View Full Version : How mandatory is Overtime in the Game Industry

04 April 2002, 01:26 PM
Hello all. I have a question for all of the professionals in the industry out there, or people that know people in the industry.

I would like to become a 3d modeler/animator at a game company, and I want to know how much overtime I need to figure on devoting to it. How much is normal, how much is on the low side, and how much is too much. That way I can negotiate better, because even though I love art and the pursuit of art, I have other stuff that I want to do to.

So what do you think, give me your two cents.

04 April 2002, 01:51 PM
Well, of course it all depends. But I`d say you should expect anywhere from 30 hours and up every month. It`s probably safe to say that you`ll average one or two hours of overtime everyday. But game companies are fairly free environments. At my job, I work extra hours Monday thru Thursday and try to go home a little early on Fridays. Of course, this doesn`t always happen. But if you manage your time well, then it really isn`t all that bad. This doesn`t take into account a lot of little things that can add up to a lot of extra work
(miscalculating time needed for given tasks, surprise demonstrations for publishers the next day, etc).

Of course there are horror stories, but if you do some checking up then you should be able to stay clear of places that work everybody 80 hour weeks for months on end. That`s the quickest way to burnout.

Just my experiences. Good luck.

04 April 2002, 11:15 PM
Thanks for the info Oshama. So where do you work at?

04 April 2002, 03:35 AM
I work at a small game company in Tokyo. Never worked for an American game company, but I would assume that it isn`t really all that different. Of course, I don`t really know though. hehehe.

04 April 2002, 07:26 AM
Ahh I see. That's cool. So what have you worked on in the past? Oh and do you know if overtime becomes less mandatory as your seniority increases?

How about the rest of you reading this thread. Anyone work in the game industry in the U.S. in the art department and have experience with how overtime expectations work?

04 April 2002, 08:19 AM
Well, the thing about seniority is this. You get more job responsibilities as you move up the ladder so I wouldn`t expect a sudden "no overtime ever" type of job. :)

One other thing I thought I might add is that most companies I know don`t actually expect you to work XXXX amount of hours of overtime every week. You just end up working overtime to get your work done on time. So if everything works out perfectly for you and you`re fast, then you could possibly have very little overtime. I think I read a post a while back in which some guy said that he worked 8 hour days every day in his game job.

Hope this little bit of info helps.

04 April 2002, 12:29 PM

You will learn to loathe those two words. Overtime is necessary to get the product out for ship date. Although it is usually the time when everything starts to pay off. You see everything start to come together all at once and there is a HUGE feeling of satisfaction.

Just do not let a company take advantage of you. Even if you are just starting out. You need to have a personal life too.

But in my experience there as usally about 2 months of overtime right at the end. For the rest of the time I handled my work, and scheduled it very timely.

Later...and good luck.

04 April 2002, 02:25 PM
Thanks for all the info guys. Yeah I've heard of the dreaded Crunch Time, and read the little thank-you's that you find in some game instruction booklets to spouses and family and friends for putting up with the insanity of it.

Question is though, how insane is Crunch time. I've read stories of guys sleeping in the office, ordering pizza, and etc. Be this truth or exaggeration?

04 April 2002, 05:23 PM
I think it's fair to say you're better off in another industry if you don't like pizza ;)

Me, I make it my goal to be out within 30 minutes of 6pm every day. That's not to say I don't do overtime, but when I do it it needs to be for a good reason. Weekends and late nights are a part of the game developers job, but if you work fast and work well you can keep them to a minimum.

I'll usually end up doing two to four late nights a month (late nights meaning more than an hour's overtime - anywhere from 7pm to 1am), and I've only ever done one "all nighter".

We do have guys who sleep at the office regularly though - but this is more common with programmers than artists.

And before you ask, I currently work for a small games developer in th UK.

04 April 2002, 10:48 PM
Ack, don't think that I don't like pizza. I loooove pizza. :drool:

Thanks for all the feedback, helps me get a better picture of what to expect.

Question for Bentllama and the rest of you often does crunch time happen?

04 April 2002, 08:14 AM
im still a student, but i have had the good fortune to talk to many game animators and listen to others lecture. they all said you shouldnt be surprised if you have to spend the night. you should plan on the "80 hour work weeks". if you're in games, its because u love games, and its your life.

04 April 2002, 06:39 AM
Crucnh time is usually 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Crunch time can last as long as 9 months in some cases (did that last year). And it's a US company.

If you're looking for normal work hours forget about the game industry. Serious.

04 April 2002, 12:53 PM
Just curious if one is able to have girlfriend/boyfriend when in the game industry? Partly serious question :)

04 April 2002, 01:32 PM
Ok then. Not exactly what I wanted to hear black_fish. But good to know. I love games, and I love art, so I'm not really concerned about long days and overtime, but I also love my fiancee, and I want to be able to spend time with her, especially when we get married. So if the game industry in general really is that bad in terms of overtime, what else should I try for a job in? I have an AA degree in Computer Animation, and a couple years experience working on my own and doing freelance stuff in 3d graphics.

04 April 2002, 07:32 PM
We have milestones every month so the last week of each month we are usually in heavy crunch mode.

I usually start the month working 10-12 hour days for the first week. I sometimes come in that first weekend but I usually spend it with my wife. The next week is about the same but I work Saturday and usually spend one night at the office. The third week of the milestone I work 6, 12-16 hour days and stay the night 2 times. The final week, If its a crucial milestone, I pretty much kiss my wife goodbye for the week on Monday morning and live at work until everything is finished on Friday.

Now this is just the way I like to work and Ritual does not require us to work this much. I just truly enjoy what I do and want to be able to have my hands on as many assets as possible. Most people here work 8-12 hour days 5-6 days a week. Ultimately it comes down to you and how much time you want to devote to the game your working on.

[edit] This is somehow fitting :)

BoBo the seal

04 April 2002, 09:36 PM
Sounds good bobo, so basically you're saying, and most of the other guys are saying that YOU are the one that controls how much overtime you work, so it depends on how involved you want to be in the project and in how fast you work.

05 May 2002, 11:40 AM
To a certain extent, you have control, but when in crunch time a lot of variables come into play. Client changes, unforeseen bugs etc. can chew up a LOT of time and if staying back and working/living at the office is the difference between meeting the deadline and not, then usually you have to do it.

The thing about games and multimedia (my field) is that any production is a team effort. So while you may decide that you want to work normal 9-5 hours, the rest of the team might be grinding it out through the night. If you can live with that then that's fine :) There's nothing quite like getting ready to knock off only to find you're in for an all nighter :(

I'm with black_fish on this. If you want a job with "normal" hours, the game (or some sections of the IT industry in general) may not be for you.

05 May 2002, 12:31 PM
Yes, you can have a girlfriend/fiance/wife and still work in this industry. They just need to understand that this is how you will provide for yourself and your family and that it requires long hours (nights at the office) sometimes. My wife is very understanding of this and she knows that if it is at all possible, I will come home even if it`s late.

Something else to keep in mind is that when you`re really busy, 10-12 hours goes by really fast. Just don`t stare at the clock all day long. :)

05 May 2002, 10:59 PM
Hmmm, ok. Looks like a lot to think about. I don't think I'd really mind working long hours, I like the creation of art. I'm just worried about staying away from my wife (now fiancee) for too long. But I guess I'll just have to figure it out when I get there.

05 May 2002, 06:32 AM
Hi Windarr.

Like Ohsama said it is definately possible to keep relationships and still make a living in this industry. Some of the people that I work with in the company that I intern for have significant others and even families. Its just a matter of making them aware of how time consuming this industry is. And its not like some companies are not aware of the fact that its employees have families they need to spend time with. I just read an intersting article at Bioware's site about how they threw a Christmas party for their employees kids complete with a Santa.


PS: I just went to your site and I saw in your resume that you went to AISF. I also went there but you graduated before I left this past March (I didn't graduate because i had to leave for financial reasons but that's another story ...) Good luck in your career!

05 May 2002, 08:10 AM
Thanks for the info nefilim242. So where do you intern at?

It's too bad you had to leave the school, I mean I know they're not the best there is, but it is quite an investment to have to lose out on (I've got the student loans to repay as proof). Though to be quite honest I don't know how they are now, perhaps they got better. So how many quarters did you spend there? Do you think the time spent there was worth it?

05 May 2002, 08:58 AM
If you work for a good developer, and you manage your assets well, then you may not have much overtime at all. I only have overtime near a milestone. I have the software at home, so most times I need to pull some overtime I just go home and do it there, unless I am otherwise asked to come in by my Lead. Most employees stay from 9-6 or from 10-7, where I work...


05 May 2002, 09:03 AM
Cool. :) Is it a pretty well established developer. Or a newish one?

05 May 2002, 09:09 AM
Very established...

05 May 2002, 04:22 PM
Hi Windarr

Since you asked I work at Double Fine Productions. They're located in SF and the company is headed by Tim Schaefer (Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle) Even though I only work 2 days a week on an unpaid intern position, i am getting load of modelling experience and the added benefit of working in production. Of course I do hope I get offered a full time PAID position but it's all up to the powers that be.

I'm not really concerned that I didn't finish my AA degree at AISF. I've already gotten a BFA from the Academy of Art in Illustration and I just wanted to get started in 3D. As you probably know, its your skills, demo reel and your professionalism that will eventually land you that first gig. The Degree is just an indication of what training you receive but not necessarilly indicative of how good your 3D or 2D art skills are. So now that I'm out of school, Im basically devoting my self to learning as much as I can on my own and by working on some group projects with some people that I know. Its good to have other people to work with to keep morale high.

So naturally I'm not concerned too much about long hours in this industry. It's a natural part of any production work. I've already had a taste of it before AISF. I used to work as an illustrator for another game company startup and before that I worked as a producition assistant for a couple of graphic designers. Both jobs did involved overtime and long hours. I figured I've already spent long hours doing HW, research, and hunting down connections all in preparation of getting that first solid gig. I just hope all this investment in time, sacrifices and the occasional heartache pays off! :thumbsup:


05 May 2002, 05:05 PM
Ahh, I see. Well you are probably off to a really good start then. Double Fine Productions huh. Who knows, I might run into you in person some day then, because when I finish updating my portfolio they're one of the companies I plan to apply to. Good luck with landing the job. :thumbsup:

05 May 2002, 05:14 PM

Good luck to you also. Just get as many contacts as you can and expose your work to as many people as possible.




05 May 2002, 07:47 PM
I think it has to do with the person as well. at any given company a project is due in a set ammount of time. my job is vert mover and texturer (i skin, but i dont tell people i am a skinner, great people like BoBo_the _seal :wavey: skin... not me). I would be required to make X ammount of models in a week. i could slam out some crap and go home early, but i never do. I choose to stay late to get it done correcly, or to do a little more experimenting (maybe i can combine these two maps so it frees up some real eastate for something else, or this new object is 34 more faces, but it looks so much better on screen ... ya see ?)

Not too long a go we had a presintation and it envolved a lot of stuff from me, i clocked a good 24 hours over a weekend (high, but far from unheard of) just so these models would look that much better (all were done by Friday, but i spent the weekend making them better, uhh, or better IMO ;) )... did i have to stay that long ??? well, yes and no. i personally wanted them to look great (or as good as i could do) but my boss did not say i needed to stay, and he like what he saw Friday (but was blew away come Monday) .... see what i mean ???

I have also worked at a place that wanted everything done in record time and it still had to look great, but no time was given to do it unless you stayed all night. Friday was never the last day of the week (uh, as a matter of fact, i dont think they knew what the last day of the week even ment).

Looking back, it was not worth it, it caused more harm then good (emotional stress, burnout, fatigue, etc.). A slow painfull recovery had to take place (aided greatly by a million times better place to work).


05 May 2002, 08:41 PM
So, what kind of questions do you think would help with trying to feel out a company to see if they expect you to work all night all the time like that previous company that you worked for did?

05 May 2002, 03:23 PM
looking back ..... i think i would look in the offices (not snoop, but a quick look). If you see bedding on the floor, cots and sofas, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE !!!! (hehe, j/k). Companies buy dinner far more then they buy lunch and usally only if your working late (like to midnight) do they foot the bill. I think the snack room trash would show evidence of this (a trash full of pizza boxes, and tons of chinese food containers ... looks like dinner was at the office for the crew).

I dont know, The big eye (as we called it) showed no signs that i could tell of being a 7 day a week sweat shop. I even asked the guy interviewing me what were average hours worked in a week. I would ask not only the manager/boss interviewing you, but others who work there. No matter where you work, in this business, a time comes when you've got to do the crunch, it just should not be 10 months out of the year.

It was so bad that i could no longer take it. I went to my boss and gave him 3 choices-

1. give me two weeks off. me to work at home for a few weeks.

3. find another modeler.

I got the time off, but me forcing them to give me time off led to other problems.


05 May 2002, 08:03 PM
:) Ha!! Yeah that would be a bad sign. Those are good points, when I go searching I'm definitely going to try and talk to some of the actual employees first or at some point before I make a decision.

It's a good thing you didn't put up with that last place, no point in killing yourself. Work is supposed to be enjoyable after all...or at least the work that is ideal for each individual.


05 May 2002, 10:58 PM
Bedding....Pizza boxes....This is all very familiar...:hmm:

NOt games but broadcast production animation here, We expect at least a large crunch time evry couple of months..

They are fine and just part of what happens..but you have to be careful..Burnout s always a problem..

I too am married, and my wife accepts this...simply cause Ive been doing this since long before I met here...Plus I shower here with gifts..

Neat trick, get em hooked on god games...CIV etc, or Sims etc...Though this can be dangerous too:shrug:

Youll find ways to make time. Im also fortunate that I live only 10 minutes walk from work, So I can go home for meals etc. This sort of time is good. Also If late nights bother you and your life, try the opposite, early mornings. I do this often. Its my preference...Thogh try not to squeeze a late night onto the same day you do an early morning unless you have too.

Also napping is good more than 40 minutes though


Going home to sleep now.

05 May 2002, 06:39 AM

Walking to and from work sounds pretty nice. I'm worried about finding a place and getting stuck with a huge commute (I'm in the Bay Area after all). But we'll see, there's always public transit.

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