 100 hour weeks. The employees very quickly sense that their boss is an abusive shithead, and take their revenge by lowering their profitability-per-hour. They don't get the job done, they just screw around doing busy-work (pretending to be productive). Why should they bust their asses to ship, when all the profits and credit will go to the shithead boss?

Re:Bad Industry (4, Insightful)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608358)

If only there was some sort of way the employees could group together to increase their bargaining power with employers to avoid these situations.

Re:Bad Industry (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608480)

If only there was some sort of way the employees could group together to increase their bargaining power with employers to avoid these situations.

If you consistently work over 40 hours a week your employer must compensate you for it even if you're salaried.

The problem isn't that they aren't unionized, the problem is they're too chickenshit to stand up to their boss, or to take the time and effort to report labor violations to the Wage and Labor commission. If the employees demanded the compensation they are already legally entitled to, and go to the proper authorities if it isn't provided, then the problem would solve itself rapidly when the boss realizes he's paying more in OT than he'd pay for doubling his staff size.

Re:Bad Industry (2)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609078)

Don't know about you, but where I am IT staff fall into the same category as firemen and electricians in that they can work infinite hours with no overtime if paid on salary because they are critical to the operation of the public infrastructure. Which is BS, and the fact that IT is vaguely defined to easily include software developers is also BS, but legally the companies can screw us over in quite a few areas.

Too many other people want in (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608830)

Far too many programmers want to be "game programmers". All will tell themselves, that will not happen to me. There still seems to be something romantic/cool about game programming in the heads of younger programmers. I tend to categorize it under the "I could do that better, those people are such idiots, just wait until I show them" attitude.

First I would never suggest organizing under a union, especially not professional level skills. All you will end up with is no position anyone could ever want. You will end up working with those very same dummies that many decry when they use large software packages (games or not) and realize there is no way that these people could ever be forced to change.

It comes down to this, if the treatment was not enough to warrant actually leaving the job then it obviously wasn't as bad as they made it out to be. The whole idea that he could not get a job to replace it only means two things, he was in the wrong field or wrong area. Obviously the alternatives were not to his liking. I have had friends work two manual jobs while trying to get back into programming.

Guess (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608012)

This seems to be the standard at Rockstar games, wasnt this the same with Red Dead Redemption. Probably one of the reasons
why Rockstar closed its vienna office, they could not get away with such abuse there, due to the strong labor laws.

Re:Guess (3, Insightful)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608032)

Just to sum it up, stories like these kept me away from the games industrie even when I was younger.
Your life and health and family is not worth it to work on the next cool game. Sorry, but the game will be forgotten
within half a year, a burnout a divorce or even worse damage wont be forgotten in a 10 years timeframe if ever.
All I can say is stay out of hellhole companies wo seem to have a history of burning through
their employees.

Par for the course (2)

HalfFlat (121672) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608058)

... at least, this matches my experience at an Australian game development company. At least we didn't have to suffer this for seven years before shipping, though.

Sure enough, after shipping, the company lost 70% of their coders and they were reduced to producing shallow clones of their original (good) game.

The game industry is, basically, sick.

Super Chicken... (3, Insightful)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608068)

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Fred.

These days is anyone surprised that working for a games company is something that's best done by the young and unattached? And asshole bosses exist everywhere. Learn from the experience and move on. From all accounts I've seen, you guys produced a pretty darn awesome game.

G.

Outsourcing? (0)

blackicye (760472) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608086)

I'm not defending Team Bondi, and I'm sure it wasn't the most pleasant job in the world, but soon the complaints from the game developers will be that everything is getting outsourced, and they're having difficulties finding a job in the industry.

As far as unusual compensation goes, I don't think it's a fair expectation for the majority of the game developers to buy a Ferrari each time they complete a project.

Why in the world would any company want to continue employing coders from a pool of prima donnas, when they can get it done with slave labor for 20% of the cost in India or China,

Re:Outsourcing? (3, Insightful)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608174)

You cant move coding offshore for game development. You can do it for generic software/website/enterprise system which is brain dead boiler plate coding for some huge bank that they can milk for maintenance contracts. But making a game requires very rapid prototyping, a huge variety of technical skills, creativity and honestly? a bit of love. Knowing what you are making and being passionate about it will be lost when transferring code oversees where there are no designers and no beta testers to fix it. How can u explain a level or gameplay mechanic through a requierment spec?

India is already a source for artwork for games and film but programming? no way. I know, ive looked for jobs here (a lot of art studios) and there are very few end to end game studios.

Re:Outsourcing? (2)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608794)

You can do it for generic software/website/enterprise system which is brain dead boiler plate coding for some huge bank that they can milk for maintenance contracts.

Actually it usually doesn't work at all, except for very, very standardized processes (i.e. credit card processing). I have never seen a successful software implementation, where the software was created by off shoring. It's just impossible to create specs, which are so specific that there's absolutely no ambiguity. In addition: domain knowledge is basically non-existent in offshore coding sweat shops.

Example needed? Our awesome time reporting system. I just know what one line of the spec said:

Must be able to enter hours

That's exactly what you can do. Unfortunately you're not able to enter minutes or even fractions of an hour.

I totally agree with you. I just wanted to point out that it's actually worse.

Re:Outsourcing? (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608222)

I think the main complaint about "unusual compensation" was that they were expected to work huge amounts of overtime, but weren't paid for it unless they stuck with the project until 3 months after it's release date ; this pretty much encourages management to treat people like shit so they will leave and forfeit their (huge) overtime bill.

I hardly think it's "prima donna" to expect to work the time you are contracted for, get paid for your overtime, and have the truth told to you by management (unlike one guy who worked 3 x 100 hour weeks back to back to meet a deadline for a press demo release that never occurred, and was probably just a fabrication to get shitloads of work out of him). Most of these guys are not coders either - the majority of work effort on a game like this is content production.

And as for the Ferraris? To date, LA Noire has sold 1.94 million copies on combined PS3 and Xbox360 sales, on the back of 5 weeks of sales. With a used Ferrari running to about $300,000 I think they could afford a few.

Re:Outsourcing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608526)

I think the main complaint about "unusual compensation" was that they were expected to work huge amounts of overtime, but weren't paid for it unless they stuck with the project until 3 months after it's release date

This is a wage and labor violation, and if the employees would take the time to stand up for their rights they'd get paid the OT when they worked it as the law demands. Your employer can elect to provide you a bonus in addition to the OT for your work at a later time, but they have a specific amount of time to cut you a paycheck after you worked the hours. And even if you're salaried they DO have to pay OT if they're consistently working you over 40 hours a week.

Because you can't (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608246)

You pay peanuts, you get monkey's. And in India they won't fall for the glamor of working for a US company, they care only about the money.

I have seen game projects shipped to India from the EU. They still ain't up and running.

One thing to remember, the people working in the coding factories in India and China are NOT the brightest minds. Not because they are Indian or Chinese but because the brightest of China and India got better options.

Why do you think creative content has not yet been shipped abroad? Why do you think Hollywood and its million dollar actors and multi-billion directors have not been completly replaced by cheap asian productions? Japanimation tried and failed (anime doesn't count, it is horribly expensive and produced now in a country with just as high if not higher labour costs as the west). The simpsons is animated with cheap labour but only the boring part, the actual content is still from the US.

It sounds so easy to offshore, go ahead try it yourself. I make my living from recovering the disaster and if you think hiring a US team of developers is expensive, you haven't seen my bills. (If you can stand the bad code, being a project saver is a good way to make a living wihere you don't always have to be on the cutting edge of tech competing with the young kids).

It's pretty simple. (3, Insightful)

Petersko (564140) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608110)

The first time somebody pulled something like that I would find them alone and tell them point blank that I'm not going to take that. Ever.

The second time I would pull my prepared letter of resignation out of my desk, sign and date it, and hand it to him right in front of everybody.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah blah want to get in the industry blah blah need a job blah blah. If he was hired at a gaming company he's got the resume to get a job doing something different.
Being treated reasonably is not something I'm willing to give up. You know that "Animal House" initiation scene? "Thank you sir, may I have another!" Well, if they keep doing that to you after pledge week it's time to quit the fraternity.

Re:It's pretty simple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608500)

Wasn't this Team Bondi? A developer based in Sydney Australia? It's not like the games industry is currently booming in AU. Hell, there aren't a lot of options if you want to live in a) Australia, and b) develop games.

Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet! (4, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608118)

Every time I hear a sob story like this, I can't help but wonder why employees tolerate this kind of abuse. If the job is going to shit, LEAVE! If you have any saleable skills, you can take them elsewhere. I'm not saying they need to unionize, but almost... If game developers stood shoulder-to-shoulder and said no to hostile work environments, the industry would be forced to adapt. It sounds very much like these people are afraid to say no. You'll say "but what about the house" ? Fuck the house! What good is a house when you spend every waking moment at work, eating advil by the handful ? Fuck the house, and fuck the job. You have better things to do in life than pad some greedy sociopath's stock options.

Conversely, if Rockstar needs 110 man-hours a week for every coder, they should hire 2 extra coders to meet the demand. If that breaks the budget, fuck the project, it's an unprofitable project. If it can't be profitable while adhering to reasonable work conditions and timelines, then it should not be undertaken in the first place. If a guy called me tomorrow and said he wanted a Facebook killer for $50, I'd cheerfully invite him to die in a fucking fire. No, scratch that, I'd go to his house and beat him to death with a Chia Pet for even proposing such a ridiculous venture. Game devs need to learn to do the same thing. Democracy only works if you have the brass balls to stick to your guns.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608192)

What if you actually want to have that game on your resume, because it might help your career in the long term? How much would an employee tolerate for that?

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608264)

Now that's a retarded gamble. Why would you possibly want "that game" on your resume before it's made? It could turn out to be an industry laughing stock, and even if you did a great job on your part, it would be a stain on your resume if you included it. If an employee "tolerates" those conditions for that, they deserve it.

This is about standing on principles, not about betting against the house in misguided longshots at success.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (2)

indeterminator (1829904) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608726)

Now that's a retarded gamble. Why would you possibly want "that game" on your resume before it's made? It could turn out to be an industry laughing stock, and even if you did a great job on your part, it would be a stain on your resume if you included it.

Having something to show is much better than not having anything. And the pros who have a lot of CV material already probably also have the experience to recognize a bad working environment and get out quick.

Also, finishing the current project before switching jobs demonstrates that you have (at least once had) capability of actually completing things. There are enough people in the world who lack that (and they usually blame it on "stuff outside their control").

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608280)

Great, so you get a reputation for working on projects that later come up in the news for how much you were walked over because you didn't want to rock the boat. Any employer would be happy to see that on your CV.

Additionally, I think "I left that HUGE project to pursue other ventures" would be interpreted correctly by anyone who's heard the horror stories about such places, and actually proves you have balls and care about your career whereas "Yeah, I worked on that horror-story project and got nothing to show for it" doesn't have the same effect.

Additionally - if you're doing something "just for your resume (CV)", then your employers will hate you, your colleagues will hate you and, eventually, people who read your CV will laugh at you. I don't think I've *ever* done anything just to put it on my CV. Hell, I actually leave more out of my CV than most people would put in - it's just not necessary and doesn't make that big a difference - a quiet confidence, well-written CV and the *ability* to demonstrate industry experience is a million times more important than "Oh, yeah, I was vaguely associated with Project X at some point in my life", especially if you have ZERO idea how well that project will turn out (e.g. Daikatana, DNF, etc. - I would deliberately REMOVE those from my CV if I were associated with them).

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608676)

Stop talking sense. People are motivated by many things and almost everyone here has done shit work for a time cos they believed it was better for them in some way. Maybe they were young/stupid/just plain wrong but we've all done it. I've earned half the money for doing the same work cos I was 15 years old and that was "youth rates" and at the end of the week I still had more money than a paper route.
Who wouldn't want to put on their CV - Worked on LA Noire if they were in the game industry?
Sad fact is this game was hit out of the park and 110 hrs a week might have been worth it if you could double your salary and work 35 hr weeks for the rest of your career.
Now imagine you busted your hump for 11 years trying to make Duke Nukem Forever happen.. yech

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (5, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608212)

Every time I hear a sob story like this, I can't help but wonder why employees tolerate this kind of abuse.

They're young, naive, and afraid of rocking the boat.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (2)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608274)

and those that arent, know the someone else whos young and naive will take their place. Or you want the credit. Or you want to make teh game, and are so emotionally invested in it taht you just... have to do it.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (2)

owlstead (636356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608402)

And why *shouldn't* you unionize? It's not like a programmer is a top of the line job nowadays. It doesn't pay that badly, but I would not advise anybody to take on the job if they have the skills to be a lawyer, banker etc. I've been treated pretty badly by my current company (try working with a 30 year old airco if you are allergic), and I'm now joining the union because of it.

I'm a developer, but I'm trying to move on while staying somewhat on the technical side of things.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608436)

Well lets sum it up, very prominent gaming company, people hired fresh out of college who dont know better. The funny thing is that if you dont do crunchtime then people are usually more productive than by such crunchtime death marches (face it people can die over such work ethics there is even a japanese word for it)
After 5-6 hours of coding the productivity goes down the gutters and after 8 hours you wont get any decent results anymore. Managers who dont know that either never worked as coders or are just plainly ruthless so that they can show the management the working hours.
I am pretty sure it would have taken the game 1-2 years less to produce if Rockstar games would have stuck to labor laws and rules.
In the end no one wins by such work ethics.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608776)

A company I worked for in the past had some crunch times but abandoned the idea after we lost more time to debugging than we gained with the extra work hours.

The problem seems to be that many managers think of tech work as just like an assembly line and have no idea of the actual work involved.

Re:Don't like the conditions ? Vote your your feet (4, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608528)

Conversely, if Rockstar needs 110 man-hours a week for every coder, they should hire 2 extra coders to meet the demand. If that breaks the budget, fuck the project, it's an unprofitable project. If it can't be profitable while adhering to reasonable work conditions and timelines, then it should not be undertaken in the first place.

Shorter work weeks or hiring more coders to do the work will likely make the project more profitable, not less. I can't believe for a moment that prolonged 60-110 hour work weeks are really more productive than a 40 hour work week. Of course, the first week of crunch you get a bit more work out of your people, but it comes at a cost. Soon, productivity will drop despite the extra hours. Demanding more hours will just tire them even more. A healthy, well-rested work force is far more productive.

One or two weeks of crunch before a real actual deadline can work, but after that, you'd better give them a week off to rest. If you can't afford to give them a week off, it's not worth it to demand that amount of overtime.

Considering these stories, it doesn't surprise me at all that LA Noire took 7 years. I bet a competent development house could do it for half the cost in less than half the time.

It didn't work (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608124)

Apparently it didn't work. Wisdom says treat your employees badly, and they'll do shoddy work. What happened after several years of poor product management, treating employees like dirt, Rockstar had to seriously cleanup a lot of the code, which is why the game was delayed. Rough stuff.

As a programmer that makes me feel happy. I like to hear that their is an advantage to treating employees well.

Game development sucks (2)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608138)

Making games has to be one of the most barbaric, ass-backwards forms of software development. The worst crunch times, the longest hours, the greediest publishers, and the most amateur media covering it all. Other entertainment mediums such filmmaking or writing have veterans who keep creating for decades, but the game industry burns out its stars and drives them away; e.g., Will Wright.

Re:Game development sucks (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608248)

>>Making games has to be one of the most barbaric, ass-backwards forms of software development.

Don't believe the hype. Well, believe it, I guess, but it's not always that way.

I used to work in game development, and have (or had) friends or acquaintances at Obsidian, Midway, Bethesda, Valve, Sony, SOE, various Facebook game companies, and so forth.

There's just as wide a range of experiences in the game industry as in other industries, though it probably does trend a bit toward younger developers and longer work hours. You can have a bad boss working for Microsoft, and you can have a bad boss at Rockstar. The only difference is I think people are willing to put up with shit a bit more when they're working on something they love, and people love video games more than working on an incremental release for Outlook or whatever.

Re:Game development sucks (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608278)

The thing is that the studio was (is?) in Australia. There are laws that are meant to combat/discourage/stop this kind of employee abuse. I mean, really, the developers should not have had to put up with the alleged pressures and non-pay for overtime, etc, etc.

Re:Game development sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608596)

The thing is that the studio was (is?) in Australia. There are laws that are meant to combat/discourage/stop this kind of employee abuse. I mean, really, the developers should not have had to put up with the alleged pressures and non-pay for overtime, etc, etc.

That's all true in the US as well. But if the employees don't report violations, nothing gets enforced.

Every person I've ever heard bitch about too much forced OT has never bothered to do anything BUT bitch about it. Well, all that will get you is a reputation for being a Bitch.

Re:Game development sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608366)

Add to this:

Tests are for people who write bugs.
Documentation is for people who can't read code.
APIs are for people who don't want to write actual code.
If the code isn't in its most mindfucked optimized-all-the-way-to-assembly state, then it isn't hardcore enough. And you want hardcore, because it gives you "street cred"

Oh, and "programmers are code monkeys", according to far too many artists.

Constructive dismissal (4, Interesting)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608158)

Based on just the stuff in the linked articles I do have to wonder why the employees didn't seek legal advice and pursue constructive dismissal [wikipedia.org] action. I fucking would have.

Re:Constructive dismissal (1)

Kaitnieks (823909) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608256)

Maybe the main thing the game companies look for in job interviews in candidates is fear of taking a legal action.

Re:Constructive dismissal (1)

TomHeal (2261306) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608544)

Before signing a contract, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer to look at the document. It may save you some heartache.

Because there are too many game developers (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608920)

What this all stems from is too many programmer types want to get in to it "To make games." They are interested in being programmers, they want to be GAME programmers. Well, that creates a ready supply of labour and thus lets companies do more of what they want. Why should they care about you when they can just get someone else? So the developer types, particularly the younger ones, feel lucky to have a job working on games, doing their "dream" and so on.

Not saying that is the only problem, but it is no small part of it.

Re:Constructive dismissal (2)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609046)

Seconded. I took my first employer to the small claims court for constructive dismissal after he withheld a months pay after I decided to work to rule after his twattish behaviour caused me to nearly bust a gasket (dumping an "urgent" jobs on my doorstep at 8pm on a friday evening, giving disgruntled clients my personal phone number and home address, being persistently late with payment). Got the two grand pay and two grand in damages via a CCJ all with a few forms from the citizens advice bureau (no legal team needed) and the ensuing stink about my lack of payslips caused HMRC to investigate WTF was going on with the companies pay setup. Turned out he wasn't paying inland revenue but was still deducting the money from my paycheque. Fucker got nailed to the wall and was declared bankrupt almost immediately.

If people fuck you up and you continue to let it happen, they'll keep doing it again and again and again to everyone else they meet until they think it's normal to treat humans like disposable cattle. Don't let them get that far. There's a hundred laws to protect workers from abusive bosses; use them.

Sounds pretty laid back (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608208)

Back in the 80s we worked 60 hour weeks then the pace picked up. The last time I can remember working a 110 hours a week Bush was still President. Since then the pace has picked up even more.. My eldest was starting high school when we started the last project. My wife says she starts college in the Fall. I hope to see her before she graduates but we will be at deadline so I may not be able to make her graduation. I've asked for time off for her wedding but since she isn't even dating it's hard to lock down a date. Since I'm working on the next installment of Duke Nuke Em I'm hoping to have a day off when the release date is announced but my grandkid's graduation from high school may have to happen without me. They say that if the demo version goes well we can of Christmas Day 2020 off but I don't like to get my hopes up. Sorry but I need to get back to making tiling textures. We're shooting for an Alpha by Spring 2015 but it's not likely. My supervisor says I can take a sick day in 2014 so I'm pushing for New Years Eve but half our team is asking for a sick day New Years Eve 2014 so I'm not likely to get it. On the bright side I still get my extra day off leap year in February but once we hit deadline we can kiss that day goodbye.

Mismatch of incentive (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608322)

After being in a couple of startups on both ends of the org chart, I am constantly surprised by one simple thing - bosses don't appear to understand that the incentives of their employees are not the same as their own. Here we have McNamara talking about his employees only worked the same work week as he did, but why should they do even that? He presumably owns this game studio and stands to make a lot of money from a successful product. He is completely invested in this product, so its hardly surprising that it trumps almost any other priority in his life - health, family, entertainment, none of that matters to him as much as this product succeeding and making money.

His employees, though? They make fixed income, they are unlikely to have stocks in the studio, and at worst the product will fail and they will have to get a new job. So why should they neglect their lives for a product in which they have so little personal stake? Either give them some financial incentive, or accept that any of them who do share your passion for your product are loyal above the call of duty and treat them appropriately well.

Re:Mismatch of incentive (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609038)

I'm sorry, but I don't buy the "financial incentive" theory either.

Personally, I would not like to kill myself, get ulcers, be diagnosed with severe depression or go through a divorce just because I have stock options in a company that makes me work 100 hours a week.

If I wanted to do that, I'd start my own company. Then I'd be working without sleeping for 100% of the company. Working for someone means that I give what I've got during the hours of my employment, and then I go home to my family and hobbies. I get paid less than they do, but I get more freedom and less attachment.

Money isn't everything in life. It drives a few people (insanely in some cases), but it's not the only incentive, and should not be forced on everyone, in the sense that "we give you stock options, now you work like a dog". Ask people if they'd take a pay cut to work less hours, you'd find that many would. In fact, I'm sure many would take a pay cut just to work "normal hours" (i.e. the ridiculously low number that actually appears in their contracts). I know I would.

Unionize! (3, Insightful)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608376)

If workers want to have a say in their conditions and want to retain the value of what they produce without bosses and investors taking most of it away in profits, than we need to organize a union. The time is long overdue for an IT industry union [iww.org].

Re:Unionize! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609098)

Unions are for the mediocre and the weak. If your any good in IT you can stand up for yourself and your boss will beg you to stay or if not walk right into another job the same day.

Re:Unionize! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609352)

Have you read the iww site? Slavery? Really? Do you even know the meaning of the word?

abuse ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608388)

i thought this kind of behavior is not only tolerated but encouraged, nay celebrated with TV programmes called "the apprentice" where a load of sociopaths battle to see who is the top sociopath
its not abuse its called business leadership isnt it ?

I've been here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608474)

I had an internship that certainly taught me a lot but burned me out. I was in college and I would work up to 70 hour weeks. I went a few months with no weekend; my days off were class days. Occasionally I didn't sleep for a couple days. My girlfriend nearly broke up with me. I cut off most of my friends and roommates. I hated programming for 6 months afterwards and hated my life for quickly hurling me towards graduation with a compsci degree.

I've recovered and resparked my passion, but never again. Not playing the bitch role and throwing everything away for money. Not going into debt because you overextend yourself due to spending money you think you have but isn't in your hands. Not going into debt because buying shit is the only fun thing you can do anymore and you mistake your new grown-up-ish salary with endless riches.

Starting a new job in a few days. Now the stakes are higher. Real life. Leased apartment. Bills. Utilities. Let's cross our fingers; these guys seem cool so that is good :) But I can sympathize with the nightmare that is endless work weeks for months, maybe a break promised but nope we need you this weekend so sorry come in at 9 I hope you don't have homework

Not a great industry (2)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608576)

I know a few people that work in the industry in the UK and their stories horrify me. Not so much the hours - they do work reasonable hours but that probably Euro law kicking in - more the stupid shenannigans the publishers pull. So many games have been coming along nicely then the publisher's marketing people start demanding wholesale changes, killling the game's playability.
They also pull stunts like demanding a rewrite on an impossible deadline then use the failure to deliver it on time as a reason to cancel the contract.
There also seems to be a trend to make dev teams redundant just before Christmas as the development houses finish the game for Christmas but can't keep ticking over waiting for the revenue so end up folding. He's lost his job 6 times as 5 were in November. Happy Christmas.
All jobs have good and bad but the games industry seems particularly badly run on the suits side by people that just don't get the end product and just know SKUs.

Any chance of a machinima? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36608590)

Is anyone curious about acting out the association's investigation L.A. Noire style?

McNamara: "Do you think that I'm going to voice my opinion? Absolutely. But I don't think that's verbal abuse." *shifts eyes*
Cole: "Screaming is verbal abuse, and we've got vivid testimony from 11 of your coworkers saying you did just that! Now stop lying!"

AAA game dev is an ideal first programming job (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608616)

You learn very quickly how not to develop software: deluded, unrealistic, underfunded expectations from the get-go; lies, concealment, finger pointing and circling the wagons in every tiny fiefdom; turds eternally rolling downhill; perpetually moving goalposts; two-jobs-for-the-salary-of-one; demanding that each fresh noob immediately picks the job of the burned out vet that they're replacing; and beatings that will continue until morale improves.

But hey, that one Saturday back in 2007, when we only worked 10 hours and then had pizza? Dude, that was awesome.

LA Noire (1)

sludgeman1 (1947134) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608646)

Since the game isnt that great, I suppose you can say that Team Bondi wasted a long term oportunity with Rockstar, since a bad work environment usually affects initiative and creativity, crucial to develop a game beyond "meh".

Explains why it wasn't fun (1)

deisama (1745478) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608786)

Nothing in LA Noire was particularly fun to do. The chase scenes were tedious, the clue hunting was boring and monotonous (this coming from a guy who loves adventure games), and the inability to retry things and skip through dialog just made the conversations painful and annoying.
In fact everyone I've talked about it tends to agree. The problem with the game is there's no fun in it. Nothing to look forward to, or ever care about.

Reading this article, at least now I know why.

A$$hole boss makes good! (1)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36608982)

Brendan McNamara expects his employees to work as long as him. Was he paying them as much as he made out of this? Doubt it.

Even if the International Game Developers Association is investigating can they do anything? Doubt it too. Gaming is like Fashion modeling and competition is fierce for jobs. He'll find another batch of programmers eager to take his abuse for a shot at doing what they love, or at least think they will love. Best solution for an A$$hole boss is to quit.

Excuses for a dull game ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609064)

I dunno but what I liked about LA Noir was the atmosphere it breathed. But to me the game itself was below average.

Sure; fun to have a "facial expression recognition and super duper liar engine" but what's the use if the rest of the game is quite common ?

When reading stories like these I can't help think that some blokes are merely covering their *sses and putting the blame on everything apart from themselves so that it will be well known that they aren't to blame for the game (results). Even though they developed it.

Yeah right...

Only 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609122)

> As the saying goes, the two things you don't want to see being made are law and video games."

Add sausage to that list

Sounds like a company I used to work for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36609192)

These guys [paullee.com]

this happens for the same reason (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 2 years ago | (#36609454)

we have old ladies getting their depends removed by the TSA at the airport and it's just tolerated
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...