Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Working Environment For A Development Team

It's been published many times before how the Development teams are treated/mistreated during the development of a game, but I'm going to chime in and give my opinion on the matter and lay out the facts for those who don't know yet.

A typical Development Cycle for a game is anywhere between 18 months and 36 months, with the average being about 24-26 months, though there are cases where the time is drastically shortened or even increased, it just depends on the Publisher/Developer and the politics of the situation.

At the beginning of development for a game, things can usually go relatively smoothly. There's pressure from up above to get going on the project but there's nobody breathing down your neck 24/7 yet. As time goes on, the stresses of working start to take their toll. I'm sure almost everybody has heard the term "Crunch Time" before. "Crunch Time" varies in definition depending on the Developer & Publisher.

Smaller Developers are typically laid back and just let games be completed when they're completed. This is especially true with most Indie Developers, as they don't typically have big Publishers hounding them. When Publishers like EA or Activision are on board, though, things can get very rough.

During "Crunch Time" under EA, myself and the rest of the team were subjected to their "normal procedural workings" as they called it. In reality, this meant we were REQUIRED to work in excess of 60 hours each week. While that may not sound that bad, the part that always pissed me off to no end as well as several others, was that once we hit 40 hours, anything beyond 40 hours was UNPAID.

EA and Activision are both guilty of making overtime mandatory but not paying you for the overtime. If you had a problem with it they would not-so-kindly show you the door. There's been a lot of press over the actions of EA in recent years, but I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that these tactics are still practiced by EA and Activision, as well as occasionally at THQ (It was used during Homefront) and I'm sure a few other Publishers as well.

Working in the Game Industry can be hell, mostly because of the pressure the Publishers put on the head of the Developer who in-turn puts pressure on his team to satisfy their demands. Even with all this, though, I love doing what I do because I still feel a sense of freedom in creating a rich, vibrant story that captivates people, as that is where I think Gaming really takes off.

Games that are about nothing but action like "Stranglehold" or "Haze" or "Fracture" are just horrible. Multiplayer gaming is fine, but the market is so saturated with those types of games as well as blind shoot-em-ups that the brand has gotten stale. Games like "Dead Island" and "Fallout" and "Skyrim" and especially "Heavy Rain" are true examples of artistry. I'm hoping to see more of those in the future and if I'm lucky I can be apart of the team for another great game.


  1. Are you really working over 40 hours unpaid? If you are salary, then you are paid regardless of the number of hours. Welcome to the real world that most of us live in. 40 hours for professionals is not the norm. It is a low end with most of us working 50 hours a week and more for years at a time. If you agreed to be salary, you should know what you are getting into.

    On the other hand, if you are hourly and they are not paying you overtime, that is illegal. Call either the state Department of Labor or the Federal one.

    1. I don't think you understand how it works. Working 40 hours or more is not the problem, hell I love working and so do many other developers, but most of us are not salaried, we are contracted for so much work and some are paid hourly.

      You can do a simple google search and find out about the lawsuits filed against EA for unpaid overtime and horrendous working conditions. Welcome to the Real World of the Gaming Industry.

  2. I don't agree with you on games like Stranglehold and Haze being bad games. I've played both and I thought they were fun, just because a game is "all action" doesn't mean they can't be fun.

  3. Games like Stranglehold and Haze are nice games if you just want to kill some time or feel like shooting a lot, but they lack any and all depth that they possibly could. Stranglehold has absolutely no story or solid gaming, you simply run from room to room in a copy of Max Payne-style shooting/slowdown and that to me is not fun.

    Haze is a letdown on so many levels. Released on the PS3 with PS1 graphics, poor gameplay, etc.

    1. Just because its a "copy" of a game doesn't mean it can't be good (see Titan Quest and Torchlight which are Diablo "copies"). Its not like the games didn't have a few cool features either. I bought Haze used for $15 and had a lot of fun playing through the story and splitscreen with my friends. I would call them mediocre games at worst, but no horrible.

    2. I agree, Clones of games can be great, and those are great examples, but I personally think Haze and Stranglehold are horrible. That does not mean they ARE horrible, it is simply my personal opinion as is yours.