Realtime Worlds - paid overtime

I normally don’t try to link to every interesting industry story, there are better sites for this. However, I’m gonna make an exception, because it’s worth notifying. Scottish developer - Realtime Worlds (Crackdown) has just announced they’ll be offering paid overtime for its employees. While “no overtime” would probably be ideal, it’s still very commendable move in our industry. Publishing it here, to help spread the word, they surely deserve every bit of PR.

(PS. Please, spare comments regarding FRD, let’s not jinx it!)

Old comments

Paul Evans 2009-04-09 16:05:14

I just twittered that link, thanks! I wonder who else does things like that?

Gaylord Foureau 2009-04-14 21:55:39

Actually, Artificial Mind and Movement does it too.
They prefer to pay them as vacations but the interesting point is that they count your overtime.

ed 2009-04-15 18:15:33

Actually I don’t believe that paying for overtime is fair. Ideally people whould get paid for what they’re doing, not for how long they stay at work watching youtube :) However I guess lots of people whould be very unhappy with this system :) Also measurement of someones work whould be very difficult.

Wendy | Recruitment 2009-04-23 08:44:02

I have to disagree with ed, My other half works over time and does not sit around watching you tube for hours but in fact is working and he does not get paid. I think that in these cases over time should well in fact be paid when due.

ed 2009-04-24 21:12:42

It wasn’t my point ;) In ideal world he would get money for job done, not for sitting overhours. If one person get his job done in 5 days, sitting 24hrs/5days and the other person does the same job in 5 days sitting 8hrs/5days plus it’s job is done better. Who should get more money ?
If your “other half” is a very good worker and is working with some “youtube watcher”, they’re both probably sitting overhours because of that person, and they both will get the same money. Is this still fair ? :)
They both should get paid for what they do and how they do it. But that’s only in ideal world :)

Jacek Weso??owski 2009-04-26 10:36:11

There are too many factors that influence your work. You may get no work done in a certain period of time, because, say, there were power outages. Or because the problem was poorly defined. Or because the initial research proved there was no good solution, but only after you spent a week looking for it. What you should measure, as an employer, is not the the amount of work done, but the amount of effort put into it.
The main difference between having a business and having a job is that the former allows you to make more money, while the latter allows you to take less risks. Lazy coworker is my employer’s risk, not mine. I’ve got enough worries as a designer, I refuse double as someone’s policeman.
I prefer to look at employment as a kind of trade. My employer’s resource is money. My own resources are skills (which generally don’t get used up) and time (which is a limited resource, like money). The more skills I have, the more I earn per hour, because an hour of my time is more valuable. If I’m not using my skills fully (e.g. I spend time watching YouTube), then I should get fired, because I’m not keeping my side of the deal. If my employer doesn’t pay me, then they’re not keeping theirs. If they ask me to give them more of my limited resource (time), then they should exchange it for more of theirs (money).
The practice of “we don’t pay for crunches because the base salary is very high” is wrong, because under that scheme the only resources traded are money and skill. Hence the employer will still pay more or less generously for sklled labour, but will be inclined to ask for a lot of overtime, because from their point of view employee time costs nothing. And that’s just not true.
The point of paid overtime is not to make the employer pay more, because you will actually end up earning more or less the same amount, only it will be calculated differently. The point is to turn time into a resource.

therealremi 2009-04-26 14:38:49

The whole discussion whether overtime should be paid for or not is just bull**it ;) It’s sad that some gamedev companies can still pride themselves on paying for it. If e.g. Tesco’s cashiers were made to work overtime for free the unions and police would be all over Tesco’s ass.
Maybe this is not so obvious when the devs are at the same time co-owners of the company, but when we are talking about code monkeys without any stock options…
On a whole unrelated note - I haven’t met a programmer who could sit on an office chair for longer than 8 hours and maintain the same level of efficiency. So lots of overtime simply means that company’s money are being waisted…

Jacek Weso??owski 2009-04-26 17:29:56

Actually, the figure I keep being given from many programmers who don’t know each other is five hours. This is consistent with my own ability to keep focused on creative work (although I rarely write scripts or programs these days) for about five hours a day. I can devote the other three hours to other tasks, such as BSP construction, team communication or reference gathering, but whenever I try too hard to focus on inventing new stuff, it just makes my brain melt.
Incidentally, I’ve also spoken to a few professional translators, and the amount of work they typically get done in a day is more or less the same amount I can translate in five-six hours. Of course, they’re much better at what they’re doing, but they aren’t much faster. So, while I’ve never conducted anything remotely resemblant of proper research, it seems that the 6-hour figure holds accross various creative jobs.
The adverse effects of long work days are well known and documented. That’s why the demand for overtime bonus is not some “lazy communist whim”, but a struggle for more efficient (and thus more profitable) business environment. It is indeed sad that we’re having this discussion at all, but then again, it’s been only four years or so since the ea_spouse affair. There were at least three similar controversies in the last six months: one involving EA, one related to Epic, and one featuring Ubisoft Montreal. These are major labels here. Who’s going to take Quality of Life issues seriously if they don’t?

admin 2009-04-26 18:09:57

Epic is an interesting case, because while they’re do not exactly pay for overtime, the word on the street is - they’re very generous with project bonuses. Problem with this “solution” it still is a kind of carrot on the stick, if project bombs - no cigar. With their current track record it’s unlikely, but still, what they’re effectively doing is a kind of “debt”, using people’s time giving only promise of future rewards. Sad thing is, it’s still better than 90% of companies out there, where you can work your ass off and no one will even thank you when all is done.

Jacek Weso??owski 2009-04-26 18:45:53

Epic is a special case in many ways. They have been consistently succesful. Their team works very well, internally. They are united by a common vision. Their bonus system essentially turns employees into stakeholders in a way that encourages consistent, long-term input rather than sudden surges of heroism.
However, as one of their employees (I work at PCF, but there’s Mike’s own signature on my contract), I believe they’ve achieved their well deserved success in spite of crunching, not because of it. That’s where me and Mike disagree. He never actually said crunch is good. He only said you can’t make a good game without it. I believe to the countrary - crunching leads to you not making as good a game as you could.
The recent controversy with Epic is not so much “Epic treats their people poorly”, because that’s not true. They give you a fair deal that just happens to involve crunching. You can take it or leave it, especially in the US, where you have more than three studios to choose from. The real issue is how Capps handled that IGDA conference, and how Fergusson repeated some of their points at GDC. Capps was just trying to be charming, and Fergusson was simply honest. But to a lot of stupid management people, and a lot of concerned grunts like us, it was just as if they had just said “hey, everybody, it’s all right to crunch, crunch is good, let’s crunch a bit and then some more!”.
What people refuse to see is that they really said “crunch works for Epic”. I don’t think it actually does, but they have reasons to believe so, because their “corporate culture” as a whole does work for them (due to many things other than crunch). The real message was “crunch is all right if you’re as good as Epic”, but what everybody heard was just “crunch is all right”. And that’s a huge issue, because next time your manager asks you for overtime, they won’t give you a generous bonus, they won’t make sure the team spirit is as good as Epic’s, but they will tell you crunching is good because Mike Capps said so.

admin 2009-04-26 21:34:14

I definitelly agree with you that it is possible to create AAA title without crunching (too much :). Halo 3 is one example. There has been crazy crunch when making H2, but they learnt their lessons and it has been reduced significantly for H3.
Going back to paid overtime. It never should be done so that whenever you want to work longer - you get paid, it doesn’t make sense and may have an adverse effect (people watching youtube, as Ed wrote). It should be a matter of last resort, where you ask people to work longer, achieve clearly defined goals but also pay for it. One very important (if not the most important) aspect here is that in such case company will actively try to minimise overtime because it costs them money. Right now, if it’s virtually free – there’s no real incentive to even try to schedule properly. After all, it’s no big deal, you can always ask people to work on Sunday, right? Paid overtime “fixes” this in many ways. I agree, it may be not perfect, but it’s a step in right direction.

Jacek Weso??owski 2009-04-26 23:18:30

That’s exactly what I meant when I said paid overtime turns time into a resource. It’s like buying a new PC. Give yourself a cost constraint, and suddenly it doesn’t feel like a case mod is necessary anymore.
As for your reservations, there’s this funny clause in every reasonable employment contract. It says you’re not allowed to take overtime without your employer’s written permission. It solves two opposite problems: a) you can’t scam your employer for undue overtime bonus, b) the employer can’t pretend there was no overtime at all.

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