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Old 02-28-2013, 05:07 PM   #1
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Gamasutra: How Valve hires, how it fires, and how much it pays

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"Valve economist-in-residence Yanis Varoufakis offers a rare glimpse behind the curtain of what may be the most unique management structure in video game development today, in which projects thrive with zero management. "

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/...h_it_pays. php
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:32 PM   #2
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I think there was a reddit thread or something that said the whole "no managers" thing was a bit disingenuous. It said that someone in each group would essentially fall into the supervisor or lead position, but that they didn't have formal or over-reaching managerial duties. I would tend to believe that sooner than I'd buy into their supposed Democratic Utopia-like collective style.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:17 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artbot
I think there was a reddit thread or something that said the whole "no managers" thing was a bit disingenuous. It said that someone in each group would essentially fall into the supervisor or lead position, but that they didn't have formal or over-reaching managerial duties. I would tend to believe that sooner than I'd buy into their supposed Democratic Utopia-like collective style.


Plus it implies a tier like system if inherently bad, and it's really not. You need people running groups of people, or else everyone would end up doing twice as much work.
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:24 PM   #4
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Its always interesting to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the Valve machine operates. Their employee handbook was put up on the internet a while back and it was quite the read, really got me pumped to hopefully work there one day.
 
Old 02-28-2013, 09:29 PM   #5
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considering the latest round of layoffs there, i wouldn't be so hip to jump on that boat...
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Old 02-28-2013, 10:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael5188
Plus it implies a tier like system i(s) inherently bad, and it's really not. You need people running groups of people, or else everyone would end up doing twice as much work.


Exactly. But it is especially hard to find or create good managers who work with creatives. It takes a lot of skill and a pretty thick skin to understand the needs of creatives and also deal with the corporate BS above them. Maybe this is why so few companies are good at creating them, and some don't even attempt to. This peer-to-peer review system seems nice and diplomatic on paper, but I'm curious to see how it is actualized in a working office.
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:18 AM   #7
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That bonus system sounds very attractive. Sometimes a corporation does something generous because they want to, not because they have to and I'm sure they'll reap the rewards by getting the best staff.

Hats off to them for doing it and making it known.
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:32 AM   #8
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That bonus system sounds very attractive. Sometimes a corporation does something generous because they want to, not because they have to and I'm sure they'll reap the rewards by getting the best staff.

Hats off to them for doing it and making it known.


I'm not trying to bag on Valve, but this seems a little overly generous (your comment, not Valve's bonus packages). It's like those store signs that say "Up To 75% off!" Well, they only have to have one item at that discount to say that, right? Likewise, Valve can say "We can give a bonus of 10x their salary," but how often do they really do that?

But the bigger question is, without managers, who decides who gets those bonuses and for how much? At every company I've ever been at, there were the quiet workers who kicked ass and the noisy, "look how hard I'm working" ones who were less productive. So whose job is it to decide who gets what? No managers, huh? So Gabe knows the actual individual contributions of all 300 of his employees?
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Old 03-01-2013, 02:33 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artbot
I'm not trying to bag on Valve, but this seems a little overly generous (your comment, not Valve's bonus packages). It's like those store signs that say "Up To 75% off!" Well, they only have to have one item at that discount to say that, right? Likewise, Valve can say "We can give a bonus of 10x their salary," but how often do they really do that?

But the bigger question is, without managers, who decides who gets those bonuses and for how much? At every company I've ever been at, there were the quiet workers who kicked ass and the noisy, "look how hard I'm working" ones who were less productive. So whose job is it to decide who gets what? No managers, huh? So Gabe knows the actual individual contributions of all 300 of his employees?


Fair point, but surely the loud people get more chance to get "recognised" when they are right next to their manager and in constant suck up mode? Perhaps the distance allows the good workers a better chance to be seen as they are and not through the rose coloured glasses of "boss's friend" scenario?

We need some stats from Valve on how many staff really do benefit. Pity there's no Valvians on the forum. A double salary for the worst peformer would still make them far better than the best of the companies offering 20% bonus for the best, wouldn't it? 10X..... that would be quite a star.

It's interesting because while work isn't a charity, it definitely should shoulder more social responsibility than just hiring people or throwing some cash at a community centre. How they treat their staff is everything in this day and age of needlessly brutal decisions by corporate psychopaths. The system of capitalism is fine but there are the minor tweaks of considering the bigger picture and taking small hits on profit to ensure your staff are well cared for and, as a bonus to the employer, will actually stick around in the long term.
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Old 03-01-2013, 02:52 AM   #10
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There are a few talks about management at valve by Gabe. I like the quote "Management is a skill, not a career path". He describes how projects start with no lead and then someone steps up for a management role only to find its hard work. I remember him saying mainly new people jump at this chance based on previous studios/workplaces but once they realize how tough it is and how it isn't a bed of roses they are happy to go back to the role they were filling before.
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Old 03-01-2013, 04:05 AM   #11
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In our studio, I manage talent amd budgets as well as provide the creative direction. I find that creatives are the ones that need to get thick skins, not managers. Managing a project, the production staff, shouldering pressure from upper management and accounting as well asdealing with the client is quite the bitch of a time. I usually give members of the production staff opportunities to run the show. Usually it only takes once including the bail out to get the reigns handed back. However, that is with a crew of rookies (1-3 years experience).

When I worked with a very competent and confident crew, there was a senior member, but it was for the company to hold someone specific accountable. We each took lead on a project and worked support in the secondary projects to the other members.
 
Old 03-01-2013, 10:09 PM   #12
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I dunno folks, the proof is in the pudding. VALVE would hardly be relevant if it wasnt for Steam and Portal (which was developed somewhere else originally). What were their games again ? Ah, somewhat called Half-Life or so...like 6 years ago.
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Old 03-03-2013, 02:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmanuel
I dunno folks, the proof is in the pudding. VALVE would hardly be relevant if it wasnt for Steam and Portal (which was developed somewhere else originally). What were their games again ? Ah, somewhat called Half-Life or so...like 6 years ago.


Do you really think Portal would have been the hit that it was, without Valve's creative touch? Its original form was just another puzzle game, but it was because of Valve that it became the beloved narrative that people have created memes out of. It was the storytelling that elevated it to more than just another flavor of the week puzzle game.
 
Old 03-03-2013, 09:28 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmanuel
I dunno folks, the proof is in the pudding. VALVE would hardly be relevant if it wasnt for Steam and Portal (which was developed somewhere else originally). What were their games again ? Ah, somewhat called Half-Life or so...like 6 years ago.


I don't know, Team Fortress and L4D are pretty big to ignore. They also have a lot of irons in the fire (Steam Movie Maker, Greenlight or whatever that morphs into, selling applications through Steam, the hardware stuff, hedging the Linux bet). On the whole they seem a lot more innovative that most places.

Its cool to hear this sort of stuff. I have previously read that Valve remunerates better than most places, so a bonus heavy structure would make sense - not guaranteed to earn better, but potential to earn much better.
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:49 PM   #15
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something that the VFX industry can learn from?
From the Valve company menu

Quote:
Hours
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to
work some extra hours at times when something big is
going out the door, for the most part working overtime for
extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning
or communication. If this happens at Valve, it’s a sign
that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If
you’re looking around wondering why people aren’t in
“crunch mode,” the answer’s pretty simple. The thing we
work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to
stick around and have a good balance between work and
family and the rest of the important stuff in life.
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