Gameloft's Apparently A Terrible Place To Work

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Gameloft's Apparently A Terrible Place To Work

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Apparently Team Bondi isn't the only studio Down Under that's got some problems with its working conditions.

Gameloft's got a reputation for some quality casual games across a variety of platforms. That said, it's also earning a reputation for being a crummy place to work, thanks to some new allegations that have been leveled against its studio in Auckland, New Zealand. Based on claims from a former head programmer, the hours were insane and conditions were unbearable.

According to Glenn Watson, who filed the complaint against the studio, working for Gameloft was a pretty awful experience:

"Some weeks I was work­ing 100 to 120 hours a week," Watson said. "Starting at 9:30, going home at 2:30 [the following day], and then com­ing back into the office at 8:30 to start work again was not unusual."

"There were other times when I would be called back into the office at 23:30 by the studio producer, only to head home again at 2:30. It was after I worked four consecutive weeks of fourteen-hour days - including weekends - that I realised I needed to resign."

Apparently the straw that broke Watson's back, though, came after he resigned from the company: "Gameloft asked me to 'apologise' for leaving the studio and shouldering others with the burden of my work. I feel the best apology I can give is to ensure that they never get put through the same rubbish conditions again."

Watson's claims are being confirmed by a number of other employees, and "seemingly authentic" email conversations are on record that document Watson discussing the long hours with senior management. The management reportedly claimed that the insane time requirements were in accordance with employee contracts.

Honestly, the Auckland office sounds like it has a ton of issues at present, including an uncertain future. Aside from these problems with work conditions, a hiring recruiter spoke to games.on.net and reported that there's a hiring freeze in Auckland and Gameloft is working on setting up a new studio over in Brisbane, Australia.

Source: games.on.net via GamesIndustry.biz

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These kinds of stories are becoming more and more common lately haven't they?

120 hours?

That's about 17 hours a day. Yeah, that's a fast-track for depression.

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It's very obvious from Gameloft's games that they are the soulless kind of games made by people who haven't been sleeping properly. The only reason they don't get as bad a rep as Zynga is that they aren't as famous. They are, however, just as ubiquous.

The exact same thing goes on at the Montreal Studio as I had worked there a couple years back.

120 hours a week is about normal when it comes to crunch time. But you have to treat the staff with respect during this time.

Sounds like somebody couldn't handle the crunch. I hear that pretty much all studios go through the exact same thing when a release gets close to gold. Normally you get a few weeks off after this period in order to relax.

"The management reportedly claimed that the insane time requirements were in accordance with employee contracts."

This is the sort of shit that needs lawyers.

Just hiding the fact that you intend to abuse your staff in the small print of the contract should not means it's ok.

I fully understand there's deadlines, and people might have to pull some 12 hour shifts and come in weekends in the last few weeks before a major title release.

It's NOT ok to pull that kind of shit every damn day.

I find it's usually places that pay a set salary with no paid overtime that try to force stupid amounts of unpaid overtime out of their staff too.

When I ran a liquor store, I was expected to cover every damn hour my staff wouldn't and I wasn't allocated enough in the wages budget to cover paying staff to cover all the hours minus my 40 per week.

They'd pretty much decided I'd be working for free each week and that's how it was.I was y oung and stupid enough to feel like it was 'part of the responsibility of being a manager', and ya know, maybe that's why that company had so many young managers and such a huge turnover in management.

Hell, there were few times where I'd go to more than a few monthly meetings in a row without being introduced to a new face and we'd be missing one of the old ones.

There need to be stronger work laws where if you're fucking your staff it comes around and hurts your ass in the end. By which I mean massive fines to the company, as money is the only thing they understand, and losing it makes them cry.

Four consecutive weeks of fourteen hour days...

Sorry...I'm calling bull on that, I've done 70 hour weeks and that's put me into mental exhaustion. If you're pulling a 100 hour week, you'd be losing your marbles after a fortnight. Even with some of the workloads I know some people have, you simply cannot do that.

My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

They need to start lowering the hours of work, otherwise Gameloft will have their employees so tired, they can't work as fast as a well rested employees. And I'm a fan of their Asphalt games.

King Toasty:
My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

Dude, I spilled my water laughing at that.

Though not related to the game industry I once worked a job that occasionally had me going in on Sunday afternoon to tidy up a few things in prep. for Monday morning and not leaving until Tuesday - 36 hours later. The design industry in general has an appalling attitude towards staff, "You have to work an additional 60 hours per week unpaid because we just say so and actually you'll thank us for it because you've got a job and there's a hell of a lot of unemployed designers out there..." it's incredulous.

Best paying job I ever had Per Hour - pulling the guts out of chickens.
Worst paying job I ever had Per Hour - designing promotional materials for some of the largest brands on earth.

And the chicken gut thing didn't require getting into £1,000s of debt during years of college either.

Dr. wonderful:

King Toasty:
My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

Dude, I spilled my water laughing at that.

I don't... I don't know the logic. We live in Canada, I'm pretty sure Aussie is ahead of us. Not... 30 hours... what?

I had often wondered why a lot of modern games seemed like they were made by someone not quite paying attention... I've got my answer!

King Toasty:
My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

Nah in Australia we use a different base unit for time. She's correct. You should listen to her more often. One of your hours is in fact, only 70% of an hour for us.

Orcboyphil:
Sounds like somebody couldn't handle the crunch. I hear that pretty much all studios go through the exact same thing when a release gets close to gold. Normally you get a few weeks off after this period in order to relax.

Where does it say this was nearing a game going gold?

TypeSD:

King Toasty:
My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

Nah in Australia we use a different base unit for time. She's correct. You should listen to her more often. One of your hours is in fact, only 70% of an hour for us.

Ah yes. The "What the fuck, Australia" rule. Little-known fact.

its shit like this that made me decide going into the game industry was stupid

TypeSD:

King Toasty:
My sister read this, and was all, "100 hours? That's Australian time, right? So really only 70 hours."

...wat

Nah in Australia we use a different base unit for time. She's correct. You should listen to her more often. One of your hours is in fact, only 70% of an hour for us.

That's hardly a fair assessment. It only turned out that way because your South Australian government refused to recognize the standard 60 minute hour everyone else was using and stubbornly stuck to their own 85 minute version. I hear that the Attorney General tried to force the issue, but South Australia threatened to start counting seconds in base 4.

Orcboyphil:
Sounds like somebody couldn't handle the crunch. I hear that pretty much all studios go through the exact same thing when a release gets close to gold. Normally you get a few weeks off after this period in order to relax.

Yep, thats the crunch for you. Its like this at pretty much every major dev. The problem arises when you allow no creative freedom or fun while making games. Ive read a lot of interviews with game devs - they say that crunch time is pretty damn hardcore but it pays off when you see what youve been working towards paying off and being released. I guess if you work for a company that has very strict lines on what you can do (no, we dont want your ideas, just keep programming this boring junk!) and doesnt treat you right on the whole, a problem arises.

The whole time I was reading this thread and writing that post I kept thinking of the Sam guy on stilts who worked in front of the walmart in Malcolm in the Middle. Its hilarious. The guy gets fired for being a drunkard and Malcolm gets his job. He appears, fuming and drunk, at the Walmart and has an epic stilt fight out with Malcolm. At the end, Malcolm tells him he got him a job in a circus. The Uncle Sam guy is happy.

Last thing you see is him sitting in a drab, grey office cubicle with a midget in a costume screaming at him. Pity I couldnt find a video, it really fits this.

I'm sure I would be fired quite quickly, but my response to unpaid overtime will always be a resounding "NO".

Bosses try to "make as much money as possible" yet when employees try to do the same they get fired.

Edit: Also, this crunch shit, is just that, shit. If your management can't allot the right amount of time to make your game it shouldn't be taken out on the developers. Just because "it's what they all do", doesn't make it right.

King Toasty:
[quote="TypeSD" post="7.301398.12020865"][quote="King Toasty" post="7.301398.12020514"]

Ah yes. The "What the fuck, Australia" rule. Little-known fact.

Lets see YOU make "normal" clocks that run on Australium.

doomboy29:
These kinds of stories are becoming more and more common lately haven't they?

They've always been common, just not been exposed for the disgusting reality that it is.

EverythingIncredible:
120 hours a week is about normal when it comes to crunch time. But you have to treat the staff with respect during this time.

Here's the thing, though; what were they in crunch time for? In some cases, perpetual crunch time of 6 to 8 months consecutively are not uncommon, and that's just to get the game into a regular milestone. The higher-ups seems to think that crunch time can make up for lousy planning and management. It's become so wide-spread that I can't believe more noise hasn't been made about this until now.

Orcboyphil:
Sounds like somebody couldn't handle the crunch. I hear that pretty much all studios go through the exact same thing when a release gets close to gold. Normally you get a few weeks off after this period in order to relax.

Read what I said above, and we don't know what Watson and his crew were in crunch time for. But when does it turn from "someone couldn't take the heat" to "we need to stop this kind of shit"? These kinds of things are why so many developers are burned out by the industry so early in their careers. Of course some crunch time is necessary when shit hits the fan, but not with crap like this.

It's deplorable and it has to stop. Crunch time like this does nothing to help development and rips off developers on a salary payment. Devs like Insomniac hardly suffer any kind of crunch time and they make great games regardless of it. This. Has. To. Stop.

Not surprising, really, considering the enormous quantity of games that Gameloft churns out at an alarmingly frequent rate.

Braedan:
I'm sure I would be fired quite quickly, but my response to unpaid overtime will always be a resounding "NO".

Same feeling here.
All that time, energy, studies/skills have to be fairly paid.
And i have doubts that "bonuses" and employees "advantages" are worth the same as the potential unpaid overtime. Plus it -seems- to be a trend in the game industry, not paying overtime as they should. Lots of rumors going around, but are they true or not?

Twad:

Braedan:
I'm sure I would be fired quite quickly, but my response to unpaid overtime will always be a resounding "NO".

Same feeling here.
All that time, energy, studies/skills have to be fairly paid.
And i have doubts that "bonuses" and employees "advantages" are worth the same as the potential unpaid overtime. Plus it -seems- to be a trend in the game industry, not paying overtime as they should. Lots of rumors going around, but are they true or not?

Then you're fired. Good luck finding another job. I'm not being facetious. You will be terminated.

The worst part is the chorus of morons who say this treatment should be *accepted*. There are consequences for refusing to be subject to these conditions, but they shouldn't be accepted by anyone.

If people stop allowing themselves to be abused by employers, employers won't have a choice but to stop abusing their employees.

This has to stop, yes. We've created a disposable climate, burn out the talent and hire replacements. The problem, or "a" problem, as I see it, is that many developers and/or publishers see success as only happening when it arrives on the back of an aesthetically-beautiful game. They want something that competes with GTA 4 or Battlefield 3. And they want those games ready to ship Q4 2012, none of that "7 years in development" L.A Noire garbage that eats up the profit margin. Games have become huge business. They're not being made in basements anymore by hobbyists having fun. Well, indy games like Minecraft, maybe they are. But not the big-budget titles. How do you stop? You either a) spread out the hours so no one crunches, but games take forever to complete, b) make smaller/episodic games with more DLC, c) I don't know. Come up with a magic formula?

I tend to laugh at the people who call the growing stream of game dev whistle-blowers whiny wimps. Makes me wonder what they'd think if they were around for the struggle for an eight-hour workday and five-day workweek.

Oh, wait...

vansau:
"Gameloft asked me to 'apologise' for leaving the studio and shouldering others with the burden of my work...

That's insane. If they were treating him as a disposable resource, they're asshole, but there's a nasty, selfish logic to it. But acting snotty after they used him up? What's the point in that? Maybe they're trying to convince themselves they aren't monsters and what they're doing is ok.

doomboy29:
These kinds of stories are becoming more and more common lately haven't they?

Not really. Seems like once every two years a few of the abuses come to the surface, we rage, then it dies down and all the studios that didn't get hit breathe a sigh of relief and get back to cracking the whip.

Worgen:
its shit like this that made me decide going into the game industry was stupid

Tats a shame. I dont know you or what ideas yu had, but you could have made a great game, its a shame the conditions are like this, it just turns people away Then we end up loosing some potentially great people who could lift gaming up from the "realism" shooter phase.

RvLeshrac:

Twad:

Braedan:
I'm sure I would be fired quite quickly, but my response to unpaid overtime will always be a resounding "NO".

Same feeling here.
All that time, energy, studies/skills have to be fairly paid.
And i have doubts that "bonuses" and employees "advantages" are worth the same as the potential unpaid overtime. Plus it -seems- to be a trend in the game industry, not paying overtime as they should. Lots of rumors going around, but are they true or not?

Then you're fired. Good luck finding another job. I'm not being facetious. You will be terminated.

The worst part is the chorus of morons who say this treatment should be *accepted*. There are consequences for refusing to be subject to these conditions, but they shouldn't be accepted by anyone.

If people stop allowing themselves to be abused by employers, employers won't have a choice but to stop abusing their employees.

Except, this is kinda the problem with the industry. There are always more people wanting in, than there are positions. There was an article a couple months back, where a psychologist observed that the perception of being replaceable really facilitates this kind of managerial behavior. The unspoken threat seems to be: "You don't want to put up with our bullshit? Fine. Go fuck off. It's not like there aren't kids fresh out of college lining up to replace you."

I hope this complaint is legit, because otherwise this guy is being a complete self-serving ass that just screwed over the people he was working with. I have to wonder how the job hunting is going for him, as well.

Worgen:
its shit like this that made me decide going into the game industry was stupid

Don't expect any other industry to be nicer. Places are finding it cheaper to just work shorter staffs longer hours. Like mine. Which right now I don't mind so much. But that could change with time.

bobisimo:
...How do you stop? You either a) spread out the hours so no one crunches, but games take forever to complete, b) make smaller/episodic games with more DLC, c) I don't know. Come up with a magic formula?

It should never, ever come down to those kinds of decisions for developers. Insomniac games is one of the best game companies to work with and they consistently put out great games with little to no crunch time whatsoever. Some crunch time is understandable, shit hits the fan every now and again, but for perpetual crunch time going on for many developers it's just maddening.

It should never come down to making a quality game or getting a game out on time. If the management did their jobs correctly, that shouldn't even happen. Instead, the higher-ups in game development think it's okay to work their employees to death and squeeze out every last man-hour they can out of them with no overtime and no benefits. It's ridiculous, and we need to call developers out on that (looking at you, Extra Credits...)

Jumplion, I hear you. I really do. There are a lot of great companies out there. I think if you're smart, like the good companies are, you can get it done the right way without exploiting your talent and ruining them.

But I don't think you can make the next Battlefield 3 or GTA 4 or L.A. Noire or whatever, that title that represents a brand new engine and technology with all new assets, without investing a ton of overtime hours for a very large team over a long period of time -- a long period of time that is nowhere near as long as it should be.

Those games sell big numbers (they need to, at least), and that appeals to those involved on the business side. Plus there's something appealing about creating something so monumentally big, even if it's as bad as the recent Transformers movie.

If we follow suit with the Insomniac approach -- simpler, stylized graphics, more focus on the game's design, etc. -- then maybe we're all in a better place. But I don't know that gamers will ever stop wanting those big-budget titles, nor do I think developers will ever want to stop making them.

Maybe I'm creating/relying on a lot of fallacies along the way, but that's how I get to a point where I see the options I mentioned earlier as the only viable routes to take this. We can make a game and then build on that foundation -- which kind of seems to be the Assassin's Creed approach. Maybe that is the best real-world situation. :\

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