The serious business of making games

Yeah good talk, dude. My regards to your co-worker.

FWIW, I really like the “fucked up 4/4” comment. I frequently use this sort of off the cuff gut-feeling shortcut to describe complex academic concepts, much to the annoyance of my colleagues, because sometimes it just works. I’m perfectly capable of droning on for hours using wheelbarrows of jargon and cant, and once in a while that’s actually necessary, but most of the time, I find that you can get to the meat of the point a lot quicker (and more enjoyably and with more impact, especially for undergrad students) by going for an emotional resonance.

Yup, that joke was solid gold. Apply that to Cynic’s unending sonic wankery, to riff off a weird musical tangent I wound up on earlier.

Greater Than Games, maker of Sentinels of the Multiverse, has been acquired by Flat River Group.

You know–great gaming advocates Flat River Group?! If you look at their website, you can tell how passionate they are about games. They’re actually an e-commerce company that, as far as I can tell (I am only partially fluent in business-speak), consolidates lots of smaller third-party sellers to Amazon, et al, and manages the distribution, presumably with more weight to throw around and better relationships with the big retailers.

Interesting! I just ordered the Spirit Island promo pack 1 from their store last week and they had a new web storefront with a few kinks to work out. Guess this explains why.

That story is the writer answering the prompt: “tell me you don’t understand how business works without telling me you don’t understand how business works.”

It’s super easy to pick on Activision these days, and lord knows they deserve it, but complaining about contractors being let go after completing the latest project is not something shocking or unique to Activision. It’s the very reason you use contractors in the first place, and people who take contract work shouldn’t expect to be treated like full-time employees.

Not to mention this is like the 30th time Kotaku has written this same story.

I think they should be better compensated and labour standards should improve to eliminate many of the harmful practices like crunch.

Certainly. This is true across the board for workers in this country, but good luck doing anything about it in a society that deifies private property and which runs on a constitutional framework written expressly to preserve the rights of the propertied at the expense of everyone and everything else.

It’s been mentioned a few times in this thread, and worth mentioning many more times: I’m still making my way through Press Reset. I’m actually quite amazed at how many more interviews Jason clearly did for this book. The first book was about maybe 6 people or so, where as this book has at least 6 people per chapter, and I’m on Chapter 9 now.

Reading through it is kind of a downer at times, and then kind of uplifting at other times. I’m glad he wrote this book now when so many of these people in the industry had sort of happier endings than if he had written this book in 2013 or so. It’s interesting that one common thread among the stories is that the Publishers back then were unsure if there was even a future for big triple-A games anymore around that period. They were looking jealously at the success of Clash of Clans and League of Legends, and were trying to get on that gravy train somehow.

It’s also been really interesting how so much of the book revolved around Irrational games. People from there ended up in 2K Marin, then Warehouse 13, and when main Irrational shutdown, we followed even more developers in the book as they went indie, and others who ended up at other triple-A studios.

Following Big Huge Games and 38 Studios’ saga was particularly interesting. After reading in detail about so many developers who moved around from one studio to another to another to another, Jason’s message in the opening chapter really sinks in about developers being sort of Nomads who travel around the country where the job is, very few having stability.

This weekend I read about a core team from Mythic Studios who went Indie, and developed the game Enter the Gungeon. How they rented an apartment together and lived and worked out of there. How living together and working together lead good friends to really start to hate each other. It did sound pretty harrowing. They didn’t believe in crunch, but they still did a sort of self-imposed crunch for over 16 months, day in and day out working 16 hour days to try to get the game finished. It has a happy ending of course, Enter the Gungeon was eventually a success, they moved out of the same apartment and eventually became friends again. But still, it sounds like what was great for the game was a pretty miserable experience for the people making it.

I applaud their guts to take that action, but I don’t think it’s going to work out the way they think it’s going to work out.

Though Activision is under a lot of public scrutiny, so mass firing all of Raven’s QA might be a worse PR move than temporarily paying 12 people their already very low wages by bringing them back.

But long term this isn’t really a great cause to support. Game companies can’t just keep idle workers on the payroll in between projects. This is the very reason companies use contractors.

I mean, almost every other industry does this, including non-game software development. You find projects to fill their time.

So “almost every other industry” doesn’t use contractors so they can scale up and down based on business needs? That seems unlikely to me.

Well, a lot of production based industries have unions so…

A lot of the other industries use contractors for non specific work, such as building maintenence, construction etc. Not specific to the product tasks.

Now, in the medical field, there are contract research labs, but most large companies keep in house labs to do the very important testing, and host out the menial stuff (shelf life studies) to those companies.

The software company I used to work for did not have any outside QA testing, it was all in house, and while release window periods were a lot busier, they found important to retain staff during the slower period by having us work on bug fixes, or expand our knowledge bases into other aspects of the business with other tasks to keep us buys for 40 hours a week in the slow times. It is crazy that other companies don’t do this kind of thing, as this company is crazy successful, and pays well.

In my experience in gaming companies it’s a mix: a small team of full-time employees, complimented by contractors and/or outsourced QA houses.

In a world where a studio may go 3-4 years in between major releases, it doesn’t make sense to keep a large dedicated QA team on full time.

Of course Activision could switch from a studio-based QA structure to an organization-wide QA team that moves from project to project based on what’s needed, but that doesn’t appear to be how they are organized right now.

For movies, a typical production assistant, gaffer, or other low-level employee signs on for a project and when it’s over he or she moves on. No big bad stories about how they’re all being laid off, it’s just how it works. There are very few full-time production employees at the major movie studios.

I think a lot of the time the gaming press has no idea what they’re reporting on when it comes to how games studios run their business, mainly because many of them have idealistic ideas about how businesses work. Many of those people have never held a job in the real professional world.

Probably in other industries there’s less “Kill yourself today, we’ll make it up to you after the game launches” followed by “Laid off”. And I assume having a central area for movies makes it easier on the move for a job part of the issues people are having.

Still, at the end of the day the real problem seems to me is that far more people than should are trying to get into the gaming business even if it’s through the QA path, and businesses have no problem just burning people up, always more people around the corner.

Oh, no, what a terribly irresponsible thing to do would be to pay people who create value instead of increasing a slightly percentage of wealth of the serial abuser(s) at the head of the company, sexually and otherwise! No, no, that would be unacceptable.