Firestoppers: Lay-Offs At Firaxis

By Alec Meer on July 8th, 2010 at 10:03 pm.

Oh, boo. Boo. Around 20 people have lost their jobs at Civilization developer Firaxis, reports the K-monster. Apparently those going include members of the quality assurance team, the user interface art team, animators, programmers and designers.

Boo.

Sez 2K PR overloard Markus Wilding, “I can confirm that Firaxis has realigned its development resources in order to streamline its development process, reduce costs and maximize the overall performance the studio.This will result in the elimination of approximately 20 positions. These reductions will not impact Firaxis’ ability to create and deliver AAA titles, including its forthcoming Sid Meier’s Civilization V and Sid Meier’s Civilization Network for Facebook.”

With Civ V so close to release (September, hex fans – and I’m very slowly downloading a preview build onto my PC at the moment. Embargo-free pre-thoughts on that sometime in August, I believe) this just seems cruel and strange. The big money’s about to roll in within weeks – why make cuts now?

Sid Meier is keeping his job though, lest ye wondered.

Sad hugs and firm, manly handshakes to all those affected by these redundancies. May you find proud, exciting new roles on proud, exciting new games as soon as possible.

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144 Comments »

  1. scoopsy says:

    I’m still a bit aghast at this. Was Civ: Revolution a flop, or were they hemorrhaging money? Firaxis is one of the few companies that, if they had a big fat “Paypal Donate” button on their website, I’d have clicked it.

    But it’s hard to see how they could have ended up in this boat. I hope everyone lands on their feet.

    • mejobloggs says:

      They must have made large sums on the Civ4 steam sale. Sure it was only $10 or whatever, but at that price people even bought it if they already had it, raking in millions :p

    • mejobloggs says:

      Hm I was meant to be agreeing to your “But it’s hard to see how they could have ended up in this boat” statment, by saying they just recently got a truckload of money(maybe) but didn’t really make it clear.

  2. mejobloggs says:

    Sucks :(

    Maybe they thought since most of the hard work is done they’d save some money by booting them out and leaving the rest to polish off

    If this affect the quality of Civ V…… *rage*

  3. Levictus says:

    “I can confirm that Firaxis has realigned its development resources in order to streamline its development process, reduce costs and maximize the overall performance the studio.”

    I hate corporate speak like that. It’s just so shallow and fake.

    I really don’t understand the reason for this. Does Civilization not sell well? Or are they just trying to make an extra buck before the release of Civ 5?

    • bob_d says:

      They’re owned by 2K, so it probably has more to do with how 2K is doing… I wonder if 2K is having money issues, or just decided that they needed to increase profits this quarter…

    • Alexander Norris says:

      This is 100% normal and par for the course. Civ5 is nearly done, so they’re firing the people they don’t need anymore instead of keeping them around and paying them to do nothing.

    • jalf says:

      I hate corporate speak like that. It’s just so shallow and fake.

      I love how it basically seems to imply that the 20 people who are getting laid off had no value whatsoever. That firing them makes zero difference to the company.

    • Mojo says:

      There is no emptier and soulless language than corporate douchbaggery.

    • Teachable Moment says:

      It also means “we have nothing else in the pipeline that these folks can be working on”.

      In other words, “we have failed”.

    • Tei says:

      I have tried to talk to corporates in some ocassions, with this effect:
      – His words (marketing lingo) mean nothing to me.
      – My words (tecnical problems) mean nothing to him.

      Total and absolute fail of the concept of “communication”. The whole idea that humans can communicate with words got destroyed. And this has been more than one event.

      And after a problem:
      – Him talking about blame, accountability, causes (the past, who)
      – I talking about solutions, software models, enhancementes (the future, what)

      Not only communication fail, and the whole concept that words can help humans talk to each other fail, but is a really nasty example that there are people living in total diffferent universes here, on this one.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      It’s actually pretty honest. They are saying they are firing them to win even more money!

  4. Duoae says:

    With Civ V so close to release this just seems cruel and strange. The big money’s about to roll in within weeks – why make cuts now?

    My bet is on them thinking that they’re not going to make much money with this. I think they aren’t confident in the game due to a) changing too much and b) tying it to steam.

    But then i’m a conspiracy nut :p

    • Jason Moyer says:

      2K could release one of Sid Meier’s turds in a baggy with a sticker saying “Civilization V” on it and it would outsell almost any PC game on the market, so I doubt that’s a huge worry.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Also, it’s quite possible “the big money” was already given to them by the publisher, since we don’t really know the details of their financial/contractual situations. It’s quite possible the only people who stand to gain financially based on the performance of the game at retail are the suits at 2K.

  5. Jason Moyer says:

    Why do the people who do things always lose their jobs, while the people who get paid to say things like “realigned its development resources in order to streamline its development process” continue to get overpaid? That doesn’t seem like an efficient way to run a company.

  6. Tyler says:

    People are expensive. Paying people to do nothing because their game is 95% done is stupid. No big lift is coming down the pike anytime soon, so Firaxis is doing what any well managed company would do: dropping dead weight.

    • colinmarc says:

      After crunch time, sure. But during?

    • Torgen says:

      Yup, cutting the QA team two months before release of the most important game you’ve worked on in years makes *perfect* sense!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Crunch time may be over, and they’re holding it to release at a more strategic time in the calendar cycle. Like when people aren’t busy outdoors, and the college dorms fill up again. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Either that, or 2K is in serious trouble and needs a quick boost at the expense of a niche product.

    • Baka says:

      What would a new Civ be without a load of bugs and localization errors?

    • stevehatesyou says:

      If they’re two months from release, then the game is done and the dev team is probably working on the post-release patch.

    • Nick says:

      Civ may be a lot of things, but niche product it isn’t.

  7. Phasmatis says:

    According to the blurb on the Civ4 steam page, it sold over 6 million units so I can’t imagine it didn’t make them enough money.

    Seems strange to lay off people this close to a release.

  8. pipman300 says:

    kill all corporate suits

  9. colinmarc says:

    Maybe they actually had too many employees? Yeesh.

  10. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Maybe this people weren’t doing their job properly, or have expired their usefulness. Hiring on a project basis is not an exclusive of the gaming industry. Paying salaries to extraneous resources isn’t how a business is run.

    • colinmarc says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but they wouldn’t be layoffs then?

    • tekDragon says:

      Sometimes layoffs are more simple, even when the real issue is performance.

      It’s quite possible that all those people sucked. Who the hell knows.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I don’t know how big the Civ team is, but if 20 of them sucked, then the first person getting the boot should be Head of HR.

      Actually thats a stupid statement: the first person getting the boot should always be the Head of HR.

  11. MrTambourineMan says:

    Fuckin’ capitalist sluts!

  12. Vinraith says:

    I’m deeply suspicious of any company that, shortly before a major release, starts dumping the very people that create and maintain a quality game in the first place. Dumping QA people 2 months before release? The Steam thing had already rendered this a “wait for a sale” title, but now I’d be hesitant to pick it up at release even if it were DRM-free.

    • LewieP says:

      I was a bit surprised that they went with Steamworks.

      I love Steam, so I’m fine with it, but I am sure some of their customers will resent it. Civ4 was available DRM free right?

    • Vinraith says:

      @LewieP

      The retail version had a disc check, though that’s subsequently been removed.

    • Warduke says:

      “I’m deeply suspicious of any company that, shortly before a major release, starts dumping the very people that create and maintain a quality game in the first place.”

      But it worked so well with C&C4….

    • jeremypeel says:

      What happened with C&C4 Warduke? I’m genuinely oblivious.

      The thought of strategy game dev team layoffs is making me recall the end of Ensemble, with all those sad Halo Wars preview videos taking place in a pretty empty office with a skeleton team. Clearly this is nothing like what’s happened at Firaxis in terms of scale. I just feel sad in a similar way.

    • b0rsuk says:

      In consumer world, this is dealt by spreading opinion, opinion aggregating websites etc. They exist for *physical items* and their manufacturers. Has anyone tried doing the same for software companies ? What was the outcome – legal threats to hell ?

    • Centy says:

      It’s exactly that kind of idiotic statement that is giving PC gamers the image of being big cry babies. Seriously of all the DRM they could have went with they picked what I’m sure most of us can honestly agree is the least awful. Sure the offline mode is still a bit flaky but the possibilities for future mods and such not to mention up to date all the time and all the other benefits of steam should outweigh the fact it’s tied to it.

      I can understand when people moan about GFWL and Ubisoft DRM because I totally avoid them aswell but Steam come on seems some people just like to moan to hear the sound of their own voice.

    • Ozzie says:

      >But it worked so well with C&C4….

      It also “worked” with Pandemic and Saboteur.
      In other words, this seems to be a rather common practice. It’s one I find dishonest, though. Why not hire these people only for a project, then? Then they know where they’re at.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Completely agree with Centy. Steam is completely reasonable.

  13. Patrick says:

    While I hate to hear about people loosing their jobs, especially in the current economy, isn’t this pretty normal? From what I remember it seems pretty common that as games are getting their final polish the people response for earlier parts of the project (and no longer needed) are let go. Can anyone comment as to whether this is an exception or just a normal part of the business?

    Hopefully the people leg go will land on their feet. Also hopefully nothing bigger is wrong at Firaxis.

    • bob_d says:

      In this case it sounds like they made cuts across all positions, which sounds more like 2K said, “cut X% of your operating costs.”
      Sudden lay-offs before a game ships aren’t uncommon for new companies; often money runs out about then as development takes longer than expected (as it almost always does). Big companies like EA will lay off tons of people just before releasing quarterly statements so they can say they reduced costs that quarter (they then immediately hire a bunch of new people to fill the vacancies, as they really did need those workers). Also companies sometimes will hire people for what they tell them will be long-term positions, but then lay them off when they’re no longer needed for the current project.

  14. RQH says:

    Part of the problem is that temporary employment laws in the states place a limit on how long a contract or temporary employee can work for one company before they need to stop or be hired on full-time. It’s meant to be a protection of employees, ensuring that if they really are regular full-time workers they receive the compensation and benefits of regular full-time workers. Most games take longer to make than this time period (which I think is either one or two years, not 100% sure on this) So what ends up happening is people get hired full-time and then let go once the dev cycle winds down. Because even if the next project is lined up, a lot of jobs simply aren’t needed until later in development. Jobs like QA and interface art, interestingly enough. The only other option is to be in a situation where you have a bunch of temps whose contracts expire before their work on the project is done and you need to find new temps (who you need to train and familiarize with your project afresh). And no, I don’t work for or know anyone who works for Firaxis, so I can’t be sure that’s the case here, but it certainly seems plausible. It’s always a shame when people lose their jobs.

    • RQH says:

      @RQH: No, wait, I lie: there is another option, radical as it is. To do the humane thing and keep people on even when they aren’t 100% needed, cutting into your profit margins a bit, but engendering loyalty and good morale among your employees, knowing that you will need those good employees later. I suppose it’s not possible in all cases, but I wouldn’t trust a suit with a six-figure paycheck to be the judge of that.

    • battles_atlas says:

      THATS NOT HOW THIS WORKS. GET BACK IN YOUR CUBICLE.

    • jeremypeel says:

      “Because even if the next project is lined up, a lot of jobs simply aren’t needed until later in development. Jobs like QA and interface art, interestingly enough.”

      I have an image of the first six months of development at Firaxis, with QA repeatedly sending back memos to the main dev team along the lines of, “Yep, we can assure you this is all pretty low quality on all fronts guys. Spending most of our time crashing to desktop here,” whilst being thoroughly ignored.

    • D says:

      It would be a mistake to ignore QA in the early parts of any type of project. Also, early project simplicity does not result in more bugs or ctds, just more important ones.

    • Tei says:

      “Also, early project simplicity does not result in more bugs or ctds, just more important ones.”

      I can add that bugs are cheap to fix early, but got progressivelly more expensive. A bug in the first phases as a cost near to zero, but is a fortune later on.
      The reason is that a bug later on may mean rewriting code, recreating artwork (and rewriting is undoing work, and the new written code can have his own share of bugs, so to fix 1 bug, you are adding 5 new ones).

    • ChaK_ says:

      oh tei, you played bad company 2 too?

    • Tei says:

      I stoped playing after unlocking all the weapons. My problem with BC2 is Desert Combat nostalgia, or something like that. I am a decent tank driver (??)(I want to say I am very good, but I have see youtube videos of people sniping jets with tanks, and thats godlike compared to me), but not soo much a infantry dude. With a tank, I practically never die, and I kill a lot. Probably BC2 has really good maps, but not the ones my tank want. I remenber in Desert Combat, taking the wrong route to a flag, getting lost, and stoping in a no-lands-man house, hidding the tank on the porch of the house. Entering the house, looking at the giganteous map, and backstabbing a enemy sniper there. Life can’t get much better than that, more like goes downhill, and BC2 is downhill (for me).

      Me, tank driver, currently playing APB.

  15. LewieP says:

    It is indeed a shame when things like this happen.

    I hope the games stay great, and having Firaxis on your CV is a good thing.

  16. James G says:

    Saw screenshot and thought ‘Yay! Civ5 news’ then saw headline and thought Bugger.

    Really should have picked up Civ4 complete in Steam sale

  17. Ginger Yellow says:

    The QA layoffs are pretty troubling. I could understand laying off art people if they’ve already finished unit animations, say (although obviously I feel bad for them). But you can never have enough QA (and I seem to recall Civ IV had pretty major graphics card compatibility issues at launch).

    “I’m still a bit aghast at this. Was Civ: Revolution a flop, or were they hemorrhaging money”

    Civ Rev did fine, but they’ve made a few games since Civ IV that probably didn’t, like Colonisation and CivCity Rome.

    • oceanclub says:

      CivCity Rome was a bit meh and frustrating. I’m waiting for the 5-star Roman city builder game to be released (got Grand Ages Rome Gold in the Steam sale – still got average reviews but I’m hoping it’s better than CCR).

      P.

  18. Gritz says:

    2K fires 20 people working on Civ 5 but the entire XCOM staff still gets a paycheck.

    There is no justice.

  19. lemmy101 says:

    Oh CHRIST if Firaxis go I’ll just have to give up on the commercial games industry altogether. :(

  20. bildo says:

    I’d love to see a business run by RPS commentors. If there is no work to be done, you get rid of those people who aren’t doing work. Why in the world would they need people to do nothing? lay em’ off unless you can find a way for them to be productive again.

    • Gritz says:

      Civ 4 had two expansions and needed dozens of patches. Firing programmers and QA staff seems particularly boneheaded.

    • Wilson says:

      @bildo – The statement doesn’t actually say whether or not there was anything for them to do. Either they couldn’t afford them, they didn’t need them, or they wanted to spend less money for some other reason. There are probably other reasons too. We just don’t know really.

      But yeah, unless they hired loads of people just to make Civ 5 and were always planning to cut down the size of the team after they got near to finishing it, this does seem odd.

    • bob_d says:

      Given how game industry employees get misused, I have problems with that statement. Non-contract employment is understood to be across multiple projects, not “until we don’t need you on this one.” If the company has been making games for a while, they should know when people are needed and when they aren’t, and they either need to figure out how to keep people busy or hire on a contract basis. Anything else is dishonest.
      There can be very good reasons to have people who aren’t completely needed at that moment, though. Traditionally horrible crunch time was made up for by the knowledge that there would be a lull at the end of the project or beginning of the next one.
      There also can be some completely corrupt reasons for letting go groups of people just before the game ships. I know of people who were hired for below average salaries but promised bonuses when the game was released – only to be laid off (with a bunch of other developers) just before the game shipped to “cut costs” (like the cost of the promised bonuses). EA traditionally likes to lay people off to show that they’ve “cut costs” each quarter then rehire for those positions (sometimes the same people, who had to deal with being unemployed in the meantime). It’s purely a numbers trick and does nothing to reduce their costs. The last company I worked for hired a whole development team to do some clean-up work on someone else’s game. In the world of game development, that can be very bad for one’s career, as it doesn’t count as a “shipped game”; it’s about the same as being unemployed, for the purposes of finding a job. We all agreed to take the job because we were promised that when we were done, we’d get to work on a new game. Of course, the minute we were done with the first project, the whole dev team was laid off. In that situation, like these other examples, people wouldn’t have agreed to the conditions had they known what was actually intended.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I’d love to see a society run by Bildos. Oh, wait-

  21. Xercies says:

    Umm you do realise all you people saying “If the people don’t be needed let them go” are missing one big fundamental flaw. A game company like fireaxis doesn’t produce just one game so basically those QA people could be needed in the future for another type of game…also any patches or stuff in the future of this game. it would cost more money to train new people for these jobs. or they are not hiring and this is a little warning of what may happen to Fireaxis.

    I could be totally blowing it out of proportion though.

    • battles_atlas says:

      My current fav story about the ideology destroying us all is Lord Browne aka the ‘Sun King’. Former head of BP, since made a Lord and now leading a government report on university tuition fees. Highly respected in both business and government to this day. This man is a feted because during his time at BP he introduced huge ‘efficencies’ that greatly reduced costs.

      Another thing that has happened over the past five years at BP is that cost-cutting in safety and maintence has killed at least 26 people and resulted in at least two environmental disasters, and wiped out BP’s share price.

      There is no link between these events, because efficiencies are Good.

      Incidentally, he also got caught lying in the High Court, though apparently perjury doesn’t apply to people like the Sun King.

      This is the man who gets to tell government how much debt the next generation of students should carry.

  22. Ripbeefbone says:

    You’d think they’d wait until the game was done to fire the quality and assurance guys, maybe even wait until it’s been out a while and people run into bugs if they wanted to be real bold.

  23. Dozer says:

    For all we know, they fired the Head of Quality Assurance’s chauffeur and chief teaboy, and also 18 programmers/artists etc. Without more information, you can’t really claim they’ve destroyed their QA just before release…

    But that corporatespeak – that was something straight out of The Dilbert Principle. “Realigning our core processes to match our strategic vision of Civ for Facebook” to paraphrase – makes me shiver to hear it. Or maybe that’s just because I’ve left the windows open all day and it’s not quite so baking hot anymore.

    I’ve learned to avoid the Civ games now. They’re perfect ‘just one more turn’ games which can glue me to a chair for thirteen hours at a stretch – which just isn’t healthy! Also, from what I remember it was a sort of ‘steamroll everyone or be steamrolled’ dynamic where your options were impotent frustration or micromanaging boredom.

    • Torgen says:

      You obviously have no idea about how computer game development works, especially QA. QA is the lowest of the low rungs, career-wise, and you do everything you can to get out of it, either by promotion, or getting a shot at programming/development.

  24. Jimbo says:

    I hope they ship it and one of the hexes has too many sides. It would serve them right.

  25. Nikolaj says:

    Sid Meier’s Civilization Network for Facebook is an AAA title? It sure doesn’t sound like one.

  26. pipman300 says:

    they could of fired sid and sent his family a dead squirrel as a parting gift, what about that?

  27. FilthyPalpatine says:

    Nice to see an asshat who went to school for 8 years to spew BS and delegate every piece of work that crosses their desk is still employed while actual employees who probably couldn’t combine salaries to match his get laid off.

    Good old corporate America big game publisher. Whatever would we do without you to convince consistently outstanding developers to code more FPS / RPG hybrids and pillage more beloved IPs, through layoffs.

    Thank you take 2.

  28. pipman300 says:

    firaxis a 5 star restaurant and take2 is the old feces covered toilet in the back that doesn’t even work it overflows and gets all it’s shit everywhere so you’re getting your delicious hexagon shaped steak and loving it but you know eventually you’re going to have to use the take2 toilet and that’s why you’re not wearing your good shoes

  29. TheHumanBlur says:

    While it would be nice is all the people had all the jobs all the time with all the money, its just not a feasible state of affairs. Ive said it before here on RPS: people tend to lose sight of the fact that these people who trade us games for shiny cash are running a business and we are going through a period in our history where businesses are struggling. There Is very likely nothing sinister behind this whatsoever. Equally all the ‘corporation ate my wife’ comments are stinking this place out with their sweet, sweet irony.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Businesses are always struggling – thats the point of capitalism silly. Cut staff in good years, cut staff in bad years. This is called Efficiency. Increase boardroom pay in good years, increase boardroom pay in bad years. This is called Reward. Congrats on regurgitating the offical line so well though.

    • TheHumanBlur says:

      Yes. This official line otherwise known as reality.
      This is sad but its not really news.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      It’s also wrong and not quite as necessary as some people may believe.

    • jalf says:

      Uh, so when did Firaxis *last* lay off staff?

      I really don’t get the rage here.
      One thing you guys might lose sight of is that jobs generally aren’t for life. It’s kind of a big deal for *everyone* that companies are able to fire some of their employees when they need to. That means the company survives, so the rest of them have a job. It means the company might grow so they can hire new staff. And it means those who were fired can go use their talents elsewhere.

      It’s kind of the difference between “employment” and a caste system. You’re not born a programmer, and you don’t necessarily get to stay a programmer at the same company throughout your entire life.

      No, I’m not saying it is good and wonderful when companies fire people. I’m just saying that the mechanism is, at its core, deeply necessary.

      A few countries have so strict rules on this that firing people is basically not an option: employing someone is like marriage, it’s for life. And that just doesn’t work very well. That just means they won’t risk *hiring* people in the first place. And that makes it even harder to get a job when you *do* get fired.
      How is that a good thing?

      But really, let’s do a little reality check here:
      1: this is the first time since Firaxis was founded that I’ve heard of them firing people. It’s not something they do after every project or every year.
      2: they’re not specifically firing Q&A people as some of you have blindly assumed. The articles just mentions Q&A *as well as* virtually everything else: programmers, animators, artists and designers.
      3: none of you have mentioned how many people are emplyed by Firaxis. I think it makes a bit of a difference whether they’re 30 or 300 left.
      4: we’re not exactly in an economic boom. Firaxis isn’t the first, nor will they be the last, company to layoff staff.
      5: none of us actually seem to know how Firaxis is doing financially. What if they can’t actually afford to keep all these people on board?

      Wow, the AIM’s are out in force today. Take a deep breath. Surely you can find something more meaningful to rage at. How about those companies which *do* fire people every year? How about those companies whose products actually suffer from it?

      Seriously, a game developer who can write Firaxis on his CV isn’t exactly going to stay unemployed for the rest of his life. He’s not going to be found sweeping the streets.

    • jalf says:

      @battles_atlas: soooo, Firaxis is doing that, then?
      Laying off staff in good and bad years?

      When did they last do it?

    • jalf says:

      Woo yay, first time I screw up the comments system. That second post was supposed to go… somewhere else, obviously!

  30. Jad says:

    @RQH

    And then you get gobbled up by a company like Activision who fires everyone, gives your IP to some cut-rate developer, and runs the franchise into the ground.

    I agree that this action is sad, and the corporatespeak above is appalling, but do you guys realize that 2K is making a big-budget PC-only turn-based strategy game here? To pitch making such a game at any other publisher would be career suicide. Look at 2K’s other turn-based IP: X-Com is now XCOM, the FPS. Luckily Civ has a “Sid Meier” above the title and a pedigree, so it will sell and make money, despite being a genre that every other publisher considers a waste of money.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Sid Meier must have negotiated a good long term deal when he created Firaxis – he left Microprose, a massive enterprise of his own founding, in order to get back to good ol’ development. So I doubt entering into a deal where he might end up making FPSes against his will was ever on the cards.

      Having said that, you never know – Infinity Ward spent the last few years looking forward to creating their own new IP with lovely, lovely creative freedom and we all know how that turned out.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Every other publisher? Strategy games still command a decent market and make decent profits, as far as I can tell.

      Paradox interactive only ever makes strategy games, and quite hard-core ones at that. Stardock releases strategy games quite frequently and loads of indie strategy games turn up all the time.

  31. Kast says:

    “These reductions will not impact Firaxis’ ability to create and deliver AAA titles” – Well that’s either a blatant lie or an admission that the people they’ve just gotten rid of didn’t contribute anything which is highly unlikely.

    Look, yes it’s a shame they’ve had to be fired (I hate the passive-aggressive euphemism ‘let go’) and we know such cuts are to be expected even in the best economic climates but please, Firaxis, don’t bullshit us. You cannot reduce the resources allocated to a project without adversely impacting the quality and/or quantity of the finished product or service.

  32. tomwaitsfornoman says:

    Sucks to get laid off, but I imagine their resumes aren’t too shabby with their experience from Firaxis. There’s a bunch of job openings at Bethesda, which is practically right down the street.

    Just trying to look at the bright side.

  33. FunkyLlama says:

    “I can confirm that Firaxis has realigned its development resources in order to streamline its development process, reduce costs and maximize the overall performance the studio.”
    which I believe translates into English as ‘I am a besuited minion of Satan, hell-bent on destroying all that is good and honest in this world’.

    • Centy says:

      I need a Chrome plugin that does these translations automatically. Just every time a statement is prefixed with “a representative from …” automatically turns the douche to english translation on.

  34. kadayi says:

    Pretty much what Alexander Norris says. This is not news, this is just how business works. Ifr your project has run it’s course there’s no point keeping a large QA team around.

  35. kadayi says:

    Pretty much what Alexander Norris says. This is not news, this is just how business works. If your project has run it’s course there’s no point keeping a large QA team around.

  36. theleif says:

    I believe Bill Hicks have a good point.

  37. drewski says:

    Don’t get the fuss. Presumably they had a certain level of staffing required to support the projects they were running; for whatever reason those projects no longer require that staffing level. Seems likely to me that they kept a higher level of QA staff than they would normally to to bug testing on Civ V, and now that it’s past the major testing phase and into polishing phase they don’t need as many testers.

    It’s sad for those being fired, but developers aren’t charities.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      If they expect a temporarily increased workload couldn’t they just hire people temporarily instead of offering longer lasting jobs? This way you can keep a core group of developers/QA team/etc. you know you’ll be utilising in future projects.

      Laid off says to me that their contracts were longer-term deals. But I don’t know how such things are done in the US.

    • drewski says:

      They probably didn’t have these guys hired temporarily, though. Say you have the workload to have 30 QA on permanent staff. This continues for 3, 4 years (from Civ IV through the expansions and add ons, the console versions, then Civ V and the Facebook Civ.) Suddenly you have a game finished major testing, going into polish mode, and what else?

      Until they start testing expansions, they probably don’t need many QA staff and if the long term level of work at the company is falling (ie no longer running major console and PC development teams at the same time, and transitioning to a smaller PC dev team as your major release goes gold) you can lay off permanent staff, then just use temp contract QA people when your major patches or expansions go through crunch.

      I suspect they increased their QA team for the Civ IV crunch, kept them on for the console work (testing for 3 platforms has to take a lot of staff), then kept most of them on for Civ V crunch and now those extra staff are redundant, so they’re dropping back to a lesser staffing level.

  38. poop says:

    MAN I TOTALLY TRUST 2K WITH XCOM BECAUSE THEY ARE DEFINITELY NOT JUST SEEKING EASY PROFITS

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      Western company in making money shocker, more on this news at 11, but now over to our weatherman in the Sahara Desert.

      Thanks Bert, I can tell you it’s incredibly dry here.

      Thanks Tim, now to Jerry with the sport, Jerry?

      Well Bert, England failed to win the World Cup in a further amazing turn of utterly unforeseen circumstances.

    • JB says:

      @ChaosSmurf – I’m so glad I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee when I read your post.

      +5 internets for you, young smurf.

  39. poop says:

    “hey thanks for helping us make what will probably be one of the highest selling games this year, just kidding, have fun looking for a job lmao”

    game developers need a union

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Yeah and then you can’t fire and must pay premium wage to some guy even though all he ever does is jerk off to furry porn all day, but hey, he’s got seniority so tough luck!

      you just can’t win really

    • destroy.all.monsters says:

      @ Grape Flavor – then clearly you’ve never worked a union job. The only thing it does is provide _some_ amount of security in that they can’t just fire you for your boss “having a bad day”. Given the typically horrific treatment of workers pretty much across the board, at least in the US, any amount of counter balance going the other way is a good thing.

      It’s only due to decades of rightist anti-union propaganda that workers have practically no protections at all in this country. If they had their way 8 year old children would still be shackled to assembly lines.

    • Thants says:

      People really do seem to have a bizarre idea of what a union is.

    • TheHumanBlur says:

      Unions to my mind are either utterly useless or monstrously abusive of their powers (The Airline workers/Tube drivers Unions can go fuck themselves) A nice idea in principle, though.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah it was so unreasonable for tube drivers to not want to lose their jobs.

    • poop says:

      even the useless unions perform a very important roll by existing duder

    • drewski says:

      Just depends on your industry and union, I guess. A friend of mine works at a plant where one member of staff shows up about once a week, does nothing, spends the rest of his drunk/stoned, and doesn’t get fired because the union will strike.

      Eventually, of course, the company would successfully get rid of him but it’s not worth their time to have production shut down while they fight the union, so they put up with it.

      I’m generally pro-union, but as with anything, it can and frequently does go too far.

  40. DMJ says:

    I can confirm that I have realigned my financial resources in order to streamline my purchasing process, reduce expenditures and maximize the overall enjoyment of my gaming.This will result in the non-purchase of approximately 20 “AAA” games. These reductions will not impact my ability to play and enjoy already-owned titles, including Team Fortress 2 and Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.

  41. pipman300 says:

    lol i heard a rumour sid meier was one of the people fired, gg take2

  42. RQH says:

    @Jad: Maybe, maybe not. See the article “Toe” linked. Employee passion, investment, and loyalty can do quite a lot for your bottom line. More, it seems, than periodic downsizing. (Also, if you don’t go public, you can have quite a bit more control over whether you get bought.)

    I recognize the idealism in the concept. I don’t know the practical solution, but I do know much of common business “efficiency” is inhumane, and I think it’s worth taking a risk in the name of being decent to each other. If you (the general “you,” not you personally) are an executive making six or seven figures and you lay off 20 employees in the name of cutting costs and then give yourself a bonus for cutting costs so well, I don’t know how you sleep at night. If I made 500k a year and knew that by taking even just half the pay, I could save five mid-pay jobs, I would do it. If I could cut something out that wasn’t people (and wasn’t going to hurt people’s ability to do their work) I would do it. What then is the impact to the shareholders? I’m not saying it’s always possible to do it this way, but the current system encourages cutting costs every year whether it’s needed or not. All the people who’ve climbed to the top of the current system have shown is that they are good at making money, primarily for themselves. They have not demonstrated that they are good at making good products, or running good businesses, or treating their employees with respect. And I think that should matter. I wrote out that whole “business as usual” excuse like a great many people who’ve commented on this article have, and then I read it over and realized, “No, that’s not good enough.” And that it’s not good enough remains true, even if I can’t yet come up with a practical solution to the problem.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      I’ve also often thought it’s ironic how an executive can be praised for saving money and then you hear about how he gets a huge bonus which erases much of the supposed “savings”. wtf.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I’m convinced that in a lot of cases businesses would be better off without shareholders.

    • Xercies says:

      @Hmm

      The first thing you learn in business studies is that its pretty much nearly impossible to start a business without shareholders in the first place because they give you the money. So without shareholders we pretty much wouldn’t have half the businesses out there.

    • DrGonzo says:

      @Xercies

      Which may in fact be a good thing.

    • drewski says:

      But probably wouldn’t be. Without capital, it’s impossible to take risks; without risk, there is no innovation.

      Digging mines, drilling for oil, manufacturing computer parts, designing computer parts, developing drugs, all these things cost lots and lots of money and without investors, they don’t happen.

  43. Biz says:

    probably some power plays

    firaxis / 2k have disagreement. 2k retaliates

    at least they didn’t pull a microsoft and shut down the entire studio (ensemble)

  44. Freud says:

    Having not really been into Civ games in ages, I am looking forward to Civ V. Combat system inspired by Panzer General? Yes please.

  45. pipman300 says:

    what do ceos even do anyway besides committing bank fraud

    • Tei says:

      take the decissions that result on success of bankrupt of the whole company, and take these decissions quick withouth all the hard data that is needed

  46. pipman300 says:

    obviously civ needs to be rebooted as an fps

  47. bill says:

    I realise that right now very few industries are secure, but the games industry seems to be a pretty horrible place to work, with ZERO long term stability for employees, and very little long term stability for studios.

    Is it really efficient to hire and fire everybody for every project? Is it really a good way to motivate people and have happy workers? Is it efficient to close every studio after one game, and then make a new studio for the next game?

    Imagine if other industries did the same. Ok Beatles, you’ve finished your first album. Good job, now we’re going to lay off 25% of you. Ok, now we need another album, better hire someone quick!
    Ok teachers, good job this year, lots of students graduated with good results. You’re all fired. Job application forms for next year are on the desk on the way out!

    Frankly, I’m beginning to totally understand the Duke Nukem Forever situation. They found a solution to the instability of the industry by never finishing their game, therefore avoiding being laid off as thanks for their hard work. And they almost pulled it off. I think I’d have done the same…

    • Tei says:

      “Is it really efficient to hire and fire everybody for every project? Is it really a good way to motivate people and have happy workers? Is it efficient to close every studio after one game, and then make a new studio for the next game?”

      I suppose the other option is to have more than one title at work, so wen you releases one, you have another one 50% finished (!= 50% done). And have all titles (or 90%) produce more money, than costs.
      The first thing mean have a BIG studio, and the second one is not possible.
      Another solution could be get a stable stream of money, like the MMO companys get, or by digital download services, or people like gog. Hollywood has something like that, a movie collect money for a looooong time.

      On a setup where you make 1 game, and such game can flop, the first flop will result on the studio close.
      Publishers seems to have ways to cut this. If a game seems will flop, the publisher seems can cut the money (oxygen) to such game, so the damage is limited (the game studio will still close, but the publisher will continue).

      tl;dr:
      is a bad idea to create games, is a better idea to be publisher, toll a bridge, or mantain a mmo.

    • Okami says:

      @bill:

      You’re pretty much spot on with everything you say. I’ve been working in the industry as a designer for more than five years now and it’s pretty much the same everywhere. The studios I’ve worked for so far have all tanked in the meantime and I don’t know if my current studio will survive long after we’ve shipped our current title. We’ve grown from 30 to 100 people during the last few years(many of them having relocated from other countries and even continents in order to work for us) and once our game is done, more than just 20 people will be let go. Even if our game is a huge success, we won’t be needing that many designer and animators during the first several months of development of our next title.

      It also needs to be said, that the gaming industry is basically run by a bunch of idiots. It should come as no big surprise that the heads of game studios have zero experience in running a business, motivating employees, etc.. After all they’re most probably a bunch of guys who were programmers in the 90s and just wanted to create a cool game where you shoot people to death with space guns. These same people are now in charge of running companies with 100 employees and more and very many just aren’t up to the task.

      Wages in the games industry are pretty low when compared to other fields of business with equivalent skill requirements, so you tend not to get the best in terms of administration, human resources, etc because those people will rather work for banks, insurance companies and other places that have higher job security and wages. Also the game developers tend to be young and self exploitative, so there really isn’t a lot of solidarity between employees and almost no banding together against employers. These people will happily squander rights that were bitterly fought for during more than hundred years of class struggle for the honour of working on a video game.

      The next problem are the publishers themselves. About every stupid clichèe you have in mind about publishers is probably true. While they’re usually better run than developers, even the really big ones are not safe from incompetence. I could go into details, but that would probably blow my thin cover of anonymity and get me into more trouble than it would be worth it. Let’s just say, that most producers working on the publishers side actually hate video games and would much rather do movies. Most of the publisher feedback I’ve ever recieved can be boilt down to: Can you make it more cinematic and take out this and that gameplay section. And while you’re at it, cut all those features as well, I don’t get them.

      They’re also usually fantastically incompetent but hide that incompetence by beeing single mindedly dedicated to their carreers. Also they have no souls or morals and if you lock a bunch of publisher producers into a room for any amount of time, they’ll start consuming each other. I’d rather cut my wrists and jump into a pool with sharks than be around them for any amount of time. They’ll also gleefully sabotage their own project or the projetcs of other producers, if they think it will advance their carreer in any way.

      So that’s the games industry for you: A bunch of incompetent adolescents, amoral carreer whores who hate video games, long hours, lousy payment, no job security and your customers are mainly retarded, homophobic, racists little cunts.

      But, you know, creating video games is pretty cool anyway…

    • Okami says:

      If all of this reads rather bitter, it’s not supposed to. It’s really just all the negatives rolled together into one huge lump. There are awesome people working in this industry and not every company owner is an idiot who does everything wrong. And not all employees are young, gullible, anti revolutionary fools, actually the vast majority of employees in game studios are lovely people.

      So just in case it wasn’t apparent from my initial response: I love my job and the people I work with. At least until I get laid off.

      Publishers really are soulless, evil, greedy bastards though. They’re actually not really humans but some form of mutated, sentient, evil fungus that cover itself in the skin of human victims.

    • Tei says:

      Maybe part of the solution is good engineering practices.

      Based on your description, most game companies seems stuck in CMMI level 1
      http://www.tutorialspoint.com/images/cmmi-staged.jpg

      Things are done, because Heroic efforts, long hours, and not planning or good systems in place. Basically: brute force.

    • Gundrea says:

      @Okami

      Where can I sign up?

    • Bhazor says:

      “Imagine if other industries did the same. Ok Beatles, you’ve finished your first album. Good job, now we’re going to lay off 25% of you. Ok, now we need another album, better hire someone quick!
      Ok teachers, good job this year, lots of students graduated with good results. You’re all fired. Job application forms for next year are on the desk on the way out! ”

      Well a more fitting example would be the Beatles firing tour managers and lighting engineers when they weren’t on tour. Which they did. I doubt Ringo continued to pay the salary of his roadies when he was at home looking at pictures of trains or whatever he got up to. But you know what? There were other bands going on tour at the time who would have snapped up these poor strays.

    • Okami says:

      Maybe part of the solution is good engineering practices.

      Based on your description, most game companies seems stuck in CMMI level 1
      http://www.tutorialspoint.com/images/cmmi-staged.jpg

      Things are done, because Heroic efforts, long hours, and not planning or good systems in place. Basically: brute force.

      Yes.

      As for your other post: You’re describing a typical full price retail quality producing studio with a standard “royalties in advance but depending on milestone performance” publishing contract. These studios usually have only enough manpower (and organisational skills) to develop one game. Due to the nature of their contract (and because developers invariably get fucked by their publishers over small details) the studio will be hard pressed to muster enough manpower to finish their current project with the money they got from their publisher (this is where crunch and legions of unpaid ‘interns’ come into the equation), let alone create a prototype to pitch to other publishers on the side.

      Even if the game is moderately succesfull on release, the developers tend not to see too much of that money, since the usual publishing contracts gives them about 5-15% royalties and this money is first used to cover development costs. So once your game is done you find yourself in a situation where the studio has little money of it’s own (they’ve been living from advances on their royalties up to this point), but a huge army of developers (teams tend to grow a lot during the last few months of development) that need their monthly paycheck.

      And that’s where you start laying off people. Even if you have an immediate follow up contract, you’re just not going to need all those animators and TAs during the early stages of production. You’re also going to let go a few of your designers. You don’t need all those extra scripters you brough in during the last year to polish everything, you’ll do just fine with a handfull of designers creating level prototypes and layouts.

      There is, of course, a way around all this: don’t create AAA titles that cost a gazillion dollars. Game development isn’t just the choice between making the next Call of Duty or creating 2D games on your macbook while drinking Latte Macchiattos and dressing like an anorexic swedish model. There are hundreds of small development studios that create games that go for a few bucks at retail, have short production times and where you can develop two or three titles at once, even with a small team.

      Of course, you don’t get to make games about space shooting space aliens with space guns in their space faces using the latest version of the Unreal Engine, so most people don’t want to make them.

    • Okami says:

      Blockquote Fail

  48. ChaK_ says:

    I hope they’ll find a job soon and can keep living correctly.

    And on a selfish note I hope CIV V will be top-notch and unnafected by those events

    • oceanclub says:

      “just say, that most producers working on the publishers side actually hate video games and would much rather do movies”

      This explains _a lot_.

      P.

  49. Bhazor says:

    Might it have more to do with these people not actually having jobs to do now? I mean the game is finished and I really don’t see what a UI designer can do when a game has shipped and when it may be a year before the next Firaxis game needs an interface designed. Likewise once it reaches the public you don’t need a QA division to find bugs when you have over a million paying users to find them for you.

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