ArenaNet
3.7 of 5 46 reviews
www.arena.net Bellevue, WA 150 to 499 Employees

ArenaNet Reviews

Updated Jun 27, 2014
All Employees Current Employees Only

3.7 46 reviews

                             

90% Approve of the CEO

ArenaNet Co-Founder & President Mike O'Brien

Mike O'Brien

(31 ratings)

71% of employees recommend this company to a friend
46 Employee Reviews
in
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    1 person found this helpful  

    Overworked in the trenches, mismanagement at the top

    Content Designer (Current Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    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 Senior ManagementCommunicate 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.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Work with some of the best people in the industry; work for a leadership team that rewards politics not talent.

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    ProsWithout a doubt, these are some of the best people in the industry. The employee culture is amazing. Everyone is passionate, driven, and yet humble enough to help others reach their goals. Morale is fairly high with a focus on maintaining employee morale through events and catering.

    ConsLeadership has faltered in recent years with the introduction of key high level execs. The director level meetings held the moniker of the "Star Chamber". Compensation for most non-programming roles is severely lacking. Several leaders didn't get effective leadership training, with a prime example being how reviews were handled; a struggling employee rarely received coaching until year end, where presented a low-rated review without explanation, long after there was an opportunity to address concerns - and usually done that way to avoid conflict.

    Advice to Senior ManagementDouble down on what got the company where it is: all of the people, not just the programmers.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    3 people found this helpful  

    Great company, but does not invest in employees.

    QA - Embed (Former Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    Pros-Incredibly awesome culture
    -Great place to cut your teeth as a video game employee
    -Tons of free food, employee events, and drinks
    -Everyone knows they have a job to do and that they must do it
    -Employees are (generally) easy to talk to
    -Amazing way to learn the ins-and-outs of a big game company
    -Fantastic introduction to the fast-paced life of the game industry
    -Unbelievably talented artists and designers
    -Unforgettably awesome experience being able to work with big names in the industry

    Cons-Huge, unfortunate gap between the vision of upper management and the needs of the teams they oversee
    -HR does not handle employee disagreements well; usually end up failing to hide anonymity which causes backlash
    -Directors often do not show for content reviews, causing final review day to be filled with confusion and often this leads to last-minute revisions
    -Some directors can get away with excessive rudeness/discrimination
    -Upper management prospective internal hires "We don't have the budget to hire you", then spends tens of thousands of dollars on wine/PS4s/new flatscreens/renovations
    -Several employees become aggressive and condescending when pushback is necessary
    -Production does not have a firm handle on the company's workflow
    -Agile/Rally implementation was poor
    -QA was outsourced in my final months there under a new QA director
    -Low compensation for contractors ($11-$12/hr) when contracts were still available
    -$55/month on-site parking fee OR park illegally at nearby Park & Ride
    -Recent surge of employee departures due to new company mentality

    Advice to Senior ManagementInvest in your employees. Treat them like people, make sure they're taken care of. Ensure your teams are being seen and that their content is being reviewed properly. More times than I care to count I watched a team struggle before release because the directors did not come to the majority of their reviews and suddenly wanted changes days before release. You must also try and respect deadlines. Code and Content Complete does not mean "add new code and content 2 weeks later and completely disrupt the process." Outsourcing QA was not a good decision because it took away that developer-tester medium and eliminated any chance of growth for any contract employee (and a great deal of ArenaNet's designers are former contract QA). HR needs to keep a tighter leash on those with power in the company, because they get away with a great deal of attitude and negative bravado.

    Stop paying your employees under the industry standard while simultaneously spending huge amounts of money on perks/Christmas gifts/wine and chocolate fondue/etc. I had to sell the PS4 the company gave me for Christmas because my hourly wage wasn't paying for my modest living expenses. Stop treating lower-tier employees like children. Don't overlook valid HR conflicts.

    Invest in your employees. Treat them like people. Don't treat them like gears in a machine. They are your most important asset, not your product. That fact feels like it's been forgotten.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    An inspiring place to work

    3D Character Artist (Former Employee)
    Seattle, WA

    ProsA great environment to work in. Beautiful common spaces and skilled and talented team members. Very good work hours, for the artists at least. Leads respect the ideas of their team, even the least experienced ones. Artists given a fairly good amount of autonomy. Work environment that encourages creativity.

    ConsSomewhat lower salaries than other similar-sized companies. Working space can be a little crowded. Not a lot of room for advancement in some departments. Too much dependence on outsourcing and temporary employees rather than hiring people full-time.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    1 person found this helpful  

    Great place to work as a programmer.

    Software Engineer (Current Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    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.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    5 people found this helpful  

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

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)

    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 Senior ManagementThis 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.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    Friendly, collaborative workspace.

    Anonymous Employee (Current Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    Pros- Excellent corporate culture.
    - Friendly, welcoming on-boarding process.
    - Strong sense of community, and contribution to a greater whole.
    - Flexible work hours.
    - Great work/life balance.

    Cons- Salaries are a bit on the low end.
    - Interns & contractors aren't eligible for any benefits.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    2 people found this helpful  

    Great Place to Grow

    Game Designer (Former Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    ProsArenaNet is a fantastic place for young, talented, and passionate people to work in a fun, fast-paced environment.

    ConsManagement is disorganized and overworked. The pay low compared to industry average.

    Advice to Senior ManagementDon't let your talent leave for better pay elsewhere. Instead of promoting the best engineers or designers to leadership roles, just compensate them better and let them be productive for you. I've seen too many talented individuals leave because of money (myself included) to other places.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    1 person found this helpful  

    Fun, fast-paced and variegated

    German QA Tester (Former Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    ProsWell managed teams, everyone is focused

    ConsPersonality conflicts are deadly in a small team since there is no slack.

    Advice to Senior ManagementKeep it up!

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm optimistic about the outlook for this company

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    4 people found this helpful  

    Unforgettable experience, incredible coworkers, and overall disappointment in management.

    QA - Embed (Former Employee)
    Bellevue, WA

    Pros-Incredibly talented and dedicated developers
    -Strong and sustainable product with the Guild Wars franchise
    -Mostly independent of publisher interference due to fiscal success with products
    -Very relaxed and comfortable work environment, nice office space, no cubicles, overall pleasing aesthetic
    -Nice location in the Greater Seattle area
    -Aggressive release schedule, resulting in stable and consistent work
    -Company always has a long term plan and release schedule, which is communicated to the employees
    -Management shares stats and monetary successes or failures of the product to the employees
    -Community teams are amazing at communicating with the players and overall fan base
    -Management is not afraid to green light fun, unique, and interesting content that the player base usually enjoys immensely
    -Overall strong and consistent sense of direction with the current product, which is clearly communicated to the employees and player base
    -Clear vision and understanding of MMO business models, particularly with monetization strategies

    Cons-Conflicting management teams that don’t always communicate effectively horizontally or vertically
    -Overall attempts to practice agile development, but consistently missing the mark
    -Frequent mismanagement of resources, especially with programmers
    -Compensation for all disciplines is not competitive, especially considering the region
    -Lack of communication between development teams, results in unexpected crunch time, unnecessary work, and down time
    -Production does not consistently plan for downtime in their estimates and schedules
    -Code/Content approval can be severely slowed down due to a somewhat chaotic and inconsistent review process
    -Too many "single points of failure" in staffing for specific disciplines. (i.e. a single network engineer for a very large project)
    -New teams/projects sometimes fail to take lessons from past post mortems or projects and repeat the same mistakes (i.e. repeating similar build process/work flows that were proved to be inefficient in past development)
    -Feature team sprint planning retrospectives appear to be ignored or very slow in being acknowledged
    -Management frequently allows for feature creep to become a problem
    -Extensive use of “contracted” employees when there is more than enough workload to justify more FTE positions, particularly in QA
    -Recent removal of the QA department to a third party agency poses a severe threat to studio culture and the pre-existing dynamic of hiring/mentoring from within (Good portion of design and production started as QA)

    Advice to Senior ManagementThere are two key points that need to be addressed. With so many moving parts within the studio, communication and better standards of development need to be established. This is particularly the case as teams are usually working on code/content that effect one another, but they are rarely aware until the last possible minute which usually results in overtime, and unnecessarily risky development.

    Lastly, the recent move to offload the entire QA department to a third party agency is undeniably an unhealthy move in regards to the studio culture and the pre-existing dynamic of mentoring/hiring young developers and producers from within. This is often referred to as “cutting off the hand that feeds” in this scenario. There will be a trickledown effect that will likely become visible six months to a year after making this move. There will most likely be an extremely high churn/turnover rate due to a lack of competitive wages and exposure to the studio environment. This will increase development costs due to new QA constantly being trained which will slow down the product workflow. The company will also likely be forced to hire more developers from external sources over time, which will also drive up costs, as they will likely require better wages, and will naturally have a training or product/tool familiarization downtime period.

    On paper this might look good, but in time the company will start incurring heavier recruitment costs, and QA training/retention costs. This will particularly be the case if the company wishes to keep the aggressive development pace that has been the standard.

    -Best of luck

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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