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Game Development Conditions Could Drive Devs East

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the no-more-crunch dept.

Businesses 87

Kotaku has up a feature piece looking at the opening of a new studio in mainland China. Staffed by expatriate Western game developers, it represents something that founders Chris Pfeiffer and Max Garber see as a future trend: developing games in the west is soul-crushing. The two participated in the grind to get Resistance: Fall of Man out in time for the PlayStation 3 launch, and have now opened a studio with the goal of 'making great games while living a good life.' Lower costs in China allow for a higher standard of living, while labour laws will force game studios to stick to rational work-weeks. Pfeiffer also suggests that the overwhelming costs involved in making games will force U.S. studios to outsource development work to Asian nations. When that happens, Pfeiffer's studio and compatriots will be ready.

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Kotaku??? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18071066)

Kotaku? You have to be joking.

Yes, game development is going to go to China because it is obviously cheaper. Just like five years ago we were told about how game development was all going to be done by cheap ex-Soviet block country developers.

Having been in the game development business for 20 years now I have wonder just how wildly farcical the news stories are about other business sectors I have no personal knowledge about are.

Re:Kotaku??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18071630)

Slogging the blog that you don't like is one way to go about things. Another is to actually read the article, which consists of a lot of discussion with Chris Pfeiffer and Max Garber from Insomniac. It's not like Kotaku just pulled this out their asses. You know...like your comment.

Funny. (2, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071138)

I could've sworn I just read an article the other day about how Japanese video game companies were trying to make the social aspects and work schedule of their employees more in tune with the West so that they would be able to retain their programmers. Japan's work week + work conditions = 10 x worse than the West's.

Re:Funny. (2, Funny)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18072308)

Japan's work week + work conditions = 10 x worse than the West's.

Japanese game programmers work 800 hour weeks?

Re:Funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18073616)

Uh. China, not Japan.

Re:Funny. (1)

Frumply (999178) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074200)

They probably need to do something about their animators as well, where a significant portion get below-minimum wage pay [animenewsnetwork.com] . (I've seen much better breakdowns of the pay scheme, though they were in Japanese)

Re:Funny. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18075280)

I've been in the industry for about 8 years now (I'm a programmer). In my years I've worked for several US companies, a British company, and a Japanese company.

The US companies had a wide range of policies. Some were not too bad, others were outright criminal. Working for a PC game outfit, my hours averaged about 60 a week - of course that company no longer exists. At another company I did only tech and tool work for about 45-50 hours a week (was a really nice job but my department was closed). The console developer I worked for was run "poorly". I averaged 120 hours a week there and I have the scars to prove it.

The British company I worked for enforces quite reasonable rules on thier GB based employees. Unfortunately for us we were a new studio based in LA. That meant that some of the people in charge were from the US and therefore when our development contract was signed they used US think. We ended up having 1 years worth of work to do in about 3 months. I ended up working 90-120 hour weeks again, and after the project was complete (the contract was renegotiated to roughly 10 months), I bailed.

The Japanese company was my most recent. I was there for 2 years. The studio was based in the US, but more than 1/2 the employees were Japanese. I was working 10am-2am hours most of the time I was there, but the Japanese employees arrived before me and were still working when I would leave. I rarely saw any of them on weekends however. I'm really not sure if the Japanese workers worked so much due to their work ethic, or if they were asked to. I think it was a little of both.

The moral of the story is the industry as a whole sucks. I was working crazy hours no matter who was in charge. My story is neither unique nor uncommon. Moving to China isn't going to make a difference unfortunately. They may be forced to set good working hours, but the company will not be able to survive that way. The problem boils down to schedule - Xmas season, Hardware launches, or License tie-ins. No games are made without one of these deadlines in mind. If a company cannot finish their work on schedule (outsorced or otherwise) they will not be hired for future projects and will die.

Re:Funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081440)

120 hrs a week AVERAGE? You can't possibly expect us to take you seriously.

7x24 = 148 hours a week.

That leaves 4 hours a day to eat and sleep. Doing that for one week, maybe. Two weeks - possibly. AVERAGING that many hours over any extended period of time is absolutely impossible to believe. Sounds to me like you're a legend in your own mind.

Re:Funny. (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18082948)

7x24 = 148 hours a week.

Methinks you should stop trying to do math in your head.

But yeah, it's still hard to believe.

The downside? (3, Insightful)

Canthros (5769) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071156)

You have to live in Red China.

This is the same government that likes to filter the Internet for its citizens. I hope the reduced cost of living is worth it, guys!

Re:The downside? (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071224)

Seconded. Some morons may think about how the government is spying on us and how everyone lies and all that crap (and they are right)

But you know what? I would still rather live here than some other fucked up country. At least the way our country is fucked up allows me to think and feel how I please (and in many cases, expressing it as well. Again, many people think our free speech is fucked in this country, but I have proof that it is not. Go to any street corner in the USA and shout "I hate our leader we need a new one!"

I can assure you there are far fewer countries you can do that in than there are countries that you can't.

Re:The downside? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18073224)

Do you honestly believe that if you go to some random street corner in China and yell that, that some cop is instantly going to show up and haul you away?

Just the other day I was walking down the street of my neighborhood (a middle class suburban area), along a high school. There was a young kid, maybe 16, walking in front of me. A cop car rolls past me, then the kid, but then he executes a U-turn (against a no u-turn sign) to stop the kid and talk to him. As I walked past, I was listening to what the cop was saying. He had stopped the kid to ask unspecific questions like "what are you doing here" (um... it is a school), "you're not here to start trouble, are you?" etc.

There was nothing suspicious or threatening about the kid, other than perhaps that he was dressed like a skater (as do half the boys in the school, I imagine), but that apparently is what cops in the US perceive as justifiable cause for randomly stopping and questioning citizens. In the US, you don't have to yell anti-government slogans to be targeted by police, and the police here make it very clear that they hold themselves above the law, as is evidenced by their blatant disregard for the same traffic rules that they issue citations for.

Re:The downside? (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074050)

what cops in the US perceive as justifiable cause for randomly stopping and questioning citizens.

They don't need any cause at all to stop and ask a question. They're human beings, and can ask whatever the heck they want to. In some parts of the country, you can even learn a police officer's name and (gasp!) develop a friendly relationship with them that has nothing whatsoever to do with them thinking you broke the law.

Re:The downside? (1)

GR1NCH (671035) | more than 6 years ago | (#18094508)

First, I think you are leaving a lot out here. Probably the most important piece of your story is the time of day. Was is around 11am on a weekday? If school was in session and the police officer saw a High School age kid walking around outside the School, he probably assumed the kid was skipping class. Or maybe the kid was holding a skateboard and there was a civil ordinance prohibitting skateboarding in the area.

Second, there is a big difference between asking questions and doing something about it. Maybe the police got a tip that a drug deal was going on in the area, or perhaps someone had been writing grafitti around the school. Sure the Police Officer doesn't have any legal right to search the kid, and if he did the case would get thrown out of court, but just by talking to the kid he might 'spook' him into not committing a crime.

Re:The downside? (0, Offtopic)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080664)

"Go to any street corner in the USA and shout "I hate our leader we need a new one!""

True but the scary thing is some people might disagree with you.

Re:The downside? (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088002)

But you know what? I would still rather live here than some other fucked up country. At least the way our country is fucked up allows me to think and feel how I please (and in many cases, expressing it as well. Again, many people think our free speech is fucked in this country, but I have proof that it is not. Go to any street corner in the USA and shout "I hate our leader we need a new one!"

"Where else but in America - or perhaps Canada - could one do such a thing?"
(Ob. Simpsons Reference)

Just a little bit east (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18080628)

New Montreal video game studio shoots for top talent [www.cbc.ca]

Montreal is a fountain of talent in the arts. Low cost of living, good quality of life... its a happenin city.

I'd like to see them come just a little further east: to Bangor, Moncton, Saint John, Halifax, and Saint John's (NFLD). Maritimers have the skills, will work long hours and wages can be considerably less considering that the cost of living here is probably a third of what it is in Seattle or Vancouver.

"Your scummy lakes and city of Toronto don't do a damn thing for me, I'd rather live by the sea" -- Stan Rogers

er ... yeah sure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18082956)

Hope you like snow. Lots of it. Like 2 meters high.

You get tired of the novelty very quickly, believe me.

Re:er ... yeah sure. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18084912)

It's Canada, what do you expect?

Will this be a problem also? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18103640)

I wonder, can you order up that ASUS motherboard from the mainland?

people working 80 hours/week in ipod factory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18071158)

unavailable for comment. no, seriously, they have to get back to work or they'll get fired

Less is more? (1, Interesting)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071200)

It seems to be just saying gaming companies work people too much, so if you work less it must be better! While I understand overworking hurts productivity, at some point addition by subtraction has to fail. If it's really such a great idea for programmer to work 8 or 6 or 4 hours a day while stll making a great game, someone would've done that by now. The fact that there hasn't been much success from not working much on the gaming industry seems to suggest that working really hard at least works. And if working less really is better, what's stopping someone from doing it here?

I'm not even sure how the standard of living is relevant. It applies to every job equally. You gain due to the lower standard of living, yes, but you also lose some things, like living in a foreign country you're not familiar with. It's not like outsourcing is some always benficial action to do. You win some but you also lose some. If not, all companies can just pack up and resume operations in China!

Re:Less is more? (1)

strikerworldwide (1002805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071572)

No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, working for 16-18 hours is always going to feel more like "hard work" to the psyche, even if it's completely unproductive work. And, from experience, working that long generally makes your project go backwards, not forwards.

Re:Less is more? (2, Insightful)

provigilman (1044114) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071860)

What these devs moving to China are missing is, what happens when a big company like EA outsources to you? They will expect RESULTS, and fast. If you don't do it, for low cost, they'll pick a different company. In short, those who longer, faster and cheaper will be more successful in China. It will be the same atmosphere as we have currently in the US.

How long did they work on Halo, or Halo 2? Or what about Gears of War and Dark Sector (which, while not out, has been a work in progress and looks to be a Marquis title)? These devs took their time with their product and made the effort to do the job right, not just fast. If Halo had been an EA franchise instead of Bungie/MS, what would we be on now? Halo 5? And what would the quality of those games be?

Once the industry can get into a quality over quantity mindset you'll see conditions improve, pay will get better and talent will be more appreciated. They need to realize that we want quality products, not just another iteration of the same game, with the same engine, and the same graphics, but *2* new characters! That starts with the devs though, and the consumer (read: guys that own Madded '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, etc..). Running away to China won't fix this.

Less is more?-CG code. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18072642)

"I'm not even sure how the standard of living is relevant. It applies to every job equally. You gain due to the lower standard of living, yes, but you also lose some things, like living in a foreign country you're not familiar with. It's not like outsourcing is some always benficial action to do. You win some but you also lose some. If not, all companies can just pack up and resume operations in China!"

Remember what happen to the field of animation? Now it's game's turn.

The reverse Mythical Man Month (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088472)

The problem is, we are working programmers 10-18 hours a day. As a result, we are burning out programmers, increasing turnover, and getting crappy results.

Chris Taylor setting an example: Work/life balance (4, Insightful)

jchenx (267053) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071202)

At DICE this year, Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games (developer of the Dungeon Siege games and the just-released Supreme Commander title) had a very intersting talk regarding improving work/life balance at his company. It appears that you don't really need a "work-till-you-drop" work schedule [next-gen.biz] to ship big games after all.

I think it's an interesting, and necessary, shift in the game development culture. As the industry matures, so does its business practices. Understandably, there are lots of passionate folks who prefer to stay up late to work on their game, but that doesn't mean everyone wants to. Additionally, those who stay up late may actually be contributing negatively to the product (decisions and code generated at 2 AM may not be the best).

So yeah, I agree that the typical hardcore work development schedules need to change ... but that doesn't mean you have to move your studio East to achieve them.

Re:Chris Taylor setting an example: Work/life bala (5, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071538)

That's the problem at had when I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari for six years. One of my mentor told every new hire that they must prepare to sacrifice their personal life to the video game gods, get rid of the girlfriend/wife (prositutes are OK), and forgot about the kids. My current job is being a help desk specialist where I work only 40 hours a week but I make the same kind of money when I worked 80 hours a week in the video game industry. Now I have time to enjoy a personal life.

Re:Chris Taylor setting an example: Work/life bala (3, Insightful)

jchenx (267053) | more than 7 years ago | (#18072124)

I work in the games portion of MS, and we've always had a good work/life balance schedule in my group. Yeah, there are times where we do work late night, but that's surprisingly rare. I think it's a combination of both smart management, and also the fact that my team doesn't ship retail titles, but works on platforms. So there isn't really a periodic crunch schedule, the way there are for games. Rather, we're always hectic, but in a manageable way.

But I have definitely heard the horror studios from friends who work in other companies and other parts of MS, which are really scary sounding.

Re:Chris Taylor setting an example: Work/life bala (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18082928)

I work in the games portion of MS, and we've always had a good work/life balance schedule in my group.

Yeah, but your good/evil balance is totally out of whack.

Re:Chris Taylor setting an example: Work/life bala (3, Interesting)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18076558)

Believe it or not, I believe the game industry is actually growing up. Losing your life to the almighty schedule was the accepted norm a few years ago, but not so much today. I actually know of publishers routinely scheduling six-day workweeks for the latter half of the project, and seven-day workweeks for the final month or two.

This is an issue I actually talked with my current employer about during the hiring process. I've now worked at a pretty well-known studio for the couple of years, and have shipped two successful games. So far, I'm still working normal 40-hour work weeks, except for the few weeks before and after the ship data (after because it's online). And so far, I have yet to come in on a weekend.

The company was founded by guys who were tired of the burn at other companies and wanted to make sure theirs was not like that. Lots of our devs have families and young kids, and it's a great working atmosphere. And, we're *still* very productive. Many companies are starting to understand it's just not worth burning out your talent and losing them for the sake of a single title.

For anyone looking for a job in the industry... don't let anyone tell you that everyone in the industry goes through insane crunches. Crunches, yes, but the days of mandatory death-marches are fast disappearing. Many developers love to brag about how many hours they worked during the end days of a project (guess it's the game developer equivalent of a war story), but I'm no longer impressed. Putting up with that kind of a nightmare is just foolish at best, and destructive at worst.

there is a simpler solution (2, Insightful)

angrymilkman (957626) | more than 7 years ago | (#18076092)

If gamecompanies would spend less time on pushing the graphical boundaries but instead would focus more on providing innovative gameplay or interesting storylines we can keep the jobs here. I mean we don't outsource our hollywood scriptwriters to china do we?

Re:there is a simpler solution (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18078492)

I mean we don't outsource our hollywood scriptwriters to china do we?

"The writer is king here at Capitol Pictures. You don't believe me, take a look at your paycheck at the end of every week - that's what we think of the writer."

"Did you hear the one about the blond who went to Hollywood to get into the movies? She fucked a writer."

"I was saying I've yet to meet a writer who could change water into wine and we have a tendency to treat them like that."
"Not at this studio."

"I was thinking what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we can get rid of the actors and directors, maybe we've got something."

"You ain't no writer, Fink - you're a goddamn write-off."

You could have picked a more convincing example of a valued employee than a Hollywood writer. Hollywood is the number one recycler of foreign garbage.

Re:there is a simpler solution (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18082658)

Here we go again. Do you think you're "hardcore" because you complain about the entirely imaginary lack of gameplay and story in video games? There's nothing wrong with the gameplay of modern games, and I would say that Max Payne has a stronger storyline than Double Dragon.

So sad yet funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18071358)


while labour laws will force game studios to stick to rational work-weeks

Too funny that Chinese labour gets better treatment under Communist rule than US labour gets under the current Corporatist setup.

Re:So sad yet funny (4, Insightful)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18072554)

Too funny that Chinese labour gets better treatment under Communist rule than US labour gets under the current Corporatist setup.

As long as the game developers don't try to openly practice religion or have to work in manufacturing, they should be fine.

Re:So sad yet funny (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 7 years ago | (#18078076)

As long as the game developers don't try to openly practice religion or have to work in manufacturing, they should be fine.

Or, god forbid, become political active or work in the textile industry.

Labor treated poorly under Communist rule ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18105808)

Too funny that Chinese labour gets better treatment under Communist rule than US labour gets under the current Corporatist setup.

I used the think that a communist government would favor labor over non-state management but a Discovery Channel episode cleared up that fallacy. The episode, who's title escapes me, had a segment showing a lawyer who specializes in representing workers who were injured at work. Injured as in lost limbs in industrial machinery! When a worker was injured the company would declare that the worker violated safety protocols and was therefore ineligible for any compensation and fired. Government backs the factory owners, the police regularly beat up the lawyer who files lawsuits against the companies.

Nothing has really changed, it still boils down to not supporting the current interests of the state. Woe to the citizen who does so.

Go West Young Game Developer...? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071370)

Seems like a lot of game developer jobs are going to Hollywood to capture that great creative spirit that brings in the money. Or it might be that wanna-be-actors are cheaper to hire than elsewhere. As long as game developer treats talent as replaceable cogs in the assembly line, the game industry will always be cursed to re-inventing the wheel.

East? West of me! (2, Insightful)

Tragek (772040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071592)

Man, it took me way too long to process that story. All I would think was "China is west of me".

Re:East? West of me! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071782)

Get yourself a globe. More than likely, China is East, North, South and Under you.

Re:East? West of me! (1)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18072300)

It depends on where you are.

Take a look on a globe, starting here in Florida. If I go east on a globe I get Africa. You gave to go through that, the middle east, India, and then finally get to China.

If I go west on the globe, I go through Mexico and then through China. In addition, it looks like a shorter distance going that way.

Re:East? West of me! (1)

jfodale (1032534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071794)

But duuuude, they're also east of you too! Whoaaaa.... Far out.

China? (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#18071718)

China?! Looking at the headline my first thought was Eastern US like Atlanta or Philly.

Poorly thought out (0)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 7 years ago | (#18072100)

This guy hasn't really thought about what he's doing at all. Holidaying in a country is completly and utterly different from living in said country. I haven't done it myself but know several people who have. One of those differences is income, when you take a holiday (say from Britain to Spain) the £ is substantially stronger than the Euro the result is that everything is dirt cheap. When living there you get a job and a wage thats more in line with the country the end result is financially your probably not that much better off (good example would be UK/USA i may pay less tax and get a higher wage but once you've paid for medical insurrance, etc... it does work out about the same in wage terms.)

Assuming they've created a dev house which is paying devs the same amount as they would in America, great your only business savings are going to be in taxes when you balance that with the socail costs (quality of local talent, living in a china, dealing with different cultures/language barriers) its not going to be that much cheaper.

The only reason I can see for making a developer house in China is to take advantage of Chinese talent, to be honest thats a very risky venture since you don't really here about major CS breakthroughs coming from China (apart from the Great Firewall.) If they were fussed about working times why not actually look around the world places like the UK and Europe have a maximum 40 hour working week (the Uk has a opt out ability.) Just because America lacks such regulations doesn't mean other western countries do.

Basing major decisions on less than three weeks expearence of a place is just being stupid, they should have gone there and actually lived there for some time before doing this then make a choice. I'll wait for the backslash detailing how the companies gone under.

bad conclusions being drawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18072722)

..since it says that it's better not to work your developers so much, you must move to a place where it's illegal to work them too much?

How about growing a spine and just not work them so much IN THE USA?

Yeah ... Right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18072858)

Just wait until he's developing for a Western Gaming firm who is creating a game where you're fighting Communist China.

China:
"Stop Developing This Game."

Developer:
"But Chinese Government Official ... what about Free Speech?"

China:
"Stop Developing This Game NOW or Go To Jail."

Re:Yeah ... Right. (1)

WobindWonderdog (1049538) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074642)

*snort*

More like:

Developer:
*Starts developing game where you're fighting communist China"

China: ...

Developer:
*Mysteriously reappears after a month of disappearance, speaking fluent Mandarin with no knowledge of his previous work. Can be found doing TV ads for English training, and hangs out with DaShan*

=P

Re:Yeah ... Right. (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18079198)

Well then how about making a game where you're fighting America for a change? We get enough games where you fight the "evil commies" and even if you fight the Amis you're playing some "patriotic American" yourself and just fighting against the corrupt government.

Re:Yeah ... Right. (1)

GR1NCH (671035) | more than 6 years ago | (#18094578)

Because your game will be labeled a 'terrorist recruiting and training' tool and will be banned from sale in the United States and it's allied countries. Well, maybe not literally banned, but most retailers will refuse to carry it because consumer groups will boycott their stores.

Uh, game is for export ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#18105846)

Well then how about making a game where you're fighting America for a change?

Uh, the game is for export not domestic consumption.

Game Development Conditions Could Drive Devs East (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 7 years ago | (#18073000)

Game Development Conditions Could Drive Devs East... ...Nintendo fuels speculation by investing in fleet of yachts.

India (3, Interesting)

Frozen Void (831218) | more than 7 years ago | (#18073932)

Why not India? Its a democracy(albeit poor one)
but you can live there as well as in China for the money.
If they consider to stay there long-term it might be a factor.

Re:India (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18086636)

I'm right now imagining God of War as a Bollywood title. It's amusing and frightening.

Publishing practices need to change... (2, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074100)

When you hear about the huge budgets of modern video games, you rarely hear what percentage goes to actually paying developers. If more of the money went to the people actually doing the work, they could hire the developers they need to get the job done without working their developers to death. As it stands right now, no self respecting developer with a family can afford to take a job in games because the hours are crazy, and because if they're any good the pay in non-games work is as much as three times what a programmer can make in the games industry. No wonder they end up understaffed with inexperienced people, struggle to hit deadlines, and we're always hearing about how this or that experienced developer gets fed up and leaves the industry. Meanwhile, the publishers and marketers are living fat off these people's labor.

One of two things will break this trend. Either publishers will become less relevant as self funded studios become common (who knows how this will turn out as Vista pushes game development off of open platforms into a console and portable only world), or the rest of the venture backed software industry will start to treat their employees poorly enough that game development doesn't look so bad anymore. Either way, it's likely to get worse before it gets any better.

Regardless, it's hard to see how China has anything to do with this story other than to stir up the outrage of outsourcing and send hits to the website. So they opened an independent studio, and they did it in China because they have some delusion that their happiness there was due to geography and not the fact that they actually took a vacation... I wish them luck, really, but the geography of this story shouldn't be the focus. It's a red herring.

LoL (2, Funny)

Brigade (974884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074156)

They develop a launch title for PS3 that DOESN'T move PS3's .. then "Move to enjoy the good life" in China ...

They didn't decide to relocate; Jack Tretton promptly shipped them off when Resistance didn't kill Gears/Wii like it was supposed to.

Re:LoL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18087180)

Not true. They were planning on moving to China before R:FOM came out.

Re:LoL (1)

Brigade (974884) | more than 6 years ago | (#18096924)

It was a joke man .. lighten up.

Jack Tretton = President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America. And a boldfaced liar that owes me $3600 for the 3 PS3's that I had in the back of the gamestop I just quit working for.

Clearly these guys haven't played Bad Day L.A. (2, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074454)

...because it was developed using Chinese labour, and we all know how well that one turned out. No creative spark, no real connection with the audience, and a bunch of guys working to the rule without question or concern. That's fantastic for mass-producing (or knocking off) consumer goods, but rather less so when trying to develop something that appeals to emotion like game-play.

Work law in China sounds good! (2, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074506)

The article seems to be suggesting that labour laws in China prevent the kind of unpaid mega-crunch 60+ hour week hell that western developers demand... since when were we behind China in labour laws?!

Saying that, the UK is behind a lot of Europe, and the US behind us...

As for Japan, I'd gladly put with with the crunch there I think. It's hard for a while but the rewards are genuine.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (4, Interesting)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074928)

Having a lot of cousins working in tech in china, I can attest the labor laws do not prevent 85h weeks, 45 of which is unpaid overtime. As well they provide dorms and meals to reduce the possible need to be off site but they expect you to be at their beck and call. Although for an oppressive regime of tyrants I never witnessed any oppression. Or even seen any police that weren't directing traffic. They also don't pay income tax or have any retail taxes that I could see. The tyranny is all to those who rock the boat. To the average folk in china, the tyranny is benign. For those who tkae pride in how the state are different I'd like to point out if you rock the boat in the US you will also disappear. Much faster if your brown or black.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18082754)

"Rocking the boat" and "terrorism" are not necessarily quite the same. As far as I know Michael Moore hasn't yet been shipped off to Guantanamo for "rocking the boat."

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18085134)

But Maher Arar was sent to syria for being brown. examples exist. not as numerous as China but they exist.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

Das Modell (969371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18086416)

Yes. He was sent to Syria because he was brown. Meanwhile, the US continues to accept non-white immigrants, Keith Ellison became a congresman and Condoleezza Rice is Secretary of State.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18083126)

For those who tkae pride in how the state are different I'd like to point out if you rock the boat in the US you will also disappear. Much faster if your brown or black.

The men in black will be at your door in a moment.

Your point is of course proven by the fact that all those anti-war protesters who come out all the time dissappear the next day and are never heard from again. Did you know there's a concentration camp in the desert for peacenik hippies?

Seriously, they gather up all the rock-the-boat protesters you speak of, bring them out there, and put them into labor camps making a slow poison that they dope patchoulli oil with. After they get a few years supply, then they kill all the protesters and process their bodies for recoverable materials just like the nazis did.

Then they send out the doped patchoulli oil to all the smoke shops in the US, and the next wave of protesters who lather themselves up in it bring themselves a little closer to death each time. It's a fantastic posion, it'll make you die of syphillis-like symptoms so it gets blamed on all the 'free love' of the peacenik hippies.

Oh, brown and black people who 'rock the boat' are brought to the labor camps are just shot outright and fed into a furnace to heat the guard complex at night. These men then laugh when the stench of burnt hair straightener makes it's way through the air ducts because it reminds them how effective they are at keeping down the negroes.

\sarcasm off

You're a twit. Go live in China with your cousins and play it safe like the pansy you are. You clearly lack the spine to actually rock the boat in the US and test your absurd theories, but you're quite capable of whining about the bushchimpymchitler regime on the web.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18085066)

I'd like to bring your attention to Maher Arar. A computer program who is a canadian citizen. He was intercepted by the US while on a trip then sent to syria for torture. It turns out he was an innocent man with no links to terrorism and was denied due proccess and the right to a trial or freedom from cruel or unussual punishment.

There are other examples such as marijauna activist Todd McCormick and Steve Kubby. Proponents of medical marijauana who were arrested on drug charges stemming from their use of marijuana. Although the act is illegal the reasons for it are not exactly logical. The punishments for possession are also draconian compared to any western nation. There is also the arrest of Katharine Gun, who released info regaurding the information the US had before initiating the Iraq invassion. These people are just individuals off the top of my head. There are others.

With the exception of Mr. Arar and several suspected "terrorists", these people have had some form of due proccess which china will skip. But the powers that be will make your life difficult if you in some way oppose their actions and views. Much like the US complicancy with the intimidation tactics of the RIAA which the majority of the western world has rejected as a valid defence of IP.

The major difference is China does not try very hard to provide due process and will arrest individuals and will be tight lipped about their fates as the case for Huseyin Celil. They often convict on almost no evidence and they set the bar for "rocking the boat" lower then in the US. But in the past 4 years the amount of individuals who do not recive due proccess in the US has drastically increased. Now it's "suspected" terrorists as well as drug related offences that do not recieve due proccess.

Your ad hominem attack betrays your ignorance of the actions of your country. I rock the boat in the smalls ways that I can but I am a Canadian citizen. Also, I didn't mention bush in my original post. You assumed that. You lack the mental faculties to distinguish real criticism from bipartisan rhetoric. People like you are too common in the states. Your existance itself degrade liberty in general. It's not Demo vs Repub it's a liberty resticting regime vs your rights.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

BgJonson79 (129962) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088078)

Yeah, but we can still vote :-)

Voting for a bunch of bad choices is still infinitely better than not voting at all.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088290)

The point wasn't that China = US. It was the difference between those two is not as great as many american demigogues would have you beleive. And the gap is closing. The US is getting more authoritarian and china is getting more free market if not democratic. I doubt they will ever be equivalent but the US is pretty low for liberty when compared to the other western powers.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 7 years ago | (#18090020)

I doubt they will ever be equivalent but the US is pretty low for liberty when compared to the other western powers.

I think all the "anti-hate" speech laws in Europe and Canada aren't very libertarian. In France they banned religious dress in schools. In England you can go to jail for shooting a burglar that enters your house. So all countries have problems.

However, your original statement that "if you rock the boat in the US you will also disappear. Much faster if your brown or black." is just fucking ridiculous. The number of people who openly criticize the government in the US is immense. You can site some examples of a few people who get screwed over, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Why don't you cut down on the hyperbole? It would lend credibility to the legitimate things you had to say.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

BgJonson79 (129962) | more than 7 years ago | (#18143634)

In what ways is the US "low for liberty?"

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18101572)

Shouldn't you be polishing your gun collection?

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 7 years ago | (#18103952)

Come to think of it, I probably haven't cleaned my .22 pistol in a while.

Thanks.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088924)

Corruption and being ignored are a form of tyranny also.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18092454)

Not really. I am an American working at the Chinese branch on a Technology company.


First of all, there is indeed income tax. Of course! The tendency is, it's compiled by the company and paid in regular installments (out of salary) for the workers, which is the system in Japan and other Asian nations as well. The Chinese tax code is uncomplicated, without deductions, and there isn't a capital gains tax, so for most people it's very simply a percentage of income.

Secondly, live-work groups with dorms and meals? That's so old-school commie, I think of that with the old innefficient state-run factories. I've never heard of it for technology, and that's definitely not common in the industry. And the illegal 85 hour work weeks are common to factory workers, but not at all for skilled laborers. Honestly Chinese technology workers have laxer work hours than US technology workers. Or maybe I just had shit hours in the US - probably both.

Benign dictatorship is right...while I'm strongly opposed to the Chinese government, mostly it's for historical reasons, rather than what the government is today - regardless I think China should ditch the framework that led to the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, etc. I think American media tends to greatly exaggerate how much it fucks over the lives of normal people. Yelling things on street corners, mostly you'd look like a fucking loonie, same as anywhere else. Mostly the government gets down on famous people, or circumstances where normal people are recieving media attention. It's not right, but most people aren't famous and don't recieve media attention.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18085074)

the UK is behind a lot of Europe


Behind in what way? So France has a 35 hour work week. That's great, except that it's hurt the economy severely and has led to high unemployment. I have family members there constantly complaining about how the government and companies keep cutting back on benefits because they cant afford them. I have cousins moving elsewhere in Europe, specifically England and Ireland because they can't find work in France.

There's a myth perpetuated amongst many French that English companies treat their employees badly and that they work excessive overtime. The reality is that many French have moved to England to work. A significant portion of the work force in London is French. It's far easier to land a job there and they earn more than they would have back home.

The French government thought they were doing a great thing by forcing the 35 hour work week and forcing companies to maintain current salary levels. It's turned out to be a disaster. The govenment was looking to repeal the short work week and were blocked by unions. It was the same sort of nonsense where all those stupid students went nuts rioting because the government wanted to change policies for hiring college graduates. It would have helped more of them get work, but they're obsessed with an unrealistic desire for security. They'd rather sit around unemployed so that the few who land work can hold on to their jobs regardless of performance.

Europe in general has a struggling economy, although some nations are obviously doing better than others. From my own experience, I'm convinced that those nations where citizens work harder the economy and nation as a whole is a lot stronger. It's why Asia is an up-and-coming power and why the US in some ways is slipping.

I'm not saying 80+ hour work weeks are justfied. Not at all. My point is that Europe has really overdone it with the regulations.

Re:Work law in China sounds good! (1)

LeninZhiv (464864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088438)

And yet, in 2006, the CAC-40 outperformed the S&P. Hardly an economic free-fall, if you ask me.

film and game industry (2, Insightful)

wootywoot (1066162) | more than 7 years ago | (#18074892)

More work hour doesn't mean higher productivity, have you guys forgot about the EA bride thing? Back when The Day After Tomorrow was made, Dreamworks treated their employees like crap, and I mean really like crap. They work almost every waking hour of their life for months, people would work until they can't take it anymore, crash under their desk for a couple hours, get up and get right back into working. It's a destructive way of life and many many people got sick physically and mentally. Immediately after the movie was done (you never ever walk out of project even if it's shitty and you're not getting paid, walking out of a project is the same as black listing yourself in the industry) Dreamworks lost their entire talent pool. For a long while nobody want to work for Dreamwork because face it, nobody want to work 160 hours a week. Someone did a bit of calculation and found out that with the salary that they are making and the hours that they are working, they make as much as someone who work at McDonalds. After that Dreamworks had to start treating their artists like human and people could actually expect to get paid well for a job well done and can go home at 6~7. Another example of this is Industrial Light and Magic, they close at 6 unless it's the final crunch period. They literally kick you out by 6 and nobody is allowed to stay to work. They get things done, they make good movies and they are one of the best studios in the industry. Or how about Pixar? They treat their artists like human, everybody gets paid well, does not work 12 hour days (most of the time), the management and the artists are friendly with each other, the whole company is like a big family. Last time I checked they are coming out with block buster after block buster films. I wish the executives would realize that when you push your artists to work 20 hours a day, they are not going to be able to make good games. I know when I was crunching 16 hour days, I literally just zone out and make a ton of mistakes by the last few hours. We're not robots, when you overwork us you should expect our productivity to drop. In the end it hurts the productivity because next day when I come in I have to fix a whole lot of mistake I made last night before I passed out.

ILM and Pixar have unions. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18083410)

ILM/Lucasfilm and Pixar are union shops, represented by the IATSE Animation Guild [animationguild.org] . EA is not.

Some IATSE contract terms:

  • "All hours worked in excess of 8 hours per day shall be paid at one and one half times the employee's hourly rate".
  • "All hours worked in excess of 14 hours per day, including meal periods, from the time of reporting to work shall be Golden Hours and shall be paid at two times the applicable hourly rate".
  • "Time worked on the employee's sixth day of the workweek shall be paid at one and one half times ..."
  • "Time worked on the employee's seventh day of the workweek shall be paid at two times..."
  • "Double time shall be paid for work done on holidays".

Those multiply, too; if seven days of work runs through a holiday, you're up to 4x the base rate. This encourages management to avoid unnecessary "crunches".

The movie business sometimes runs long hours during crunches, but directors, producers, and studio management try to avoid them, since their labor costs go through the roof. That's the way it should be.

Unions - the people who brought you the weekend.

Damn! (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18077348)

And here I was all excited because I thought more gaming companies would move or form here on the east coast. I'd love to stay in my native area near Philadelphia, and I'd also love to break into game development. I guess that's still going to be very hard - there are a few companies here and there, but it's nothing like Seattle where you can't throw a stick without hitting a few hiring game studios.

Re:Damn! (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#18078254)

Me too. I thought, "Finally, those guys figured out the Bay Area is too expensive to operate out of." Anybody moving from California to China for better quality of life is kookoobananas. Think Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Texas -- places with established production or technology centers and plenty of fresh meat from local game development schools.

Re:Damn! (0, Troll)

sd4l (448263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080408)

Oh for goodness sakes! How many more Americans are going to be so US-centric! The world revolves around a central axis not the USA!

"When I read it I thought it meant more jobs are going to be in Felixstowe!"

The East/Far East [wikipedia.org] is a common term for Asia (and other neighbouring territories) that occupy the east section of a standard map (with the USA at the left).

This comes down to a point I find most irritating about Americans, England is not a town in South Dakota; there are other countries besides your own with many different cultures, languages and currencies. When you hear a relative term on an international forum try to open your mind and think outside your little country...

Re:Damn! (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18086712)

Gee whillickers, I ain't never heard tell of the Far East! I always thought that was juss the islands off the Carolina shore! Thankee fer larnin' me with yer book smarts...I guess they teach you a little better than us down in Yurope or wherever ya'll are from. After all, it couldn't possibly be that the ambiguous nature of "East" in the headline due to capitalization style, the fact that there are a ton of developers on the US west coast, and the recent headline speaking of NYC (that's New York City; I shouldn't assume you've heard of an uncultured American settlement) as an up-and-coming tech center led me to the logical conclusion that "could drive devs east" actually meant east instead of "west, to the Far East" which is just _so much_ more intuitive. Your additional explanation of what the Far East is was also quite necessary, as even though I expressed my disappointment that I found I was mistaken upon reading the summary, it must have been obvious to you that I still did not connect China with the Far East.

Get off your high horse. Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake and not an indicator of an (admittedly common) American mindset that you and I both find irritating.

I'd ask for an apology, but I understand if it would chafe you to give one to an American...that's just so beneath you.

Good news! (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 7 years ago | (#18078148)

This is great news as I plan to live in Thailand instead of the UK (were I am from). I am hoping that I won't have to setup my own business to be able to work in the Games Industry there since I'm still in University. I'm working in Thailand (which is below china) right now as a web developer and am going back to my Games Programming course in England this year. I really hope more Game development companies come here as its a great place to work and live.

Sickening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18083172)

You got exploited by asshole managers, now you're going to do the same thing to chinese by moving over there. Have fun trying to get anything truly original from them, as they have no games culture, much like the indians.

Aside from this, I have to say that from experience, the modern developer is like a 19th century coal-miner, digging away,
damaging his health for the better profit of the fat bastard sitting on top, making sure almost all royalties go back to him and a few of his pals.

Game programmer, you are a gullible sap ! Just quit as soon as you detect unacceptable behavior the same way they would to it to you without hesitation !

Be a man and refuse or sabotage those sweatshop operations.

Oh, and read your damn employment contracts, you idiots !
Just because it's the entertainment industry doesn't mean you have to drop your pants and go on all fours saying 'please, go ahead'...

What labor standards? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 7 years ago | (#18083750)

Lower costs in China allow for a higher standard of living, while labour laws will force game studios to stick to rational work-weeks.


That's a funny statement to make. Virtually everyone I know who works in Asia, China, Taiwan and Japan, works insane hours. It's a way of life and they just accept it. Up until a few years ago in every second Saturday was a work day in Taiwan. Even for me, when I was out there getting out at 7pm or 8pm was early. And that was pretty much all year round; there were few lulls. And I worked at a fairly small company, because bigger ones were often worse. It gets to a point where you don't even think about it anymore. You've become a worker drone.

In Taiwan and China they do get maybe five days off for Chinese New Year, and maybe a holiday or to at some other time during the year, but that's it. Now, if you're in management, especially higher level management things change considerably. People in the US like to complain about their managers. But the most people here deal with is general stupidity. I've seen management in Asia treat employees like utter crap. They get fairly vicious and insulting with their employees. And many have the habit of not being in the office half the time. It's like the position exists simply to sustain their personal lives. It was frustrating trying to convince some of these guys to invest some money in improving the company when, as they say it, the money could go towards a nice new S-class Mercedes.

I'd like to know what labor standards actually exist in China, and if they do exist if anyone is actually enforcing them. I think what these guys are expecting is that they can lead a fairly cushy life running this company while having others do the "soul-crushing" dirty work. And because labor is cheap they can hire three or four developers for the cost of one in the US. It sounds good until you realize that you need to direct them a lot more closely than you would with a Western developer.

Corporate cultures are different there from the West. The employees expect managers to direct them in everything they do. Western employees tend to figure things out for themselves where possible. I even noticed this tendency with college graduates, in my case design graduates. We'd see their portfolios and they'd have impressive work. We'd bring them in and they were totally incapable of performing. They couldn't figure anything out. I eventually learned that it's because in school professors closely direct the student's work. So once they were left to fend for themselves they were lost. I think it's one reason they tend to copy ideas so much. For this reason we had a tendency to hire locals educated in the West.

Anyone who was really good had a tendency to move to the West where the working conditions were better, contrary to what these guys claim, and where they could earn more. Ultimately, you're going to sacrifice something. You either spend less money and have more hassles or you spend a bit more and ensure that things generally go well. I know people who've stopped outsourcing programming to China and India because of all the trouble they've had. Ultimately it was cheaper and easier to just hire programmers here. I will say one thing, people in Asia generally have a much better work ethic than many Americans. They don't have the excessive sense of entitlement that you see in this country.

...Conditions Could Drive Devs East (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18088966)

"Game Development Conditions Could Drive Devs East "

I look forward to more game developers moving to the Boston area.
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