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A College Guide to EA 464

DesiVideoGamer writes "With all the recent news about EA, one of the professors at Carnegie Mellon University is giving a talk about EA after he visited the company for a semester. He also published a white paper about EA and what college grads should know about it. (pdf format) The paper talks a lot about the culture at EA and could indirectly explain the previous stories covered by Slashdot."
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A College Guide to EA

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  • Its one company I would never work from the sounds of management over there.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Salary.... That's a big word and it's not there.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:19PM (#10808598)
      well .. i think, based on timing and wild speculation, that it's possible that the whole spouse story could have been engineered by the attorneys trying to file a class action lawsuit against EA. The ensuing negative publicity would serve as "encouragement" to make EA try to settle the lawsuit.

      I am not saying it was a planned strategic move .. I'm just saying it's possible and we shouldnt be lemmings and believe stuff just cause it "feels better" to trust something without looking at it in a skeptical manner as well.
    • I might still have the jacket and flyer for EA's pinball construction set. It talked about how they were going to treat game programmers like rock stars, their names on boxes, household words, blah blah blah... I could just see the cycling from prima-donnas to peons waiting to happen.
    • by still_sick ( 585332 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:25PM (#10809701)
      EVERY SINGLE PERSON who works at EA is working at EA because at one point in time, they wanted to.

      I'm a CS grad, and most of my fellow CS grads, including myself, originally got into progtamming / CS because we wanted to do games.

      Along the way there, EVERYONE knew that game developers worked long hours for little pay. Most of my friends then chose to follow another path. I wound up going into the Power Industry.

      Even in spite of all the bad press EA has been getting (even though it's deserved), there are still tens of thousands of people who would sell their souls to work on an EA game.

      No, that does not excuse the employee's mistreatment entirely. But you can't ignore that fact.

      I've got one friend who ended up going into the Games Industry anyways, in spite of all the stories. Every once in a while we'll all get together and play the latest game he worked on. He gets bragging rights that none of the rest of us do. Everyone else writes business or industrial Apps. Nobody WE talk to gives a squirt of piss to see our latest creations, but everyone can't wait to see the newest game he churned out.

      So in the end, I don't think it's fair to look at EA as this huge monolithic beast that's 100% evil, and all the poor poor employees as 100% victims. They knew what they were getting into when they applied (or at least they SHOULD'VE done their research). And now they're just getting what they should've expected.

      Not everyone gets paid a huge salary and mega-benefits to work their dream jobs.
  • EA Sports... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ral315 ( 741081 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:01PM (#10808512)
    The saddest part is, nothing's gonna change anytime soon. The same people that boycott Nike and Walmart won't buy, but nobody else will give a damn.
    • by jomas1 ( 696853 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:26PM (#10808631) Homepage
      I'm one of those people who boycott Nike and Walmart and I'll probably boycott EA too.

      In fact, you've almost convinced me to start pirating EA's games.
    • Re:EA Sports... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:38PM (#10808710)
      Yep, I hardly ever goto walmart. Rarely see movies, buy films. Buy mostly indie music ... I buy my groceries at Vons and Stater Brothers and pay more then at walmart... I stopped buying from buy.com because they outsource their call centers. I did buy a HP laptop even though I swore I'd quit with their products after their president said the problem with highly skilled american tech workers was they weren't willing to work for minimum wage.

      But I don't feel like Im saving the world or even making a dent in any of these companies :)

  • I'm shocked they haven't responded yet.
  • I suppose colleges are getting funky with their subject matter -- as there are topics covered that make little sense to me. A course in American Idol, for one. At least it's a just a talk and not an entire course.

    On the other hand, it may be a decent business-oriented class to follow a relatively successful biz to see the things they got right/wrong along the way. Like a case-study in business...and people can even choose which ones they wish to follow with courses in EA, IBM, MS, GOOG, and maybe one th
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:11PM (#10808561)
    As a typical slashdot poster, I'm not supposed to have to even read the primary link before I spout off in the comments section. The submitter does the readin', I do the commentin'. That's tradition. Ergo I find it very disturbing when I can't even fathom what the summary's about without following secondary links. That's just unacceptable, pardner.
  • by Akki ( 722261 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:14PM (#10808581)
    It paints EA and its practices in the best possible light.

    "We grind employees until they quit" becomes "mediocre performers are not tolerated".

    "We force everyone to work insane hours whether they like it or not" becomes "employees work long hours because they love the company".

    • Hah. Same arguments Hitler used in the Holocaust. One to his own people, and one when he wanted to try to convince the world he was doing good (during the Berlin Olympics, etc).
    • "We force everyone to work insane hours whether they like it or not" becomes "employees work long hours because they love the company".

      Wow, that sounds so much like the propaganda of a communist country, it's scary. EA really reminds me of the USSR and North Korea here...
    • NewSpeak (Score:5, Funny)

      by felonius maximus ( 601940 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:33PM (#10808672)
      You have a double-plus-good grasp of NewSpeak.

      Do you work for EA's Ministry of Truth?

    • Can't agree more... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pVoid ( 607584 )
      One of EA's major strengths is in management of people and process.

      No matter what the behaviour of the previous slashdotters might have been, and I do mean whatever - they might has well have set their boss' office on fire - management and HR failed when they blatently lied to him and said everything was ok up until he got yanked in for his 'last straw'. (c.f. previous slashdot post which I am too lazy to get a link for)

      People at EA work long hours, in large part because of their great passion for maki

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:20PM (#10808600)
    What a fucking mistake. Back to filtering out the 0-level AC's and trolls. Has anyone actually read the fucking article? Has anyone read the first fucking page of the fucking article? What do I see in the first fucking 20 posts? EA had it coming and /. has something against EA! The fucking article, if you had even skimmed the first page, is relatively positive towards EA; saying in essence that:
    1, they are huge and run a tight ship
    2. most people there are pretty enthused about their job
    and 3. EA fucking approved the goddamn article.

    Read, you motherfuckers, READ!!!!!!!!!
  • So, the paper says that EA is going to staff itself with 75% new grads - that figures, as nobody else will work there, what with the current situation.

    Some of the statemetns are laughable, though - rigid meritocracy? EA is strong in its management of people? People work long hours out of dedication? And here I thought it'd be an expose, or at least somewhat cynical...

  • Telling Quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:26PM (#10808628) Homepage
    *note to mods
    I have mod points to spare, so I'd rather have your discussion than your points.

    I think one of the most insightful quotes in the whole read (which was absolutely fascinating by the way because of how neutral it tried to be) was this:

    The video game business is very time sensitive; many titles are timed to ship in time for Christmas sales, sports titles are tied to the season opening of sports, and movie titles must release in time frames corresponding to the movies. Making an outstanding game, but delivering it late, is not as profitable as making an acceptable quality game on time. EAers talk about "maximum on-time quality."

    I think that about sums up the business of making video games. Remember guys, they'd love a great game, but in the end, they don't really care as long as they get it out on time. Another interesting quote was:

    "EA veterans say that the major reason games ship late is due to a lack of focus in the design vision: "games are usually late because the development team doesn't know what it is building."

    While I'm all for encouraging small game developers and publishers to grow because more competition is good, I think this illustrates that there is a point when you become too large as a company to effectively produce games.

  • by KillerCow ( 213458 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:28PM (#10808646)
    Just a recent EA story from me.

    I've been looking for work, and I ended up at the EA website. I'm available for the next year, and they had a one year contract position in my area of expertise, so I applied. I didn't hear back from them for about a month. Then I got a call from EA for a "phone interview." We start going throught the questions, and they don't apply to the position that I applied for. They were all, "what part of the game do you want to make," and my response was "I didn't apply for a game development job" every time (I also provided answers that were related to what I really applied for). I eventually asked if she was calling in response to the job that I applied to. She said that EA was calling all "new grads" to find out about them, and that she didn't know about the job that I had applied to. Thanks for wasting my time EA, I'm obviously not a serious candidate to you.
  • Factually False... (Score:5, Informative)

    by myrdred ( 597891 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:28PM (#10808648)
    The article states, on the first page, that EA is a huge company, bigger than Apple and Pixar combined. Then procceeds to give numbers, anual revenues of $3 Billion and Market Cap of 15 Billion. Uh-uh. Apple has an annual revenue of over 10 Billion, and market cap of 21 Billion.

    See: http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=AAPL

    Considering the blatant lack of facts in such easy to check information, I'd take what the rest of the article says with a big grain of salt.
    • by DoctaWatson ( 38667 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:18PM (#10808962)
      Perhaps a company can have lower revenue and market cap and still be "bigger"? It's a pretty broad term. Perhaps it's used in the wrong context, but I don't think it's necessarily a factual error.
    • by elysian1 ( 533581 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:21PM (#10808978)
      Not exactly. Apple's stock price has gone up considerably over the past six months. It's stock price closed at $55.50 on Friday but six onths ago, it was $27-28. If we consider that the article was written during spring semester of 2004, the lastest that would be would be late May to early June, 2004 which is about 6 months ago. At that time, Apple was probably worth $11-12 billion. Another intersting note, EA's stock has gone down a bit since six months ago. It's worth around $14.5 billion now.
    • Might have something to do with the fact that the article took financial data from the Q1 2004. EA has stayed put since, Apple has more than doubled: comparison chart [yahoo.com]
  • by pb9494 ( 550141 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:29PM (#10808656)
    Article gets posted at 3.57 PM. Half an hour later, already 40 posts... Come on guys, it's a 26 page article.
  • Pausch or Personnel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Personally after reading Pausch's document, it reads like he hasn't personally experienced working at EA, although under a residency, he doesn't seem to have experienced the same working conditions as the staff have mentioned (also as the class action might suggest). Although Pausch refers to the fact some staff are well rewarded and are 'vested', so do not have to work for the money, I think he wrongly jumps to the conclusion that all staff can reach this stage.

    It is likely the staff are all paid on vario
  • Why EA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dshaw858 ( 828072 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:34PM (#10808688) Homepage Journal
    I know that EA is not exactly one of the nicest companies to work for (as we've all seen with all the bad press), but why is everyone focusing on EA? Rather than seeing this movement as a gateway to have discussions about all of the hundreds of companies that act the same way, people are just attacking EA. I think it's important to note that EA isn't the only company that acts like this- in fact, I think it summarizes a good percentage of the corporate world.

    - dshaw
  • ea sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alatesystems ( 51331 ) <chris AT chrisbenard DOT net> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:35PM (#10808690) Homepage Journal
    The only game I like by them is Burnout 3. That game kicks ass. All of their "churn-out-another-copy" games each year suck ass!!

    I am so sick of hearing "Challenge Everything" when I start up B3. They only thing they know how to challenge is the paradigm of game making. And by challenge, I mean ruin.

    When I read stories about how they treat their employees, who are fellow software developers, it makes me glad I am "evaluating" Burnout 3.
  • by cmason ( 53054 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:38PM (#10808711) Homepage
    penny-arcade.com [penny-arcade.com]:

    • In other news EA grinds up babies to make their games. Well maybe they aren't that bad but they do totally fuck over their employees.

    Randy Pausch [cmu.edu]:

    • One of EA's major strengths is in management of people and process.
    • The largest sin at EA is not delivering your game on time.
    • EA has a very young, energetic work force.
    • People at EA work long hours, in large part because of their great passion for making games.

    Who's telling the truth? You decide.

    Personally, I think Randy Pausch is a putz, and I'm speaking both as someone who has seen him lecture at CMU and who has friends that were advised by him.


    • by stevarooski ( 121971 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:36PM (#10809069) Homepage
      I too have seen Randy Pausch lecture and met with him when deciding on which phd program to attend. In his defense:
      • He is an excellent speaker; I can see why he gets tapped to give recruitment talks.
      • The students (mostly undergrad) I chatted with around his lab liked him a lot and his classes on virtual worlds, etc seem to be popular; while I was there the interactions I saw with students were pretty positive.
      • He runs a program geared entirely towards (and I would bet at least partially funded by) the high-tech entertainment industry, of which EA is a huge part. Obviously he needs to maintain good relations with them, especially in light of recent court cases, etc.

      Do I think this is a valuable document? Hell no. Its basically free and highly valuable advertising for EA on how to make more cogs for their machine. It might also be an attempt to address the disturbing questions being asked by potential hires in light of all this newfound bad publicity.

      I happen to have interned at EA as an dev a few years ago and I know exactly what goes on there. The reasons for increasing college hires are obvious and have been mentioned already: why hire older folk with wives and lives when you can get smart, young, exploitable, eager-beaver new grads who will work until their eyeballs bleed for a spot on the credits? The fact that Randy and profs like him are trying to tailor academic programs towards what EA wants is icing on the cake and (to me) a disturbing trend. Many departments get donations from industrial affiliates; I would bet that EA's donatations to his program are handsome.
      • I think people are trying to interpret Professor Pausch's paper as some sort of a pro-EA propaganda, when the intent of the paper was not to write a "review on EA", but to enhance the educational programs they have at CMU by learning more about how EA does things.

        I think the paper is extremely good and thought out given its intended goal.
  • by Thagg ( 9904 ) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:45PM (#10808752) Journal
    How could the professor not enlighten his students about the work schedule at EA, that from the previous two articles here is rather different than what might be expected? Several times, and in different ways, he states that you have to "work hard" and that EA is a "meritocracy" and that mediocre results will not be tolerated. That's all good, but your average CMU student is substantially brighter than most students (just an observation, I didn't go there) and probably feels that he would be able to excel at EA by working a normal, or maybe somewhat extended workweek.

    I can well imagine that the student arriving at EA to the expectation that he will work 12/6 would feel blindsided. He does mention that there are "crunch times" before deadlines, but I would think that a little more elaboration on that topic would be appropriate for his students. The facts that crunch times seem to be scheduled even when projects are on track, that the extra hours are uncompensated by overtime pay, and that the ratio of "crunch time" to "down time" seems to be greater than one (based on admittedly biased, but believable comments here so far.)

    It's got to be tough to be in his position -- appropriate jobs are hard to find for even the most qualified new graduates -- but presenting a balanced picture would be a good thing to do, IMHO.

    Thad Beier
  • by Muhammar ( 659468 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @05:55PM (#10808820)
    This paper reminds me very much the Navy/Army recruitment pitch.

    The guy wants to teach a master-level course tailored so that the graduates can go and apply for EA positions right away. So, this guy goes to EA and 'studies' its management culture for half a year. Then he writes a paper how tough-but-fair the company is.

    If there is something fishy you will not learn it from this propaganda - quite opposite, it would make you think that the *real* reason why you end up hating your rude slave-driving overlords is that you are not talented and focused enough to measure up to the highest standards of this "ruthless meritocracy".

    The value of this white paper should increase - if they print it on a soft foldable sheets.
  • Jesus Christ, that guy has his nose so far up EA's ass he knows what all the execs had for dinner last night. WTF is going on here? Man I thought my univerisity had some clueless corporate tools on staff. Can you say sellout? CMU should be ashamed. Preparing students is one thing, but they should be prepared for success, not being eaten alive. Notice how he doesn't actually talk about the work he did there? Something tells he spent his residency bullshitting with execs, not writing code 12 hours a day.
  • by corby ( 56462 ) * on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:02PM (#10808856)
    Most of this rah-rah article can be disregarded. Its content had to be specifically approved by EA, and the author uses it primarily to promote his own curriculum.

    But clearly the most telling piece is that Electronic Arts wishes to increase their hiring rate of college graduates from 10% to 75% of all open positions.

    On page 14, the reasons given for this radical makeover of the workforce are that the college grads are more "malleable" and "idealistic". These grads also "draw lower salaries", and continuously replacing older workers with young ones means they do not have to "invest heavily in contuing education."

    I think most of us reading this can decide if hiring 75% of your workforce with no previous job expierience is an attempt to:

    a) Improve the quality of your products while promoting a family-friendly corporate culture; or

    b) Find fresh meat that doesn't have the prior experience to understand that they are being mistreated, and that they do not deserve it.
  • by RancidPickle ( 160946 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:14PM (#10808936) Homepage
    After EA is done grinding through all the folks who are desparate for a job or just graduated, and enough word is out that EA is not a place to make a career, they'll just begin to outsource the work to India or Asia. They'll keep some of the folks who generate the hot-selling game ideas (and treat them well) while outsourcing the code jockey work. Keep a small and well-treated group to fix the problems, and you'll have lots of profits.

    The only other way for them to start treating their employees in a reasonable manner is to start buying their competitors products and just stick to getting EA games off of Usenet.

    Eventually, there will be enough of the old EA gurus around to pool together resources and start their own game company, then beat EA at their own game (pun intended).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:17PM (#10808954)
    Professor Randy Pausch at CMU is himself known as somewhat of a slavedriver, among his graduate students. He's also among the most abrasive, "my way or the highway" professors at CMU (who, on average, are very competitive but also reasonable and laid back -- the department even has an official "reasonable person policy"). I'm not really surprised that it's he who is writing this kind of one-sided defense of EA's culture article.

    It's obviously another valuable perspective, but it should be interpreted with an eye to the rather extreme personality of the guy writing it. He's not your average academic (or average corporate manager, for that matter). He's closer to Philip Greenspun in personality, for those of you who know him.

    Posted as AC, but I'm someone with firsthand experience working with Professor Pausch.
    • "Professor Randy Pausch at CMU is himself known as somewhat of a slavedriver, among his graduate students."

      Not to defend the professor, but this statement can be said about virtually ANY "successful" (however you want to term this) professor with graduate students. Graduate students tend to be driven already. Couple that with a driven professor....

      I have also noticed there is a difference (even with the same prof.) depending upon whether the student is a MS or PhD student. Of course, it is hardly a surpri
  • Overtime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by waterford0069 ( 580760 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @06:24PM (#10808996) Homepage
    Oddly enought, Manitoba (Canada) just had a labour board ruling that said (roughly) that all employees (salaried or not) are entitled to Overtime Pay (or time off in lieu of) for any hours worked over and above 40 hours per week. And it doesn't matter if the contract you signed says otherwise.

    I know the concept is that as a sallaried position; your lean times are supposed to make up for your fat time. But that's not the case. If there is a lean time big enough to compensate for the over time, then the company is already in trouble.

    The last sallaried position I had, part of my compenstation was supposed to be proffit sharing (at the discression of the manager/owner). Those proffits didn't even come close to what I could have earned working a minimum wage job for the overtime I put in.

  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:19PM (#10809678) Homepage Journal
    (From the PDF)

    "Probably the most surprising thing I learned about EA is that its leaders, including its creative leaders, describe it as a packaged goods company like Proctor and Gamble or Nabisco."

    This, in a nutshell, with extreme eloquence sums up EA's fundamental problem...and from the sounds of things it is very fundamental to them. There is no possible way that a company with this mentality can hope to run an MMORPG in particular...because a boxed product is the direct opposite of what an MMORPG is. A more appropriate conventional metaphor, or one which boomers would at least be more comfortable with, would be to think of an MMORPG as a virtual theme park or wildlife reserve. Expansion packs therefore, rather than being end products in themselves, should be thought of as visitor passes to previously roped off/undeveloped areas of the park. This analogy actually works very well with UO in particular...as using a client older than Age of Shadows for example after AoS's release meant that a person could not go to Malas or Ilshenar, for example.

    If EA want to really break into the MMORPG space, (and they haven't substantially yet; UO is going downhill at a rate of knots, and The Sims Online is still well below target population) they're going to have to stop thinking purely in terms of being box-sellers, and start thinking in terms of being virtual park rangers. (or in the case of The Sims Online, even a virtual government)

    An MMORPG is NOT something you can put in a box, throw out the door, and then heave a big sigh of relief because it's finished. They need continual maintenance, and if they are to do well they need continual maintenance by someone who actually has a clue about how to do it.

    Even for single-player games however, this type of thinking is creatively barren and disastrously toxic. It might work fine for the annual regurgitation of a football game, (like Madden, and what Unreal Tournament sadly seems to be in danger of becoming) since football does not fundamentally change over time, (although on that score UT has absolutely no excuse) but with virtually any other genre, all it will ensure is that rehashes and regurgitations of the same tired old formulas get trucked out the door every year...Innovation comes to a standstill. I truly hope that for EA's sake they have in mind to change this philosophy, because they're signing their own commercial death certificate if they don't. Sure, it makes good commercial sense to go with the tried and true, (at least for maybe the first couple of sequels as far as games go) but there should I think be a dual approach. While you're assuring that the bills get paid today, you should also be focussed on staking out as much new creative territory as possible...because that's the only way to make sure that the bills also get paid tomorrow. Trying to get EA to put an emphasis on creativity is futile...They're a company, and their primary interest is to generate as high a margin as possible. But I wish we could encourage the company somehow to at least be halfway intelligent and forward-thinking when it comes to making money as well.
  • The way to hurt EA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:18PM (#10809968) Journal
    My thought on this is to write letters not to EA, but to the sports bodies that license their names for EA.

    If the likes of the NBA, NFL etc cancelled their contracts with EA over this I am sure EA would have to make drastic changes.

  • by Karr ( 830894 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:04PM (#10810493)
    In his "Basic Facts about Video Games" section he states that retailers keep $17 of a $49 game, with the caveat that this is an "approximate breakdown." As a retailer, I can assure you that this is "approximately" DOUBLE the actual average amount a retailer receives, including co-op marketing funds. That said, there's a pretty big slice of pie missing--I wonder who ate it?
  • by danila ( 69889 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @01:42PM (#10813544) Homepage
    Many people believed that the collapse of Soviet Union meant that capitalism won forever (one of them was that retard Fuckuyama). This is blatantly wrong and it should be obvious to Americans. These are the very same problems that people faced in 1900s, 1910s and 1920s, it's just that it's not very common you are allowed to speak about it. Labour conditions were abysmal in many industries for many decades, EA is not really such a deviation.

    The solutions to these problems are the same as ever. A temporary solution is the creation of a welfare state, a la Scandinavia, where the "national mission" is to make life fun and enjoyable for everyone by collecting enough in taxes and spending it generously (and smartly) on welfare. A better solution, the one which unfortunately was indefinitely postponed, but is inevitable anyway, is abandonment of all private property, which is the only way to destroy the alienation of people from the fruits of their labour, which is the only way to make people free.

    Don't despair, it will come. We blew the chance we had in the USSR, but it will come "real soon now". Don't lose hope.

    P.S. I intentionally didn't try to explain why it will come, because that's a wholly different (and very long) discussion.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"