Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Steffen Kabbelgaard
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Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Steffen Kabbelgaard » 10 Mar 2013, 21:09

Hi,

Some months ago, when our company (BetaDwarf) still remained in Karlslunde, I took some time to write down my thoughts on the matter of pursuing a game development career.

It might be a bit aggressive, but it felt better that way and I think it might be interesting to discuss, but if it's too "dark" i'm absolutely okay with removing it from the forum. My goal is not to frighten, but rather create awareness.

Have a read if you got some time :)
Link: http://baboonlord.com/?p=1

Ps - Thanks for an awesome party Jonaz ;)

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by jonaz.dk » 10 Mar 2013, 21:36

No prob! Nice to see you man! I remember our deal :)

Dark? Aggressive? what?
A bit of reality never hurts anyone.. unless you don't agree with reality of cause.

I see people now and then just not putting in the effort. With a whole lot of talking and less doing.

Let's put this in from the comments.

Sharpen your game boys and girls!

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Kasper » 11 Mar 2013, 00:25

That was a big mouthful but it was very inspiring. And I'll certainly dig into Valve's employee handbook - that should be an interesting read.
Up until now I have never really been sure what I wanted to do. I've taken education that sounded kind of interesting and so on, but I've come to realise that developing games is what I want to do. I don't care if it'll take one month or ten years to succeed, and I might not ever do that, but I will sure as hell try. And I'm probably a tad late to the game compared to others, but I'll use all my spare time if I have to.
And like you said it's important to be someone who knows something about everything and I intend to become that someone. It's not always preferable to be a Bowie knife - often it's better to be a Leatherman.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by jonaz.dk » 11 Mar 2013, 08:39

Oh by the way. In contrast with the video. I actually do recommend sleep.

On normal working days/weekends I force myself to bed and think I'm an idiot for if I sit up till later than 3 in the night.
Usually 1 or 2 is working for me.
You can go for shorter periods deal with little/no sleep. But eventually you will crash your own bodily system which will lead to all sorts of counter productive side effects.
I usually get sick. So I try to avoid that.
Naturally people are different and you have to find you own natural limitations and challenge them.

Another ABSOLUTE key factor is motivation.
I run really long on the mileage when I have that intrinsic motivation.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Code » 11 Mar 2013, 09:58

Nice read, interesting stuff :)
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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by LatestThought » 11 Mar 2013, 10:25

I think this part was the most interesting:
E.g. my own company BetaDwarf would count as small, as we are two founders and zero employees even though our crew includes 10 full time developers and 5+ part time. But we aren’t able to provide for those guys and the girl, i.e. they don’t count as employed.
Can you elaborate on that one? Are these 15 guys subcontractors or how do you pay them? (or where else does they get basic income from?)

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by fehaar » 11 Mar 2013, 11:47

Excellent post Steffen. I was actually expecting something more harsh given your warning. But I think it was honest and concise. What you say is equally true of any other business if you want to be successful. But very important stuff in the games business as the competition is razor sharp here. A great follow up to Tim and Laus post actually - and to Thomas' rant.

It is especially interesting given what seems to be the situation in the Danish games business right now. It seems to me (ie. I have not bothered to check back posts but rely on my near perfect memory) that during the last six months or so, there have been an uptake in the number of real paid jobs posted here in this forum - which means an uptake in available jobs in the Danish games industry. Not just from one company, but from several sources. We have been pretty active in here as well. That is real good news for everyone. But not good news if finding great people is damn hard. We have felt that as well in here. It is not easy getting people with the needed skills. And it is still very risky to hire the "maybes" just because you feel that you have to hire. It can actually cost you a lot more than it is worth. Being in the games business is not a charity case, and people need to be aware of that. Not nessecarily as a warning sign - but as an encouragement to do your very best to be the best at what you do to succeed - and know that this is what is required of you to be taken seriously in this business.

BTW I really like that fact that you focus on teamwork and communication as much, or even more, than being 1337 at your core expertise. It is much more important than many people think. In my experience the silent nerd that is hard to work with but extremely good at programming/rigging/animating/drawing is usable for only a very few and uncommon scenarios. So get out there and socialize. Get your work out there to get brutalized by your peers. Its the only way to improve.

Now. Back to work.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Steffen Kabbelgaard » 11 Mar 2013, 13:14

LatestThought wrote:I think this part was the most interesting:

"E.g. my own company BetaDwarf would count as small, as we are two founders and zero employees even though our crew includes 10 full time developers and 5+ part time. But we aren’t able to provide for those guys and the girl, i.e. they don’t count as employed."

Can you elaborate on that one? Are these 15 guys subcontractors or how do you pay them? (or where else does they get basic income from?)
Sure, most participate to boost their CV's, some are interns in longer periods, some pay from their own savings, a few get SU and the great talented contributors get revenue percentages from potential sales of FORCED. The only pay we can offer is meals now and then, as well as paying a few of the dwarf's rent or transportation. But we are obviously very transparent about that once people become interested in joining.

And thanks fehaar! Yes I think there are a lot more jobs now, but we also have aprox 4 universities pumping out 100+ wishful game career pursuers each year, so they are quite needed :) And I tend to agree a lot with Thomas on his danish industry concerns, It was also great when he brought up the issue at computerspilzonens årsmøde - raising a concern towards the fact that the danish universities has too much focus on - theory rather than craft. That ultimately leads to designer overflow or even profiles that aren't needed at all.
I would actually like to state, that we would not invite anyone to our team who only does design, that may sound harsh, but I think it's important to state, even though that may be different in other studios.

(Also thanks for reading my rant :)

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by LatestThought » 11 Mar 2013, 14:16

Sure, most participate to boost their CV's, some are interns in longer periods, some pay from their own savings, a few get SU and the great talented contributors get revenue percentages from potential sales of FORCED. The only pay we can offer is meals now and then, as well as paying a few of the dwarf's rent or transportation.
Yeah. Which - in my eyes - makes you a crap company. The main thing anyone should consider before entering this industry, isn't really the high technical/artistic demands, but whether they are willing to be treated like unpaid monkeys for years - or dwarfs as you put it. Your are very much to the point with that word, coining connotations and values.

Forestalling the we-are-small-start-up-whining, you should have done your funding job properly, or have started out a smaller scale project in the first place. In the scale you are doing it, it's simply way too far from okay, and there's no excuse.

The reason this industry is getting harder, or simply just crappier, is not because of the technical/artistic challenges, they been around forever - it is because of the freaking boost-their-CV'ism.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Steffen Kabbelgaard » 11 Mar 2013, 15:20

Hi "LatestThought"

Interesting view, would you mind presenting yourself, so one may know what perspective your latest thoughts come from?

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by LatestThought » 11 Mar 2013, 15:57

Random outsider from the art/design world. Been asked to do game stuff - always for free.

And yeah, the internship plague is thriving in a lot of fields. But the insane scale, in which you - and plenty others - do it (two founders + 15 monkeys), makes the games industry as such a rotten business, a loser's option.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Lau Korsgaard » 11 Mar 2013, 21:31

I think you LatestThought and Steffen is making the same point: The game industry, like professional sport, is a loser's option - most people walks away from that career path with broken hopes and lots of wasted "free" hours.

One could argue that Steffen, because of the way he runs his project, has an economic interest in painting this particular picture - on the other hand one could certainly also argue that many game development students and graduates in Denmark doesn't have the drive they need to "create their own career".

I have worked for free on many projects and I have asked many people to work for free on my projects and I'm proud of both. Nevertheless, I would strongly suggest people consider the following before they start working for free for somebody:

- Is it fun? (there are no reason to work for free if you doesn't have fun)
- Does it have an end date? (working without a clear agreement about when to stop can be awkward and fruitless)
- Is this the very best way you can spend your time on right now? (you are willing to work for free! many companies would like a person like you - or you could even make something really cool yourself!)
- Is there a clear agreement about credits, rev. share or paid job if success (it is important that both parts are on the same terms about the future)
- Will it cost me money? (it shouldn't)

If the intern has considered these questions and discussed them with the company/project lead then I see no moral problems in "exploiting" free work.

Lau
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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Steffen Kabbelgaard » 11 Mar 2013, 22:43

Great round up Lau,

And fine general questions to consider. Every project is different, every team is different - overall it's just about being transparent among one another. As long as relationships aren't build on assumptions, there shouldn't be a problem.

4/5 of our dwarfs who've been part of the project for 6+ months, now has paid jobs in the industry. Id say people who's been part of making FORCED, has increased their skills tremendously, and would even dare to say that no education could have offered that...

Most companies require 3+ years of experience, the question is, how exactly do you get that once you're done with your education...?

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by buchardt » 12 Mar 2013, 00:37

Hey Steffen,

Great read! I'm not totally in the same book and on the same pages. But generally you speak the truth! once in awhile I speak to groups of students, who'll soon be part of the sad statistic you mention. Until now I've focused on "practicality over theory", networking and "Choose your focus". These things goes some what hand in hand with your agenda. And I can easily see how I can sharpen my previous speeches by borrowing from your blog post.

I like your Athlete-Developer analogy, since it's easy to understand, but IMO it doesn't necessarily fit that well. The main reason the two careers can't be put side by side like that is because of the whole theory vs practicality. Let's say Tiger Woods father made his son spend all that precious time hitting golf balls year in and year out, and after 15 years of stubbornness he realizes that his son sucks at sports. Then those years of learning would be hard to apply any where else... If little Tiger Woods instead was send to a standard school, learning standard things, ending up nerding a computer science education at the local university, cause he likes LoL, CS, WoW and TF2. After those years in school he finds him self in an industry where he's not good enough, what to do? Well IMO with a degree on the sheets he should have an ok shot at getting into some other industry...
[that said, I still have a firm believe that being a talented, or maybe just semi-talented game developer, actually can help you on many other career paths]

To follow up on this, which might open discussion on its own, I'll pull in a quote from your blog post:
You have a huge disadvantage if you start asking these questions after your education, and yes! – the educations can to some degree be blamed for not giving you an accurate idea of what’s expected, making you focus 80%+ of your time on theory instead of learning how you actually do things (which is why a huge part of game students end up starting their “Real game education” after the university).
During my own time at university I wanted more practical work, mainly because I'm not much a theoretician. But just because a few industries calls for people with more practical experience, we can't go change one of the very fundamentals of our educational system. The universities represent research, academic approaches and theoretical discussions. I'm sure that some middle ground between the universities and the more practical oriented institutions can become, but I think that we should be careful blaming(sry Steffen, It sounds a bit like blame) the universities for maintaining what I'd refer to as: integrity

Any way, my 5 cents.

/ Peter Buchardt

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Christen » 19 Mar 2013, 20:17

Just an observation.

In this end of the forum you are stateing that there are poring people out of university's and it is/will be though to get a job in the gameing industry.

In the other end of the forum another person is complaining about not getting any applicants for a job add.

:roll:

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Code » 19 Mar 2013, 21:53

Christen wrote:Just an observation.

In this end of the forum you are stateing that there are poring people out of university's and it is/will be though to get a job in the gameing industry.

In the other end of the forum another person is complaining about not getting any applicants for a job add.

:roll:
He was looking for 3d artists.
Not all game developers are 3d artists :)
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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by vonknut » 19 Mar 2013, 23:34

For You, Steffen, to complain about "too many people want to work unpaid" is either:

A case of hypocriticy
or
A self aware and repenting confession of using them, because its possible...

I assume the second one.


But its basically just the same tendency, as other "trendy" creative fields have had, e.g. the still-photography, advertisement, moviebusiness and now the game industry. -people will work for free, to get in.

Is it a problem for the industy?
-well it sure open the door for some shady company ethics and also creates a bloated industry, which is too large for the actual need (think Danish movies and their revenue outside public funding ...).
On the other hand, it sure increases the potential competent workforce (if you are able to filter out the wannabees and find the "real passionate people").

I personally think it will find a reasonable level in a couple of years (when people realize the unemployment rate).
Until then, bring the good ones aboard for free, treat them right and teach them to be even better, while working on odd and "fun but unsafe" prototypes and projects.
-thats at least what we do...
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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Christen » 20 Mar 2013, 10:31

Code wrote: He was looking for 3d artists.
Not all game developers are 3d artists :)
Well I have seen the same problem is for almost every other production role (actually I thought 3d artists would be the easiest to get).

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by petervesti » 20 Mar 2013, 21:34

Thanks for taking the time to express your views about Danish game development.

Here's my 5 euro cents :)

So you're comparing game developers to professional athletes, but at the same time you're saying that people shouldn't focus on just one aspect (programming, animation, art, design etc) and that team work is really important. Not the strongest analogy eh?

A shame the articles speaks about 'game developers' as one big group and doesn't discuss the differences between the different disciplines. It might be hard to get a job in the games industry as a designer, but for programmers and animators it's definitely not (if you don't suck). Also for many job families it doesn't really matter at all if you're only good at one thing, it's fine. What really matter is if you're actually REALLY good at anything...or just mediocre at everything.

But I guess that's because a lot of the points you're making only apply to the Danish indie development scene. AAA development requirements are very different to what you're talking about and especially if we're talking about AAA developments abroad.
So unless you want your best case scenario to be a usability designer in a bank’s IT department, with a creative freedom equal to drinking four or five cups of coffee, you better start answering those questions.
Funny because it's true!
Let’s start with talent. I’m a true believer of talent being equal to number of efficiently focused work hours.
Do you want to redefine the meaning of the word talent or do you really mean skill? Talent can't be taught or gained. It refers to a natural or innate ability and that's just how it is as per the definition of the word. However I understand what you're saying.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by sbn » 21 Mar 2013, 02:51

petervesti wrote:
Let’s start with talent. I’m a true believer of talent being equal to number of efficiently focused work hours.
Do you want to redefine the meaning of the word talent or do you really mean skill? Talent can't be taught or gained. It refers to a natural or innate ability and that's just how it is as per the definition of the word. However I understand what you're saying.
Hmm, had to look that up. According to the main dictionaries - British and American - "talent" can mean simply "aptitude" and include learned skills. It's true that some use the word in its "exclusively innate" sense, but the common usage is, to my ears, shifting away from that. I don't really mind since that definition of the word sounds too suspiciously loaded with obsolete ideas and as a concept is more useful to discourage effort than encourage it. [Edit: Whoops, misread that. Oxford does indeed only qualify "natural aptitude". Sorry, my bad. ]

Anyway, I believe Steffen may be referencing this book and its concept of 10,000 hours.

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Code » 21 Mar 2013, 11:35

Christen wrote:
Code wrote: He was looking for 3d artists.
Not all game developers are 3d artists :)
Well I have seen the same problem is for almost every other production role (actually I thought 3d artists would be the easiest to get).
Odd.. I would have thought that there would be a lot of game developers around.. Guess I'm just hanging out with the right crowd then :P
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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Christen » 21 Mar 2013, 15:41

Code wrote: Odd.. I would have thought that there would be a lot of game developers around.. Guess I'm just hanging out with the right crowd then :P
delveopers = Game designers or programmers?

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Re: Personal thoughts on the industry - a bit aggressive

Unread post by Code » 21 Mar 2013, 16:04

Christen wrote:
Code wrote: Odd.. I would have thought that there would be a lot of game developers around.. Guess I'm just hanging out with the right crowd then :P
delveopers = Game designers or programmers?
I'd say both. At my education there's a lot of people interested in games (Medialogy @ Aalborg University) and even programmers from Datalogi have some people who I went to DADIU 2012 with that are interested in games. I guess you just have to get to people on the educations before they get a job :P
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