This shit is terrifying. It can give you a look into the inner-issues SOE had, and maybe still has. To be taken with some salt, obviously.[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Especially damning, if true, was this:
“Get out as soon as you get on a development team. ”
Current Employee - Senior Game Designer in San Diego, CA
I have been working at Sony Online Entertainment full-time (more than 8 years)
- Good place to get your start in the industry.
Promotions from QA & CS are common. If you bump into Smedley (current CEO) in the street and say something that amuses him, he may also hire you without any previous game/development/tech experience.
- Impossible to get fired.
It doesn't matter if you don't actually do anything, you can keep your job indefinitely, especially if you're a programmer. See: Cons
- There are several brewery tasting rooms nearby.
They're within walking distance so you can drown your sorrows before, during, or after work.
- Complete incompetence of management.
The people steering the ship have no idea what they're doing. Nobody in charge has made a successful game this century. They also refuse to listen to the few experienced individuals who they have managed to hire.
- Inexperienced staff.
Since there is such a prevalence of individuals that have been promoted out of QA/CS/the street, the vast majority of people have only ever worked in game development at SOE. In several areas (particularly production) it's a case of the blind leading the blind. Nobody receives the training necessary to KNOW how to do their job properly.
- Low turnover.
The ratio of useful employees to useless ones skews heavily toward the latter. In addition to being plagued with inexperienced staff, most development teams have staff that either doesn't actually work, or are just straight up bad at their job. There is no personal responsibility or discipline taken against employees who continually fail to deliver. Bad employees are never let go as Smedley (and therefor all of upper management) sees the company not as a business, but as a family. Having a family is great, but this one is full of siblings you wish you could disown.
- Too much value placed on programmers.
In reality, they're the easiest to replace as most positions in this discipline can be recruited from outside the games industry. In every round of layoffs that the company has had, the programming department is always the least affected (often not at all affected), leading to an abundance of programmers who have no reason to fear losing their jobs and continue to underperform.
- Unclear pipelines & muddy communication.
The flow of information between disciplines is terrible. This is mostly due to inexperienced production staff, but is also affected by middle management never having been exposed to a functional work environment.
- Poor games.
It should go without saying, but all of the above is what contributes to the overall fact that the quality of games being created by SOE is terrible. The budgets are AAA, but the results are worse than most dedicated hobbyists could pull off. The structure that supports SOE allows it to create MMOs, which is the only thing that makes this company unique. This genre is dying and in need of some large changes to revitalize it, unfortunately I don't think the current incarnation of SOE is capable of doing that.
Advice to Management
- Complete any projects that have direction and achievable goals with positive outlook
- Planetside on PS4
- DCUO expansion
- EQ & EQ2 expansions
- Cancel everything else
- EQ Next
- Remove C-level staff
- Remove Franchise Directors
- Lay off vast majority of programming staff
- Ask senior programmers who is worth keeping
- Ask remaining programmers, artists, designers and producers who actually WANTS to stay
- The number is so low it may shock you
- Change the name of the company
- Recruit competent C-level employees
- Restaff back up to 25% or less of the original headcount
- Being far more selective and only hiring quality employees
- During this restructuring time period, use the talent on hand to enter preproduction
- A hand full of small (MMO/non-MMO & mobile) titles
- Evaluate all projects and only enter production on few
- Ensure reasonable scope, given this simple formula
- cost = time * headcount Doesn't Recommend
Disapproves of CEO