Army Fires the Americas Army 3 Devs

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Seeing all the threads about the game, consolidation seems to be the cover story now.
 
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Here's an interesting little story I found on Shacknews. It's a little old, though, so it relates more to America's Army 2.


I was involved with the America's Army project through most of the
game's development. During the peak of production we had somewhere
around 27 or 28 people on the team. About a year ago, the Army
decided to make serious and fundamental changes to the team. As a
result, they have steadily hemorrhaged talent and people have left in
droves. The entire programming and design staff is decimated, and the
art team is now a shell of what it used to be.

The Army doesn't really know anything about making video games. Why
would they? It's not what they do. When I came on board the project,
it wasn't in the best shape. At that time, the Army was desperate to
get a game out. People's military careers were on the line.
Originally there were two game projects in the works (the other was an
FMV piece of tripe that died a sad and whimpering death before ever
seeing the light of day). The development of the game was a huge risk
for the Army, and if it failed heads were going to roll. Because of
this, the Army was much more hands off (although they were still
pretty difficult to work with even then), and pretty much just held
their breath and hoped we'd pull something out. We barely were able
to make the July 4th deadline they set for us. The team that was put
together, although pretty green, put in a phenomenal number of hours
to get the job done. The game wasn't perfect, but we felt like we
pulled off a miracle under some pretty bad conditions.

Once the game hit its peak of success, the Army began to rewrite
history. It was around the time we hit the number three spot on the
Gamespy stats page that they started complaining about how we weren't
meeting their expectations. We began to read news stories
interviewing Army personnel who talked about how they had built the
game. The Navy started to get pissed at the Army because there was
never any mention that the game was actually built within a Naval
think-tank. A lot of political fights over the project broke out not
only between the Army and the Navy, but within different divisions of
the Army itself. When the project was just a fly-by-night rogue
mission, no one paid much attention to it. Once the Army figured out
that the game was the single most successful marketing campaign they'd
ever launched (at 1/3rd of 1% of their annual advertising budget), we
suddenly came under a very big microscope. Personally, I saw the end
coming months in advance. It was pretty inevitable what would
eventually happen.

So, one morning about a year ago, the Army shows up in force at the
Naval Postgraduate School. They arrive in full dress uniform and
bring generals and lawyers with them. They go to the school's Provost
and make accusations of mismanagement by the school. They make claims
that the game is a failure and that the school has not lived up to its
contract. Tempers flare and the Navy and the Army both agree that they
should get the hell out of NPS. The Army takes their ball and goes
home, and several of the team members are not invited to come along.
I think the first resignation came within a month of this event, and
the exodus has not stopped to this day. They've probably lost
somewhere around 20 people since they took the game "internal", and
they'll surely lose more before all is said and done.

At this point, I'm not sure if they're going to be able to ever
recapture what they had. The Army is basically clueless when it comes
to making games and they don't know how to treat people, especially
game developers. They had an A-level team, but I honestly don't see
them building another one (particularly since they weren't the ones
who built the first one). It'll be interesting to watch what happens
though. Essentially, there was a magic couple of years there where
two totally alien cultures came together to do something cool. It's
sad to see it all crumble so quickly, but again, I pretty much saw it
coming all along. Some things, by nature, just can't last.

In the end, I'm happy for the experience. It was extremely valuable
to me, and was a wonderful opportunity. It was unique and different,
and a chance to take a shot at something that no one really had any
expectations of. It was also a chance at creating a small snippet of
history. The game is far from perfect, but I'm still proud of it
simply because of how much was stacked against it. I worked with some
wonderful people, many of which I hope will have long and successful
careers.

Anyway, that's the short version of this story. The whole story could
fill a book. Today, the game is limping along, but has not recovered
from the ordeal. Last I heard, the Army and the Navy were both being
audited by the Department of Justice. No idea how that's turning out.
There's a lot more to be told, but I don't know if it will ever be
made public. Working on the game was a wacky adventure, and not the
type of thing most game developers will ever experience. The job of a
game developer is pretty strange as it is, but making a game for the
Army was a down right surreal experience.
 

dderidex

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More posted here, from someone else:

I worked as a Dev at AA Emeryville for the last year and a half and I hope I can appeal to your rationality and common sense. I would like you to imagine trying to build a game with an impossible deadline, steadily declining workforce (via firings), A hiring freeze, constantly being fed misinformation, having the "higher ups" completely ignore your weekly plea for either A) more time, or B) more manpower, working a ton of unpaid overtime, pouring your heart and soul into a misadventure only to have the uniformed community scoff at you for uncontrollable variables..... RIGHT when you've just lost your job.

There are problems with the release beyond the devs control. In fact, the bureaucracy is so convoluted that you can't even begin to imagine the breadth and scope of B.S. the devs had to deal with daily. in short, imagine being the subcontractor of a subcontractor of a contractor to the government. Sure Millions of dollars may have been poured into this project, but how much do you think made it to the actual DEV team, the people MAKING the game, after it was filtered by the bureaucracy?

I realize if you are a gamer, you rightly expect a game to work. period. But I would ask that you imagine for a second that you actually DON'T understand what it takes to make this particular game, and you really don't understand the many obstacles that were placed in front of the Devs... in nerdy terms: A Kobiyashi maru.

What I would like you to understand is that the Devs did everything they could, worked a TON of unpaid overtime, put their time and passion into an un-winnable situation, and were effectively stabbed in the back. Many of these guys are my close friends, they have family to take care of, and overpriced rent to deal with. They just came off busting their butts for months, to be let go, without warning. Perhaps a little empathy is in order here.

Almost every multiplayer online game has problems upon release. These problems become exaggerated when a development team is kept in constant turmoil and paranoia via misinformation and a high rate of employee turnover. When the people you trust around you are being let go, it becomes difficult to emotionally invest yourself in the titanic sinking ship. Nonetheless, I can tell you the Devs STILL pushed themselves as hard as they could.

Furthermore, the problem with the game at this point, has everything to do with the authentication servers being slammed, A.K.A not a controllable variable by the Devs. Sure there are bugs, they WERE being fixed, and now you'll be lucky to see any fixes in the near future.

For those of you who think Redstone arsenal will do a better job, well.... I won't have to tell you that you're sadly mistaken because you'll see for yourself.

I'm not sure why i've felt compelled to write this when I'm sure it will get deleted, or even scoffed at further, but I hoped to let the fans know that we tried as hard as we could and are very bummed to see the fruits of our labor shoved at gamers like a heaping pile of crap.
Wow.

Free or not, I'm not sure I can support that. I mean, AA3 looks great and all, but...

...wow.
 

Tylerdurdened

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Very interesting thanks for the quotes!

edit: businesses are a bunch of bullshit. Fucking asshats. This is so irritating and I'm not even on the development team
 
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pigwalk

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The only way not to support the game would be not to join the army eh?
 

Porter_

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interesting read dderidex. puts things into perspective.
 

markt435

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Fuck it then. Uninstalling now. Shame too...the original was pretty fun and an updated game would have been cool to play. But after hearing that, there is no way in hell I'm gonna waste my time with that game. Sort of figures too. :(
 

Boshingtang

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I loaded up the game, went into basic training, shot my drill instructor, ended up in a jail cell, and then quit playing. I guess i'm not army material.
 

Shane_c82

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This makes the AA3 release debacle much more understanding. The first few versions of this game were awesome and unfortunately it doesn't look like we will ever get to that point again with this game.
 

AVT

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Constantly crashes and refuses to start on mine. Looks like this was released before it was done being tested, and now with everyone fired.. I wonder why..
 

Sly

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"Never forget that your weapon was manufactured by the lowest bidder"

^^^

Seems you guys keep forgetting this.
 

Yakyb

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technically its not free

it was funded by the army which is funded by your tax

if miilions have been poured into this and very little has been filtered to the Devs we should all be very angry in horrible inefficiencies of a beuarocratic establishment (god knows how badly they **** up on a mutlbillion dollar defence contract)
 

eloj

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No doubt the military spending during one hour in the middle-east is larger than what's been put into developing all the America's Army projects together.
 

Sly

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so my tax is going into this shitty unplayable piece of crap they call a game?
Nope. As Yakyb said, very little actually goes to the developers, most gets lost in the system. You're paying off the government, not the developers.

If you look around, you'll notice army recruitment ads pretty much everywhere. TV, Comic books, magazines, etc. AA is actually the most wildly successful recruitment tool to date. If the one on wikipedia is true, TV placement alone costs $8 an hour per personnel, the AA game on the other hand costs 10 cents.
 

Shane_c82

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But the devs did get paid correct? And the Army paid them? So how does that not come from taxpayers?
 

spugnor

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I loaded up the game, went into basic training, shot my drill instructor, ended up in a jail cell, and then quit playing. I guess i'm not army material.
Seven...Six...Two...Millimeter....Full metal jacket.... <breathing noises> :D
 

Sly

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But the devs did get paid correct? And the Army paid them? So how does that not come from taxpayers?
Guy works for 24 hours. You pay for 24 hours of work (including 16 hours overtime pay). Money goes through the system. Only 8 regular office hours is actually released. You didn't pay for his time, you screwed him over.

The army has a budget set aside for promotion and recruitment. Compared to the TV commercials, magazine ads, posters, etc. The game is the cheapest and most cost effective advertising media. Rather than reward the developers for making it a success, they get downsized and the project given to someone else.

"Never forget that your weapon was manufactured by the lowest bidder"

Imagine an office full of programmers, i'm sure you can picture it. Then a general walks in, sees a bunch of skinny, hairy nerds. "This is not a military outfit!". Then promptly fires everyone and replaces the 'personnel' with clean cut marines. That's the picture that keeps going through my head.



The only time i would agree to work extra hours without getting overtime is job security and effort investment. By putting in extra hours early, i can minimize the work i have to do later. ex: 16hours work time, but get paid 8 hours at the start, and then when everythings stable, i only have to work 4 hours and still get paid for 8 hours since all the extra work earlier paid off. What i'm seeing here is that after doing the 16 hour a day work schedule when most of the work is done, i get fired and my job given to someone else that will continue it for cheaper.
 
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Spaceman_Spiff

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so my tax is going into this shitty unplayable piece of crap they call a game?
We're getting off topic here, but its not like that money is being shipped overseas never to be seen again. The money goes to pay the salaries of american employees, which then funnel it back into the economy and back into their own taxes. Its the same thing with everything else the armed forces use- yeah, we blow some stuff up, but the actual parts are a pittance compared to the r & d and design of such products. The majority of military spending goes towards the salaries of everyday americans working for the dod and its contractors, which are and always will be american citizens because of security requirements.
 

Shane_c82

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Guy works for 24 hours. You pay for 24 hours of work (including 16 hours overtime pay). Money goes through the system. Only 8 regular office hours is actually released. You didn't pay for his time, you screwed him over.

The army has a budget set aside for promotion and recruitment. Compared to the TV commercials, magazine ads, posters, etc. The game is the cheapest and most cost effective advertising media. Rather than reward the developers for making it a success, they get downsized and the project given to someone else.

"Never forget that your weapon was manufactured by the lowest bidder"

Imagine an office full of programmers, i'm sure you can picture it. Then a general walks in, sees a bunch of skinny, hairy nerds. "This is not a military outfit!". Then promptly fires everyone and replaces the 'personnel' with clean cut marines. That's the picture that keeps going through my head.

The only time i would agree to work extra hours without getting overtime is job security and effort investment. By putting in extra hours early, i can minimize the work i have to do later. ex: 16hours work time, but get paid 8 hours at the start, and then when everythings stable, i only have to work 4 hours and still get paid for 8 hours since all the extra work earlier paid off. What i'm seeing here is that after doing the 16 hour a day work schedule when most of the work is done, i get fired and my job given to someone else that will continue it for cheaper.

What does that have anything to do with the original question? He asked if his tax dollars were going to the game, and in an over simplified way they are.

Also, chances are the programmers/staff was paid salary and not hourly.
 

GJSNeptune

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Damn. I didn't even know there was an AA2, and now I'm going to uninstall AA3 as soon as I get home today.
 

Sly

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What does that have anything to do with the original question? He asked if his tax dollars were going to the game, and in an over simplified way they are.
Simply put, they got screwed over by their (your) own government. Which is what this thread is about.

Also, chances are the programmers/staff was paid salary and not hourly.
Hence, the willingness to go for unpaid overtime since they expected to take it easy once it's done and comes down to just maintenance later on. 16hours of heavy work with 8 hours pay, and later do 8 hours of very light work for a full days pay.

Between 2002 and 2003, the American Army spent 1.2 BILLION dollars on advertising. Inflated as it is, the 2.5Million annual development cost for AA doesn't even come close to 1% of that. There was no need downsize the developers. Yet they did.

EDIT: Still reading articles. 1999 advertising budget topped even that at $2.2 Billion. That was also the time the Americas Army game development came around.
 
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Parja

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So let me see if I've got this right. The Army, who knows nothing about developing a video game, tries to manage a bunch of programmers, who are pretty much the polar opposite of soldiers, and it doesn't work out. Is anyone surprised?
 

Rofl-Mic-Lofl

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Pretty sad to hear that. They got fucked over. No wonder the game is full of bugs.

Good luck in finding new work Dev team :(
 

fx9

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I thought it was US law that dictates that you must be paid time and a half for working overtime. If it was me I'd quit a long time ago and get a job at the local Mcdonalds flipping burgers and getting paid more than the Devs when developing the game.
 

GJSNeptune

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I thought it was US law that dictates that you must be paid time and a half for working overtime. If it was me I'd quit a long time ago and get a job at the local Mcdonalds flipping burgers and getting paid more than the Devs when developing the game.
Being salaried is a very different animal.
 

necrophile

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Christ, reading that I wouldn't be surprised if they did that overtime with a gun to their head...literally.
 

next-Jin

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This shit was happening a long time ago. What everyone does not realize is that in the Army people overseeing the project will come and go. In order for them to have a successful OER (Officer Evaluation Report) yearly the new people would have to make some type of changes be it

- released the army recuiting tool months ahead of schedule
- accomplished the mission with minimal manning
- etc

The guy who started the whole game totally blew off those of us who tried to put in our input towards the game. For instance they had a Soldiers vs Civilians at an E3 once and had 10 soldiers who had never even played the game go against civilians. Originially they had wanted the best and at the time I was in Germany and was trying to go TDY to E3 to win, but alas.

Whenever there is a long sustaining anything the Army will have a shit ton of red tape. This is one of those long sustaining projects.
 

htpc_user

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Fuck it then. Uninstalling now. Shame too...the original was pretty fun and an updated game would have been cool to play. But after hearing that, there is no way in hell I'm gonna waste my time with that game. Sort of figures too. :(
What difference does it make? If you had to pay for it I can see it as a form of protest, but since it's free...? Doesn't really have the same effect.
 

htpc_user

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Being salaried is a very different animal.
I work in a production plant as a salaried supervisor. One of our sections used to work a ton of overtime...10 hours 5 days a week + 8 hours on Saturdays. They would do that for months each year. That was the company's way of screwing over the supervisors by making them salary. It benefited me because I worked in a different section at the time and didn't have to work overtime, but it screwed them royally. The regular employees were making more than the supervisors with all of the overtime...by far.
 
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