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Game Developer Now Offering Employees Overtime 75

Posted by Zonk
from the ea-spouse-cries-with-relief dept.
Via Joystiq comes a story from the European game development website Develop, saying that the UK developer Free Radical will be offering employees overtime for crunch mode sessions. "Steve Ellis of Free Radical says the days of 'bonuses that pay off your mortgage are long gone' and that they've 'decided to start paying people for the work that they do -- even when that work is outside their normal hours.' Ellis says that the industry as a whole will eventually go this way, but they prefer to do it sooner rather than later. Although there are so many companies who are guilty of not paying their employees for working extra hours, EA gets picked on more often than not because of the infamous EA Spouse saga."
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Game Developer Now Offering Employees Overtime

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  • by SnoopJeDi (859765) <snoopjedi AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:39PM (#20840095)
    This model might work for the "kids" of the gaming industry that recycle developers like toilet paper, and treat them the same.

    I suspect that the big names, companies like iD, Raven, and SplashDamage will continue on a by-project basis, simply because their teams are so radically different.

    Interesting idea, though, and it definitely helps bring 'game developer' closer into the fold with 'real' jobs, giving it more weight with skeptics who don't understand the industry.
    • The other reason this won't fly is that cash-flow problem.

      Say you pay your developers $X over a month of overtime instead of $2X as a bonus once you ship. A game developer makes no money during the development phase. In fact they make most of their money the first week or two a game is on the shelves.

      In the overtime scenario they'd have to take a (possibly an additional) loan for $X to pay for the developers and just pray that they can cover it later. In the bonus scenario, the company can wait until the ga
      • by mikael (484)
        And some companies just chuck their developers as soon as the product starts shipping, thus saving the expense of paying bonuses in the first place.
    • so why wouldn't it work for "big companies" ?

      one reason I can think of is that they will still attract people to work on the great titles, and wont have to compensate with hourly overtime (the resume building experience would be enough for some developers..)

      still, even with this, I can't think that retention will be all that good. what developer will want to _stay_ at a company that doesn't compensate them? one who doesn't care about money (or security for their family, etc..). single people will be mo
  • by Jesterboy (106813) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:50PM (#20840263)
    I don't know, but I think Developmag.com could remove a few more lines of content, and shove a few more ads on the page.

    11 sentences to 14 ads is just too small of a cost/income ratio (yes, I counted).

    </sarcasm>
  • How pathetic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:51PM (#20840281)
    how pathetic must you be to work overtime without being paid for it. I'm moving into the 20th year of my career, mostly software development, some IT work. NEVER worked overtime without being paid handsomely for it. Remember you anti social youngin's, you have to STAND UP FOR YOURSELF OR THEY RUN YOU OVER.

    Idiots
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MadHatter2005 (886375)
      I agree. Being in the industry, it amazes me that the youngin's just roll over and take it when asked to work ridiculous hours. "Oh, you want me to work 70+ hours a week for months? OK!! Thanks, I'm so grateful to be in the industry I'll do whatever you tell me Mr. Game Businessman!!!"

      I'm not sure how well this pay-for-overtime concept will do though. There are a lot of ambitious people waiting to break into the industry, and the suits at the top know this and take advantage of it. Simple supply and de
      • Re:How pathetic (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Applekid (993327) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @02:56PM (#20841465)
        A youngin' who lacks the breadth and depth of your experience will need to compromise lest they find themselves out of a job.

        Gotta prove you're worth it in experience and what you bring to the table before you start making demands. Thankfully, employ at Free Radical is a pretty good heavyweight on the resume and those working there are very likely to be able to demand overtime pay at their next gig.
        • by xero314 (722674)

          A youngin' who lacks the breadth and depth of your experience will need to compromise lest they find themselves out of a job.
          They already compromised by accepting lower compensation (Money, paid time off, etc.).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SpaceToast (974230)

        Why does it blow your mind that the young'uns will work these absurd hours? Here's how it goes:

        Young'un: Hello! I'm entering the working world under a staggering mountain of college debt.
        Old'un: Will you work 70+ hours a week for months?
        Young'un: Gee, that sounds kind of exploitative.
        Old'un: This guy will. Don't worry though, I hear Starbucks is hiring.
        Young'un: No no, I'll take it.
        Old'un: Perfect! By the way we've cut bonuses.
        Young'un: Oh.
        Old'un: I mean, I still get them. But you don't. Sou

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rakishi (759894)
          No, they're sin is wanting to work on games not matter what reality says and being utter idiots about it. In any other industry they'd have been out of candidates a long time ago but the young ones are utter and total idiots. They "want to work in games" and will put up with anything to do so, no matter how little they actually contribute to the game in every sense of the meaning.

          Plenty of other jobs, including programming/IT ones, that don't have this problem AND pay better. Of course when you have so many
        • by mangu (126918)
          Supply and demand is no excuse for bare exploitation.

          Maybe it's not an excuse, but it seems like a pretty good explanation. He could just say "NO!", unless both of the following conditions are true: (a) he has no better job offer, and (b) there are others willing to work under those conditions.

          I may sound cynic, but if there's no one offering better jobs for programmers, then why should game publishers improve their offer? If the computer games industry cannot follow the law of supply and demand, shouldn't

        • Supply and demand is no excuse for bare exploitation.


          Welcome to the wonderful world of capitalism! Enjoy your stay!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thegnu (557446)
      I think you have to be a salaried employee. If you get a benefits package and make half a million a year, it doesn't seem like such a bad deal to work an additional 10 to 20 hours a couple weeks out of the year. However, I know game developers don't make that. And they work insane hours. But who says game developers aren't insane?

      But this is good news, definitely. FWIW, I get paid hourly, and I bill like crazy if someone needs something done and I need to reschedule a lot of work or work overnight beca
    • Re:How pathetic (Score:4, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:40PM (#20842133)

      how pathetic must you be to work overtime without being paid for it.
      Maybe they choose to for the "love" of the job. Game programmers can get cushy jobs in other software segments, but there's that drive to make games. How many kids grow up thinking, "I want to learn programming so I can write a database program to manage toilet paper inventories."
      The number of people who want to break into the industry leads to workers making compromises. Just like acting, where you have to work a minimum wage job 95% of the time so you have the flexibility to stand in line for 5 hours to get the chance at landing a one time role that pays $50. Or professional sports where by age 6 you spend hour after hour practicing, most likely will end up in a $20k/year practice and will suffer life long physical pain, all for the chance of having a big league career that lasts less than 3 years.
    • by antdude (79039)
      And the employers fire you since they hire cheaper people (e.g., outsource) who will do more hours without OT.
    • Where I work there are numerous people who work hours from home. There are those who go out of their way to let others know of "all the work they do" beyond what is called for.

      There are many reasons for this, right or wrong.
      1. Perceived (usually true) method for advancement, management always loves ass kissers and putting in extra hours or staying past five are common ways to show it
      2. Don't believe in self. Then there are those who don't believe they do enough because of lacking. To make up for it they
    • by Surt (22457)
      I've never seen anyone in the industry do it for nothing. I have seen them do it for the following reasons:
      1) Promotion opportunities (== more pay, more creative control).
      2) Creative control (working extra hours often opens opportunities to do your own thing).
      3) Bigger bonus (bonuses are often divvied up either by measured or apparent hours).
      4) Social fun (when your job is also your recreation, the hours add up).
    • For me its called "pride in ones work".

      And, yes, we are taken advantage because of it; which is why the overturn rate at game companies is so high. But we leave *after* the project is done.

  • Frankly, I'd rather see game companies pay some OT to get stuff out by the date its promised. It's actually MUCH cheaper than hiring more people. First off, you don't have the ramp up time that's required with a newbie to the project. Someone who's been there all along knows what's going on and doesn't need to spend days or weeks reading thousands of lines of code before they can start contributing. Secondly, since you don't have to provide another set of benefits (medical, dental, etc.) it's bottom lin
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      which putts it totally at odds with why overtime was first introduced. During the great depression, overtime was introduced to pressure employers to hire extra staff rather then simply working the ones they had into the ground.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rkcallaghan (858110)
        butterflysrage wrote:

        [Overtime's quality of being cheaper than hiring more employees] puts it totally at odds with why overtime was first introduced. During the great depression, overtime was introduced to pressure employers to hire extra staff rather then simply working the ones they had into the ground.

        Overtime still works that way, just not in the way that you expect. It is cheaper still to hire more part-time employees and refuse them both benefits AND overtime. Overtime contributes significantly to this equation; as it is possible for a part time employee to be paid overtime on a short term basis without running afoul of federal laws that would change their status to full time. The resulting expenses however cause any employer of part time employees to be downright paranoid of

    • by Shaterri (253660)
      It may appear that way, but IIRC several surveys have shown far and away the opposite -- the quality of work you get after a certain threshold (somewhere in the 40-50 hour range) goes down so rapidly that you're substantially better off throwing more people at the problem than more time. This is more applicable in large organizations where the additional people are already on staff, of course, but ramp-up on projects is generally swift enough for anyone you can hire from within the industry (especially now
      • t may appear that way, but IIRC several surveys have shown far and away the opposite -- the quality of work you get after a certain threshold (somewhere in the 40-50 hour range) goes down so rapidly that you're substantially better off throwing more people at the problem than more time.

        Thanks for posting that. I agree with it. I think (hope) I write well designed, well documented, well tested, usable code. But honestly, my employer probably gets 5 hours of solid work a day from me and then my concentr
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        Absolutely. I know from personal experience I've spent hours on a problem working late and fixed it in 5 minutes the next day. After an 8 hour day you;re not going to get a lot from an employee.
  • by Black Art (3335) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:59PM (#20840457)
    Current employment law allows employers in the US to exempt pretty much any and all employees who work with computers from overtime. If you were not exempt before 2004, the revisions made by Congress pretty much assured you are now.

    We don't buy slaves any more, we rent them.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Which law is this, specifically?
    • by VeriTea (795384)
      I don't know. According to this article [msn.com] it looks like the winds are shifting and many companies stand to take a beating from their historic practices.

      Of course it is hard to tell anything from a single article since it could very well be the reporter projecting his fervent wishes onto the data.

    • U.S. labor laws that govern overtime pay don't say anything about computers, but I do understand where you're coming from. The original overtime laws that were put into place differentiated between factory workers (unskilled labor) and management (skilled labor), basically, mandating overtime for the workers and "exempting" management from receiving overtime pay by law. The problem now, of course, is that far fewer people work in factories since we've shifted to a service economy, and many of us who aren'
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Wordplay (54438)
        You're incorrect.

        An exemption was inserted in the last few years that covers "computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly skilled workers in the computer field who meet certain tests regarding their job duties and who are paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis or paid on an hourly basis, at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour."

        http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/whd/fairpay/fs17e_computer.htm [dol.gov]
        • Typical... those numbers make no sense... (Not doubting your accuracy as much as government competence)

          27.63 * 2000 = $55,260
          455 * 52 = $23,660
        • I was unaware of that revision to mention computer workers. Thanks for the information.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Thankfully we have this thing called "freedom" that allows companies to (for the most part)decide how to compensate their employees. So maybe if you're desirable enough, you can find an employer that compensates you in a way that makes you happy, regardless of what companies are required to do by law. In fact, why is it even remotely okay that the government can make laws that dictate how a private organization trades money for labor? What if there was a law that set a maximum salary for workers in your
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        In fact, why is it even remotely okay that the government can make laws that dictate how a private organization trades money for labor?

        The law establishes minimum practices. The fact that very, very, very few companies choose to go beyond these minimum practices indicates that removing them probably will cause the companies to sink to even lower levels.

        What if there was a law that set a maximum salary for workers in your field?

        People would be extraordinarily pissed off. Take a look at the people upset abo
        • The fact that very, very, very few companies choose to go beyond these minimum practices indicates that removing them probably will cause the companies to sink to even lower levels

          Or it indicates that the actual value of the labor in question is below minimum wage. You are passing moral judgement on the corporations that would like to pay below minimum wage. They don't care. They are in it for the money, not the well-being of their employees. If you don't like it, don't work for those companies or buy

          • It must be very bleak and desolate in your world. I can almost hear the icy wind whistling past your lonesome soul.

            You're right, of course, that there is no "law" that can force people or companies to care about each other. But, I think we humans should strive to connect with each other beyond a mere producer/consumer role. It may be less efficient, and it may not maximize shareholder value, but it goes a long way in making this existence more bearable for everyone involved.

      • by Wildclaw (15718)
        "why is it even remotely okay that the government can make laws that dictate how a private organization trades money for labor?"

        The same reason why the goverment ensures that companies follow employee safety laws. Because every time the company and a an employee engages in a deal, the employee is at a disadvantage because he is smaller.

        Between unions and goverment regulations I am personally in favor of the regulations.

        "What if there was a law that set a maximum salary for workers in your field?"

        I so wish t
        • You're bringing up issues of ethics. I fully expect that most slashdotters (and even people in general) will disagree with me on the ethical and social aspects of economics. All I ask is that you folks leave your morality out of laws that affect me. I understand why most people would want laws to limit CEO pay and guarantee pay for normal workers. I suspect a big contributor to this desire is that most people are normal workers, not CEOs. Just remember that any law that limits the freedom of an individ
          • by rtb61 (674572)
            The basis of all laws is morality. So in a current societal sense, the majority do hold to caring and sharing, hence by your own definition you would be considered unfit, please make the appropriate evolutionary adjustment with out the requirement for additional legislation, thank you ;).
        • by Yoozer (1055188)

          I am tired of seeing CEOs earning millions and millions of dollars.
          I'm not - I just wish shareholders would not let them earn those amounts if they are completely incompetent. Run it into the ground and still get a nice financial goodbye (rinse, lather, repeat for the next company); where's the logic in that?
      • by plague3106 (71849)
        And I don't want to hear any garbage about "wage slavery" or "no options" or "corporate greed." If you don't want to trade your labor for what you are willing to convince someone to pay for it, then don't do it.

        Ya! Because those things never existed, especially not around say the 1900s.
  • The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week.

    One of two things is going on: 1) your spouse is an unemployable moron and this is the only job he/she can keep or 2) your spouse hates you. Given the rest of the whining in the original post, I'd bet it's #2.

    You don't like working conditions at company X? Go work for company Y!

    • by Qzukk (229616)
      You don't like working conditions at company X? Go work for company Y!

      Why do you believe company Y is different?
      • Why do you believe company Y is different?


        1) I work at "company Y". I don't do 85-hour work weeks. Hell, 45-hour work weeks are a rare grind.

        2) Get/talk to some friends at different companies for God's sake. They can describe what's out there if you're scared and can often hook you up with a better job.

        3) I read the ads on Slashdot. (Sorry, too easy!)

      • by mcvos (645701)
        There's quite a lot of demand for good programmers at the moment. If you have trouble finding a good job with decent hours, you're not searching hard enough or you're simply not a good programmer. (And even bad programmers should be able to get a job these days.)

        The problem with the EA Spouse story is bad management and bad planning, and the programmer nevertheless obeying these bad managers. Don't. Quit. Get another job, start your own company, form a union, whatever. Working 13 hours a day every single da
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      It's harder to actually find another job than to say "find another job". Especially when you're working that many hours a week. First of all you have to find another company that wants to employ you. There's an interview you need to find time for. There's the psychological aspect to split from people you work with and stop mid-project.

      I mean really all you should do is refuse to do overtime, but it's extremely hard to say "no" when everyone else on the team says yes. Human psychology isn't going to
      • It's harder to actually find another job than to say "find another job". Especially when you're working that many hours a week.

        First, drop your hours down to around 35-40 a week. If they fire you, take unemployment.

        ...you have to find another company that wants to employ you.

        If you're willing to give up your life for a crappy 85-hour job, there are plenty of employers who want to talk to you. (I'd be one of them.)

        There's an interview you need to find time for.

        Here's where having friends in the industry h

        • by 91degrees (207121)
          Yes... But why do I get the feeling you've not actually been in this position?
          • But why do I get the feeling you've not actually been in this position?

            Oh, but I have. One time it wasn't a game company, but an insurance company. I was working extra hours every day, not working out anymore, eating like crap at my desk, driving in on weekends, etc. However, the pay and benefits looked decent, I was getting great progress reports and on paper, anyway, there was the opportunity for job enhancement. I was in the middle of the second phase of a change control system project when I realize

            • by 91degrees (207121)
              Oh, fair enough.

              For the record, I won't work overtime without a damn good reason (A good reason is that the work absolutely has to be done and they'll at least give me equivalent time off pay me for the time). I've been burned by the games industy before. Not again.
    • Wow. It took you three years to find the essay and still all you can manage is knee jerk testosterone fairy tale rhetoric? You have the power to google: use it.

      (This is "ea_spouse", by the way.)

      No, neither of your conjectures are or were correct. This happens to the best in the industry, which is one of the reasons why you don't see a lot of the very established industry personalities talking about it. It isn't something any of us are proud of, but we are still in the process of fixing it. In this particula
      • It took you three years to find the essay and still all you can manage is knee jerk testosterone fairy tale rhetoric?

        So...your post was a fake? I'm not following you here...

        ...once a company is actively tracking hours and paying overtime, it has the incentive to plan better and make it such that the overtime situations happen as infrequently as possible.

        I agree on the "plan better" part, but regular overtime is an important component of many companies' business models: if you get people to agree to overtim

        • You'll have to explain what confused you before I can answer -- I don't know which "post" you're referring to or how it could be "fake", but neither of them were. To be absolutely clear, I was mocking your highly reductionistic short-sighted view of the situation.

          There is no competent business model that relies on overtime. The fact that overtime becomes an issue is as a result of poor business practices. In a salaried work environment (which almost all software development environments are) "overtime" shou
  • In response, Electronic Arts stated that it has agreed to reduce the company's cats-o'-nine-tails [wikipedia.org] down to only seven tails.
  • I was looking for a new position about a month ago. A coworkers had moved to a higher paying position with a web consulting shop down in San Diego, and got me in contact with management there. They pay all their developers salary + overtime, and they seem to tend to hire people with as little as ~2 years of LAMP development experience.

    Being a web consulting shop, they're always on tight deadlines, so they push their employees pretty hard. But at least they get payed for it.
  • by cliffski (65094) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @06:05PM (#20844135) Homepage
    I used to work in AAA game dev, now work for myself. I'm not sure paying overtime is the solution. If I'm paid by the hour and I have a bad ass bug, yet I have a brainwave and fix it in 20 mins, I'm going to avoid checking it in, chat on msn, play peggle for 3 hours and pocket the 3 hours extra wages. Who is going to know? I'd be very surprised if this doesn't lead to longer dev times, rather than shorter, its all about incentives.
    If there is more cash available, the solution is good, regular bonuses, and higher salaries. The problem is the management obsession wit bums on seats and hours clocked in. Coders and designers especially are knowledge workers. It's to do with clear thinking, experience, efficiency and inspiration. you can't chain someone to a desk and expect them to produce a linear amount of results per hour. Coding and designing is not bricklaying. Management panic that they can't tell if a game coder is working hard or not, or whether he good at his job or not, so they settle for the one metric they understand -> hours worked.
    It's a deeply flawed method, and paying them for the extra hours just penalizes those who are more efficient and get stuff done faster. Pay people by results.
    • Agreed that this is not a "final solution" measure when it comes to better process. But the advantage in addressing the overtime issue is when it comes to tracking productivity in general. Product does not equal time, but time is a trackable resource whereas frequently the product itself is inconsistent (lines of code do not equal time do not equal product, either, for instance).

      When you track time, and particularly when companies are held accountable (ie paying) for time spent, what this does is give them
  • I dunno. I sometimes think that companies that offer overtime pay you less to compensate for the wage difference. I would rather get paid a monthly wage that is quite good instead of overtime. That way I can work harder at work so I dont have to stay after hours and still get a nice pay check.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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