ArenaNet

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ArenaNet Reviews

Updated December 17, 2014
Updated December 17, 2014
57 Reviews
3.9
57 Reviews
Rating Trends

Recommend to a friend
Approve of CEO
ArenaNet Co-Founder & President Mike O'Brien
Mike O'Brien
42 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Flexible work hours and understanding about work/life balance (in 15 reviews)

  • Work environment that encourages creativity (in 9 reviews)


Cons
  • Unfortunate "sink or swim" approach can overwhelm new folks (in 6 reviews)

  • Most of the upper management seems disconnected from their employees and the customers (in 10 reviews)

More Highlights

40 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    An Intern's Review

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Concept Art in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Concept Art in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    The quality of the work and the people were excellent. The employees are all incredibly skilled at what they do, and as an intern/contract worker, you need to be proactive in meeting people and learning from them. If you are a people person you will be able to meet and discover all the amazing people that are quietly working in their respective departments.

    Cons

    I don't know if it is due to the Seattle Freeze, but it does take some people a bit of work to get to know them. You really have to try and put yourself out there to get that camaraderie going -- especially across departments. But as an intern, you should be doing this anyway.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Breaking down some walls and promoting open collaborative work would not be a bad idea.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2.  

    A Vibrant and Positive Family

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet as a contractor (less than an year)

    Pros

    ArenaNet is a welcoming studio with a focus on providing a great work/life balance. Filled with brilliant and passionate people who in turn inspire you be your best, this company puts a lot of effort and time to promote a positive and collaborative work environment.

    Cons

    Parking is troublesome, but all in all the pros far outweigh the cons.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The management continues to keep one of the largest and most successful game franchises nimble and balanced enough to develop some of the best creative content in the games industry, this is not a small feat and is deserving of praise. My advice to the management is to keep up the effort and work closely with personnel from all areas of the studio so you can continue to steer the ship true.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 3 people found this helpful  

    Like a family, Arenanet is sometimes dysfunctional, but overall a great place to put down roots in the industry.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    The talented people who work at Arenanet, and the camaraderie that results from such clustering of "great minds" is one of the single greatest perks of working at Arenanet. There's no shortage of great ideas within these walls, and plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard, and there's passion from everyone to put out great content, and to make Arenanet the standard bearer, not just in our genre, but in our industry. Tremendous degree of creative expression for team members, even those who are new hires. Arenanet does reward its people generously, if you have patience, in terms of compensation and personal career development, but that may require years of finding one's niche at the studio and investing in your career here so if you're looking for a quick boost, this is probably not the company for you. Arenanet is an open and welcoming studio, in terms of accepting diversity and displaying flexibility in one's lifestyle. Overall, work/life balance for most employees is outstanding compared with other companies in the industry, and studio management has always been dedicated to putting family first. Salary wise, Arenanet seems to pay somewhat below industry "standard" at a base level, but the profit sharing plan and other benefits more than make up for any discrepancy. For full timers, and especially those with a family, you cannot beat the health insurance coverage which the company pays for (full for employee/partial for family members). Virtually unlimited soda and snacks in a large "cafeteria" style space, and ability to order lunch "in" from neighboring restaurants is great and convenient, as are the frequent food trucks.

    Cons

    Studio leadership can suffer from not having their pulse on what's happening in the trenches, and have been known to swoop in at the eleventh hour to change direction on the development teams, which not only slows production but damages morale. One of the more prominent and ongoing long-term issues is the "flat" structure of the studio. While it serves some benefits (less management overhead), in the big picture view, it comes at the serious cost of not providing employees with clear career advancement. There's opportunities, but it's very much left to the employee to "chart their own course", and HR and department leads have not always done a fantastic job of helping the process. Certain departments/teams have been ridden particularly hard over the past couple of years (Living World), and been given sometimes contradictory goals and directives (make this more epic, but do less), resulting in overtime as the teams struggle to deliver both quantity and quality. There are tools and process issues for a number of departments, which the studio is seemingly reluctant to put our full weight in resources and capital behind solving. Parking issues (either you pay heavy fees for parking, or park in a neighboring facility and risk being towed) are annoying. The company sometimes spends money unwisely or prioritizes the wrong things (treats for the employees when teams are told they can't have another software license because of budgeting).

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Really the best advice I could give to upper management is to read the "Cons" sections of the reviews on here with an open mind and a willingness to take that criticism at face value. While it's true that some of the comments are exaggerated and hyperbolic, there's also truth here, and we can only get better as a company if we read those comments and come up with a plan to address some of them. If there's one thing I've learned in my long tenure at Arenanet, it's that everyone who works here is filled with a passion not just to make great games, but to make Arenanet a great place to work. Many of the cons you will read in my review, and that of my colleagues are things that lots of studios struggle with, so this is not about "bashing Arenanet". But I think we have room to aspire to rise above some of the common handicaps that have plagued the industry and to do that, it can't hurt to work on addressing the most common complaints of our personnel.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 1 person found this helpful  

    I've never worked with a smarter group of people

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Lead Programmer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Lead Programmer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    - I can't speak for other departments, but programming pay is competitive with other industries and the profit sharing plan gives a great incentive to produce results.
    - Very flat hierarchy, making it super easy to discuss concerns with Directors or even the head of the company. They're all friendly and interested in feedback.
    - Amazing coworkers who produce insane things on the regular. I've never felt dumber working somewhere and been so happy about it.
    - Room to grow in my career is limited to some degree, but has still been very useful and taught me so much.
    - It went away for a bit but the internal improvement program is back and providing some really interesting classes.
    - I've never been given so much freedom to solve problems however I see fit. It's rewarding and stressful at the same time, but being able to own those decisions is huge.
    - Work-life balance is fantastic 95% of the time. The other 5% is less overall time than at any previous tech job and I enjoy the work more so I don't mind it. Since it's rare crunching with a team is actually kind of a fun experience.
    - Great medical/dental benefits
    - PROFIT SHARING

    Cons

    - Management priorities can shift in opaque ways sometimes. I've brought this up as an issue and it's improved some, but not as much as I'd like.
    - Hiring is spotty, had a long stretch w/ no stable recruitment team and very few new people coming in. Better now, but could be more I think.
    - Parking sucks & is expensive for what you get, especially after the buildings started to fill up.
    - Free snacks are too much salty/sweet, not enough fresh fruit or other healthier choices.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Making the priority process more transparent would go a long way towards chilling people out. Right now they seem to just appear and do all sorts of weird things to existing plans.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6.  

    Evolution of a AAA studio

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Game Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Game Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    There has been a lot of changes at ArenaNet over the past year or so, some of them viewed as questionable (like moving QA testing offsite) and some of them seen as exciting and groundbreaking (NDA prohibits me from sharing), but the company is making the necessary changes to continue to be able to be the best gaming studio to work for. GW2 was launched almost 2 years ago and moving from development stage into a live-world stage makes it necessary make changes in the way we work. We work more effectively today than the day I started, recruiting is bringing in all-star candidates for open roles and mediocrity is no longer accepted. This may not sit well with some of the old guard, but its a new world...The Living World.

    Cons

    With everything going on in the game and in the way in which we work, a better communication strategy is needed for everyone to know what is coming down the pike and how things will impact each person and their role/expectation. You shouldn't have to be in the right place at the right time in order to find out certain things.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Communicate more about the 2nd tier stuff. The primary priorities are clear, but the strategy in how we achieve those priorities is usually kept to the team working on it.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7.  

    Innovative, quality software

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Programmer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Programmer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    The company is always trying to push the limits in an otherwise tired genre, the MMO. The "Living World" releases are one of the few examples of successful episodic content in any genre, let alone MMO.

    Cons

    There are a lot of small teams, and sometimes some of the smaller teams get less attention than the big teams.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Grow into a multiple IP company.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8. 4 people found this helpful  

    A studio on the cusp of greatness hindered by poor management decisions.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    * The studio is filled with talented and passionate people everywhere you look.
    * Good benefits if you are full time.
    * Healthy, supportive atmosphere among the employees.
    * Great hours for some departments, especially given the industry norms.
    * Good career opportunities for many departments.
    * When everyone on a team is in sync they can produce amazing results.
    * Some key management figures truly care and it shows in the success their teams have.

    Cons

    * Severe reliance on contract/outsourced positions completely tanks morale across virtually every department.
    * Resources are spread too thin. Nothing seems like a real priority, and many teams cannot meet unrealistic expectations because of it.
    * Most of the upper management seems disconnected from their employees and the customers. There are a few definite exceptions, however.
    * Upper management seems to be unable or unwilling to change, either because they are ignoring reviews like these or not seeing them. Employees certainly aren't telling them these things, because they do not want to risk getting on someone's bad side and losing the political game.
    * Poor compensation for most departments.
    * When problems are presented to HR they seem to ignore them. If these problems are not being ignored it seems they can do nothing about them, which is even more frightening.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    My disapproval of the CEO is not directed toward just the CEO, but the entire management team.
    * The company needs to get its priorities straight and actually focus/commit to them.
    * Reduce the dependence on "temporary" contract labor. Talented people are slipping through your fingers constantly because of it. 90% of the TFT positions have no legitimate reason to not be full-time. This kind of self-induced churn hurts everyone and probably doesn't help the bottom line in the long-term.
    * Actually pass these reviews along to the people who need to see them. Nothing seems to be changing despite dozens of reviews with similar concerns and frustrations.

    The employees (myself included) love this studio, the product, and working together. Invest in them and they will invest even more in you.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  9. 8 people found this helpful  

    Overworked in the trenches, mismanagement at the top

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Content Designer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    * Crazy-talented developers who are passionate and clever about what they do.
    * You'll never not be amazed by the artists and sound team.
    * "Flat" team structure. Got a question? Roll your chair a few feet and ask away.
    * Good collaborative environment. Good ideas and solutions can come from anyone and anywhere.
    * Good insurance package.
    * Profit sharing can give vested staffers a nice bonus.
    * Annual Christmas gift in the form of a nice piece of tech or cash. Last year, all staffers got a PS4.

    Cons

    * Morale is dropping, veterans are departing.
    * Company feels rudderless. Upper management are virtually walling themselves off from the rest of the company.
    * Decision to move to Living World (with content updates every two weeks) was not well thought through and poorly implemented. Long hours, meddling from upper management, poor communication from the top who expected epic Hollywood production without investing in new technology or manpower.
    * Inexperienced producers. Some are struggling but doing great work, others will ride their teams into the ground.
    * Long, brutal crunches that can last months. Burnout is becoming commonplace.
    * Petty senior personnel who will throw people under a bus if they don't get their way.
    * Poor pay, hard to attract and keep talent. Especially programmers.
    * Growing reliance on temp talent. It's a long, hard slog to get converted to full time. Unless you get hired on as full time, expect to be on a temp contract.
    * Willingness by upper management to let designer vacancies stay vacant at a time when talent is sorely needed.
    * Hard to take time off without feeling like you are abandoning the team.
    * Everything seems one step away from crisis mode.
    * Buggy internal tools.
    * Problematic staffers who should have been fired long ago are still employed because of seniority/who they know.
    * No incentive to reward clever thinking or hard work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Communicate your vision with the rest of the company with clarity and honesty. Cut the dead weight. Stop chasing every damn shiny thing that catches your eye. Ask your teams what they can actually do in a given time frame and don't push them to do more with less. And if you want something flashy and epic, fund it. You have talented people bursting at the seams with ideas. We've reached the limits of what our current tools can do. Give us better cinematic tech. We're looking at everything our sister studio Carbine did with Wildstar and we're wondering "Why can't we present our game like that?" We are chomping at the bit to do great things, but at every turn we are being hobbled by you not filling open seats or funding departments on starvation budgets. Stop. Please.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great place to work as a programmer.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA

    I have been working at ArenaNet full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    - Excellent work-life balance. ArenaNet believes in quality of life for its employees and for most people, the office is mostly empty by 6-7 everyday. There are occasions when folks need to put in the hours (launch, big release days or other problems with the Live build), but these are not the norm.
    - Great people to work with. Employees here are, in general, amazingly talented and very friendly.
    - Realistic expectations of success and achievement for the company and for individuals.
    - Totally transparent business goals and practices. Business numbers are shown to employees on regular basis. This lets employees feel more ownership on the success of the company.
    - Profit sharing was handled in a fair and impressive way. All aspects of its calculation were disclosed to everybody and was tremendously fair and well-considered. The CEO (Mike Obrien) did not take any part of the profit sharing.
    - As a programmer, there is no micro-management by non-programmers. Programmers are respected and trusted to do their job. Programming managers are other programmers. The CEO is a programmer himself (much of his code is still in our codebase!) so there seems to be an inherent value placed on programmers.
    - Extremely good upward mobility. Many of the developers at ArenaNet started out as entry-level QA and quickly worked themselves up in the company in just a few years. Many people in leadership positions started their careers at ArenaNet.
    - Fun events with the studio and good for the family.

    Cons

    - Less than competitive salaries for programmers for the Seattle area. However, the work-life balance more than makes up for this. I suspect that ArenaNet's strategy of hiring younger, more talented folks in the industry (many straight out of school), and training and promoting within, results in a suppression of salary for people that would otherwise make more money if they left.
    - Another negative aspect of upward mobility and employee longevity is that many of the leadership at ArenaNet aren't experienced in other games, technologies, and processes.
    - The size of the company sometimes seems to be unwieldy for the management. ArenaNet clearly started as a small company and has now grown to over 300 employees. However, many of the processes in place (content creation pipelines and non-work-related things) assume a much smaller company.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 8 people found this helpful  

    Great people, bad upper management and very little opportunity for growth

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at ArenaNet as a contractor

    Pros

    * Some of the most passionate and creative people in the industry
    * Great work space and location
    * Innovative in some aspects
    * Free snacks
    * Great game to work on
    * Family-friendly
    * Flexible hours for many

    Cons

    * HR is not great, but it's *sort of* improving. It is a big company, which means they don't spend time on individuals. If you become very sick or have a family emergency, don't expect any kind of sympathy whatsoever from the company. The ladies at the front desk are the only exception.
    * Chocolate fountains and champagne != morale boost. Most of the morale building events feel like band-aids rather than actual solutions.
    * Directors seem disconnected from the rest of the company and from the player base. Some more-so than others. They provide minimal guidance throughout the development process. They expect more, making you feel like you have to crunch but then once reviews come around they have no problem telling you to completely redo your work. This results in a lot of mandatory crunch.
    * They say there's no crunch, but that is simply not true. The scope of this company is ridiculous. They stretch their employees too thin, and act surprised when the content that is being put into the game is buggy or undesired. There are too many teams and too many releases.
    * The execution of the Agile environment has been poor. Most of the Producers do not provide enough guidance, and with overzealous developers this gets out of hand very quickly. We are individually expected to scope out our time, but with poor communication between teams it is hard to do this.
    * Contract employees that are incredible and go above and beyond are not appreciated. Opportunity for full-time or fair pay is pretty much non-existent.
    * Revolving door of employees. We've lost some of the best co-workers due to low wages and unwillingness to try to keep them.
    * Upper management seems to only focus on metrics.
    * Compensation is just horrible.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    This company is not what it once was. It needs better compensation. You guys hype the company up like it's the end-all be-all, but there's very little substance to this anymore. The bi-weekly cadence has been tried and failed. It is killing your business. We're maintaining, yes, but having a graph that spikes but goes back down again feels pointless.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

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