Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Normality returns but...

Well GDC is in full flow, I got our demo off on Sunday night with pretty much all the features requested by our client and am hoping to hear some good things from him soon as he shows it around.

Personally there were a few things I wanted to get in that didn't work or didn't work as planned but these things happen. I'll work on them this week.

That major spurt of work the last 2 weeks, did have the effect of helping us to catch up on lost time, that was caused my my "sneeze" and subsequent can't be arsed cos I'm stoned on painkillers work ethic.

All this means that things can return to a degree of normality back to working 6-8 hours a day or so and weekends.

It also means I can at last get out and see Watchmen...might pop over to the new local cinema tonight.

In other words my Quality of Life is coming back to normal. This is a topic I want to touch on soon, but its too big a topic to post today on the hoof, it needs some thought.

But briefly..QoL is a major issue in our industry and is a once again coming to the fore following some major issues at one of our "representative" trade bodies(IGDA) where a now ex board member, who is also the boss of one of the biggest dev companies in the games industry , made it clear he actively encourages and would not hire anyone who is not prepared to work large amounts of unpaid overtime

This is frankly an appalling situation, because IGDA main raison d'etre is the improvement of developers QoL. Its members pay subscriptions to it annually expecting them to actually get out there and do something to prevent something which has frankly become endemic in the games business. And yet the board of IGDA themselves is largely composed of CEO's and development mangers whose very businesses rely on the practice of enforced (by various means) unpaid labour.

This so called "crunch" is generally a failure of management, project management in particular which has always had problems quantifying the amount of work needed in a project and then tying that into the time/resources formula.

I've done project management myself, its not an easy job, I was pretty good at it on smaller projects at a mobile phone game company I worked at, and managed to ensure no-one ever crunched. But I do agree the projects get exponentially harder the bigger they get and that makes it much much more difficult to estimate timescales and so on. I wouldn't really want to be a PM on a major project.

But the standard "practice" of estimating timescales on big projects appears to be stick a wet finger in the air, pick a date then make people work masses of unpaid overtime in order to achieve that deadline...When done, throw aware the dead/burnt out developers and repeat.

It's not uncommon for people to work 10,12,16 even 20 hour stretches, 7 days a week 52 weeks a year, in an attempt to get milestones hit etc.

Why forced you may ask, game developers are well paid, etc etc etc.

Well yes, they are, usually, but when you are paid x amount of money for 40 hours or so a week. You're doing well, when you are paid however the same x amount of money for 80+ hours a week, then things start to sound a bit fishy.

Now in my case I've been crunching because I lost some time due to illness and lack of focus (due to being stoned on painkillers for a couple of weeks). But since the project I am working on is entirely my own (working with Dino and Steve) we are the only people who are suffering. If I don't deliver I don't get paid...simple.

If however I was an employee of a large company, perhaps run by an IGDA board member, and my boss insisted I stay till 2am to get a milestone hit that I knew was completely unachievable and most likely I had no say in setting, I'd say no..sorry mate, I'm off to see Watchmen and have a life out of hours.......that "attitude" though could get me fired.

That is wrong.....I've tried very hard in my various incarnations as a boss to avoid crunch, I've not always managed it, but I've also made a point of making it voluntary.

IGDA is supposed to be working to stop this....it fails, it's been failing for a long time, and it looks like its going to continue to fail. Meanwhile, the IGDA board of largely management types can continue to bleat about the importance of eliminating crunch in memo's and white papers while quietly ensuring their own companies make full use of crunch to maximize their profits and salve their conscience by insisting they throw people out at 2am....(I wonder if they get written warnings when they turn up late at 9pm???)

As I say, a long topic...and one that needs thought before posting more info on here. But read the IGDA forums, and if you are able, the TCE forums to get more insight into this ongoing issue.


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