'Peopleware' notes

As lead gameplay programmer, my ‘main’ responsibility is still coding (thanks God), but in the meantime I pretend to do some managing as well. I dont really feel as comfortable here as with programming, so during Xmas holiday I’ve been reading “Peopleware”, very interesting. Two most striking issues I found so far are:

  • crunch (of course) - authors write about obvious problems with productivity and morale, but they also notice a very important thing that’s not mentioned - crunch tends to have a negative effect on team spirit in the long term. Even if someone really cant crunch (given example of single father), after some months of heavy work people will start to think ‘why do I have to work, while Jim’s at home’. This may have truly destructive effects on the team as a whole. It works against all the hard work made in order to integrate employees.

  • work environment. There are results of many studies proving again and again that programmers are most effective in quiet, separated offices, where they can work without interruptions. It’s all good, but doesnt really work with another theory saying that closed offices create communication problems. Recent Gamasutra article claims that it’s best to put everyone in ‘giant warehouse’ (a’la Ubisoft Montreal), this is exact opposite of Peopleware example. Who’s right here? There’s a clear contradiction between the need of programmers to concentrate (closed, quiet offices) and providing an easy way for the team to communicate (open space). Basing on my own experience, I’d say that second solution from their article (a’la EA Los Angeles) seems more viable. They have cubicles (meh, let’s substitute this with offices), but create ad-hoc “rooms of pain” with engineers and artists working on the same functionality. Those rooms run for 1-2 weeks, just to finish/polish certain feature. It sounds like the best of two worlds. (What’s interesting authors claim they’d still go with open space if possible. I’ve spent years in open space, there’s no way I’d like to go back).

Random link of the day: Starbreeze Business Analysis (+ random trivia: Starbreeze’s CTO is Vogue of Triton, one of the best PC demoscene coders, author of Fast Tracker & Crystal Dreams 2).