The job hunt that landed me at CCP was an interesting experience. It was long and difficult- but fun, because I knew exactly the type of job I wanted and type of studio I wanted to work at. The job I wanted was a Lead Tech Art/Tech Art Director job, no surprises there. Where I wanted to work, though, had much more going into it.
I’ve been very vocal that the large and nearly uncontrolled growth of BioWare Austin gave rise to most of the problems and incompatibilities I’ve developed with the studio. Limitless people and money can have serious negative long term effects on any organization (even if it ensures the success of a single project). So I look for a studio that can actively manage these issues as a healthy and stable place to work.
- How large does the studio plan to grow and how quickly? If it plans to double in a year and potentially double again, I’m out.
- Where does the money to grow come from? Is it self-financed, or does it come from a publisher? If it comes from a publisher, I’m wary- third party finances can be arbitrary, and first party money can create a scenario where:
- Is the project ‘too big to fail’? Is the publisher going ‘all in’ on this project? If so, too much money will be given to the project to reward incompetence (because the game needs to ship- see this year’s GDC lecture’s slides about rewarding incompetence).
- Has the studio shipped a project of a similar size? If the target project will need a target team size of 3x more than the next biggest project, be wary- no culture or studio can handle the complexities such growth for a single project brings.
All these factors lead towards a single point: Money breeds incompetence. Those are things that freak me out. Here are the pluses:
- Has the studio shipped a successful game with principles I agree with? Ie, I’m looking for a studio that has released an original, successful game, or has a track record of success on what it’s worked on.
- Is there a humility and stability to management? Who am I meeting with for the interview, and where did the current management come from (are there ‘I’ve been at one company my whole life’ or are these ‘I shipped two failed MMO’s at different companies but it wasn’t my fault’ types, or something in the middle)?
- What’s the bonus plan like? This is to gauge humility as much as the financial aspect. Mostly, what’s the difference in percentage of salary between senior level developer and CEO? OK: 0%/0%, 100%/anything, greater than/equal to a 1-to-5 ratio. Not OK: Anything less than a 1-to-5 ratio. I believe it shows a lack of care and respect for the people in the trenches when management gets such higher bonuses, in addition to the higher salary, more stock, executive perks, and the ability to manipulate bonuses (buying companies, getting rid of merit increases, etc.).
At CCP, I found a company that fit perfectly with what I was looking for. It was the only company of the half a dozen I interviewed with that I felt completely comfortable taking a job with- I knew it was what I wanted, exactly what I was looking for. It is great to feel like I’m going to a company that has ideals that align with mine, and I can have some confidence that those ideals won’t change in the near future (I hope I don’t eat those words).