Here are the founding principles of my next startup. It’s incomplete and imperfect, but for where I want to go … it’s a start. Incidentally, if you share them, and want to work with me, you should get in touch (adam.m.s.martin at gmail.com). I’m sure we can find a way to work together.
EDIT: if you’re interested in these ideas, have ideas of your own you want to discuss, or are just looking for other like-minded people … I’ve set up a Google Group for this at: http://groups.google.com/group/game-studio-manifesto
30 hour working week
- 4 days a week, 7.5 hours a day
- Salaries are 20% below the going rates; we aim to employ 20% more staff than usual for a given project size; cost is the same, output is the same (modulo an output-reduction/cost-increase due to increased overheads/inefficiencies for larger team size)
- everyone takes the same day off. I’m thinking Friday. Friday sound good? Let’s make it Friday. You know that if you’re in the office, so is everyone else (modulo normal holidays, off-sites, illness, etc).
- if we ever have to “crunch” and work unpaid overtime, I’m afraid we’ll all have to start coming in 5 days a week. I know, it’s tough.
- you own your work: no-one will chase you; informing people of your status, and of delays, is *your* job
- you own your project: everything works on Scrum (where the “team” owns the entire process – no producers, no project managers); NB: if you claim to “know Scrum” or be a Scrum Master, or “have used Scrum” and you don’t understand/believe this team ownership thing, here’s a big fat hint: YOU MISSED THE POINT
- you own the company: everyone has vested equity (not options) in the company
Mentors not managers
- increased organizational power is based on your ability to bring others up to your level. It’s based on your contributions to the other individuals. It’s not based on your organizational prowess
- if you cannot mentor, cannot explain complex/new things simply and clearly … you will not advance in the management chain (you should become a Domain Expert instead!)
Your value is what you are paid
- This is an implicit assumption in all salary negotiations and performance reviews.
- It will also be required to be *stated* explicitly in all negotations and reviews
- If your manager believes you’ve got better, they have to increase your pay
- If they do not increase your pay, they’re not allowed to give you a positive performance review
- There is no point in your career where “Becoming a Manager” is a requirement to get your salary any higher; the only benchmark is “can you further increase your usefulness to the company?”
You have a duty to become the best you can be
- Playing games, during company time, is an expected part of most jobs, since we are a “game development company” and you *need* to know what our competitors are doing
- Learning new skills, during company time, is an expected part of most jobs, since we’ll always be looking to make use of any “better” new technologies and tools that become available
- Not going on paid training courses, not increasing your understanding of our industry, allowing your personal skill progression to plateau … makes you sink behind what your peers in other companies are doing, people who would like your job. Get too far behind and we’ll give it to them. You owe it to yourself, as well as all the rest of us, to make sure YOU, as an individual, are constantly getting better, and learning new things
- The structure of the company is explicitly designed to support as many people as possible to become the best they can be. If in doubt, or in difficult situations where no alternative is “easy”, we will err on the side of helping people to improve themselves.
100% Organization-level transparency
- knowing what is happening in the organization is a right, not a priviledge
- knowing the reasoning behind organization decisions is a right, not a priviledge … from the reasons behind a marketing campaign being run the way it is, to the reasons for the product strategy, to the reasons that one particular tech is being used rather than another
- being informed of the progress of ongoing processes / issues is an expectation, not a priviledge … that means that people working on things are expected to proatively inform the rest of the company what they’re up to
- transparency overrides privacy (unless forced otherwise by explicit legal requirements)
- e.g. the salary someone earns is a personal and private matter – but the salary the company pays to each of its staff is not, and every member of the company has full free right to see that info. The company knows additional things – e.g. thanks to tax law, companies may know of other income their staff are receiving – but those are not part of the company, hence they are not part of the transparency
The buck stops with the directors
- any issue that necessarily has to be handled by an individual, that can’t be handled by the “team ownerships” etc, or e.g. is “sensitive” or a private personnel issue, WILL be handled by a named director instead
- no manager can accrete decision-making power, unless they are a company director
- e.g. if too much power is taken away from teams by directors, by accident or device, the directors will become overworked and will have obvious incentive to push decision power back to the teams
Google 20% time
- Problem: it’s either half a day, 12.5% time, or 1 day, 25% time. I’m not happy with either – one whole day makes things much easier mentally for the person to switch, but I’m afraid that converting it to 25% time and having people available only 3 days in every 7 would be too destructive?
- As per Google, this is not a right, it’s a priviledge
- all 15% time projects require sign-off by the person’s direct manager (with appeal to a director)
- all 15% time projects require monthly status presentations to show what’s been achieved, and the manager has to approve or deny continued work on the project
Team budgets – food; drink
- every project team has a weekly budget for food, and one for drink, and is expected to on average have one team lunch a week, and one team evening social (with free alcohol) per week
Healthy food; healthy environments
- the office will not have Cola vending machines, or ChocolateBar vending machines. *If* it has any vending machines, they’ll be majority subsidised – free, or practically free
- the office will have a surfeit of fresh fruit, renewed every day, starting at or before anyone gets into the office
- any meeting called before 11am will have some free small fresh food with substantial sugar content (for anyone who missed breakfast. Until they recharge their blood sugar, they’re probably cranky and irritable – and irrational – or simply silent and unthinking, like a robot, and make everyone else suffer because of it)
- choosing to hold meetings physically outside the office, e.g. in local cafes, and having the company pay for coffees and snacks, is a right, not a priviledge, for all employees
Remote working, and Online Working
- at any given time, we aim to have a substantial minority of staff working remotely / telecommuting, e.g. around 20%
- remote workers can expect slightly lower salaries than their full-time equivalents; the company gets more value out of people who are co-located – but it makes all of us work better to have a mix of co-local and remote colleagues, so we welcome the presence of remote workers
- all employees are required to be online and available *and reactive* on IM during all working hours
- all development systems and tools will support remote working by default (e.g. remote compilation, remote builds, remote deployment, remote access for all internal systems). This is one of the ways that having remote staff makes our overall operations better: better tested, more robust, more adaptable
- all employees will have their own password-protected SSH keys stored on a free USB key; all company systems will work on SSH key-based auth; all workstations will be configured to do single-sign-on using the individual’s SSH key – no passwords required
Guards against the unscrupulous
- all ownership is only part-vested, tied to time served AND ALSO personal performance targets. This will take substantial time to invent/negotiate on a per-person basis (I know, I’ve tried. Sometimes, I’ve given up on it, because it was so much effort. But … in the short and long term, its worth it)
- managers have more time to look for problematic individuals, as they’re freed of some of their normal duties in other companies
- teams, being self-owning, have the power and the incentive to reject any failing members. Over time, failing individuals will either change, find teams that do welcome them, or find themselves conspicuously under-employed, making them an easy target for management attention (this does not imply “firing”, it’s up to the management what action they take, but they clearly now have staff they’re paying for and getting nothing from)
- directors have a lot of burdens of responsibility under this system; they also have a lot more visibility into the company’s status than in a standard company, so more chance to fulfil their responsibilities
- most of the processes are designed to be self-healing/recovering when encounting unforseen problems: the teams and individuals that do the bulk of the actual *work* are self-owning, the managers whose roles are mostly shepherding are largely disempowered to break anything, any unusual problems fall into the laps of the Directors who already have total legal power to enact whatever is needed anyway, etc.
Please help me debug this thing … add your own suggestions, or highlight the flaws in what I’ve written, or point to evidence both for and against the realities of what might work … etc, etc, etc.
39 replies on “Manifesto for a Game Development Studio (or any creative tech company)”
Your employees will lose their USB keys. Always. Expect at least one lost, per day, possibly more. This will probably be your IT department’s largest headache, and possibly a security issue down the line, because that stolen USB/SSH key now allows an attacker to compromise your system, very easily, due to the ease of remote access you’ve set up for your employees. :)
Budget for this, or look into other authorization solutions. Also, consider making the loss of their USB key a significant event in their employment. Certainly, a second loss should be considered a termination, or similar impact, event.
Also, your site’s security certificate is really messed up.
I didn’t read it through, but I suspect that by having a manifesto you will be head and shoulders about most startups. I especially like the idea of just starting off with a 30 hour work week so that when people start to feel a pressing deadline they can increase their hours by a full third to a 40 hour week.
There ought to be some kind of clause that hold you, the (original, principal) owners of the company to the manifesto. Like, “We will shut down the company before requiring 50 hour work weeks” or something.
Looks great apart from…
>>the salary someone earns is a personal and private matter – but the salary the company pays to each of its staff is not, and every member of the company has full free right to see that info.
I’m having a hard time understanding this because it looks like what you wrote in your first sentence contradicts the second? If it’s a personal and private matter why does everyone have the right to see it? Also wouldn’t that just create problems within the company as everyone would be constantly comparing their salaries?
Anyway it sounds interesting although I doubt you’d want someone like me because I am just a graduate and I’ve already read your piece on “A game dev studio made of Graduates “.
great thoughts in there!
The biggest point I have is the one that is not stated out loud in the manifesto. Not only do you require a lot from yourself and the management, but you also demand a lot from the employees in terms of their maturity level and ability to deal with risks inherent in a startup.
For the manifesto to succeed you need matching employees that go beyond of simply doing it the agile way and owning their work. You need people who are able to consider the good of the company (beyond their own shares/wages). Any sort of political infighting would kill the manifesto quite fast.
It would be pretty cool to draft an employee manifesto to match your company manifesto.
Some detail comments:
1. You get roughly 4 hours of actual work out of a 7,5 work day. I’d rather keep Friday as a working day and work to 20 actual work hours per week.
2. If you go with 4 work days and you will get (want it or not) 4 hours per day out of it, and then allocate 20% of that to “google time”, you have roughly 13 work hours per week remaining. Are you sure you can get things on that?
3. Customer development seems like a good model to attach to your manifesto. At the very least all business tasks should be handled similarly to engineering tasks (agile that is)
4. You can use equity to compensate for the reduced wages, but it also means that you need to manage the upside you promise (equity is worth zero unless there are dividends or liquidity).
5. When everybody is a shareholder it also means a lot more opinions that you need to take into account. 4. and 5. together imply quite a bit of management effort (not saying that you shouldn’t do it, but you need to reserve time for it)
6. May be it is the Nordic culture where I’m from, but full transparency on wages sounds really challenging to accomplish.
7. I really like the self-development and the buck stops with the directors section
TBH, there is more to comment and commend, but gotta get back to work =).
No, you’re misunderstanding the beauty of ssh key auth: there is no security risk.
The moment a key is reported lost, you disable (trivially easy to do!) that key, server side.
It takes 30 seconds to generate a new one, another 30 to copy it onto a fresh USB key. Uploading to all servers and systems dwpends on your setup but is easy enough that it shouldn’t take long.
NB: when it comes to loss, because people put so much of their personal stuff on there, IME they don’t tend to lose them. That might be coincidence but I dot think so
It was a poor attempt on my part to show that even in a seemingly conflicting situation, both could be upheld. End result: your salary is not secret *within* the company, although it may be cpany confidential ie externally secret.
Many companies have had 100% open salaries, without problems. Whenever someone suggests it will backfire ask them what exactly they are afraid of?
In the majority of cases it is: that my bribes/nepotism/exploitation of my staff will get found out and people will co front me over it.
Another common scenario is “I’m really bad at. egotiation, I have buyers remorse over employee X who I think out negotiated me because I was too proud to let Xs future colleagues set the scale, and now I’ll look stupid if anyone finds out how much I fucked up by overpaying”
[…] Interesting ideas for running a company, but could it actually deliver a complex product? http://bit.ly/wpw9 […]
To be honest, I’d love to work for a company like that and I’d do it in a heartbeat, with a couple of (practical, slight and personal) caveats. However, most of those would be mitigated depending on the project and my possible role in it.
I’m definitely keeping an eye on this thread.
I love this concept. I’m not much of a business person, being far too much of the task-focused engineering type, so I can’t speak to the sustainability of the concept, but it sounds workable. I’d also have to say that my loyalty to a company like this would be tenfold what it’s been to any other employer if for no other reason than the transparency and intuitively rational organization.
Where do I send in a resume? ;)
Does sound like a good and interesting system, my only worry is regarding remote workers not being paid as much?
Unless you are providing the hardware, they will surely be less of a resource drain on the company that a drop in salary would be counter productive especially for motivation when your being so apparent with salaries.
Either way, I’d be interested in this and seeing how it turns out so good luck!
Customer Development? nod.
4 hours a day – No way … if that’s all you’re getting out of people who are using Scrum, then there’s something deeply wrong somewhere, IMHO.
Reduced wages – No compensation: you’re getting a 3 day weekend. Enjoy it!
Employee manifesto – interesting idea. I’d not considered that (I assumed that things were so biased against employees that the company needed to commit to them, not vice versa) but I can see that it could be useful – maybe even “essential”.
Granting equity is a big risk. If the business runs into any trouble, you’re almost certain to get to fight minority shareholder lawsuits on top of that. If your concern is fair compensation, a profit sharing plan is probably a better idea.
IMHO 30 hours a week is really good and productive for an intellectual job, but I would suggest 5 days a week and 6 hours a day. And I would even propose a break of at least half an hour after the first 3 or 4 hours (for lunch probably).
Six hours a day is the “limit” for a trained brain to be really productive. More hours a day means more slacking off. Chess players realized this long ago and some studies demonstrated it some time after (I can look for them if you are really interested, but I think you will understand my point). If you propose 7’5 hours a day some productive time will be lost after the “limit” is reached, maybe not the first day, but more than 6 hours a day every day is too hard for anyone supposing high concentration.
Not so good for the workers and their long weekends but with improved productivity. I think it would be even better for crunch only increasing one or two hours a day (but I wouldn’t recommend it, the recovering time after a crunch is worse than not crunch at all).
It is just my opinion based on my own experience and some observation, share your own ;)
@Antodologo: I agree in general with the idea that there’s only so many productive hours in a brain in a day, but you have to remember that none of us are going to be focused all day long. We eat lunch, we stop and chat about TV Show X with a coworker, etc., and each one of those little breaks gives the gray matter a break and a recharge. I’d say that in an 8-hour work day, I typically get 5-7 hours of productive time, assuming I’m not being impeded by pointless bureaucracy or bad processes. On the days I have to contend with the processes that are in place to assuage the ego of middle management or our NNPPs, then I’m closer to Jussi’s 3-4 hours of productivity…and those days I usually go home and get another 3-4 hours of productivity on a pet project.
I’m constantly amazed at how many of these “common sense” rules of productivity fail to take into account that 80% of the IT workforce (and I’m being generously low here) are managed by people who have no clue how to manage creative or technical minds. These people aren’t performing poorly because of technical limits to the human mind or psyche, they’re performing poorly because they’re forced to deal with bad practices and/or have had their spirit broken to the point where they don’t care anymore. If you have an engaged developer who isn’t hampered by management for the sake of management, then they find ways to make themselves more productive because — amazing concept here — they /enjoy/ what they do for a living!
Yeah. That is the point. I never said you will work hard for 6 hours every day, I just say it is ridiculous when you are supposed to work all 8 hours in a day at 100% efficiency
So the problem for me is: If you work 7 or 8 hours a day you will probably be productive (really productive) between 4 and 6 hours AT BEST (that is the “limit” I referred to) and if you work 6 hours a day you will probably be productive between 4 and 5 hours AT BEST (consider that you are not getting so tired and don’t need to disconnect so often and you started fresh because you had more time to rest between yesterday and today).
The best option, or the best productivity rate is clear for me. I think you all understand what I mean (and maybe some disagree ;) )
There are a lot of really good ideas here, but I think your manifesto is suffering from a bit of ‘kitchen sink syndrome’. I think this stems from the engineery idea that we can predict every scenario and prepare for it. That’s simply not true, you’d be better off with fewer rules and a better hiring process that weeded out more potential problems.
For example, why are you approving/disapproving 20% time projects? That defeats the whole purpose. If you have intelligent, dedicated employees who have an incentive to ship their projects you don’t need to babysit them. If you do need to then they shouldn’t have that freedom to begin with.
However, I think that’s a moot point since the whole 20% time concept doesn’t fit so well into a game company. It works great for google because the idea is that people working on their own projects are the most passionate, but google is a general software company who will own the project when it ships. A start up game company doesn’t have the resources to sell a secondary product. And that’s just the software engineers, what are your artists and game designers doing with their 20% time?
Also, while feeding employees is a good idea you’re already straddling the line of food cop. Not that you’re wrong, food choices can have a big impact on productivity, but limiting vending machines based on what you believe to be a good choice is asking for fat-guy resentment. I suggest you shorten that whole section to “Teams will have a weekly budget for eating socially and fresh, free snacks will be provided to everyone during the workday.”
Thirdly, I would advise against paying people less for telecommuting, particularly since you’ve so strongly connected pay with value to the company. Either telecommuting by employees is allowed or it isn’t, and if you want to discourage them by penalizing their pay and forcing them to be available by IM then you probably just don’t want it. If having employees on site is important for the success of the company then they have to be on site, period.
Finally, why do you need such a battery of defenses against the ‘unscrupulous’? If they’re good employees then you don’t need to defend yourself against them and if they’re bad employees you need to get rid of the bad apples because they’re dangerous. You should have quarterly peer reviews(peers are much better at finding the flotsam) where the verdict is either positive, needs retraining or bad apples. Come up with a training plan for those who need it and bad apples should get 30 days to turn everything around or be removed. Bouncing them from team to team is just going to drain all the good employees you have.
Well, that’s why there needs to be some oversight of 20% time. And I’d imagine that people would not necessarily be working on them individually (and remember, 20% projects don’t need to be a *product* – a useful library for future use, documentation for a system…)
The point about remote workers being paid less is one tied to the central theme here – value. You are more valuable if people can, well, talk to you. (I’d also point out that if you’re working remotely, you can chose to live where you wish…which can involve far less expensive places.)
Oh, and I dropped you an email, Adam…
Great article as always and I want to say I completely support this manifesto.
I would however say that whilst it is a great bottom up strategy for organisational design and structuring a technology and/or game company it does not address directly the top down industrial structure and environmental factors that have forced modern video game developers to operate their studios in such a opportunist manner seemingly dismissive of the complete knowledge base of modern organisational and HR management theory i.e. putting the employees first.
Whilst I will not make apologies for video game studios and their owners who on a daily basis design their studio structures around the directors benefit first and the employee’s quality of life and benefit last I have a certain sympathy towards the studio’s plight as they are operating in an industry that has for the most part forced them to work in this manner to remain operational and even then quite usually not even profitably.
Game studios are driven by a desire to make the games they want to make. This usually means console and high quality online games. To do this they have little choice but to work under the publishers who are famous for their ill treatment of studios on a whole. The publisher business model sap developers ability to generate significant profits, retain IP and allow them to generate enough revenue to improve their lot in life.
Many more studios would quite happily subscribe to your manifesto if they were unbridled from the yoke of the publisher business model or were even more willing to change the types of games they wanted to make or markets they wanted to operate.
I would make an argument for the creation of a sister document i.e. a Publisher Manifesto for existing publishers to subscribe to with its principle aim of treating their developers fairly and equitably.
I would certainly make the case that a manifesto for each of these organisation types would have to be subscribed to before the industry can create studios and publishers that put employees first for the industry to be an environment where all companies can operate and grow to the betterment of their employees.
“[W]e aim to employ 20% more staff than usual for a given project size; cost is the same, output is the same (modulo an output-reduction/cost-increase due to increased overheads/inefficiencies for larger team size) ”
The cost of maintaining lines of communication between 20% more staff is not just 20% more, it gets worse with each new person added.
“everything works on Scrum”
Bleh. Scrum is a business model for scrum consultants, not scrum users. In my opinion, collective ownership/team investment will provide by itself what scrum purports to provide on top. I would argue that scrum is – at best – a way to get large companies to accept the part that matters, but who still require a lot of process.
A bunch of the other stuff… I don’t really like manifestos, doctrines, solidly-defined processes. I don’t think *I* could write a manifesto in the vein of yours that I liked, it’s against my nature to trust someone else’s.
The biggest problem is that people don’t like disruptive ideas like this one.
You’re going to have problems from all ends trying to implement this. Investors and publishers aren’t going to like the idea of not squeezing every bit of work out of people, and the increased costs of communication as Matthew Weigel points out above.
Your employees are also going to have to really adjust their expectations to match what you are offering. The entry-level people are already obviously willing to throw away their lives to a game company for the opportunity to work on a game. They’re not going to care about only working 4 days out of the week. The people who will appreciate that are going to be the more established people with families, and if you only hire them your salary expenses will go through the roof, making your investors cranky.
You’re also ignoring the fact that employees will often willingly put in extra time. When I was working on Meridian 59 at 3DO, I went in on holidays to do a bit more work to improve the game. I was one of the few people working on it, so it wasn’t like anyone else was going to pick up the slack. Why would I take a 20% pay cut if I’m going to willingly want to work on the game project as much as possible, anyway?
I think you need to approach this like a game design. What are the goals you’re trying to reach? Instead of just throwing out features, consider what the root problems are that you want to resolve. Quality of life, freedom and flexibility for people to have lives outside of work, equality, etc. Consider those first, then start writing a manifesto about that. Then make a plan like this to show one way to handle these issues, and discuss the tradeoffs intelligently.
As I said, this is a disruptive idea and throwing it out there is more likely to make people who matter (who are also used to the current system) recoil than agree with them. So, show what problems you want to tackle and go from there?
I’ll post on my blog and trackback here to get the discussion going.
[…] Adam Martin has an interesting article talking about how he would like to treat employees in his theoretical future company. In a comment I left, I took him to task for jumping in too deep; instead of listing a bunch of perks, we should take the time to identify problems and come up with solutions to them. […]
I like a lot of this, but really it sounds like an attempt at a Utopian, idealistic run at how a company should run.
For one, people in the gaming industry already usually get paid way less than their counterparts in other industries. A programmer in the gaming community may get … 50-60k to write code, while an IT programmer doing SQL code or what have you, will make past 6 figures. Reducing that an extra 20% and calling it good because you work 30 hours a week is counterproductive to me. The argument that you work in a “fun” industry making video games won’t fly here, methinks. Not that you’re using that, just making the comment.
I work 4 10s and I really like my 3 days off, so that part I like, but I also like the idea of 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. 6 hours is easy to do and as a thought (since I didn’t see it mentioned) you could have 1 of the 5 days be a telecommuter day. People work from home, but you have a central login site via VPN or something that people have to sign in to.
A lot of people have issues with telecommuting because they can’t keep tabs on their employees, but in a setup like this, where you’re giving a lot of control to the teams, there’s a lot more at stake to the whole team when 1 person decides to slack off and not work while they’re at home.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a LOT more done and actually want to work when I’m in my home surroundings rather than work. Offices feel forced and huge wastes of gas and other resources. So you could still keep your 4 days a week in the office and leave the 5th day (could be your 20% day even) for telecommuting and still run 30 hours.
The other thing I’ve found is that having someone manage the project with that specific skill set works wonders. Project managers (IF they know the technology they’re dealing with) can be very helpful. If this just falls to someone on the team and isn’t an outside person, it could work as well.
On the whole, it’s a nice manifesto, but I agree with Pyschochild. If you approach the problem the same way you do the product you’re going to make, you’ll effectively find what’s wrong with your current or past situations and remedy those to make your situation one that you’d prefer to work in.
One downside to hiring more people who work less is that your benefits costs will shoot up. I realize health care isn’t a consideration for employers in the UK, but here in the US it certainly is.
Wiqd – Are you American, by any chance? It’s just that the comment that people in the games industry get paid less is, while not exclusively American, far less true in the UK.
The figures, pulled very roughly from several sites, are £24k average UK, £30k average Games and £32k average IT.
Yes, actually I am, but only by location :P I was born in England and deathly want to come back home, but I’m stuck over here. Good to know that the UK doesn’t suffer from the same US ailments.
“(with free alcohol)…
Healthy food; healthy environments”
These are mutually exclusive. If you’re complaining about chocolate but sponsoring booze, there’s a disconnect somewhere.
One is a work environment, one is a social environment (team evening social). Two different environments, for two different purposes. I don’t see these contradict each other. The manifesto is not trying to instruct everyone on how to live their lives in and outside of the studio, simply encouraging a “healthy” food attitude in the work place, during work hours.
I’m a few years away from my own small studio, but this manifesto (and future drafts) will definitely be a core part of my philosophy).
I would strongly suggest outsourcing any job that’s not directly related to producing your product, such as customer service, IT support, human resources, accounting, etc.
I would also like to suggest a plan for the eventuality of getting ahead of schedule on any part of any project. When any team gets ahead of schedule, there should be something like company-owned VIP seats at the local baseball stadium, or season passes to local attractions like zoos and theme parks. The company should own at least one small shuttle bus for purpose of transport to such activities.
To promote physical health and creative freedom, there should be ample courtyard or lawn space around the office to allow mid-day sun bathing, frizbee, and hacky sack breaks. Company sponsored after-work sports, like volleyball, pool, darts, and bowling would also be nice.
Managers should sit amongst the people they manage, with the same furniture (desk/cubicle, chair, lamps, etc). There should only be one or two rooms in the building with a door (besides storage closets, bathrooms, and mid-day nap areas). Nobody gets a private office or parking space.
P.S. I noticed that you failed to explicitely define the number of “mental health days” an employee may take when feeling too stressed to come to work. These can be a real life saver when teams start to fall behind and the workload gets overbearing. Most people want to do the right thing though, so perhaps it’s best to just leave this to the honor system and rely on people not to abuse it, rather than actually count the number of days they take off.
P.P.S. Don’t actually produce whole games. Be a game developement service company and have teams that specialize in game components, like UI, Graphics, Audio, Physics engine, Content creation tools, etc. Then you can bill out by the hour to your customers, and your customers will be game companies rather than gamers.
Sad to be the criticizing voice again, but I sure hope you wouldn’t actually consider these items to be of overruling priority over having a sustainable business plan that keeps a company in operation. Principles are great, and quality of life is a wonderful thing to have, but without money for the paycheck, it doesn’t ultimately amount to a hill of beans (literally speaking here).
Yes, I do consider them of overrulling priority. There is no point in me running a business I don’t believe in.
If all I wanted were money I would have taken a job in an Investment Bank (I had that option, I went to the interviews and the office tours, and decided to run – fast – in the opposite direction).
[…] Adam Martin of T-Machine.org has written a Game Development Studio Manifesto. […]
[…] off, if you haven’t read Adam Martin’s manifesto, please go do so. Second, if you haven’t seen “The Sandlot” before, check IMDB for a synopsis. The […]
[…] is one of the reasons I posted my Manifesto for a Game Studio online – you can get a strong taste of the culture of my next startup, and decide if you want to work with […]
[…] Hawthorne Effect going on – but I think it’s an interesting data point to add to the game studio manifesto. Specifically because it’s from a games company, and the particular set of changes they […]
[…] off, if you haven’t read Adam Martin’s manifesto, please go do so. Second, if you haven’t seen “The Sandlot” before, check IMDB for a synopsis. The […]