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[TRENCHES] Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - Snackula

Robot SantaRobot Santa Enforcer of Christmas FearNorth PoleRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited May 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub
Snackula


Snackula
http://trenchescomic.com/comic/post/snackula

Misery and Toil

Anonymous

I worked as a security officer (aka “person who watches you scan your badge and lets in the pizza guy”) for a game company during the six-month stretch prior to release of their latest game. I can tell you that everyone works hard, but the contract-work game testers would come in and work… and work… and WORK.

Initially, it was a mere eight-hour day, but it rapidly progressed to watching as an endless stream of caffeine-induced jittery zombies shuffled in and out of the building, while voice actors, movie stars, and children with difficult diseases danced by like some strange sugar-plum fairy fever dream.

The developers of the game itself would stroll in, casually ignore the security devices they’d demanded be installed in their own building, and blow a few grand on catering and special delivery food each week. This while delivering tirades about how the testers were making up bogus errors for them to fix.

For my own part, I kept the watch, did the tallies, got the pizza and mail and put up with primadonna personalities with a smile on my face as I towered over the gibbering little venom-monkeys, wondering when one of the poor testers would crack.

Naturally, I and all the other contract workers, including the testers that worked themselves to collapse, were all fired and replaced without warning after the game shipped and before the company paid a bonus to those that remained with the company.

They even changed the locks on the doors.


Posts

  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
  • IvarIvar Registered User regular
    Double Geth thread

  • ArakonArakon Registered User regular
    Geth. Not even once.

  • jackaljackal Registered User regular
    The game shipping is the warning.

  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu ___________PIGEON _________San Diego, CA Registered User regular
  • kingworkskingworks Registered User regular
    Hearing these stories makes me enjoy my vidya games less.

    Like the corrupt chocolate industry, I can't help but feel that I'm supporting unethical and possibly even illegal business practices by my consumption of these products.

    On the flip side, table-top and board gaming feels like it's entering a Renaissance.

  • HotandnerdyHotandnerdy Registered User
    jackal wrote: »
    The game shipping is the warning.

    Lol. :P

    girl.jpg
  • ApolloinApolloin Registered User regular
    It's so funny comparing the tales part of 'tales from the trenches' with my own recollections of being a developer.

    This one is a classic in the timeless 'cinderella' vein, where the Developers are a bunch of privileged, workshy egotists with the testers being the humble and hardworking 'salt of the earth' types. I begin to wonder why my recollections are full of 12 and 16 hour days - even crunch times where I went three days without leaving the building. My recollections are also that McDonalds, KFC and Pizza stops becoming a nummy treat when you've eaten it six days in a row.

    I also can't remember a single product I worked on (except one for Eidos, ironically) where the Publisher actually paid out the bonuses that were promised. 'Jam Tomorrow' became a rallying cry for us - because it was certainly NEVER 'Jam Today'.

    The only truly raw deal that we, as Developers, didn't share with the testers was the cyclical nature of their employment. Unsurprisingly there was a need for lots of testers once we started getting to the tail-end of Production and, equally unsurprisingly, there WASN'T a need for lots of testers once the post-release patching was done and dusted and we were back into pre-production part of the development cycle. I'm pretty sure that our company would have gleefully fired artists, programmers and even designers if it were easy and cheap to recruit skilled replacements but it just ISN'T. It IS easy and cheap to reduce your test crew down to a cadre and then ramp it back up again a couple of years later.

    We did recruit production and design staff from the ranks from time to time as someone seemed to have a talent and a passion for the work. We had a pretty high failure rate with candidates from there, but as that's how I got MY start in the industry I always supported the practice myself. But really, other than that one thing conditions really weren't that dissimilar.

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Apolloin wrote: »
    It's so funny comparing the tales part of 'tales from the trenches' with my own recollections of being a developer.

    This one is a classic in the timeless 'cinderella' vein, where the Developers are a bunch of privileged, workshy egotists with the testers being the humble and hardworking 'salt of the earth' types. I begin to wonder why my recollections are full of 12 and 16 hour days - even crunch times where I went three days without leaving the building. My recollections are also that McDonalds, KFC and Pizza stops becoming a nummy treat when you've eaten it six days in a row.
    Consider though, that the person telling this story is a contract security guard. He may not know who's who.
    He saw some people come in, ignore him and the other contract workers and breeze past the security measures. He also saw some people put in 20+ hour days strung out on caffeine, then the game shipped and he and some of the caffeine people where unemployed. He assumed the caffeine people were all contract workers and the others were developers. Then he and some of the caffeine people were laid off, maybe he stayed in touch with some that were from QA, maybe he just assumed that all the jittery caffeine zombies were temp workers like him.

    His description of the developers sounds less like developers and more like disconnected upper management who are irate about Dev time being taken to fix bugs (reported by QA). I'd imagine that the Devs generally don't design the buildings or put in fancy security systems (at least not in game companies large enough to be on the Make A Wish list, or to have celebrity guests).

    Of course, I've never been a QA tester or a game developer or programmer or even a security guard. I could be way off on all of this.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    It's also possible he was at a company where the (probably short-lived) dev team really was a bunch of well-fed and privileged shits. They would be an exception to the rule, but it's possible.

    twitter, github, resume/portfolio, if you like to play or host boardgames online, check out handtracker
  • fortyforty Registered User regular
    I can't imagine a company where the developers are in charge of security decisions.

    Patch 5.4 wrote:
    First win of the day now awards 150 Conquest Points (up from 100).
    Subsequent wins now awards 75 Conquest Points (up from 50).
    YES! I AM INVINCIBLE!
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    I think there's a huge distinction in the larger companies between the development team and the management team. Most of those complaints sound like they're directed at the management team.

    "Well, look at this. Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What's that make us?"
    "Big Damn Heroes, Sir."
    "Ain't we just."
  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    edited May 2012
    Perhaps it was a smaller team of developers who got some big backing, allowing them to get ahold of facilities and peons and catering etc. That would result in a situation where you have devs setting their own work hours and blowing funds on nice foods and saying "maybe we need some security up ins."

    EDIT: COULD result*. I'm sure there are some great and ethical developers out there.

    Aurich on
  • ApolloinApolloin Registered User regular
    edited May 2012
    I know I got frustrated when some bugs were found in scripting of mine - to do with the design of an ingame sequence involving a trap where I had to account for whatever weird crap the player was doing whilst I was playing dialog and moving dewds about and killing one off with said trap.

    It was a NIGHTMARE, but they assigned me a dedicated tester and that guy busted his balls working out all the flipping weird crap that could happen during that cutscene. I almost pulled my fingernails out scripting collision boxes for player position and special case scripting - but whilst a few peeps managed to break it post-release the general agreement was that you pretty much had to be a jackass to do so.

    That guy saved my ass. His name was Vincent.

    EDIT: Uhm, the point of the above rambling recollection was that not everyone is upset or depressed when bugs are found. Hell, testers don't put bugs in there, they just find them before Kotaku writes a mocking article about them.

    Apolloin on
  • LurkingTrollLurkingTroll Registered User
    I'd say that the Devs had a pretty close relationship with management, though this was written six or seven months ago in an insomnia-induced haze, and should really have been expanded and clarified, but for lack of time, reading attention, and other such factors, was condensed to the point of insensitivity to some parties.

    No, the Devs had no _direct_ influence on the security measures in place in their building, but they sure complained to management about it when it worked as intended/inconvenienced them/didn't work and let anyone in that could work a doorknob/what-have-you. Management would then ask the security, whom was contracted to the company that held the gaming company's contract, to fix/deal with it in some wonky way.

    What management dealt with on a day-to-day basis also sucked: actors for the voice-work, nervous breakdowns during crunch time, QA and Devs actually throwing things and screaming, a couple visits from kids with truly awful circumstances that made their health a physical and emotional battle on a persistent basis (yes, Make-A-Wish), and also having to deal with dickish executives from their company's contract holder, a most massive company in its own right.

    Did that make working there suck?

    Honestly, in retrospect (now that I'm not 'in the industry' anymore), I loved that job. The people that made it awesome were a couple guys from QA, most of the security team that I worked with (Jerome and Kiss), and on the day before it shipped when they had an in-house party, everyone was awesome.

    It was like everyone had taken a Xanax and had a good cuddle before coming to work. I got my copy of the prior game signed by the entire staff (No, I'm not selling it).

    Did it totally suck that 80% of the contract workers were out in the space of two days thereafter? Absolutely.

    Do I understand NOW what happened and how it worked? Again, absolutely.

    Does that change how I felt at the time, the sense of betrayal and loss and hurt and the like? Well, no, I'm not an emotional time-traveler, don't be silly.



    I'm not certain I should directly divulge the name of the company, or the game, nor whom I worked for, or any of that, but I'm willing to answer questions vaguely and evasively as attempts to further clarify, if anyone wants to poke at this further.

    I'm honestly delighted that I was able to share my story in any form, though. Thank you for reading.

  • LurkingTrollLurkingTroll Registered User
    Aurich wrote: »
    Perhaps it was a smaller team of developers who got some big backing, allowing them to get ahold of facilities and peons and catering etc. That would result in a situation where you have devs setting their own work hours and blowing funds on nice foods and saying "maybe we need some security up ins."

    EDIT: COULD result*. I'm sure there are some great and ethical developers out there.

    Their backing COULD NOT be any bigger. I did not exaggerate the amount of funds spent on catering. It was too ridiculous to falsify.

    Also, there were a few incidents that required security to intervene, which is why they had it.

  • ApolloinApolloin Registered User regular
    Wow - how bizzare.

    I do know that with having to work STUPID hours I, personally, would have been butthurt at having to jump through excessively stupid security hoops - but I imagine that having a physical security guard there would have obviated that. When you can barely remember to wear pants and make it through the commute alive and you've worked two or three times as many hours as you've slept then the last thing you'd want to do is remember a keycard and a PIN number every day. I'm lucky that we never had to do that.

    As for 'setting your own work hours', my personal experience is that, yes, nobody gives you ten kinds of crap if you come in at 1000 in the morning, given that you probably worked anywhere from 2200 to 0200 the night before.

    As for 'incidents' I do remember some shouting matches and some rolling airsoft skirmishes through a couple of offices.

    As for contract employees being given a hard time by Developers, my only negative experience was with a medium/small Independent developer whose management decided to hire cleaners. Stuff started disappearing from desk drawers and the recreation room. A security guard was hired to solve this problem and all that happened was that money started disappearing as well. Finally we decided to fire the lot of them when I came into work and managed to put two hours of work in before the security guard that was sleeping on the couch in my office woke up.

    The kind of situation described by LurkingTroll sounds utterly bizzare - I wonder how the team he was working for managed to ship anything at all!

  • LurkingTrollLurkingTroll Registered User
    It WAS bizarre. The keycard thing applied to everyone, even if I KNEW they worked there, the company would flip seven shades of shit if anyone was just 'vouched' in, even by management. They'd ask to let someone in on their word, and then and flip out on the security company's supervisor about the guard that'd let that slide, even though it's on the management person's head for having asked it in the first place... when that finally caused a change in policy to be sent out via e-mail, you could actually _hear_ the whining and groans throughout the office, learning they couldn't even get in if they were the CEO, without that little card that had their picture on it.

    I don't write policies, I don't enforce rules anymore, I'm just a guy that plays console games and lifts weights on the beach at sunset with my wife in the recuperative stages of my life. And I'm thankful, because the labyrinthine rules and by-laws of companies that want security, and pay for it, but don't understand it? That's not really fun to deal with.

    The works hours of the Devs and QA started out like you'd expect of a laid-back company: come in, do stuff, chill, watch a game, play Nerf, whatever.

    Then it got to be a 5-day workweek... then it progressed to the next level, when the 6-month marathon began, and testers and Devs and QA would shuffle through the lobby to their respective work areas, some looking so haggard that I ended up asking one guy a couple times a week if he would need something from the store, like a pillow. There would be non-contractors that would sleep in their workspaces, or on couches, or beanbag chairs, and drink gallons of energy drinks. One artist had to redesign something entirely, and so he spent 50 hours on a project, straight. Since that was during a stretch where I had two co-workers sick, I was pulling 16s myself, just to cover shifts inventively. So he'd sometimes come out to the lobby and stare out the window at traffic, or walk around with me during building checks. I envied him his pay, but not that extraordinary effort. That, I admired, because he pulled it off. Beautiful painted scenery, then rendered digitally.

    Incidents of 'helping people leave' were very rare, and only one person needed to be walked out of the building to their car with the box of their belongings. Otherwise it'd be people showing up trying to get in and hang out with the guys that make their favorite game, or protesters of who the heck knows what, or just random goobs parking their cars in permit spaces and leaving them, so those would get towed without warning (big signs on the entries to the lot, and I do mean BIG).

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