Tales from The Trenches Archive

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You’ll need more than that, don’t you think?

I used to work for a small game team working as … a contractor to a contractor to the people who funded the game. We were a small QA team, but we worked as hard as we could for Directors with no direction, unrealistic deadlines, no support, and dwindling budgets.

We reached the final stretch before our target launch date and were all asked to gather into the meeting room.  We were told that the team was in danger of losing funding if we didn’t meet the deadline and exceed expectations.  It was suggested that we were on the verge of our product being “ship ready”, and that they couldn’t pay us any OT due to the ever shrinking budget, but if we worked really hard and shipped on time our jobs would be safe.  Moreover, the Producers told us that they had gotten word that the next version would be ours if we met this one final goal, and so we started to develop those levels in good faith during down time or while blocked on our current version to be released.  One of our animators couldn’t have been sleeping more than 3-4 hours a day.

A week later, an Artist and a Producer from our team were fired to show that they meant business.  They said that it was due to poor performance, but everyone knew that it was because they had voiced their concerns about the risks involved with our current trajectory.
Before ending the meeting the higher ups that came to fire our friends said that they understood that these people were our friends, and so in order to make things right with us they wanted to show us how they take care of their own.  They gave us free t-shirts that they had been given for agreeing to use a lighting engine.

About a month before I was to be married, and about two weeks before the game was supposed to ship, I asked one of the heads of my Game Team (who was actually a direct employee of the funding group) for a week off for my wedding with a few days off for my honeymoon.  He responded with “Oh, no… You’ll need more than that, don’t you think?  You should take three weeks off, paid.”  Ecstatic, I gladly accepted.  We worked tirelessly for the next two weeks, and got the game to the state in which it needed to be to ship a day before the release date.

That night we went to a local pub and celebrated with a makeshift release party, which was paid for entirely by our Producer and ourselves.

The next day we came to work and were greeted by the same higher-ups that had flown in from the mother ship to tell us that they were shutting down our studio and that we were all to be laid off.  They told us that they had known for months that we wouldn’t be able to secure funding, and it was really an unfortunate turn of events.

All in all, I worked about 400 hours of unpaid overtime to release a game for which we were promised a renewed contract for a new version of said game.  A while later they released our games new version’s levels that we’d been working on in our off time as their own work and didn’t give us credit for any of it.

On the plus side, I got more than three weeks off for my wedding.