GDC 07: Chris Taylor says "<i>no more overtime</i>"

Supreme Commander supremo urges developers to move industry toward one that balances work and family.

Better games are made when game developers work normal hours, Gas Powered Games head and Supreme Commander designer Chris Taylor says.

In a Game Developers Conference (GDC) lecture that was part evangelical sermon and part stand-up comedy routine, Taylor argued against what he says is the game industry's ingrained excessive work culture. Taylor said Supreme Commander--the recently released real-time strategy game published by THQ--was proof that great games could be made without relying on constant overtime. Taylor's Gas Powered Games had previously developed the Dungeon Siege series, with Taylor himself probably best known for his work on Total Annihilation.

"We would have made a worse game [Supreme Commander] if we had worked 14 hours a day. Dungeon Siege would have been a better game if we worked the way we did on Supreme Commander. It's just the right way to work, and it puts fun back in the business," he said.

"You make better games when you work regular hours. You're more creative--when you go home at night you're still thinking, because you're creative people. So when you get back at the computer, you have all these ideas and you get them down anyway. So we didn't put a bunch of stuff in our office that would make people think that they should work there until late. We don't want people to live in the office at Gas Powered Games."

Taylor said one of his proudest achievements about working on Supreme Commander was the minimal amount of overtime his team had to put in to finish the game. He used the example of one employee at Gas who had joined from another company where he had completed more than 1,000 hours of overtime in one year. During the last two years this new employee was at Gas, Taylor said he racked up only 150 hours of overtime.

"I'm proud of that. Because it goes against everything we've been taught about," he said. "I want everyone here to be filled with inspiration to move our industry in that direction. I feel like we're saving something with our kids and our marriages--you know, marriages actually work a lot better when you spend time with your spouse."

Discussion

124 comments
illuminatirexx
illuminatirexx

I think if one really enjoys what one does, it shows, and all work comes much eazier.

hardscout
hardscout

Worked for over 7 years in the industry and sept2788 you can say that easy enough when you are young and full of *** but when you get older and have a family your value of what is work and what is life changes drastically. I applaud Chris Taylor for these comments. It's one of the primary reasons I am very cautious to ever set foot in the game industry again even though I love games and love the creative aspect of making them.

sept2788
sept2788

Idk personally I love overtime, and so do most of the people I work with. Maybe its just different in the film industry then others because we don't work traditional hours

vassago_
vassago_

There's no such thing as "no" overtime in the game industry. That will NEVER happen. You can surely minimize it, though. Plan well, and get talented people who can do their jobs well. During my work on STACKED, I think I only put in about 150-160hrs as well. That's nothing, really. When I was working on Daredevil, it was around 600hrs/yr, easy.

Mikeh_515
Mikeh_515

Hopefully i'll be in this industry soon and with no over time :P Because if i dont get paid for a job i simply don't do it, i would never compramise my futur reationship with my family. I'm just not that sort of person if you don't like the fact i'm not an idiot and I won't stay here just for you UNPAID then your sadly mistaken. Sack me .... I'll just get another Job some where else with no overtime :P

Dogma01
Dogma01

Overtime, is the term used in business to exploit your life legally, Its a working day for a reason so rock on and lets hope for more fun games with minimal effort involved!

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

I totally agree with Chris. And Supreme Commander is the proof that he is right.

theKSMM
theKSMM

Sadly, more and more sectors of employment are requiring/expecting their employees to work extreme schedules in order to get ahead, or even worse, to stay afloat. The games industry takes that extreme to the extreme with employees routinely sleeping at the office during crunch times. It's good to see someone with Taylor's clout speaking out against this insanity.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

that's a good idea, less ovetime is always better when you are in a game company, or something that requires you to think creatively, you can only work so long before you run out of ideas, and have nothing, well said chris, well said :: standing appaluse ::

SP33doh
SP33doh

darklord888, try skirmishing against the hard AI. in case you didn't notice, you can change the skill level.

lonnie007
lonnie007

It's nice to hear stuff like this, but it really all boils down to management. If you're one of the cogs in the machine, hearing stuff like this is nothing more than talk. I work in the game industry myself, and I just recently got blindsided with a huge project that would normally take about 3 weeks. The deadline? 1 week. I'll be working overtime while the jackass manager that "forgot" will be spending his free time doing anything else but work. Management needs the hindsight, planning, and infrastructure to make sure no overtime happens. Unfortunately, a lot of them don't.

darklord888
darklord888

They should have done some overtime...maybe then the A.I might you know be better than a 3 year old.

GamingMaster06
GamingMaster06

I agree, why overwork yourselves when you can simply do It first thing in the Morning. In most cases Id say that some just feel they have to stay, but thats simply not true. I hope this issue is given more thought in the future. 'Demon' Damian

Ariolander
Ariolander

I think this is a step in the right direction. I mean has everyone already forgot about the issues EA has/had with it's work enviroment? I mean the blogs of ea_spouse provided a good look into the state of the industry and made me change my major and loose my dream of working in the industry. While I would love to work on the games I love I wasn't willing to be miserable, pull constant overtime, and sacrafice all of my personal life for what I thought was a dream job.

Tropico_Al
Tropico_Al

Sorry to hear that Jaeme. Hope you can still find some hapiness :-). I worked as a Software Consultant for a few years and got absolutely fed up with the ridiculous amount of overtime and travel my job required. Sleeping in a different city every night, sitting alone in a restaurant, spending 6 birthdays alone in a hotel room etc etc, made me hate to even look at a PC. It got so bad that I eventually gave up my apartment and just stayed in hotels for 2 years. I was rich (ish) by so unhappy that I cried myself to sleep at least once a week. The absolute final straw came when my mother got taken ill to hospital and I couldn't go see her because I had to go to New York to see some clients. I rung my boss, told him I quit, slammed the phone down and jumped on the first plane to see my dear mother. Luckily I had enough money to live off for a few years and recently started working teaching basic PC skills to pensioners. I make 20 times less now than I used to (dont really need the money) but I wake up every morning, happy to be alive. My days now is spent walking my dogs, seeing my new girlfriend, lying on my lawn and looking at clouds, counceling at my local youth centre and a tiny bit of work....oh, and playing the odd PC game!

SirNefarious
SirNefarious

I hope other game developers take his speech to heart.

705H1R0
705H1R0

yes! my future work habits are looking better and better!

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

as much as we,the gamers, would want to have our highly anticipated games delivered to us, we would rather it be delayed and done right than meet deadline but be lackluster or broken

arhg2001
arhg2001

Over time is great! Money money moooney.....moooney!

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

Yeah thats right. They need their sleep. They should take their time rather than cram and rush.

kyletm2003
kyletm2003

I have to Agree with Jaeme Whole Heartedly. I personaly have a laid back mannerism that does not mesh well with stress but thats beside the point. As Jaeme said "work is what you do to feed your family" and in my opinion nothing else unless your doing something you really enjoy. People are all to commonly working themselves into ruts and often times dont really have the option to do otherwise. I see many young people trying to tackle both work and fulltime schooling, leaving no time to themselves while on their never ending grind. My sister as an example moved out of the house as soon as she turned 17 because of a guy she met online. Since then she have been attending school for her goal of being a docter and has had to work like a dog to get her bills paid. She has no cash left for herself and takeing time to see friends is not to common. basicly she dosnt have any time to relax or have fun at all. Ive also noticed how tight things have become in the general work enviroment. Getting sick is unacceptable now and often times companies even require you to give notice of time off needed to recover from a cold or some such up to 3 days in advance... as if you knew you were going to be sick ahead of time. Having difficulty at work based on personal problems, be it mental or phycical, are met with indifferance and oftentimes plain ignorent behavior. I myslef have had many a problem with people at work because they just think im being lazy when in fact im actually really depressed ( I suffer from depression ). People dont seem to realize how important it is to rest and have fun. For me my body and mind come before work... for said reason i do not respond to overtime requests nor will i work for anyone in their place regardless of getting alittle more money at the end of the month. My health comes first and i make no compromise, if my work entales discomfort then i will endure it but i will not work anymore then i have to even at the request of somebody higher up. I dont have a cell phone and if i ever got one the only thing i would use it for is if sombody i know needs somthing from me or if i ever get a flat tire ill have a way to call for help. Id turn of my cell off at home and only accept and make calls on my home phone, messages be damned the office can wait... i dont give a **** about the upcoming meeting if you want to talk to me about work DO IT WHILE IM AT WORK!! And no i dont work weekends... nobody should work weekends. Doing homework from school at home is a joke, if i have homework i will stay on campus untill its finished and will not waste my precious freetime at home Working on homework. School is where i go to learn and home is where i live and rest and besides the point the only place i actually FEEL like doing school work is... at school so it works better that way. One thing people need to understand is that having to focus on somthing that they do not outright enjoy doing is very taxing. by the end of a four hour class your mind has no energy for anyhing else and the only way to recover from it is to sleep. I would go so far as to say that your mind needs atleast 30 mins of rest ( inactivity -just sitting around- ) for every hour you spend focusing on somthing. If you do not get enough rest your mind will suffer and (in Jaemes case especialy) it will then relay that to your body causeing all sorts of irreversable side effects just to get you to stop and rest. YES you heard me right your mind will intetionaly destroy your body for the good of your continued existance (be it a painful one). So PLEASE i ask you... take the time to make sure your well rested and your mind/body is happy before you go to work and dont take **** from your boss when you say your not going to work overtime... just tell him/her that youd rather live a healthy 90 then a crippled 70 (or whatever you want to say as long as it wont get you fired heh).

kilaan
kilaan

I personally work to live, not live to work.

Jaeme
Jaeme

This is an issue that I am outrageously qualified to have an opinion on. I was a chef for almost 20 years working hours from 14-20 hours per day, 6-7 days a week. There were times when I literally slept on the kitchen floor due to exhaustion and only having time for two hours sleep anyway, so every second counts. Then in 1999 my body literal disintegrated. My hands turn black and purple and swelled to the size of boxing gloves, my spine ceased to function properly, and I collapsed. I was hospitalized and now I am a permanent cripple. I worked to the point of near death and now have a Multiple Schlerosis type ailment that makes even writing this painful and difficult. I did all that work, suffer all this crap, and for what? No one got their meal any faster or hotter. No one was happier than if I had worked saner hours. I lost literally everything(there`s always more to a story) and it didn`t do anyone any good. People need to realize that work is what you do to feed your family, not instead of having one. Work is how you fund your life not a replacement for one. You can never have too much fun or too much time with those you love. You can work too much and have too much money. Your bank account will never be happy to see you come home and your boss can never compensate you for time away from your children, spouse, and health(not that they`d even try).

HighlyToxic
HighlyToxic

Overtime sucks. The more you work, the more taxes you have to pay until you end up not really making all that much extra. 1000 hours of OT is too much. Not worth the stress on the body.

Jedifett
Jedifett

Wise words. Problem is, there will always be some company that's willing to sacrifice its employees in order to work in a shorter time frame, for better or worse, and they'll get all the work because the guys with the money don't want happy families, they want games made fast. All the better if they can get 3000 hours out of a guy that they're only paying a 2000 hour salary to. I see the same nonsense in architecture. At some point it became "normal" to work twice as much without getting paid for it. Ridiculous, but it's never going to stop now that companies have realized that there are people stupid enough to do it. They'll just find those people, and fire the sane ones.

coollizy
coollizy

Finally! It's about time someone spoke up about this. Game development was never a particuarly enticing career path for me because 95% of the companies out there still treat their employees like crud.

rencie
rencie

I'm glad somebody is thinking of the developers.

komradandre
komradandre

Overtime should be voluntary, since it is over the time agreed that you work.

playa42018
playa42018

who cares about your families, just give me good games.

Mr_Bodywave
Mr_Bodywave

OVertime can be good or bad. if salary it is bad as you get nothing for it. If you are hourly you get time and a half. So if you were making say $50k and had 1000 hours overtime that would actually make your salary for that year about $87.5k That is substantial. 50% more time for 75% more pay.

LorenaLarue
LorenaLarue

Makes sense. You better be listening EA.

Beesond
Beesond

Yeah overtime blows, runs all your plans when your boss acts as if it is expected of you to do overtime when the company needs you.

LoneStranger
LoneStranger

The only thing great about overtime is if you get paid for overtime. Other than that, it sucks.

Bauholzwolf
Bauholzwolf

Don't let anyone from Valve read this!

Digital-Hero
Digital-Hero

Funny, there will always be a crunch time for most titles being released. Just because his team may have done it doesn't mean most will. I still see games being released with games have a crunch mode in the development.

bodylotion
bodylotion

Supreme Commander wasn't that good, right ? i don't know cause i don't own the game and i'm not a strategy freak.... And overtime just sucks it screws up your social life like nightshifts do :P

Takalth
Takalth

That's why I'm trying to get a job there (and unfortunately a major reason why I have so much competition). Overwork kills my creativity.

BounceDK
BounceDK

Overtime sucks .. The one thing I truly hate in life.

Fax_Modem
Fax_Modem

Maybe I should send this to my boss...

zintarr
zintarr

I think Chris Taylor is a dick. However, there is wisdom in his words for once.

playwrite
playwrite

this guy should talk to our my teachers

DroppedAtBirth
DroppedAtBirth

I don't develope game but I develope software/applications, wish my company would take his advise.

rugripper40
rugripper40

i hear you chris taylor but sometimes creativity comes in spirts and if you dont get it down when you think about it,your up all night thinking about it anyway...lol...which is the worse of the two evils??? ......overtime sucks but ive done my best work after hours....lol

einsp
einsp

Less over time means the games wont get done as fast and the developers will have more time to work on them and iron out the bugs and probably come up with better ideas then they planned on, which means better games in the long run, I love this idea.

GrrrrrSpot7
GrrrrrSpot7

[quote]although, the man is 60,000 dollars richer after a year's work.[/quote] So? They don't get paid anything extra for working overtime, and $60k is pretty crappy when you consider that there are easier ways to make the same salary. Then again, I agree that the conditions are terrible, but I don't really blame the developers. They get tons of job applications because people would rather work on video games.