Surprised that I already spent a year working at RocketWerkz I thought I’d slow down for a second to reflect on my time here. Normally I’d consider it too formal to write about an employer on my crazy blog, but unlike a conventional studio, you’ll see why my experience working for RocketWerkz is well blog-worthy.
Over the years I’ve come across my fair share of studios who think they are special. Rather than bragging (or even mentioning) salary-ranges they emphasize what an honor it is to work for their one-of-a-kind studio. Problem is, the company culture bragged about is usually neither special or advantageous.
My favorite example of pretentious meaningless company perks must surely be the infamous beanbag chair. All though I could think of a hundred potential perks that could improve my life, beanbag chairs is not one of them! It seems that every CEO thinks they can turn a stale corporate environment into a never-ending party with the right beanbags. Of course my issue isn’t the beanbags themselves, but the lack of good answers when I ask “what else you got that makes you special?”.
So imagine my surprise when I arrived to RocketWerkz. Not only are we blessed with a beanbag-free office space, our perks goes way beyond mere buzzwords.
We are so incredibly lucky with our perks that I’ve stopped keeping an eye on other career opportunities. Because of my somewhat rare experience working in China my LinkedIn is bombarded with offers from Chinese studios looking for western experience. Sometimes these offers comes with salary ranges that makes coffee spray out of my mouth! But regardless how lucrative I just can’t take any offer seriously. After getting spoiled with the creative freedom working for RocketWerkz it’s hard to imagine ever going back to work for a conventional studio again!
So what has made my time at RocketWerkz so special? Since RocketWerkz doesn’t have a GlassDoor profile yet I thought I’d share a few opinions here on my blog. At first I started out writing a long explanation how wonderful it is to live in New Zealand but then I realized something. As much as I love NZ, there’s something special about RocketWerkz that is beyond its good location. Something which studios around the world could (and probably should) imitate. So here goes, in no particular order…
Every studio I’ve ever worked for has offered a reasonable flexibility in working hours, usually allowing you to clock in between 8 to 10 in the morning. Since my personal preference is to get in around 9, you’d think this flexibility would be more than enough, but RocketWerkz’ extended flextime has subtle but huge implications on my quality of life.
All thought the conventional 8-10 window affords the opportunity to come in 9:59 with zero questions asked, arriving just a minute later can have harsh implications. For some of my employers it would be sure to be mentioned in your evaluation & salary reviews, whereas in China it was an instant punishment of withdrawing your vacation hours at an inflated rate.
All thought getting in before 10 AM isn’t difficult, it does require some forethought, especially if you want to guarantee it from happening. I have to carefully monitor my evenings to make sure I go to bed on time (even if a special evening is shaping up to be the most interesting night of my life) and constantly look at my watch in the morning to make sure I’m on schedule. All of which makes my spare time feel like just an extension of work than a chance to disconnect & recharge.
At RocketWerkz I’m not aware of any restrictions to our flextime. All though I like to get in around 9, I do so without constantly worrying about time. Sometimes I arrive to work surprised that the time is much later than I thought and that I’m proud to admit, yet no one cares as long as I work back the hours. I then proceed to do my work as usual without being restricted by an unproductive feeling of shame or having to beg anyone for forgiveness.
We all know the feeling of clocking out from work on Friday evening with a strong euphoria of “Thank god it’s Friday!”. At my previous job I had that feeling more than ever, but not because I had a crazy party to attend. It was because I was about to spend all weekend geeking out with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4)! In my mind you used Unity to make a much needed living but you used UE4 on the weekends to remind yourself that game development is fun! It sounded too good to be true that there were jobs out there where you could make your cake and eat it too!
That might seam like a case of “The grass is greener on the other side”, but after a year of using UE4 full time I still loving every day of it. For every new territory I explore within UE4 I find myself feeling that now is the greatest time in human history to be a creative person.
UE4 is by no means exclusive to RocketWerkz, but it’s not that common either. At least when I was job hunting I was having great problems finding non-American (as I wouldn’t be able to get a US visa) UE4 studios who were hiring. I would definitely not consider the choice of engine to be a co-incidence, many companies won’t even consider UE4 because any royalty percentage Epic charges (no matter how little or how justified) is out of the question.
Note: Not all RocketWerkz projects are using UE4, but at least the ones I’m actively working on (like Living Dark!) are.
Flat Hierarchy: Producer-free Work Environment
At RocketWerkz we work under what’s called a ‘Flat Hierarchy’. It means everyone I talk to on a daily basis are other developers, there is no non-gamedev producer whom I discuss and negotiate schedules with.
This highly unusual work method is unfortunately so unusual that even after a year of it I still can’t quite formulate my opinions about it. All I can say for now is that it makes for a wonderful working environment. One where I can feel like I’m chasing my creativity every morning I come to work. Beyond that however it’s just too difficult to put into words exactly what it means and its pros and cons. I’m hoping to update this segment of the post as soon as I can clear my head on the subject.
There’s no doubt in my mind that RocketWerkz is the most enjoyable studio I’ve ever worked for, so if quality of life was the only measurement, RocketWerkz could be crowned right here and now. However there is one measurement even more important than workplace enjoyment…
None of us became game developers out of perceived comfort. We made the choice because we had a dream to make a really good game. I would like to think that the creative freedom and quality of life this company grants us fosters a creativity that results in “that game”.
But is creative freedom guaranteed to foster creative games? Is quality of life guaranteed to improve quality of games? THAT is the big question going forward. Since this is my first time working at a company like this, I honestly have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out!