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Shafer criticises industry lay-offs

Shafer criticises industry lay-offs

Double Fine kept the team that worked on Psychonauts because they had experience working together.

Tim Shafer has slammed the common practise of games studios axing their development teams at the end of projects.

Speaking to Wired, the Double Fine studio head stated that developers will eventually need to rely on a team's loyalty and that regularly cutting teams will not nurture this.

'One of the most frustrating things about the games industry is that teams of people come together to make a game, and maybe they struggle and make mistakes along the way, but by the end of the game they’ve learned a lot and this is usually when they are disbanded,' said Shafer.

Shafer held on to the team that worked on Psychonauts for the development of Brutal Legend, trading money that the studio would have saved at the early stages of the title's production cycle in return for keeping a team on staff that had experience working together.

Earlier this month, Lionhead studios laid off 10% of its staff following the completion of Fable: The Journey, arguing that it was a perfectly normal part of the game design process.

Double Fine has experimented with different forms of game development funding and has recently experimented with crowd funding, raising $3.3m for a traditional adventure game through Kickstarter.

It has also secured private investment, including $1 million from Xe.com founder Steve Dengler, which allowed Double Fine to port Psychonauts to Mac and publish Stacking and Costume Quest on the PC.

Double Fine has recently been working on its first mobile title. It accidentally released the title, Middle Manager of Justice, for a brief period last month, writing the mistake off as an inadvertent beta test.

7 Comments

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Omnituens 24th October 2012, 08:52 Quote
As someone who has been told that 2nd November is their last day due to the project ending, totally agree.
Cavedweller 24th October 2012, 09:01 Quote
Tim Shafer is a hero!
theshadow2001 24th October 2012, 13:44 Quote
I agree with Tims sentiment. Breaking up teams like that is not beneficial to the team members, also re-establishing a team will slow development down for the company when a new project starts. It seems to me that there is an opportunity for a small company of contractors who hire themselves out/offer expertise to various projects as needed. Contracting companies like that work well in other industries.
Icy EyeG 24th October 2012, 21:21 Quote
The reason teams are restructured after projects ending is to avoid promotions, IMAO.
theshadow2001 24th October 2012, 22:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icy EyeG
The reason teams are restructured after projects ending is to avoid promotions, IMAO.

Thats one possibility. I would also think that they cut costs by not having grunt programmers during early pre production phase where you have concept development, design, consultation, story boarding etc. etc. Perhaps one senior programmer who will be leading the team may be all that is needed at the early stages. Once pre-production is over, higher a few developers bang the game out and shove their asses in a giant cannon and fire them after release. After that keep a few around for maintenance and patching.

I'm sure its high stress getting a game out on time and once its all over instead of getting that nice feeling of satisfaction and camaraderie, you get fired and bear little good will to your former employers.
fluxtatic 25th October 2012, 06:56 Quote
I'm so tired of hearing stories everywhere I turn of companies treating their employees like crap. Maybe if the executives weren't allowed to go bananas with salary and bonus demands, companies could treat their people (that is, the people who actually do the work) better. Where I work, raises were ~3% this year. Meanwhile, they've added yet another manager that, near as I can tell, spends about half his day talking on his (company provided) cell with his friends about (American) football. Another decent chunk of his day is having his sort-of underling do the grunt work because he (useless manager) barely understands Excel. Turns out this jackass makes more than the GM and will openly admit he wasn't qualified for the job he was hired to do. Small wonder my section has been frozen, staff-wise, for two years, and the manager openly admitted they're in no hurry to replace the only guy on staff who understands the e-comm side of the business (and does all the marketing materials, and coordinates sales reports, etc, etc)

But I digress...for the game studios, pay these devs well and furlough them when the project is over. Actually, furlough isn't the right term, I don't think - pay them well enough that they can get by for a while when the project is over, leave their insurance (actually, they probably don't even provide insurance, come to think of it), etc, intact, and bring them back when the next project starts.

I get the sinking feeling that it's going to end in bloody revolution in the streets before employees are treated right...
I get
Icy EyeG 25th October 2012, 14:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic

I get the sinking feeling that it's going to end in bloody revolution in the streets before employees are treated right...
I get

Another possibility is for other companies like DoubleFine start a different paradigm. These companies could grow a lot (and thus set the standard) if gamers become aware of the significance of supporting them, instead of the big ones.
That's why I avoid big title games nowadays, and prefer to invest in Indie games.

Since nowadays you have a lot of adult gamers, I hope that they can see the difference, opposed to teenagers salivating to the next ultra coolest game.

The same principle applies to software in general.
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