ArenaNet Reviews

Updated August 26, 2014
Updated August 26, 2014
53 Reviews
4.0
53 Reviews
Rating Trends

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

Review Highlights

Pros
  • Flexible work hours and understanding about work/life balance (in 11 reviews)

  • Very good work hours, for the artists at least (in 8 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

Employee Reviews

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  1. 1 person found this helpful  

    An inspiring place to work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - 3D Character Artist  in  Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - 3D Character Artist in Seattle, WA

    I worked at ArenaNet as an intern for more than a year

    Pros

    A 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.

    Cons

    Somewhat 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.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  2. 6 people found this helpful  

    Great company, but does not invest in employees.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet as a contractor for more than a year

    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 ManagementAdvice

    Invest 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.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 1 person 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 for more than a 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
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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Friendly, collaborative workspace.

    • 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 an intern for less than a year

    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.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6. 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
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    Fun, fast-paced and variegated

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - German QA Tester  in  Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - German QA Tester in Bellevue, WA

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time for less than a year

    Pros

    Well managed teams, everyone is focused

    Cons

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

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Keep it up!

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8. 7 people found this helpful  

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

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

    I worked at ArenaNet as a contractor for less than a year

    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 ManagementAdvice

    There 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

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 3 people found this helpful  

    Great Place to Grow

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

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time for more than 3 years

    Pros

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

    Cons

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

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Don'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.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 5 people found this helpful  

    Wonderful company, experience varies wildly depending on where you land.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet full-time for more than a year

    Pros

    Pay can be competitive depending on role
    Well stocked kitchen
    Fun game room
    Good PTO/holiday policy
    Lot of smart people work there

    Cons

    ArenaNet does not train people. That's an actual quote from upper management. You're left to flounder as a new employee and you will receive no feedback at all from your supervisor if you are not meeting his/her expectations.
    "Management" as it were, is lacking (absent). Since my first day at ArenaNet I never felt guided, instructed, developed or supported. It was a growing experience to be sure but as far as I can tell, management simply can't be bothered to support their team.
    As others have stated and as continues to be the case, this is very much a "sink or swim" company and they don't seem to care which it is. They don't care about your success because they don't work to further it, and they don't care if you fail because no one will ever step in to help you. You're utterly alone, have no misconceptions about this.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    You (management) exist for one sole purpose, and that is to enable your team. That's it- that's you're entire role in a nutshell. Anytime you're not working to enable and unblock your team, you're underperforming.
    Employee development is key to a successful company, and employees that are not developed will walk right out the front door with all their knowledge.
    Management need to actually *be* managers instead of simply shirking those duties they find unsuited to their sensibilities.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 2 people found this helpful  

    Great people and projects. Disappointing opportunities.

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet as a contractor for more than a year

    Pros

    Droves of talented, passionate and hard working people.
    Lots of projects to be involved with.
    Stocked kitchen.
    Very friendly and welcoming teams.

    Cons

    If you are a very experienced tester or just very familiar with Guild Wars 2 you may feel unchallenged by the work.
    Tools and training are very context specific. Not much of what you learn carries over to other studios' projects.
    If you have technical skill or experience you aren't likely to be utilized for it.
    Despite the welcoming atmosphere there is still a strong and very noticeable resistance to a contractor's input.
    Pay is extremely low for this industry.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Guild Wars 2 is a relatively complex game but the testers brought in for certain positions are obviously unqualified for their tasks. Serious efforts have been made to document procedure and train new hires but by the time a new tester has a grasp of everything they need to be effective they quit or their contract ends.

    The qualifications for the testing positions need to be much higher because a lot of valuable time wasted on training. The pay needs to be better since the work load and skill set is much higher than other studios paying more. The 12 month contract need to go since the projects are part of a continuous development for a living game. There needs to be motivation for a senior tester to return but there can't be if they know their skills and experience are not valued by the studio.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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