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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
ea_spouse
My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse.

EA's bright and shiny new corporate trademark is "Challenge Everything." Where this applies is not exactly clear. Churning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm. To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?

I am retaining some anonymity here because I have no illusions about what the consequences would be for my family if I was explicit. However, I also feel no impetus to shy away from sharing our story, because I know that it is too common to stick out among those of the thousands of engineers, artists, and designers that EA employs.

Our adventures with Electronic Arts began less than a year ago. The small game studio that my partner worked for collapsed as a result of foul play on the part of a big publisher -- another common story. Electronic Arts offered a job, the salary was right and the benefits were good, so my SO took it. I remember that they asked him in one of the interviews: "how do you feel about working long hours?" It's just a part of the game industry -- few studios can avoid a crunch as deadlines loom, so we thought nothing of it. When asked for specifics about what "working long hours" meant, the interviewers coughed and glossed on to the next question; now we know why.

Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this "pre-crunch" was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don't know how many of the developers bought EA's explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title's shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Weeks passed. Again the producers had given a termination date on this crunch that again they failed. Throughout this period the project remained on schedule. The long hours started to take its toll on the team; people grew irritable and some started to get ill. People dropped out in droves for a couple of days at a time, but then the team seemed to reach equilibrium again and they plowed ahead. The managers stopped even talking about a day when the hours would go back to normal.

Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. 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. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.

The stress is taking its toll. After a certain number of hours spent working the eyes start to lose focus; after a certain number of weeks with only one day off fatigue starts to accrue and accumulate exponentially. There is a reason why there are two days in a weekend -- bad things happen to one's physical, emotional, and mental health if these days are cut short. The team is rapidly beginning to introduce as many flaws as they are removing.

And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it. Further, since the production of various games is scattered, there was a concern on the part of the employees that developers would leave one crunch only to join another. EA's response was that they would attempt to minimize this, but would make no guarantees. This is unthinkable; they are pushing the team to individual physical health limits, and literally giving them nothing for it. Comp time is a staple in this industry, but EA as a corporation wishes to "minimize" this reprieve. One would think that the proper way to minimize comp time is to avoid crunch, but this brutal crunch has been on for months, and nary a whisper about any compensation leave, nor indeed of any end of this treatment.

This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable. The extended hours were deliberate and planned; the management knew what they were doing as they did it. The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.

No one works in the game industry unless they love what they do. No one on that team is interested in producing an inferior product. My heart bleeds for this team precisely BECAUSE they are brilliant, talented individuals out to create something great. They are and were more than willing to work hard for the success of the title. But that good will has only been met with abuse. Amazingly, Electronic Arts was listed #91 on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2003.

EA's attitude toward this -- which is actually a part of company policy, it now appears -- has been (in an anonymous quotation that I've heard repeated by multiple managers), "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy. The concept of ethics or compassion or even intelligence with regard to getting the most out of one's workforce never enters the equation: if they don't want to sacrifice their lives and their health and their talent so that a multibillion dollar corporation can continue its Godzilla-stomp through the game industry, they can work someplace else.

But can they?

The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)

To put some of this in perspective, I myself consider some figures. If EA truly believes that it needs to push its employees this hard -- I actually believe that they don't, and that it is a skewed operations perspective alone that results in the severity of their crunching, coupled with a certain expected amount of the inefficiency involved in running an enterprise as large as theirs -- the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be. Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.

The interesting thing about this is an assumption that most of the employees seem to be operating under. Whenever the subject of hours come up, inevitably, it seems, someone mentions 'exemption'. They refer to a California law that supposedly exempts businesses from having to pay overtime to certain 'specialty' employees, including software programmers. This is Senate Bill 88. However, Senate Bill 88 specifically does not apply to the entertainment industry -- television, motion picture, and theater industries are specifically mentioned. Further, even in software, there is a pay minimum on the exemption: those exempt must be paid at least $90,000 annually. I can assure you that the majority of EA employees are in fact not in this pay bracket; ergo, these practices are not only unethical, they are illegal.

I look at our situation and I ask 'us': why do you stay? And the answer is that in all likelihood we won't; and in all likelihood if we had known that this would be the result of working for EA, we would have stayed far away in the first place. But all along the way there were deceptions, there were promises, there were assurances -- there was a big fancy office building with an expensive fish tank -- all of which in the end look like an elaborate scheme to keep a crop of employees on the project just long enough to get it shipped. And then if they need to, they hire in a new batch, fresh and ready to hear more promises that will not be kept; EA's turnover rate in engineering is approximately 50%. This is how EA works. So now we know, now we can move on, right? That seems to be what happens to everyone else. But it's not enough. Because in the end, regardless of what happens with our particular situation, this kind of "business" isn't right, and people need to know about it, which is why I write this today.

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. "What's your salary?" would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?

Right?


===

This article is offered under the Creative Commons deed. Please feel free to redistribute/link.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 05:40 pm (UTC)

What it is like to live on the other side...

ELECTRONIC ARTS

1450 FASHION ISLAND BLVD.
SAN MATEO, CA 94404
TEL 415 571 7171


[LOGO]


September 9, 1998


Rusty Rueff
181-12 Turn of River Road
Stamford, CT 06905


Dear Rusty:

I am pleased to offer you a regular full-time position as Senior Vice President
Human Resources reporting to me. Your annual base salary will be $240,000 with a
50% target bonus. The bonus will be guaranteed at 100% of target in the fiscal
year ending March 31, 1999, and 75% of target in the fiscal year ending March
31, 2000.

I will recommend to the Board of Directors that you be granted a Non-qualified
Option to purchase 70,000 shares of Electronic Arts common stock in accordance
with our Stock Option Plan. This grant will vest at a rate of 2% per month over
a 50 month period commencing with your hire date. Your unvested equity position
will be reviewed on an annual basis in conjunction with the EA executive stock
option program.

Electronic Arts will provide you with a $2,500 per month (net of taxes) housing
allowance for a three-year period. We agree to pay the difference between your
acquisition cost and the sale price on your property at 181-12 Turn of River
Road if the selling price is less than the initial purchase price of $612,500.
In addition, Electonic Arts will be responsible for all normal and reasonable
relocation costs associated with moving to Northern California.

Your employment with Electronic Arts is for an indefinite term. In other words,
the employment relationship is "at will" and you have the right to terminate
that employment relationship at any time. Also, although I hope that you will
remain with us and be successful here, Electronic Arts must, and does retain the
right to terminate the employment relationship at any time. Should you be
terminated without cause prior to March 31, 2000, you will receive one year's
salary plus bonus as severence.

This offer assumes that you have the legal right to work in the United States
and can submit appropriate proof. If you accept the offer, please so indicate by
signing this letter where indicated and returning it to my attention.

Electronic Arts' mission is to make fun software for consumers and to help
interactive entertainment become a part of everyday life. To play a leading role
in this new industry, EA needs a dedicated team of pioneers with vision, a
passion for quality, a willingness to innovate and a desire to achieve great
things while vigilantly maintaining our integrity. I would be delighted to have
you join us.

Sincerely,

/s/ Larry Probst

Larry Probst
Chaiman & CEO
Electronic Arts


Accepted: /s/ Rusty Rueff
--------------------

Date: 9/18/98
-------------------------





September 17, 1998


Rusty Rueff
181-12 Turn of River Road
Stamford, CT 06905


Dear Rusty:

This will confirm our discussion on Tuesday, September 15. EA will provide you
with a one-time $50,000 (gross) signing bonus to help offset the expected loss
on improvements made to your current residence, and the temporary loss of income
you will experience in conjunction with Patti's resignation from Pepsi.

We also agree to extend vesting on your stock option grant for a period of six
months if you are terminated without cause prior to March 31, 2000.

EA agrees to provide a relocation program similar to the Frito-Lay plan with the
exception that we will not be responsible for any loan points nor will we
provide one month's salary in conjunction with your move to Northern California.

I am thrilled that you have decided to join Electronic Arts, and very much look
forward to working with you. Would you please acknowledge acceptance of the
offer by signing in the space below and returning to my attention at your
earliest convenience. Thank you.


Sincerely,

/s/ Larry Probst
Larry Probst
Chairman & CEO


Accepted: ___________________________________________

Date: _______________________________________________

(http://contracts.onecle.com/ea/rueff.emp.1998.09.09.shtml)
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 05:42 pm (UTC)

Rusty Rueff's contract.

Bear in mind that this is a little over six years old... so that means he's making alot more than he was at this point, and has accumulated a great deal of wealth because of all of the benefits outlined in the contract.

So here is a question: What does someone making that much money, with those exorbitant benefits need a $2,500 per month housing allowance for???

I mean really.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: ravidrath
2004-12-03 06:52 pm (UTC)

EA Responds: Leaked Internal Memo...

Kotaku, a site that's been following this pretty close, got their hands on a leaked EA memo.

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/business//ea-promises-changes-in-leaked-internal-memo-026800.php

-Peter
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-03 08:15 pm (UTC)

Re: EA Responds: Leaked Internal Memo...

Very interesting, thank you for posting this. I hadn't heard about Kotaku before this link.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 07:56 pm (UTC)

Two Specific Union Examples

Ranndino here again. Earlier I've posted a long, four part message that described my experience in a related industry and then looked at why the working conditions have become so bad for so many people. I finished my argument by saying that Unions are essential for tech employees.

I gave one conrete example of my girlfriend's grandfather, a simple iron worker who came here from Italy with no education, and who thanks to a strong union made a fortune. As an iron worker building all kinds of objects like offices, supermarkets, etc. he got paid $60 per hour with overtime (time and a half and double for weekends) for anything more than 40 hours a week. On top of that was a heap of incredible benefits.

I would like to give another example. My girlfriend's mother is a nurse. My gf was just telling me today that she got a look at her mom's paycheck the other day. $84,000 with a month to go!!! Working 36 hours a week! Her mother works 3 days a week, 12-hour night shifts. That was her choice because this way she gets 4 days completely off and they pay even more for night shifts.

So, let's summarize. With a month to go in the year she has made $84,000 working 3 nights a week and enjoying her 4 days off, every week. She also pretty much makes her own schedule.

Anyone still think Unions are a bad idea?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:09 am (UTC)

Re: Two Specific Union Examples

Yes, I do.

Take the typical auto industry example from the 80s, where people screwing bolts on all day earned $25 an hour...and we were promptly trounced by foreign companies who were still allowed to pay their workers wages more in line with their level of skill.

Unions will also throw a yoke of rigidity on an otherwise creative industry, and leave us wide open to work side-by-side with lazy people who have been around forever but haven't worked more than ten hours' worth of work per week in years because they have achieved "seniority" and can't be fired for it.

If you want a union, go be a nurse or an iron worker. Keep your bullshit, self-serving, greedy-ass unions away from my job...I make plenty of money for the work I do and I have no qualms with my working conditions.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 09:47 pm (UTC)

Sounds familiar

I used to work for a small game company where we were worked increasingly harder until I eventually got fired for taking a day off after six months of nonstop work. And I mean nonstop -- not a single day off, working at least 10 hours a day. There were weeks where I spent less than 10 hours outside the office. My longest "workday" was 137 hours, where I didn't even get to stop for a nap for that long. I arrived at work at 10 AM on Friday and was not allowed to leave until Wednesday afternoon.

If you bring up the exemption issue, you tend to get hit with "if we had to pay you guys overtime, we'd go out of business. Do you want that to happen?"

That's why I quit the game industry and became a technical writer and DTS engineer. The hours are much, much, much better.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: unionjosh
2004-12-04 01:29 am (UTC)

Re: Sounds familiar

The longest I had heard of was 3 days and that guy had a blanket wrapped around him and was shaking. Your talking about 5 days! You're lucky you got out alive. Good for you.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: bwingb
2004-12-03 11:06 pm (UTC)

Umm, Rusty...

I read the "leaked memo" and it's all very cosy and it's a fairly good start, BUT-

I see _no mention_ of any ethics or sensitivity training in this p.r. release. I am glad to see you are thinking of actually training your employees (and am still stumped as to how it took so long to figure this one out), but some serious measures need to be taken if you are going to address the corruption that's creating a lot of the overtime in the first place. You need to weed out the "managers" who are creating problems to keep themselves on the payroll, people; the ones who are focusing all their energies into setting up the _real_ talent to look bad so they can keep taking the credit. These sociopaths are costing yours and many other people's companies millions in revenue, and society at large is suffering from their unhealthy influence. It all trickles down, you know. NEVER should sociopathic behavior be rewarded.

I also think that if you are serious as a company, you will encourage an ongoing discourse with some kind of organized body of employees. An intra-company union would be less adversarial than what many here are suggesting and also may be the only way you can prevent the forming of an unaffiliated union here.

Given that things had to get this bad, and that you continue to make excuses for mindblowing oversights here, we are not sure we trust you all with fostering an objective and communicative environment there. But please KNOW that as a major economic and cultural force, it is EA's DUTY as an employer to respect first and foremost the human rights of ALL the people it employs, and thus should only hire respectable people. Your resources are abundant, but only wisdom will allow you to see how to properly employ these resources. An you know. that's not something you can fake.

When you begin to KNOW that the need to share a GENUINE RESPECT for life is the ONLY REASON to want power, then you may begin to truly blossom and deserve as a company. And when others see you at your brightest, they too will see the wisdom of mutual respect and true communication.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 06:03 am (UTC)

Re: Umm, Rusty...

I wonder how fast Rusty would respond if documents relating to games were leaked out....I bet the company could find a quick solution for that....
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: bwingb
2004-12-03 11:27 pm (UTC)

To clear up any misunderstandings:

By respectable, I mean the following:

ADJECTIVE:1. Meriting respect or esteem; worthy. 2. Of or appropriate to good or proper behavior or conventional conduct. 3. Of moderately good quality: respectable work.

And under NO circumstances do I mean the following:

QUOTATION:Respectable means rich, and decent means poor. I should die if I heard my family called decent.

ATTRIBUTION:Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866), British author. Lady Clarinda, in Crotchet Castle, ch. 3 (1831).

Especially since recent business trends have made many honest people too poor to impress on a superfluous level. We all need to learn how to recognize and reward the inner human qualities which promote excellence. Enough with the bling bling, already!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 01:24 am (UTC)

$8.50/hour for "independent contractors" in customer support.

I had a friend who worked for EA in "customer support" a little while back... they hired him as an "independent contractor" (non W-2) for $8.50 an hour (which was barely minimum wage, once you account for the self-employment taxes he had to pay), and let him go just a few months later. It was made very clear to him (and everyone else hired with him) from the beginning that he shouldn't expect to be there long, that it was unlikely he'd be there even six months, and that this was deliberate policy on EA's part. This was the first bite of work he'd had in months, so he took it anyway... even though it was an hour drive each way from where he lived.

This is despicable. EA treats these people like a disposable commodity. My assumption is that they don't want to risk having the government categorize them as an "employee", with all the benefits that entails (ala the Microserfs who won their class action suit). Which he really was... he didn't set his own hours, he didn't supply his own equipment, he used EA's equipment and was trained by other EA staff, etc.

This is a far greater scandal, in my opinion, than any abuses heaped on at least formally employeed staffers who receive something approaching a livable wage.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:38 am (UTC)

Warren Jensen Offer Letter -pt1- FYI

ELECTRONIC ARTS

June 21, 2002

Warren Jenson

Dear Warren:

I am pleased to offer you a regular full-time position with Electronic Arts as our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial & Administration Officer, reporting to me, at a base salary of $500,000 annualized, minus applicable taxes.

For your information, I have enclosed a copy of our current Electronic Arts Playbook, which describes employee responsibilities, as well as various benefits to which you may be entitled. In addition to the benefits described in the Electronic Arts Playbook, you will also be eligible to participate in our discretionary bonus program. This discretionary bonus is typically determined at the end of our fiscal year (March). Your discretionary bonus target will be 75% of your salary. For Fiscal Year 2003, we will guarantee a minimum payout of your target ($375,000), minus applicable taxes. To receive payment of your bonus you must be employed by Electronic Arts at the time any bonuses are paid.

The Board of Directors have approved that you be granted a Non-Qualified Option to purchase 600,000 shares of Electronic Arts Class A common stock in accordance with our 2000 Class A Equity Incentive Plan. These shares will be granted and the exercise price set at the fair market value on your first day of employment with Electronic Arts. 300,000 options of this grant will be on a 48 month cliff vest. The other 300,000 will vest on our normal vesting schedule.

You are being provided Executive relocation assistance by EA. This program will also cover your temporary living and temporary commuting costs. You will also be provided a $4,000,000 one time interest free loan from EA, within five business days of your first day of employment. This loan win be forgiven in two parts: $2,000,000 will be forgiven at the 24 month anniversary of your employment and will be grossed up at that time to offset the tax implications of the forgiveness. At your 48 month anniversary, the additional $2,000,000 will be forgiven. You will be responsible for the tax implications of forgiveness of the second $2,000,000. If you voluntarily leave the employment of EA, you will be responsible for repayment in full within 60 days of the outstanding loan amounts in accordance with the above forgiveness schedule. If you were to die or be permanently disabled, we would forgive the loan in full.

Per EA policy, if you voluntarily leave your employment within one year from your date of hire, you agree to pay EA, within 60 days of your last day of employment, a pro rata portion of the incurred relocation expenses not related to the loan.

Lastly, EA is providing you a one-time sign on bonus of $500,000 as incentive for you to forego other opportunities and to join us.

If you have any questions about this offer, about the matters in the Playbook, or about your eligibility to participate in or to be covered by any of the described benefits, please call Rusty at 650-628-7430.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-09 06:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Warren Jensen Offer Letter -pt1- FYI

Oh my fucking god!

This guy is going to get $8 million in 4 years. $4m in a "interest free, forgiven loan (WTF?! How is that even legal, let alone in the interests of EA's shareholders?), $2m in salary, $1.5m in "discretionary bonus" which is basically guaranteed to him, $.5m signing bonus.

That's enough to fund at least one entire project, and possibly as many as 4 smaller projects.

How can EA justify this one fuckhead's salary in place of having 1-4 more products available for sale? I hope the shareholders are reading this, and that the board gets ousted.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:39 am (UTC)

Warren Jensen offer letter -pt2- FYI

-cont.-


In the course of your work, you will have access to proprietary materials and concepts. Our offer is contingent on your signing Electronic Arts’ New Hire/Proprietary Information Agreement. Two copies are enclosed for signature (please keep one for your own records).

This offer letter contains the entire understanding between you and Electronic Arts as to the terms of your offer of employment and specifically supersedes all previous discussions you may have had with anyone at Electronic Arts regarding those terms.

Your employment with Electronic Arts is for an indefinite term. In other words, the employment relationship is “at will” and you have the right to terminate that employment relationship at any time, subject only to the financial agreements regarding the loan as described above. Also, although I hope you will remain with us and be successful here, Electronic Arts must, and does retain the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time.

I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that you’ll be joining our team. Please sign below and return both pages of the original offer letter to Rusty in the enclosed envelope, and we can begin your orientation to EA. Please keep a copy for yourself.

Electronic Arts’ mission is to be the greatest entertainment company.... ever. We get there through four critical areas of focus and success: Being the #1 Company on the Next Generation Consoles, #1 Entertainment Software Company on the PC, #1 Provider of Interactive Entertainment Online and the #1 People Company for high performance teams and individuals. We will be delighted to have you join us in our mission.

If you have any questions regarding this offer, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

/s/ LARRY PROBST

Larry Probst
Chairman & CEO
Electronic Arts

Enclosures

Accepted by Candidate:

/s/ WARREN C JENSON

Anticipated Start Date: June 25th, 2002

cc: Rusty Rueff
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 08:01 am (UTC)

Re: Warren Jensen offer letter



That's over $153,500,000 over a 4 year period (not included raises and bonus increases.)

Not bad!

A shame they can't afford to pay for overtime....
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 10:26 am (UTC)
If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
At the same time, in sympathy, EA have no right to employ some of the tactics that they do and there should be some kind of investigation. You people not heard of an industrial tribunal ? If you have a valid case, Sue 'em, otherwise, enjoy the cash that it brings in and quit complaining!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 04:54 pm (UTC)

From Internal Personel: Nothing Has Changed

ummmmm - I just finished crunching for Third Age. There was a 6 month, 6-7 day, 80+ hour work week crunch on this project. Now I am on Godfather. The team is 150 people already and the game is supposed to finish in 11 months! The cycle continues...
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 04:58 pm (UTC)

Re: From Internal Personel: Nothing Has Changed

and so begins another Death March.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 11:33 pm (UTC)

how much is EA paying you all for these hours?

For a standard 80 hour work week in the Bay Area you would need a salary of around 120k a year to be within the middle class

(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-10 11:18 pm (UTC)

Re: how much is EA paying you all for these hours?

LOL!!

For a SENIOR level design position at EA Redwood Shores, try LESS than 70k a year before taxes, not including bonus. And keep in mind they aren't paying for overtime at all. If they were, all the time-and-a-half pay for continuous 80 hour weeks would add up nicely.

But then, if they were paying overtime at all, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-05 10:22 pm (UTC)

Breaking it first

Although the glaring "We broke the law because it didn't work for us" paragraph was obviously the worst of it, another thing that strikes me as odd is EA's habit of screwing things up in the favor of penny-pinching, and then not having any sort of fix or monitoring process for it. Comp time was an inadequate but mollifying way to account for crunch time. EA pulled it without replacing it with anything, or making sure crunch doesn't happen, and waited to see if the shit hits the fan. Same thing with the afterhours meal plan, they pulled our standard system out, used the dumpy cafe in the 205 building, and waitied months while people complained to go back. They only switched back when some HR person, months later, sent out a survey to see if it was unacceptable.

I've only been with EA for two years, but for those who've been hear longer, has EA always pinched pennies like this? I'm wondering now since often that's a sign of a failing company, and yet our financials seem fairly healthy, at least so far. Is EA going to pull an Enron soon?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: Breaking it first

Months? I seem to remember the crappy Atrium cafe system lasting less than a few weeks...

And for the umpteenth time: comp time is still given! Even Jamie bleeping Kirschenbaum got it! You can say they don't give enough, but you sure as hell can't say it doesn't exist for people that work hard enough!

The amount of misinformation in this entire discussion is absolutely mind-boggling.

If you don't believe in the company or don't think you're being adequately compensated for what you do, leave. There will be no hard feelings...we'll continue to work hard and dominate the industry without your help.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 03:11 am (UTC)

you too can be a big publisher

The organization is caught in a catch-22. Because of earnings forcasts and revenue expectations, the studio is in the position to either put product on the market or adjust revenue forecasts to reflect diminished revenue. Luckily, EA has a host of bread-winning franchishes, mostly Sports titles, that it drops on the market place in predicatable patterns quarter to quarter. They are not in a fail-safe climate - the studio must release these titles at the designated time, as has been the historical basis and consume/stock-holder expectation. Not shipping Madden would be a catastrophy, and it won't happen.

Well, as we all know, EA diversed it's license portfolio years ago, mostly through acquisition. Smart move. The sports niche had built an incredible war chest of funds and it would be years before competitors would (or ever) catch EA in that area. In addition to acquiring studios, it also began to develop properties based on mass market consumer appeal in other namely, namely film.

Again, dipping into the war chest, they could purchase weighty franchises such as Bond, Lord of the Rings etc. and develop competent games across all consoles.

Perhaps the greatest stroke of genious was to develope the BIG sports line, diversifying the sports licenses even further for a series of imaginative games built upon the loyal fan base for the EA brand, and leveraging in-house know-how to put these titles on the market.

The catch-22 is somewhat nebulous. The studio is in the public position of satisying tremendous consumer and stockholder expectation - based upon their own forecasts and breadth of game offerings. They are in no position to stretch development times to ease the hours developers work. They must sustain growth at the forecasted level. Very few companies are able to do this, in any sector. Typically, consumer and client based demand sustain the company, and it tails off after long periods of growth. Witness Cisco.

EA is a state of perpetual and renewed public demand and it must meet that demand by shipping product. The studio is all about product. Titles. Putting it on the shelf. To do so under the deadlines it imposes (upon itself), it builds large development teams to handle the load. However, as we all know, large teams are precarious in moral (takes time to gel, takes time to train) and are management nightmares.

If EA is to seriously examine work-lifestyle balance they need to FUNDAMENTALLY rethink how they develope their products. I, for one, don't believe they have arrived at the moment. I'm being kind with that soft comment.

At best, they will make some cursory, superficial adjustments to respond to the outcry about hours. They need to keep the talent base intact. These posts have had a tremendous impact. Don't underestimate what has happened here. It will change the industry. But they will be kicking and screaming along the way. Why? They are not built in 2005 to accomodate sweeping change.

Also, the studio hasn't truly come to grips with next generation development. They don't fully realize that it will be MORE complex to ship a game on the next consoles, not easier. EA is not in a position to ship a game like Jak - it is too sophisticated in level design and art. When that title hits the next generation EA will not have a product in it's portfolio to compete. You laugh. Jak right? Well, just watch.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 08:41 am (UTC)

Re: you too can be a big publisher

Absolutely true. I have worked in game development for the last 8 years and have seen technology outpace the studio's ability to produce content. I was there, at EA, when they made the jump from "sprites" to 3D characters. They slipped, and it was NOT without its pains.

Now, I am with a smaller company, and we are lucky to have almost 2 years of development time. However, we and our publisher are realizing that 2 years, with our given team, is not enough for a multi-platform release for next generation. The bottle neck isn't coding - although it could be. It's content: more specifically, art assets.

But the tools to develop art have not progressed nearly as fast as the need to produce it in a timely fashion. So the knee-jerk, and common response, would be to throw man-power at the problem.

This is where EA steps in. They are very good at this...very VERY good at this.

When they can't hire more (because of head count, which shows up in the financials and affects stock prices), they are forced to work groups OT.

So while I regret that people are burning out, as they will when worked this hard, I also feel the need to look at the whole as a system. Scheduling and management, good or bad, are just a part of the problem (cause and symptom) of the whole process.

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From: i_schmendrick
2004-12-06 03:40 am (UTC)

Go ahead with a legal case.

If you can, make this a legal case. Get some volunteers to help you from anywhere. Get as many EA employees to file together, like a class action suit. You already have a legal start, as you've stated.
Good Luck.

Peace
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