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Former 3D Realms Employee speaks out!  "MUST READ!"

User is offline   Joshua Don 

  • 12

#1

Hey! this is my first post here, but I figured it should be brought to everybody's attention since the Duketarded community has disbanded ever since DNF I feel.

This is from a one-time poster over at Gearbox Software under the alias Johnqpublic.

The link to the post is..,http://forums.gearboxsoftware.com/showthread.php?t=274852

I must admit, this helped provide me with some closure.


Hi everyone I should have posted this long time ago when there was still interest about the game. The fact how the game ended is also a bit of my fault. This is something for me just to feel a bit better.

Most of the game faults came because no one openly spoke about what they think. We had serious problem issuing our concerns. There was very little feedback from both us and management. There were no board meetings like you could imagine, just George running from computer to computer to check our progress. Sometimes I knew I screwed up and George would just say he doesn't like it but that I should continue anyway instead of just whoop my ass. He had very hard time addressing what is wrong and what should be done instead. He always tried to be polite - and sometimes You just can't. There was this tense unpleasant atmosphere in the company covered by the mask of kindness. I believe it was also our fault. If your boss is this dove-like daddy figure instead of some power hungry jerk you know what I mean. Whenever there was a problem almost no one had the balls to talk to George. He was so deeply invested in this game personally that no one wanted to hurt him. This self censorship lead to a double standard that even when we were dissatisfied with the direction of the project anyone who got vocal about it was called a traitor - the quitters were cowards and so on. I wanted several times to come to his office and leave the project but when I saw how enthusiastic he is about some new stuff we made I didn't had the heart to do it. We were so personally attached to him that the growing problems were swooped under the rug until someone would finally trip over the pile.

This pile was simply money. We were working for the minimal average in the industry. We could get more after the game was released having percentage of the sales. The obvious fault of the system is that the longer the game takes the longer Your true paycheck is suspended. People were working for the same money for few years straight. With no signs of completing the game people quit - very valuable and key people. Another problem was that with very small team we had to work at least 80h a week (which is a standard now but then it was a little different) otherwise nothing could be done on any reasonable pace. Because we were working on a percentage from sales everyone was pretty reluctant to see new faces on the team as people feared they percentage would be negotiated if too many people would come. So we lacked manpower and at the same time - no one wanted for the team to grow. Project was taking too long and some people started having issues with their families, some people got kids and just couldn't afford working a basically two full-time jobs for less than quarter what they could get in other companies with their talent - regardless of the potential benefits and atmosphere at work. What I think the worst was that we felt exploited and exploiting. George exploited us with his fragility over money and we exploited his kindness over control. Everything slowly started to rot and fall apart. Everyone was seemingly doing their things but nothing of value was produced. George focused on small things but didn't had the big picture (or didn't want to see it) and we were frustrated over lack of clear goals.

Then George and Scott came and told us that consoles are the key citing Prey sales. I knew that game will ported onto consoles but for me that was one of the worst thing that could happen to the project. I had to delete all the pickups which took months of work to put in some sensible manner and ego mechanic which was another several months of work and replaced with regeneration. We threw the editor out from the release as no one would ever use it on the consoles. But this was no the worst part of it. The engine we were working with was almost impossible to get good performance on multi-core ps3. We had to rewrite some of the game code and cut some content we hadnt finished yet in order to get it on time. We couldn't fit the game into X360 disc so we had to cut. There was not enough memory on the consoles to handle open levels we had in mind so we had to either streamline the level or cut completely. Suddenly almost half of the initially designed game was trashed and the other half had to be changed. Memory budget we had was limited to 1/4 - we either had to scale down levels, cut them into parts, corridor them or just replace textures with something less demanding. Surely You could build an awesome looking game on consoles with limited memory but You had to do it from start and using some dirty tricks - which our engine nor our game just wasn't fit for. I was all for the engine switch at that time - we could start the game with a new engine because we had to rewrite a lot of content anyway and without this hampering zombie we made from unreal engine. I believe at that time the only thing that stopped this was money. Licensing another engine was a costly issue so George had to make tough decision - game was going nowhere and he either had to sped up existing things or restart and meddle with another 3 years on the project.

He choose to finally finish the game - for the first time we had a project manager, a plan and clear direction. Team had to grow in order to finish the game on time so new people came in. From the start we the "old guard" were at least unfriendly towards the new ones. The new guys just basically thought that they will finish the game in just one year. They had to be fully paid because in no way they agreed to work on a percentage - they knew that they are needed and exploited this without mercy when negotiating their contract. Enough to say - we were in the company for years working our ass overtime and never had a raise. They came from the ass and from start got twice as we had. Some of the people working from the start this time called quits. New guys (now I think its funny) were outside our little cult - when something was wrong they didn't hesitate to call our manager or even George, "it can't be done", "this is stupid", "you are wrong", "I won't do it" was the stuff he never heard from us in years and now it was his breakfast, lunch and dinner. George was pretty miserable at that time - it seemed he lost control and heart for his project. He wasn't even there - I think he couldn't deal with constant criticism and in the end started hating his game. But the results were coming, game was going forward and finally it could see the release. But the company for me died. I was also expecting a child - and some new more profitable business opportunities came. I noticed that I didn't want to work here anymore. I didn't had time to quit. I was fired.

It was okay when 20 people worked 80 hours a week. But when 40 people started working 40 hours a week for the same wage as before developing costs quadrupled. George and Scott quickly ran out of money - they took some loans and asked publisher for support. They had a knife on their throats and either had to get the money or the new guys would leave 24h when they didn't get their pay. They made the deal with the devil. For this amount of loan they effectively seized control over its release. At that time George and Scott wouldn't know they would give up. If he did he would never do it. Probably just one day he summed things up and decided he is fed up. The costs of finishing it up were too big just for two people to handle and even with loans they would never sell as much as they wanted. I remember we were almost still a year from finishing the project - and no one had enough money for another year on full-time working team. It is now easy to judge them but they invested their own money - something that nowadays would sound ridiculous at least even on the average budget for projects like this. He is a married man and has more important things to do than spending money on making video games. I understand him fully - after I got fired I finally could spend some time with my wife and kids. Until then I didn't even knew how much I lost from life.

I don't know much what happened to the game after my departure. I knew the game was bought up by another company and scheduled for a release. I had my share of doubts if I really wanted to know how the game will be. Of course I bought it with the DLCs on steam sale and played it. My thoughts about the game? Seriously? It was a horrid experience. I could seriously see that almost nothing was done since I left. Nothing new was added, maybe few things were tweaked and finished plus all bad decisions made at that point were still there. The limitations went even further - blood decals were missing, texture quality went down and to cover this up a nice smudge of post processing and depth of field. Some of the levels went into DLC, some multiplayer maps should be in singleplayer and so on. The game wasn't good at least for me - nor did I remember it any better when working on it sadly. My worst fears that for all those years I was working on a project that in the end won't be that good were realized. It was a little heartbreaking to see the end result this below average after so much time spent on it. I had this feeling of guilt that I should did something during the development I should voiced my concerns when there was still time. It is too late now.

Was working on the game fun - yes it was. Was it worth it - no it wasn't. Nothing is worth so many years spent making a basically a elaborate toy for someone's amusement that is taking the toll from Your personal life. I regret it didn't come to me any sooner - the joy of female companionship, the smile of a child, look of a beautiful blue summer sky, walk in the park. All those simple things I missed when thinking only about work. Right now I am far away from the business and hope to keep it this way. I hope that people who are so obsessed with video games both making and playing them in general could just leave them for a moment and think. You are not winning anything and basically just wasting your time achieving nothing instead of doing some meaningful things in the real world. It is a pity I understood this so late in my life. Cheers and have a happy weekend!

Go rocking with your own perception of the world, whatever that be though, make sure you're breathing, and smiling. :)
12

User is offline   Psyrgery 

  • 36

#2

This is so full of shit it hardly holds itself.

50% is bullshit, 25% is made up, and 25% is bad-written english.

This crap can GTFO
-7

User is offline   Yatta 

  • Pizza Lawyer
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  #3

I've verified the authenticity of the story, actually.

I love Duke4.net. It's one of my life's proudest accomplishments. I'm proud of the community we have built here and the beautiful work that comes out of it every day. I'm proud of the friends I've made here and the kind people who made all of this possible with their hard work, donations, and participation. Thank you.
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User is offline   Mr. Tibbs 

  • 1,517

#4

Thanks for sharing. I appreciate any insight into DNF's production history. I can't imagine how stressful that kind of work schedule must've been. I'm sure you're a richer person for the experience.
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User is offline   ReaperMan 

  • 1,266

#5

Does wieder know this guy?
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User is offline   WorkWandaWork 

  • 3,074

#6

View PostReaperMan, on 30 April 2013 - 05:08 PM, said:

Does wieder know this guy?

The post doesn't seem faked, but no... don't know who made it and haven't been able to puzzle out who it might be.

If it's totally legit and honest, it's interesting to hear their vantage point and am glad they've found themselves in a better place.

This post has been edited by Wieder: 30 April 2013 - 06:11 PM

2

User is offline   Lunick 

  • Snazzy Ex Tazzy
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#7

Well that was certainly... interesting :blink:

LeoTCK - EDIT: Jimmy, Blow it out your ass!
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Posted Image
1

User is offline   Gambini 

  • 1,405

#8

I have always had this feeling of the big difference between doing things for a hobby and doing things for a living.

That story is so sad and stressful to read. How things end up being, the kids dream about earning money doing games has nothing to do with dreams and fun.

My maps

eat my shorts
1

User is offline   kaisersoze 

  • Honored Donor
  • 75

#9

I just feel that all of this is just some surreal dream and we're still waiting for the game.

I feel an emptiness inside.

I can't be the only one who still yearns for the version made famous in the 2001 trailer?

That's the Duke Nukem Forever we should have gotten. :blink:
1

User is offline   Gambini 

  • 1,405

#10

Let me fill that emptiness: http://www.moddb.com...e-nukem-forever :blink:

My maps

eat my shorts

This post has been edited by Gambini: 01 May 2013 - 02:57 AM

3

User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#11

View Postkaisersoze, on 01 May 2013 - 02:38 AM, said:

I can't be the only one who still yearns for the version made famous in the 2001 trailer?

That's the Duke Nukem Forever we should have gotten. :blink:

We just did. Now I can peacefully die.

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.
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User is offline   LkMax 

  • 318

#12

View PostCathy, on 01 May 2013 - 03:01 AM, said:

We just did. Now I can peacefully die.

No, we definitely didn't, what we've got was a boring linear game with stupid jokes and a boring linear mod full of references of old trailers that is way overrated just because it was made by fans.
PS: I will may (or may not) do a quick review to explain what I mean later. I know I'm in the minority here.

-generic signature here-

This post has been edited by LkMax: 01 May 2013 - 09:16 AM

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User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#13

Reviewers aren't fair! You have no credibility whatsoever. :blink:

I'd love to read your review. I know I am too excited to see obvious flaws. Just like I was with DNF2011.

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.
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User is offline   WorkWandaWork 

  • 3,074

#14

View PostGambini, on 30 April 2013 - 09:45 PM, said:

I have always had this feeling of the big difference between doing things for a hobby and doing things for a living.

That story is so sad and stressful to read. How things end up being, the kid´s dream about earning money doing games has nothing to do with dreams and fun.

There is a big difference, but don't latch onto the sad/stressful too strongly. We each make our choices that affect how we thrive or drown in whatever environment we find ourselves in.

It doesn't matter what a person's job is, if they aren't living a fulfilling life and can't look back and say "I spent that time well"... it is rare the finger can point to anyone but themselves no matter how insane everyone else around them might be. :blink: The steps to change the situation might be more uncertain than they are willing to take, but that is their choice to stick with comfort/devil they know.

The OP makes it pretty clear they wanted to leave much earlier but let themselves get dragged back in for much longer than they should have... with it all eventually ending in being fired. So who was the dedication really for in the end? Their choice... as heartless as that might sound. I've been in their boat too (literally and metaphorically!!!) so I'm not just throwing stones in a glass house.

There are plenty of people who have wonderful relationships, children, blue skies, hobbies, sane work weeks, etc. within the industry. There were those who even had them at 3DR at the same time this person was apparently experiencing their frustration.

Contemplating anything useful I might have to offer later RE the OP. Still have some small skepticism, but regardless there are interesting things mentioned worth discussing, especially for people wondering whether to jump into the industry or not and the sort of things to be aware of.

This post has been edited by Wieder: 01 May 2013 - 08:29 AM

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User is online   MusicallyInspired 

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#15

N/m

Roland SC-55 Music Packs
Latest release: Heretic SC-55 Music Pack (12/12/18)
*new* Buy the Mage's Initiation Original Soundtrack on Bandcamp by me!
Buy the P&C Adventure/RPG game Mage's Initiation on Steam, GOG, and Humble

This post has been edited by MusicallyInspired: 01 May 2013 - 12:52 PM

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User is offline   Gambini 

  • 1,405

#16

Yes but Ive read similar stories many times. The gaming industry has nothing to do with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Wages arent anything special. The amount of applicants for your position is plenty and theres always that feeling of volatile market that could let you on the street in a matter of hours. From what I read, of course.

I prefer to keep delivering letters with a truck, that keeps me on shape and when Im back home Im full of ideas to work with and not just brain-drained.

My maps

eat my shorts
2

User is offline   Fox 

  • Fraka kaka kaka kaka-kow!
  • 5,009

#17

View PostJoshua Don, on 30 April 2013 - 11:06 AM, said:

we had to work at least 80h a week (which is a standard now but then it was a little different)

The more I hear about it, more frightening the gaming industry sounds.

View PostJoshua Don, on 30 April 2013 - 11:06 AM, said:

They had to be fully paid because in no way they agreed to work on a percentage - they knew that they are needed and exploited this without mercy when negotiating their contract. Enough to say - we were in the company for years working our ass overtime and never had a raise. They came from the ass and from start got twice as we had.

To be fair, I think the "old guys" have been underpaid, and there is nothing wrong in asking for reasonable gains.
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User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#18

View PostFox, on 01 May 2013 - 04:26 PM, said:

The more I hear about it, more frightening the gaming industry sounds.

You can't work that much for long without having lots of enthusiasm(or being help as hostage) because working 80 hours would mean not doing anything else other than sleep and work. I don't think you are able to work that much without efficiency sinking as low as to completely nullify the effect of working those extra hours. And considering relaxed schedule at 3dr I doubt people actually worked on a game 80 hours a week.

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.

This post has been edited by Cathy: 01 May 2013 - 05:35 PM

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User is offline   Fox 

  • Fraka kaka kaka kaka-kow!
  • 5,009

#19

I dunno, but considering how the guy was speaking about being able to see the color of the sky, it may be true.

This post has been edited by Fox: 01 May 2013 - 05:04 PM

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User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#20

I remember someone telling 3dr's parking lot wasn't empty at night. I bet some developers probably lived several days straight at work.

Some time ago I was sent on a business trip when I ended up working at night cause hotel was in the same building. There was nothing else to do anyway so I was just either sleeping or working. I wouldn't be surprised if anything similar was happening at 3dr. Depends of course whether they had something to sleep on. Sofa should have been enough.

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.

This post has been edited by Cathy: 01 May 2013 - 06:12 PM

2

User is offline   Hank 

  • 2,162

#21

The thread wrote "Must Read" so I read it.
Too me, it still is one side of a story. Unless I can get George's side and I think it will never happen, what I gathered here is that modern games are a big business venture and you need to run it as such. And with any given failed project, those in the lead are ultimately at fault.

I never was one of the waiting fans so I can't relate to them, but when will the community move on? The game was published 2 years ago, it's over.Posted Image

Ein sarkastischer Deutscher a.k.a. Thought Criminal.
1

User is offline   WorkWandaWork 

  • 3,074

#22

Nobody was being made to work 80 hour work weeks, though some did it. When I was sleeping almost every night at the office and hadn't unpacked my apartment for 5 years... there were others who were in and out at relatively reasonable time frames.

There was some immaturity from those of us who were obsessive and lived at the office looking "down" on the folks working normal hours that almost certainly created a cultural pressure... but the day to day schedule was able to be "normal" if you wanted it and stuck to your guns. I've even written a couple of them in the years since apologizing and letting them know "I now understand".

There were people who went in and got a raise every year. Because they asked and had reasonable justification for getting it. I wasn't one of those people, but raises did happen.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Remember, whoever the OP was said clearly they didn't want to be there but allowed themselves to feel guilted into staying. That breaks my heart... but that should tell you a lot. I'm very glad they've found somewhere that works better for them.
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User is offline   Sangman 

  • 490

#23

I hope for some devs, finally seeing DNF released evoked the same emotions as taking a really good dump. Hopefully like the guy in the story, the other ex-3DR employees with similar stories have also been able to refind peace.

traB pu kciP

This post has been edited by Sangman: 02 May 2013 - 09:48 AM

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User is offline   WorkWandaWork 

  • 3,074

#24

View PostFox, on 01 May 2013 - 04:26 PM, said:

The more I hear about it, more frightening the gaming industry sounds.

You just have to do your homework. If someone is working somewhere requiring 80 hour work weeks, they should just leave. Nothing good will come of it and it's being run by people who haven't evolved with the times. I have never been required to work 60 hour work weeks as a matter of the terms of my employment at any time in my 16+ years. Whenever I did it was voluntary and I knew I had a choice. I know there are things like the EA stuff... but... well... that's a problem at any mega-corp, not just the gaming industry.

I interviewed at 3 places when I first arrived at Austin. I was accepted by 2... turned down by 1. The one that turned me down was a studio I knew was notorious for months of mandatory crunch time. From the moment I walked into the office I knew it was a bad fit and could see all the symptoms of a studio in trouble. So during each of my face to face interactions I just asked straight up about it and hooo boy did it rankle people. Because they were still stuck in the old mindset I remember some companies having of trying to justify it away. The difference is I genuinely LOVED spending those hours up at 3DR. It was just a damn blast. These guys were more like delusional war veterans trying to not look at the dead soldier to their left.

They are shut down now and the other two are thriving. They both have strong mandates about people working normal hours and only calling on extra time when it really really matters and even then the company sometimes sends people home when they would rather stay.

This isn't to say longer than average weeks don't happen but you are working in an unpredictable field and at the end of the day... there are lots of people who will be genuinely happy to replace you if you aren't truly enjoying it over the other alternatives you could be doing. The companies that survive are the ones that make the effort to minimize it. Perhaps because they attract the better managers/leaders who understand the importance of planning well versus just trying to brute force it... which in turn attracts the better talent who understand the importance of executing well versus just trying to throw it together.

Things have changed in general even on the "voluntary" long hours, but not all companies have evolved. Like customer reviews, you usually only hear from the upset ones... not the majority who are content and doing just fine.

Now project cancellation and studio closure is a whole different beast. ;) And if you are helping someone bootstrap a startup... there is some necessary and unavoidable "rolling up the sleeves" and taking a lower pay with higher effort. That's just the nature of the startup beast in any field. Especially if you are trying to be smart and lay a solid foundation.

View PostFox, on 01 May 2013 - 04:26 PM, said:

To be fair, I think the "old guys" have been underpaid, and there is nothing wrong in asking for reasonable gains.

Only the ones who let themselves be. I was one of them but I also know I only have myself to blame/credit and I never *felt* underpaid because I really was where I wanted to be doing what I wanted to do. As were most of the other people there. When that was no longer the case we changed the situation. 1/3rd of us went to Gearbox and the option was open to others who *chose* to stay. A lot wound up joining them anyways after 3DR stopped working on DNF. Problem solved. :D

If the project had been managed well, the stories would be the same, but they would be an inspiration like hearing the early days of Apple or Atari or whatever. The obsessive time and low pay would be viewed the same as those "inspiring" stories or of starving artists/inventors working on their passion... rather than a sad tale of wasted youth. :blink:

This post has been edited by Wieder: 02 May 2013 - 11:13 AM

8

User is offline   WorkWandaWork 

  • 3,074

#25

View PostGambini, on 01 May 2013 - 02:55 PM, said:

Yes but I´ve read similar stories many times. The gaming industry has nothing to do with Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Wages aren´t anything special. The amount of applicants for your position is plenty and there´s always that feeling of volatile market that could let you on the street in a matter of hours. From what I read, of course.

I prefer to keep delivering letters with a truck, that keeps me on shape and when I´m back home I´m full of ideas to work with and not just brain-drained.

Yup, you gotta want to do it and know why you are doing it. Otherwise it will consume your soul. ;)

Likewise doing your gig would drive me nuts... which is why it's good you do that and make your mods leaving me and others with a smile while I :blink: through the industry. :D

This post has been edited by Wieder: 02 May 2013 - 11:27 AM

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User is offline   Sangman 

  • 490

#26

That's actually pretty insightful... Sometimes I feel a bit bad about having a programming job, while many of my friends are system or networking admins and often travel abroad. It makes me feel like they lead more interesting lives than mine, even though all they do when they're there is do the work and then come back. Maybe I shouldn't feel so shitty that for the past year my world has mostly been not much more than a line of 40 km with 2 dots at either end. (also because I have almost zero interest in sysadmin/network admin stuff)

traB pu kciP

This post has been edited by Sangman: 02 May 2013 - 12:45 PM

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User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#27

I wouldn't call going on business trips a "more interesting life". And I don't understand why would sysadmins often travel abroad. Aren't they supposed to sit in one office and do everything remotely? Seting systems up on location isn't really admin's job, at least not the one they should do 'often'.

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.
0

User is offline   TerminX 

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  #28

For the ones working at bigger companies, they go to conferences and trade shows and whatnot.

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User is offline   Kathy 

  • 1,248

#29

Then shouldn't programmers also go to these conferences? Sang, how often is 'often'?

Windows incompatibility is a feature, not a bug.
0

User is online   Jblade 

  • 1,857

#30

View PostWieder, on 02 May 2013 - 10:25 AM, said:

*snip*

Thanks for the insight. It makes perfect sense that studios with excessive crunch time often don't do that well...I mean at the end of the day if people are working tired they're not gonna be producing stuff to the best of their abilities (and if the heads don't care about that and just want the game out of the door then it will be shit regardless)
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