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Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out?

Eurogamer.net has details from a now-removed blog post (still cached) written by Zero Dean, apparently a former Rockstar employee who allegedly served as Senior Environment Artist on Red Dead Redemption. The blog described how pressure on the developers from management amplified as the project progressed, with unpaid overtime steadily increasing, leading to him catching flack from above after commenting on the situation in email that turned out to have been monitored. He says he eventually left when a boss took credit for some of his work. "And thank you Rockstar," he wrote. "You taught me exactly how I don't want to run a business or treat employees (or human beings) ever." Thanks Joao.

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55. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 27, 2010, 23:24 [VG]Reagle
 
Wildone wrote on Dec 27, 2010, 12:14:
Yea thats great, when the workload calls for more than 40 hours..your supposed to just smile & take it?! Prick

You'd be the first to be fired if your not working more then 40 hours and you have that attitude. Plenty of others who are willing to work non stop for the same pay check 7 days a week and love it.

Your forgetting that we can always import the games from other countries already made and wrapped and just as good. Countries that don't give a crap about your work ethic...
 
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54. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 27, 2010, 12:14 Wildone
 
Yea thats great, when the workload calls for more than 40 hours..your supposed to just smile & take it?! Prick  
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53. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 27, 2010, 12:12 Wildone
 
yea the only thing is its never rewarded. Well I guess you get to 'keep your job'...  
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52. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 26, 2010, 18:42 Sepharo
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 25, 2010, 12:24:
I've never met a single salaried employee that gets overtime.

Not one. Because "salaried" means you don't stay at work X hours, it means you stay at work until your work is done.

I do know some but they are by far in the minority.
 
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51. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 25, 2010, 12:24 Beamer
 
I've never met a single salaried employee that gets overtime.

Not one. Because "salaried" means you don't stay at work X hours, it means you stay at work until your work is done.
 
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50. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 23, 2010, 02:04 Sepharo
 
AngryMax wrote on Dec 22, 2010, 14:42:
I worked and have friends work as salaried workers in creative positions in huge corporations and they all share one thing in common... if they are asked to stay overtime they get paid for that overtime.

I work and have friends that work as salaried workers in creative positions in huge corporations and they all share one thing in common... their salary is their salary. Working more than 40 hours is just a part of software development whether it's the developers' bad estimates or management's bad estimates doesn't matter there's a deadline to meet. Hopefully the extra effort is rewarded in someway, it's just not going to be with overtime.
 
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49. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 22, 2010, 17:59 Sempai
 
Rockstar not only blows ass at good narrative(Yeah you heard it, RDR's story was shit.)they seem to blow ass at knowing how to treat it's bread and butter.


Suck a dick Rockstar.
 
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48. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 22, 2010, 14:42 AngryMax
 
This sounds very fishy. Not on part of the employee, on part of the company. I worked and have friends work as salaried workers in creative positions in huge corporations and they all share one thing in common... if they are asked to stay overtime they get paid for that overtime.

Often they are not asked to stay overtime, and can leave at the end of the workday, but they would not have as much work on the wall so to say. Most prefer to just simply leave, pulling maybe 1-5 days a month actually staying late to finish work.

With multi billion profits these companies are churning out, its time for devs to start class actioning one company after another. Trust me it wont take long before these parasitic executives fall in line (or fall off like vestigial limbs). Doesn't take much to start a non-profit lawyered up sue cannon organization that watches anonymously and strikes when appropriate.

Don't quit whining on blogs, the more the better, but don't forget direct action as well guys.
 
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47. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 21:02 Sepharo
 
Steele Johnson wrote on Dec 21, 2010, 12:24:
It's not just the gaming industry. It's a lot of software companies. Managers don't understand the technology which in turn causes a lot of stress among the workers. Managers who don't understand the technology should not be allowed to manage these projects. I don't care what people think, software development is a really difficult and tedious job. Unless you're working on your own project at your own leisure, working in a team-based environment can be a nightmare if the managers don't understand how things work. I've found that to be that case in lots of companies I've worked for. The best projects are seriously the ones where the manager is the tech lead, and there are no managers at the exec level involved other than checking on status and letting the team go their rightful pace.

Managers at the exec level have one important responsibility, and that is to incentivize and motivate the workers. Not crack whips and create a stressful, unstable team environment. Managers like that should be let go.

This article is a bit disconcerting to me because Rockstar is one of my favorite companies. They need to fire these managers who cause all this stress if the company wants to remain where they are today. Otherwise they'll lose a lot of good talent.
 
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46. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 20:59 Beamer
 
This absolutely still happens in CA despite laws preventing it.

Are you sure CA has laws against it?

If you're salaried you're responsible not for hours but for getting work done. Unfortunately many, most even, employers are too stupid to get away from the 40 hour model and fail to realize that most people may have 3 or 4 60 hour weeks but then, when the project is done, may have a 20 hour week. Some companies let you stay at home the other 20. Others mandate you sit in a chair for them even if there's no work as of yet.


But if you're salaried there's no 40 hour maximum. There's no overtime. Get your job done or get a new job. The flip side of that is that no company can expect to keep productive employees, nor can it expect to keep any employees, nor can it expect to recruit top talent. It's a trade-off. One of the projects I just finished was on this exact topic (and, for the record, I put in several 70 hour weeks doing it.) Bottom line: better to err on the side of being too lenient and firing employees that take advantage then treating them like children.


But we have no tight deadlines and a steady stream of income. Neither things are luxuries the entertainment industry has.
 
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45. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 20:50 Omni
 
It all comes down to money.

Go Corp. America!
 
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44. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 19:59 Tumbler
 
There is NO WAY they were asked to work hourly uncompensated overtime.

My wife just got a check, a big one, from her current employer for unpaid overtime she was "expected" to work a few years back. (CA) She was salaried but it ultimately came down to her responsibility to make sure things got done and this often required her to be there more than 40 hours a week.

This absolutely still happens in CA despite laws preventing it.

I remember working for a company that had a very odd way of talking about overtime. The manager would say, "We don't pay overtime." I'd say, "Well if you work more than 8 hours you have to get overtime...right?"

"We don't pay overtime."

It seemed quite clear that I'd have to take them to court to get any additional money I was owed for overtime. So I just made sure not to work overtime.
 
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43. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 18:23 Dirwulf
 
There is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this story. California has INSANE laws when it comes to working overtime. There is NO WAY they were asked to work hourly uncompensated overtime. As others have stated, he HAD to be a salaried employee, and working in the game industry, you KNOW you are going to be working TONS of overtime as release approaches if you've ever worked any game prior. They ask you in the interview if you mind working overtime. I've never NOT been asked that at any game company I've worked at.

http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,43248/
 
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42. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 17:04 ASeven
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 21, 2010, 16:47:
I'll use an anecdotal evidence and use myself to counterpoint your argument of working under pressure. I worked at university better when I was doing stuff alone and without pressure. I still do. I work well under pressure, and boy in my line of work we do have pressure, but me and many of my colleagues worked and work best in a relaxed environment, which is why I went freelancer to begin with.

Which is why you went freelance and not into video game development.
I personally can't dunk a basketball, which is why I didn't go into the NBA. More to the point, while I love friendly competition I hate actual vicious competition which is why I didn't follow through with Wall Street recruiting after spending time at some banks a few years back. I loved the actual work but hated the way it got done. I wasn't cut out for it.
Some people aren't made for some things.

Which only proves the point that many who aren't made to work under pressure are experiencing a brutal work environment, as more and more whistleblower sites and people appear on the net to tell about their experiences in the industry. A person that is perfect for making games may not be good at handling pressure, unfortunately the industry will take them all and not have a regard for the personal, and corporate, consequences that it entitles.

Being good at one thing and being able to work under pressure are two different things that happen to cross into each other when you work in the gaming industry.

Beamer wrote on Dec 21, 2010, 16:47:
the younger generation is reading, seeing and sometimes even living the working conditions of the industry and rather go alone for themselves than work under a publisher.

Or maybe it's because it's an insanely hard industry to get into without doing something first, and indies are a good way to do something and get noticed. Now that mods are mostly dead, in the way that we used to have constant Quake and HL mods, that avenue is gone. Indies are really the only way to create something new.

moddb.com shows modding is very much alive, and the indies are reviving modding once again. They do go hand in hand since many indie teams were once mod teams. Most indie games are coming with full modtools and that is drawing the modding community into them.

As for doing something first, I think most indies would tell you that that's a load of bullshit. Most indies went indie because they rather be freelancers, it's not something to do with having made work or not. For some indies that is true, they went indie to impress publishers by making a game first, for most indies I know and anyone can follow in indiedb.com it is completely false, they went indie because they wanted to escape the work environment of publishers to begin with and do a game the way they want to make, without deadline pressures, even if it means financial pressures. And that does prove that working in the industry requires much more than love and handling pressure, it may require being a masochist, because when you rather face financial pressure over working in an industry with guaranteed pay then that's the only conclusion I can draw for the indies staying indie no matter what.
 
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41. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 16:47 Beamer
 
I'll use an anecdotal evidence and use myself to counterpoint your argument of working under pressure. I worked at university better when I was doing stuff alone and without pressure. I still do. I work well under pressure, and boy in my line of work we do have pressure, but me and many of my colleagues worked and work best in a relaxed environment, which is why I went freelancer to begin with.

Which is why you went freelance and not into video game development.
I personally can't dunk a basketball, which is why I didn't go into the NBA. More to the point, while I love friendly competition I hate actual vicious competition which is why I didn't follow through with Wall Street recruiting after spending time at some banks a few years back. I loved the actual work but hated the way it got done. I wasn't cut out for it.
Some people aren't made for some things.

However I think that there's working under pressure, and there's working under brutal pressure without rewards, without incentives and with a very fucked up corporate culture.

As I keep saying, there need to be rewards, but of course a product needs to sell for those rewards.
I also disagree with "brutal."

the younger generation is reading, seeing and sometimes even living the working conditions of the industry and rather go alone for themselves than work under a publisher.

Or maybe it's because it's an insanely hard industry to get into without doing something first, and indies are a good way to do something and get noticed. Now that mods are mostly dead, in the way that we used to have constant Quake and HL mods, that avenue is gone. Indies are really the only way to create something new.
 
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40. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 16:24 ASeven
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 21, 2010, 16:10:
considering that many developers do tend to work like slaves and stay quiet about it maybe those overtime pays and bonuses are not as common as we may think they are.

In my experience you tend to get people at most video game companies that have two things true of them. First, they really love what they do. Many stay late hours because they enjoy it. Some developers actually lock the doors at a certain hour to make sure people leave. It's not that they have to much to do, it's that they're nerds that truly love this stuff, are insanely good at it, and love proving how good they are by getting a lot done. Developing is like that in the right environment. For me it was always exhilarating competition or it completely sucked - no in-between.
The other thing true of many of them is they work best with that deadline. I'd say this board is fairly representative of the type of people that would end up making games. Think back to college. When did you do your best work? Was it in the hours before the project was due? Did you end up blowing things like sleep and other classes to get something done? In other words, did you crunch yourself? I sure did. Granted it was the result of bad project management over myself, but even later in life when I got better at it I still did my best and most inspired work during crunch. That's when things would begin to shine.

You can't avoid that. Something done without that fire, by people coming in 9-5 like a routine, ends up without that passion.
But part of that means that crunch needs to be the exception, something that happens in the last 10-20% of a lifecycle, rather than the rule.

I'll use an anecdotal evidence and use myself to counterpoint your argument of working under pressure. I worked at university better when I was doing stuff alone and without pressure. I still do. I work well under pressure, and boy in my line of work we do have pressure, but me and many of my colleagues worked and work best in a relaxed environment, which is why I went freelancer to begin with.

Now that's an anecdotal evidence as it comes and you are right in that you work in the gaming industry, any crunch-heavy industry, because you tend to love what you do, a lot. However, having said that, different people react differently to pressure. Some work better with it, some crack. I don't believe for a single second the majority of developers actually work better under pressure, or enjoy working under the tremendous pressure of a deadline of delivering a finished game. That goes beyond loving what you do and gets into doing it because you fear the alternative. True, many do it because they truly love it. Reading On The Edge, the book about Commodore's history, that feeling is ever so present like when the C64 was created and the engineers made the Commodore HQs their literal home just to finish the project. However I think that there's working under pressure, and there's working under brutal pressure without rewards, without incentives and with a very fucked up corporate culture.

The reason so many indies are springing up is not only because the PC market can handle them due to the disregard of the publishers, I personally don't even think that's the main reason. I think there's so many indies because the veteran developers who got burnt by the industry are ever increasing and rather take their chances going alone by themselves, and the younger generation is reading, seeing and sometimes even living the working conditions of the industry and rather go alone for themselves than work under a publisher.

The gaming industry is fucked up, due to a variety of causes, but mainly due because they don't learn from mistakes and are unable to adapt to new markets or working conditions, like all the entertainment industry. The consequences are that right now amongst circles of financial analysts, they all agree that the gaming industry is right now the most brutal industry to work in.
 
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39. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 16:10 Beamer
 
the infamous example of IW to see that not all publishers do give handsome bonuses,

We don't know what happened there, yet, and the accusation is in no way clear as to what actually happened.
Bottom line is if you leave a company you forfeit your bonus.
But that bonus should be held as a carrot at the end of the stick and, when the product launches, you should be given that carrot. Assuming the product sold.

considering that many developers do tend to work like slaves and stay quiet about it maybe those overtime pays and bonuses are not as common as we may think they are.

In my experience you tend to get people at most video game companies that have two things true of them. First, they really love what they do. Many stay late hours because they enjoy it. Some developers actually lock the doors at a certain hour to make sure people leave. It's not that they have to much to do, it's that they're nerds that truly love this stuff, are insanely good at it, and love proving how good they are by getting a lot done. Developing is like that in the right environment. For me it was always exhilarating competition or it completely sucked - no in-between.
The other thing true of many of them is they work best with that deadline. I'd say this board is fairly representative of the type of people that would end up making games. Think back to college. When did you do your best work? Was it in the hours before the project was due? Did you end up blowing things like sleep and other classes to get something done? In other words, did you crunch yourself? I sure did. Granted it was the result of bad project management over myself, but even later in life when I got better at it I still did my best and most inspired work during crunch. That's when things would begin to shine.

You can't avoid that. Something done without that fire, by people coming in 9-5 like a routine, ends up without that passion.
But part of that means that crunch needs to be the exception, something that happens in the last 10-20% of a lifecycle, rather than the rule.
 
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http://www.hydrahead.com
http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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38. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 16:01 ASeven
 
Beamer wrote on Dec 21, 2010, 15:48:
You know all those people working out in Hollywood? They're all in unions.

And they're still working ridiculous hours.

Also, yeah they're in unions, but they're also job-to-job. Your movie wraps? Better hope another movie needs a key grip soon.
And there are no bonuses.

And yet we have the infamous example of IW to see that not all publishers do give handsome bonuses, or that the gaming industry gives bonus on a regular basis at all. To be honest we have no proof either way that publishers do indeed pay those handsomely large bonuses for all the crunch, and considering that many developers do tend to work like slaves and stay quiet about it maybe those overtime pays and bonuses are not as common as we may think they are.

Either way I agree with Beamer in that managers need to know how to manage, and that's a problem plaguing not only the gaming industry but most industries, although I also agree with the others, it's worst in this industry and publishers get away with it because developers are too young and even too stupid to know that they should not accept these kind of work conditions.

Better managers, unionized developers. The industry would get on track in an instant. But making sense in this industry is as common as pigs flying.
 
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37. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 15:48 Beamer
 
You know all those people working out in Hollywood? They're all in unions.

And they're still working ridiculous hours.

Also, yeah they're in unions, but they're also job-to-job. Your movie wraps? Better hope another movie needs a key grip soon.
And there are no bonuses.
 
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http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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36. Re: Ex-Rockstar Dev Speaks Out? Dec 21, 2010, 15:47 Beamer
 
Eventually there has to be a disconnect between the project manager and the developers (in that they shouldn't be the same people.) However, where the gaming industry fucks up is that the disconnected project manager is still the one calling all the shots on the actual game development.

Yup.
And it's great if you find someone that can combine the two, but it's better to be safe than sorry and easier to bring in a good project manager/business guy and let him learn the creative aspect than vice versa. While some creatives are sure to get up-in-arms about that, remember that his creative input would always be limited and team-based whereas the project management and business input tends to be solo.

It only took them about ten years to realize that releasing every game in the six weeks before Christmas was a bad idea, so I expect these issues to be addressed somewhere in 2185.

They're still stumbling with this, though. March and April became the "well, we can hit them post-holiday" time, then RDR made people think maybe that's not so; maybe that space can only support one or two titles and not multiple.

I kind of disagree with all of it - I'm looking for good games year-round. After the November games hit I'm looking for something new in December. The November games are already old (and still full price) so I'm looking for something either discounted or brand new. And then I go back and play some more Civ 4.
I'm not alone.
 
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