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Quality of Life Committee

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Judy Tyrer

I took a ton of notes from the discussions at this Quality of Life committee roundtable. Main thing is the committee will hopefully change to a SIG, to allow more open membership, and there are some great plans from Judy on where to go next. This contains a ton of conflicting opinions in the discussion – QoL is hard to pin down, although working hours were constantly brought up – since of course, a balance between work and home is important for having some life, nevermind having a quality life!

Notes

2004 white paper – EA spouse issues. This is to revitalise.

QoL Studio Certification Survey – is complete, needs to be sent out to 650 studios – invite only.

Developer Survey – any developer can input, anyone who has ever developed a game.

TBD:
– committee → sig?
– Developer education – eg; north carolina laws. How can you make developers aware they are harming the industry – like Dave Perry. Peter Molyneux doing Fable 2 on schedule – a good thing!
– Publisher outreach

Bring in students, developers, producers, studio heads, publishers.

Bringing the business model of developing games forwards – from the milestone greenlight situation to other ways of doing things, like more frequent and transparent milestones.

The process – agile, scrum etc.

If we accept crunch when does it and doesn’t it work. Need data!

Need research into how effective crunch actually is. They might start the day slowly, work harder mid afternoon and ramp it up – they haven’t really worked for all that time. Not productive, seen it. Have some statistics on it. “These were products with crunch mode, these were not”.

You see a decline when people are exhausted and make design mistakes.

If people are behind sending people home.

Low hanging fruit on books on 40 hour work weeks – use these. Near and far term do research.

Quarterly report card – keep it positive. Here are the people up front on it – even if you don’t agree with them.

Need more PR for the articles.

Spin – do you want your team to be more productive then they usually are? Yes!

There are a lot of people on the shop floor know the reality – educate the executives. Common mentality – unless you see people dying in the trenches there’s no work being done

Want to get studio heads to explain contracts.

Model over 15-18 years is broken – the studio heads don’t want them to see. Lottery system and work for hire. From publishers view they’ve worked with so many bad developer – they don’t mind breaking a good developer since they reform into a new company. Contracts have got worse and worse. Developers don’t run business as a business they just negotiate burn rates and don’t aim for profit. They can’t support the workers when there is no contact. Need metrics for it.

There’s a lot of new people too.

Unionise? – not necessarily helpful – music industry.

Statistics on educating the workforce – rotating door, need some figures.

Need to get the mentality of “sleep is for the weak” to be gone.

MMO development is a ray of light – continual development so crunch can’t be used as much.

Planning for longer sale cycles can help with that.

Downloadable content is creating a huge model change. You don’t need a publisher if you go on Steam and self market.

A major reason for crunch is because it is so massive to build a game.

Upward education upward for new people and the down level from the top. Sometimes it works – 2 weeks maybe, but doesn’t work for everyone – people with children.

Need a lot of data and metrics, some developers come forwards with no crunch but people only see other factors for their success.

Need something like turnover rate. Finding out this is hard though.

Need to link up the crunch quality against sales data.

Look at the root causes? Lots of fragments – long term versus short term thinking. A year of crunch means lots of short term thinking in a long term. Management problem.

Who is paying the cost? If someone can afford to pay then what?

Read the Peopleware book. Get everyone to convince management to change now.

Some people are keyed in and need to key into them.

Need to recognise companies who are doing things better. EA LA for instance. In addition to bad management there are other variables. It’s a complicated thing.

Awards for encouraging good practices.

Bethesda said when accepting the award they crunched – not just a publisher problem.

Need some way to support talent in a good way without burning yourself out.

If you see people ignoring the cost, need to reflect that cost somehow – a feedback mechanism (like showing pollution numbers over time) to affect change.

Individual case studies and papers on examples on how they did it without crunch. Show that to people.

How about manager QOL – to make payroll, help them too in addition to student and developer education.

One avenue is to make contract changes to start altering it. Mismanaged contract negotiation for several weeks with a fixed ship date – the developer needs to start with their own money.

The developers are not good managers and should aim for profit and grow.

Developers don’t have much power in contact negotiations. (They might have in the past a bit). But, for instance, a bullet point of marketing costs is sometimes a point in the contract – not always, but still can be there sometimes.

From a student perspective – students are told from professors and other students it is not good. When you have the game industry make hollywood look sane not right!

Women are told not to go into the industry too.

The image out there is perceived as really bad even if there is variance. Ethical point of view of a teacher to tell students. A dilemma to either encourage them to explore those passions but you know they will find it hard.

Some people will dream who will go and do whatever they want whatever the cost. If we can however reach out to companies and try and convince them. We should not try and convince people not to make games.

Maybe tie the QoL award into something tangible – a summit, a part of the leadership event, a new event…

Maybe a good contract model.

Advocate for open models – less secrets held back. Gets team buy in.

Anecdote about the loss of department when funds ran out and he left – and didn’t let anyone know!

Also don’t know the contact your working under, they like to hide it.

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