Cryptic Studios Reviews | Glassdoor

Cryptic Studios Reviews

Updated March 24, 2017
40 reviews

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3.2
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Stephen D'Angelo
3 Ratings

40 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (2)

    "Family friendly company that needs more innovative design leaders"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Senior Game Designer
    Former Employee - Senior Game Designer
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Cryptic is a very family friendly company. Family always comes first, and I never felt any judgement when that rule was tested. Hours are normally reasonable as crunch is avoided.

    Cryptic's medical benefits are some of the best in the industry, at least from what I've experienced. Even with all of the shifts with medical insurance, Cryptic kept its employees taken care of.

    The CEO, Stephen D'Angelo, is incredibly smart and has a clear vision of where he wants the studio to be in the next 4 weeks, 4 months, and 4 years. He's willing to listen to what everyone has to say and his door is open for anyone who can catch him during his downtime to ask him a few questions.

    The people at Cryptic are all incredibly nice and laid back and there was never really a sense of many "cliques" in the studio.

    The programming team is incredibly talented and has great leadership, and the art team has started to come into its own with new leadership that is helping push them forward.

    The higher ups in Cryptic are very careful about avoiding any layoffs within the company. There were some layoffs while I was there, but nothing on the level that I had seen at other companies that I almost joined. The company's goal is to keep people employed for five, ten, over fifteen years, and they want to make it a company that people can settle down in with their families.

    Cryptic has begun to offer many other benefits, such as a gym within the building and free workouts with an instructor once a week. These are great and they seemed like they were only starting when I left.

    The studio as a whole is heading in a positive direction under the leadership of Stephen D'Angelo, who is looking to shore up the weaknesses of the company and isn't worried about "hurting feelings" if it means making the company better and smoother. The company is in a position where it wants change, and the CEO wants to empower people to fix the cons that you're going to see below.

    Cons

    Cryptic pays well, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to live in the area around it (Los Gatos) while competing with companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. There's not a great solution to this, and the amount it impacts varies from person to person. Single-income families may find it difficult, but dual-income families or people without families may be able to make it for the long run.

    Sometimes the passion of the production team boils over from managing schedules to actively suggesting features that require people to say no to them. The passion is great, but it's not so great when people have to tell production they don't have time in their schedules to do the work. This is not widespread, and happens on occasion, but is still a sore point when it does.

    The design teams needs some leadership that is better tapped into what's actively happening in MMO's. For a company that only develops MMO's, the current design leadership does not show much passion or knowledge for present-day MMO's. Too often, games are referenced that are several years old and whose mechanics have already been iterated upon by newer games, or worse, other MMO’s are judged by how they were several years ago instead of what they are now. Many design decisions feels like they’re only looking inward at what Cryptic has done in the past, and not on new developments in the gaming field. Discussions about design from articles on design sites like gamasutra are infrequent.

    There is very little room for experimentation for design, given the timeline of having to develop for a live game that requires maintenance and pushing out updates at a consistent rate. The company wants to encourage failing early and creating something innovative, but time is usually not added if you fail at anything and usually results in having to push out a subpar product and a, “try again next time” attitude. There has been a push to change this, but the issue is compounded by the comment above regarding design leadership.

    While the CEO is willing to embrace change, not everyone else is as willing. Many times people won't realize that they're going against wanting to change things, but you'll get a lot of, "this is just how we do things", or "we don't have time to support that". There's still a sense of, "no" to new ideas instead of, "we can't do that, but what if we tried..."

    Advice to Management

    If you're in a position of design leadership, you need to play more than just the MMO you're working on. You need to be setting the bar of what design should be for the entire company. This can't be based off of just what you've done in Cryptic's games, but off of what all other games are doing. Cryptic is in a crowded field of MMO's and it needs to know what its competition is doing to innovate and do better. If you're not willing to play MMO's, then you need to evaluate whether or not it's a good idea to be a person who is considered an authority of design for MMO's.

    Be willing to give design more time to try risky things and potentially fail. Be willing to push design to get out of their comfort zones and avoid doing safe content or systems. Both of these have to be done together; telling design to get out of their comfort zones but not giving them time will just create stressed out designers who don't want to be there. Giving design time to do risky things but not pushing them out of their comfort zones will still produce content that feels the same, over time.

    Evaluate the long term viability of Cryptic's location in Los Gatos. The benefit of being at a smaller company where you can have more influence does not pay the bills to own a home that isn't less than two hours (in traffic!) from the company. The living conditions at the company would be amazing if it wasn't located in such an expensive area.


  2. "Honestly..."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time

    Pros

    Cryptic is an interesting company in the games industry. Its a great place to be if you are you a fan of mmorpg's, Star-Trek, & Dungeons & Dragons.

    Cryptic is very family friendly, and if you're already a parent, or would like to plant some roots, and not further job hop. It's a high studio on my list to recommend it to those types whom are interested. Just as long as the first part is relevant to your interests.

    The people here are friendly, and enjoy having passionate conversations with you If you're very familiar with it's current line of products, and mmorpg's in general.

    The time one can get off of work is pretty great, and many take advantage of it. This goes with PTO and sick leave. Other side perks are that you get donuts every (Mon & Friday) and (Tues & Thurs) are fresh organic fruit deliveries.

    They've hired a new Art Director, that I'm very optimistic will do great things. At least try to argue for the things Cryptic has not been offering. Giving it's artists a larger voice on the projects and pressure the CEO to understand how much Cryptic needs to excel in it's proprietary tech, & future products for a mark in peoples attention as to what "cryptic studios" is. Also as a place that talented artists and others can be attracted to working for.

    Layoffs are historically known in the company to be pretty uncommon, but still happen from time to time.

    Oh & trained, well-behaved (dogs) are welcomed to the workplace.

    Cons

    I want to be fair to Cryptic, because its a company with "good" intentions. Although, let me be honest to the "creative" applicant with curiosity here...

    Cryptic Studios isn't the game company I'd recommend to a ambitious creative, or an artistic person. Right Now, they're not there at the competitive scene with the rest of the industry, and are in no way going to be in-line with it quickly. They do try, but mind you it falls short every time because they appoint 100% trust in their managers who are the "idea makers". Which leads to down turns for ones ability to take a lot of initiative, creativity, and ownership on the products they develop. Thus making it difficult to grow and excel in their career. Or to show your level of expertise in what you will be exchanging in value. If you're a artist who wants to succeed in the games industry as a whole. Understand, if you work at this company. You will leave with very little to show for your portfolio that will compete with other artists out there to a future hiring manager.
    10-15% out of 100, you & your team of junior, mid level (staff), seniors, & leads will ever create anything from scratch. The rest of the 85-90% will be re-using & modifying existing content that was built before you by the few that remain, and the many that have moved on. Otherwise, you will be integrating assets from their outsourcing vendor in China. Leaving you wondering on a day-to-day basis asking "When will I get to make any of this cool stuff!?"

    This one's pretty HUGE, so don't be surprised if you hear confessions of the artists whom you may interview here with. The Cryptic Engine. It's by far the worst thing a creative person has to work with, especially when knowning their genre and product line, in turn to the rate they often have to ship new content...With that said, Cryptic doesn't crunch past the 9-5 (unless individuals want to), but keep in mind they set the schedules up so that they crunch you in 8 hours with little room to learn new software, and to explore ways to work smarter!

    Cryptic has had a great turnover rate from its art department in the past 5-7 years. Primarily on the Neverwinter project. If you end up on Star-Trek, you'll be happier and have a fun time with your co-workers. Neverwinter unfortunately being the most creative of them, has been nothing but a mess of stress. There is a heavy amount of "pecking" order in hierarchy at this company. It will likely drain you, and depress you above all. So if consider yourself creative. Don't apply, you'll waste their time, and most of all, yours. The most in terms of negative energy you will find off putting is that some people praise their ego's by belittling others in reminding people how many years they've worked in the industry. (Like a dog barking about how long its leash is...)

    Another bottleneck about the company is that it stresses it's rules & policy first to it's employees above all things. IMO this comes about because of the companies "mom & pop" culture it tries to carry, hence to the stated (pro choice) about being a child/family friendly studio, and one where parents dominate the workplace. If you don't have children of your own, you will be left out of a lot of opportunities to find things to relate to your co-workers (unless you like beer, but that gets old quick), because most of the people at the studio like to talk about their children most of the time, and what it means for them to discover being a parent.

    I realize this is quite a list of cons to state about Cryptic. But your happiness matters first before a "job". The artists at the studio by a very large % really don't like it at Cryptic, and would want many things to be different, including what and how they go about doing their work. Prepare yourself to understand, everything you've learned outside, or having worked in AAA's of the industry. Or the Indie side. Be prepared to leave those lessons learned at the door before going to work here.

    Advice to Management

    People are all different, and while they may have at one point in time did the do's to get the promotion to management positions. Putting a large blind amount of trust to them. Has led to some untimely decisions, and with that. Not a lot gets done when things are brought up to HR. I think its time to consider placing more trust in the expertise of your developers who are exchanging their time and value to your products. With that, permit freedom to them whom demonstrate responsibility in their work. No one gets better by being a "cog" in the machine everyday 5 days of the week.

    The best thing I've experienced since leaving Cryptic, is finding out that successful companies use management as a data collection tool, rather than an orchestrative one.

    So use management as a way to communicate and extract the experts opinions, so they can collectively allow decisions that revolve around what the people building the products think, so they can measure their failures and successes by listening to their customers. Rather than tell them to just read what the customers want, and not have a say about it.


  3. "Great place to work!"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Facilities Manager in Los Gatos, CA
    Current Employee - Facilities Manager in Los Gatos, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Cryptic provides a fun, family-like atmosphere, in which to work. As a mid-sized company, competing for the type of prestige normally held by some of the nearby tech giants, Cryptic manages to provide many of the benefits and perks of a large company, without losing the small office feel, so many enjoy.

    Management is extremely supportive of the employees, here at Cryptic. Encouraging personal and professional growth, as well as supporting the personal needs of all employees.

    I am also immensely proud of the innovation & creativity Cryptic and its teams bring to bear, in producing excellent game content. It seems that no matter the deadline or no matter the difficult task to handle, we get it done.

    Cons

    As a smaller company, Cryptic isn't able to offer many of the higher-end perks, commonly found at larger tech companies in Silicon Valley.


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  5. Helpful (1)

    "Not Perfect, but Pretty Great"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Staff Content Designer in Los Gatos, CA
    Current Employee - Staff Content Designer in Los Gatos, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Family-oriented - You will never be shamed for having or wanting a family
    Passion - Employees are there because they want to be there and have a stake in the final products
    Welcoming - Employees are very friendly and welcoming
    Less Crunching - There is no game company that doesn't crunch, but Cryptic tries to catch issues earlier so that you aren't crunching right before a launch
    Benefits - Cryptic offers $0 Health, Dental, and Vision insurance to individuals and families; they also offer animal insurance, pre-tax college plans, and more
    Longevity - There are numerous employees who have been around for 8-15 years
    Food - Mondays and Fridays provide free donuts and bagels, Mid-week provides fresh fruit; additionally there is daily free cereal, sandwich ingredients, ramen, and snacks; the company also has a deal with a CSA so you can get fresh veggies sent to the office for you

    Cons

    Some Pipeline and Communication issues - Though the company has gotten better with communication and transparency, there are still communication breakdowns and issues regarding due dates of various assets that often result in designers having to worry about their previous two tasks while handling their current task
    Morale - A couple of layoffs last year definitely took its toll on morale, but some management changes have done wonders to improving that morale
    Diabetes - Most of the available free food is very high in sugars (if you're worried about that sort of thing)

    Advice to Management

    Continue being open to positive change. We are moving in the right direction, so keep up the good work. Thanks.


  6. Helpful (2)

    "Operations"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Gatos, CA
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Gatos, CA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Cryptic is an amazing place to work! The incredible family atmosphere is what has kept me here for over 7 years.

    Cons

    We are a creative bunch who can and will do a lot with very little. That can be very stressful though pulling through it with the team and being successful is worth it.


  7. "good artists led by mediocre vision"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Character Artist in Los Gatos, CA
    Former Employee - Character Artist in Los Gatos, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time

    Pros

    Company stability is fairly strong, they've continued to make games despite any issues I bring up
    good company culture, pretty much everyone there is a nerd just trying to make fun games
    Passionate talented art team
    talented engineering team led to quick implementation on some pretty cool tools
    proprietary engine lets those engineers flex their muscles
    Relatively open opportunities to take up larger responsibilities within the company
    New CEO was formerly the CTO, so I assume the engineering side is a good place to be now

    Cons

    First off, keep in mind my review is a bit outdated, but some of these problems have remained from the people I stay in contact with.
    hard to keep good talent here because of constant focus on uninspired work to hit the bottom line
    often creating art below individual artists' capabilities can be discouraging
    not bad, but mediocre pay compared to the area
    unfortunately, opportunities for advancement within the company also comes with greater political involvement
    proprietary engine also leads to a good chunk of the engineering team being put on support and away from other important feature requests and improvements
    at the time i worked there, we didn't technically crunch - but the implication was often there
    bad politics often led to people being thrown under the bus

    Advice to Management

    try to be more transparent with employees and let them do fulfilling work, and hopefully most of the bad departures from either quitting or layoffs can be kept to a minimum


  8. "Only if I had to"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Some really good people in middle management and the trenches
    Good work/life balance most of the time

    Cons

    Owned by Perfect World, a publisher who puts an absurd burden on Cryptic to fund their North America operations. No matter how profitable Cryptic is, it will never be enough to feed the beast.

    Advice to Management

    Stick up for your self and get the corporate parent's hand out of your pocket.


  9. Helpful (2)

    "Good game company that needs some work"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - QA Tester in Los Gatos, CA
    Former Employee - QA Tester in Los Gatos, CA
    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    It's a relatively small company so you get to know everyone around you, and most are very friendly and eager to help each other.

    Cons

    Being a game company salary is at the lower end compared to other software. Middle management tends to take itself a bit too seriously.

    Advice to Management

    Ease up on straight top-down management and allow some more lateral thinking.


  10. "Decent place but questionable future"

    Star Star Star Star Star
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Campbell, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Campbell, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Good work life balance
    Make an effort to keep employee's informed

    Cons

    No viable plan for the future
    Many things are under resourced

    Advice to Management

    Figure out where you are going


  11. Helpful (9)

    "Not the worst place to work."

    Star Star Star Star Star
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Gatos, CA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Los Gatos, CA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Cryptic Studios full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    They're very aware of their place in the industry. Unlike other companies that are 10+ years old, no one at Cryptic walks around talking about unseating Blizzard or Bethesda. The people that aren't in leadership are generally very dedicated, talented, and pleasant to work with. Although the company is old, they still care greatly about their product, and will take the time to record new VO with known actors to make fans happy.

    Cons

    Quite frankly, the leadership here is pretty tribal-minded. Throughout my years with the company, I heard phrases like, "No dissension in the ranks," "We have to present a united front to the team," and "Negativity unwelcome." These are relatively standard ideas/sayings, but they were used to basically reinforce the idea of, "If you're not with us, you're against us." No one at the upper levels is actually held accountable for failures, and outside factors, like Christmas or a layoff, are NEVER allowed to play into why a failure happened. The blame rolls downhill across all disciplines at Cryptic. And, like most companies that have been around awhile, there's a fair amount of favoritism and politicking that goes on at the top levels.

    Advice to Management

    Clean out your "old boys" club, or at least re-evaluate them. Many of the mid-upper management is only in place because they've lasted so long, not because they're the best person for the job.



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