[MUD-Dev] Design iterations (Was: R & D)

Jeff Freeman skeptack at antisocial.com
Fri Jun 7 14:30:34 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


Brian Bilek mailto:brian at darkalley.net wrote:
> "Koster, Raph" wrote:

>> There is a general disdain for managers, marketers, execs from
>> other businesses because they tend not to be knowledgeable about
>> game-specific management issues (particularly the need for
>> iteration, but also market issues, etc), but these are simply
>> areas where a good manager will learn the ropes. So I view this
>> as a shortsighted position. There definitely have been many
>> mistakes made by executives new to the industry who try to treat
>> it like the movies or like baked goods. But they can get better
>> at it.

> A friend of mine who recently joined SOE suggested to me that it
> may be because a lot of the employees in the industry like the
> very laid-back atmosphere of a game company, and fear that a more
> 'business' oriented manager would want to whip the employees back
> into 'line.'  The sort of hard management that many people joined
> the industry to escape.  Do you think this is close to the mark?

Just to chime in with my 3-cents: I've been working at SOE for
little over a year, and come from Corporate Office for a company
with thousands of locations, thousands of employess, tons of
outsourcing, and lived through a leverage buyout, bankruptcy and
bailout while at that company (not to mention various
reorganizations every time a new executive claimed a fiefdom within
the company: to centralize this or decentralize that, or bring this
back in-house, or outsource that, 'til the next exec' came along to
reshape his realm).

The game industry doesn't seem terribly laid back to me.  It looks
laid-back, but in years in Corporate Land, I worked 'til midnight
all of one time (y2k, just in case!), worked two Saturdays (one
because we were laying off a third of the department and my bosses
needed help formatting a spreadsheet), and very very rarely worked
even one second more than 40 hours a week, even though I was an
exempt employee there and certainly could have worked late in order
to achieve anything that mattered, if ever there were ever anything
I was doing that mattered (I'm sure there were some people doing
some things that mattered - and indeed even some of the stuff I did
mattered a little - but it didn't take 40 hours a week to accomplish
those things).  The two most important things that any of us did
were to show up on time, and stay all day.  Everything else was
secondary to that.  Chief among secondary tasks: I had to wear
shoes, and pants of a certain type.  Wearing pants of the wrong type
would have crippled productivity, and wearing no shoes would have
been disasterous to both the company and my career.

I have a certain disdain for hardline business managers, but not
because I think he's going to make me be more productive.  Quite the
opposite.

No, I think the disdain for 'business types' comes from the
irrlevant crap they come up with "to increase productivity", like
Hawaain Shirt Fridays and such.  There's a perception that a "Smart
Business Decision", from a business point of view, would have been
to change all the EQ-art into Star Wars-art an declare Star Wars
Galaxies "done!"  There might be a little concern that the hard-line
manager type is going to bother the programmer who works 80 hours a
week about the extra 15 minutes lunch-break (taken with other
programmers, during which they probably had a meeting which needed
to occur at some point anyway), and tell him to wear a shirt with a
collar.  As though collars and 15 minute shorter lunches really
mattered.

The escapades of Corporate America are silly enough to fill half a
dozen Dilbert books, and have, so I won't go on, but for me - that's
the sort of thing that makes real world business managers look goofy
compared to game industry managers.  Management types here are much
more like line-managers in factories.  They walk the plant and see
if anyone has an arm caught in the machinery.  "What are you working
on?  What problems are you having?  Who needs to fix that problem?"
And if I don't say, "No problems.  Busy.  Go away.", because say,
I'm having a problem with something, then they go fix that problem.

Then they come back and chastise me for not yelling louder when my
arm got snagged in the masher.

Management types at normal businesses would run off and send-out a
memo to four different people unrelated to the problem at hand, and
worse, "No problems, Busy, Go Away" wouldn't ever make them go away.
Surely there's /something/ they can go write a memo about, and I
should stop what I'm doing and help them think of something
"important".

What is refreshing about the game industry to me isn't the 'laid
back atmosphere': but the things which give the impression that
there is a laid-back atmosphere: The things which do not matter, do
not matter.  Things which do matter, do matter.  Yes, I think a more
'business' oriented manager would screw that up.  Large corporations
seem very much to have, corporate-wide, a culture of incompetence
which obsesses over irrelevant minutia.  Whatever problems we're
having will not be solved with the addition of a pointy-haired boss.


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