ArenaNet Reviews

Updated February 17, 2015
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  1. 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 a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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 Management

    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.

  2. 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)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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 Management

    Grow into a multiple IP company.

  3. Helpful (4)

    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)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    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 Management

    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.

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  5. Helpful (8)

    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)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    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 Management

    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.

  6. Helpful (8)

    Amazingly talented, passionate people; failing company culture and incompetent management.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    - The majority of people are very talented, dedicated, and passionate about their work as developers and fans of the game.
    - Work hours are flexible and there are daily catered lunch options you can order.
    - There are lots of fluff benefits (free snacks, drinks, open game room).

    Cons

    I'll start off by saying that the company has gone downhill alarmingly fast in the past year, and in addition to the points below, I'd agree with everything else other glassdoor reviews have highlighted about the current cons of working here.
    - Compensation: ArenaNet has always paid below the industry standard for most, if not all, of its positions, but this didn't matter as much in the past for many people because there was an amazing company culture to make up for it where you felt that your contributions mattered and that there were opportunities to advance. This is no longer the case, and salaries have not only lagged behind, but opportunities to advance have also been greatly reduced.
    - Upper Management is poor: Some directors and design leads pay more attention to graphs and data then what people both in and outside of the studio are saying, and this often ends up with projects either being poorly prioritized, scoped beyond what a team can handle, or just driven in the wrong direction. The majority of the people driving the studio are severely out of touch with/don't care about the people in the trenches and the players.
    - HR doesn't care: After GW2 launch, the company started bleeding talent, but there was no visible effort to fix this problem. Instead of hiring (very qualified TFTs) internally for openings, there was an increased focus on bringing in new contractors instead and outsourcing the QA department. This had a substantial effect on company morale as everyone started to question their job security. Multiple people raised concerns about this situation with HR, but no concerns were addressed.
    - HR won't make hard decisions: There are a number of people in the studio who don't perform, but because of their personal connections (as friends, spouses, etc), they aren't fired.
    - Production doesn't schedule teams well: Crunch time lasts far longer than it should, projects end up far out of scope, and deadlines are frequently treated as movable guidelines. Despite the desire to make quality content, a lot of teams are forced to quickly move from project to project, which has resulted in releases far below the quality they deserve.

    Advice to Management

    Get your nose out of your numbers and charts and graphs, and actually look at and listen to the rest of the studio. There are people who are ruining the company and the game because of poor decisions that are focused on what they think will increase profits or decrease costs while ignoring what got ArenaNet to where it is in the first place: its people. If you want any hope of saving your company, then start making ArenaNet a place that feels safe to work again and where there are opportunities to grow. Recognize the limits of the design teams and come up with realistic project goals and deadlines. Become a player again.

  7. Helpful (4)

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

    • 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 (more than 3 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    Pros

    Without 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.

    Cons

    Leadership 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 Management

    Double down on what got the company where it is: all of the people, not just the programmers.

  8. Helpful (6)

    Great company, but does not invest in employees.

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

    I worked at ArenaNet as a contractor (more than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    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 Management

    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.

  9. Helpful (1)

    An inspiring place to work

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

    I worked at ArenaNet as an intern (more than a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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.

  10. Helpful (2)

    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 a year)

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    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.

  11. Helpful (8)

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

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

    I have been working at ArenaNet as a contractor

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    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 Management

    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.

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