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让员工在家做游戏,暴雪公司赚翻了

让员工在家做游戏,暴雪公司赚翻了

DAVID Z. MORRIS 2020年11月26日
暴雪把员工在家办公看成一次测试,意在改进持续开发视频游戏所需的组织和基础架构。

三月初,游戏工作室暴雪娱乐公司(Blizzard Entertainment)一名精通数据的员工开始密切关注不断上升的美国新冠肺炎病例数,而当时这一数字仅为数百起。

暴雪公司(Blizzard)总裁J.艾伦•布拉克表示:“我们可以统计一下,再看看中国和意大利的数据,这将对我们产生极大的影响。”

几天之内,游戏巨头动视暴雪(Activision-Blizzard)旗下的暴雪公司让其设计师、程序员和其他员工暂时在家工作。他们把这看作一次测试,意在改进持续开发视频游戏所需的组织和基础架构,以防情况变糟。

当然,情况真的很糟。

“疫情发展太快了,”暴雪公司执行官约翰•海特称。“我们在周四[3月12日]进行了测试。很多人周五都呆在家里。到周一,我们决定,大家都回家工作,就是这样。”

对海特来说,这是一项特别重大决定。他是《魔兽世界》(World of Warcraft)的执行制作人。《魔兽世界》是一款在线游戏,约有480万名玩家,其每月会员费已让《魔兽争霸》(Warcraft)成为历史上收入最高的游戏之一。

众所周知,《魔兽世界》每两年左右进行一次重大更新,添加新的故事和游戏元素。而新冠疫情来袭和封锁措施实施时,《魔兽世界》最新扩展版《暗影之地》(Shadowlands)正在开发中。

工作中断最终给海特和他的数百名程序员、美工和编剧团队带来了噩梦。在首次宣布该游戏将于10月27日发布之后,暴雪公司被迫将发布日期推迟至11月23日。

暴雪公司做出了推迟发布《暗影之地》的艰难决定并且不断排除万难,但却收获了极其宝贵的经验。以下是布拉克和海特与《财富》杂志分享的重大收获。

全球优势

在尚不清楚美国即将面临的状况之前,暴雪公司的全球影响力让其能够及早得到警示。

“我们在亚洲设有几个办事处,在中国也有一个办事处,”布拉克说。“因此,我们能够从我们自己的员工那里了解到自二月开始中国疫情发展情况。我们了解了中国的反应,即所有人都回家办公。”

布拉克说,这让公司领导能够在疫情开始在美国出现时及时制订游戏规划。“我想,我们能够比大多数公司提前做好准备。”

办公地点很重要

《暗影之地》推迟发布,难免会让玩家失望。海特称,“责任主要在我,是我的错”。

当然,大家确实都有责任。在家工作尤其很难对游戏或任何产品进行改进。离原定的10月27日发布日期越来越近,这一问题就愈发突出。

“从功能上讲,一切事情到初秋都已完成,” 海特说。“但仍有些事情让人困惑,漏洞还有很多……在我们决定宣布[10月]发布日期之前,我们还未对游戏进行充分润色和调适。”

海特称,如果整个团队在一个地方工作,处理最后几个细节就会容易得多。

“尤其是游戏设计,我们[一般]在一个相当开放的空间工作。战斗设计师在一起,关卡设计师在一起。大家可以相互交流。大家在一个房间时,这种交流很自然……如果我们在一个房间一起工作玩游戏,我们可能会说,‘嘿,我真的不明白这个’。”

电脑高手(有高端家用电脑)规则

暴雪公司在家用技术基础设施方面有优势。经过全球团队多年合作,远程访问电子邮件和企业内部网等所需的基础设施已基本完善。共享制作现代游戏所需的巨大视频和纹理文件的工具也是如此。

设计师和测试人员能够很轻松地得到他们所需的硬件:“作为一家游戏玩家公司,”布拉克说,“我们的员工已经拥有在家办公所需的很多高端硬件。”

安静的员工不一定是快乐的员工

经营一家游戏玩家公司确实有其不利的一面。

海特评价他的团队称,“很多人都很有创造力, 但他们也很内向。”

员工在家办公之后,这成了一个大问题。“在这个通过网络摄像头交谈的世界里,人们自然会躲藏在自己的空间里。”海特说,一些团队成员 “不愿意给别人打电话问问题或分享想法,怕影响别人的家庭生活。我们花了一段时间才克服了这一问题。”

暴雪公司的管理者们不得不比平时更加努力地保持这些渠道畅通。

“你要随时关心员工,”海特说。“嘿,你好吗?家里人怎么样?他们不一定想出去面对别人,但这也不意味着他们想被忽视。”

任务就是答案

《魔兽世界》原本就是让大家一起玩,世界各地的玩家组成不同的团队,深入地牢,消灭可怕的敌人。这种社会元素让这款游戏成了疫情期间的最佳娱乐形式。

海特表示,“我们发现,我们正在做的事对于一些在疫情期间需要娱乐以及需要与外界建立某种联系的人非常重要。我们很受鼓舞。”

“新闻每天报道的形势越来越严峻。答案其实并不存在……我想,在此期间,有了目标,我们才能继续走下去。”(财富中文网)

翻译:郝秀

审校:汪皓

三月初,游戏工作室暴雪娱乐公司(Blizzard Entertainment)一名精通数据的员工开始密切关注不断上升的美国新冠肺炎病例数,而当时这一数字仅为数百起。

暴雪公司(Blizzard)总裁J.艾伦•布拉克表示:“我们可以统计一下,再看看中国和意大利的数据,这将对我们产生极大的影响。”

几天之内,游戏巨头动视暴雪(Activision-Blizzard)旗下的暴雪公司让其设计师、程序员和其他员工暂时在家工作。他们把这看作一次测试,意在改进持续开发视频游戏所需的组织和基础架构,以防情况变糟。

当然,情况真的很糟。

“疫情发展太快了,”暴雪公司执行官约翰•海特称。“我们在周四[3月12日]进行了测试。很多人周五都呆在家里。到周一,我们决定,大家都回家工作,就是这样。”

对海特来说,这是一项特别重大决定。他是《魔兽世界》(World of Warcraft)的执行制作人。《魔兽世界》是一款在线游戏,约有480万名玩家,其每月会员费已让《魔兽争霸》(Warcraft)成为历史上收入最高的游戏之一。

众所周知,《魔兽世界》每两年左右进行一次重大更新,添加新的故事和游戏元素。而新冠疫情来袭和封锁措施实施时,《魔兽世界》最新扩展版《暗影之地》(Shadowlands)正在开发中。

工作中断最终给海特和他的数百名程序员、美工和编剧团队带来了噩梦。在首次宣布该游戏将于10月27日发布之后,暴雪公司被迫将发布日期推迟至11月23日。

暴雪公司做出了推迟发布《暗影之地》的艰难决定并且不断排除万难,但却收获了极其宝贵的经验。以下是布拉克和海特与《财富》杂志分享的重大收获。

全球优势

在尚不清楚美国即将面临的状况之前,暴雪公司的全球影响力让其能够及早得到警示。

“我们在亚洲设有几个办事处,在中国也有一个办事处,”布拉克说。“因此,我们能够从我们自己的员工那里了解到自二月开始中国疫情发展情况。我们了解了中国的反应,即所有人都回家办公。”

布拉克说,这让公司领导能够在疫情开始在美国出现时及时制订游戏规划。“我想,我们能够比大多数公司提前做好准备。”

办公地点很重要

《暗影之地》推迟发布,难免会让玩家失望。海特称,“责任主要在我,是我的错”。

当然,大家确实都有责任。在家工作尤其很难对游戏或任何产品进行改进。离原定的10月27日发布日期越来越近,这一问题就愈发突出。

“从功能上讲,一切事情到初秋都已完成,” 海特说。“但仍有些事情让人困惑,漏洞还有很多……在我们决定宣布[10月]发布日期之前,我们还未对游戏进行充分润色和调适。”

海特称,如果整个团队在一个地方工作,处理最后几个细节就会容易得多。

“尤其是游戏设计,我们[一般]在一个相当开放的空间工作。战斗设计师在一起,关卡设计师在一起。大家可以相互交流。大家在一个房间时,这种交流很自然……如果我们在一个房间一起工作玩游戏,我们可能会说,‘嘿,我真的不明白这个’。”

电脑高手(有高端家用电脑)规则

暴雪公司在家用技术基础设施方面有优势。经过全球团队多年合作,远程访问电子邮件和企业内部网等所需的基础设施已基本完善。共享制作现代游戏所需的巨大视频和纹理文件的工具也是如此。

设计师和测试人员能够很轻松地得到他们所需的硬件:“作为一家游戏玩家公司,”布拉克说,“我们的员工已经拥有在家办公所需的很多高端硬件。”

安静的员工不一定是快乐的员工

经营一家游戏玩家公司确实有其不利的一面。

海特评价他的团队称,“很多人都很有创造力, 但他们也很内向。”

员工在家办公之后,这成了一个大问题。“在这个通过网络摄像头交谈的世界里,人们自然会躲藏在自己的空间里。”海特说,一些团队成员 “不愿意给别人打电话问问题或分享想法,怕影响别人的家庭生活。我们花了一段时间才克服了这一问题。”

暴雪公司的管理者们不得不比平时更加努力地保持这些渠道畅通。

“你要随时关心员工,”海特说。“嘿,你好吗?家里人怎么样?他们不一定想出去面对别人,但这也不意味着他们想被忽视。”

任务就是答案

《魔兽世界》原本就是让大家一起玩,世界各地的玩家组成不同的团队,深入地牢,消灭可怕的敌人。这种社会元素让这款游戏成了疫情期间的最佳娱乐形式。

海特表示,“我们发现,我们正在做的事对于一些在疫情期间需要娱乐以及需要与外界建立某种联系的人非常重要。我们很受鼓舞。”

“新闻每天报道的形势越来越严峻。答案其实并不存在……我想,在此期间,有了目标,我们才能继续走下去。”(财富中文网)

翻译:郝秀

审校:汪皓

In early March, a data-savvy employee at the game studio Blizzard Entertainment started taking a hard look at rising number of U.S. COVID-19 cases, which then numbered in the low hundreds.

“We were able to do some math and say, looking at the China and Italy data, this is going to affect us very dramatically,” says J. Allen Brack, Blizzard’s president.

Within days, Blizzard, a unit of gaming giant Activision-Blizzard, asked groups of its designers, programmers, and other staff to work from home temporarily. They thought of it as a test, meant to refine the organization and infrastructure needed to keep creating video games, just in case things got really bad.

And of course, things got really bad.

“It was pretty damned fast," says Blizzard executive John Hight. "We ran the test on Thursday [March 12]. A lot of people wound up staying home on Friday. By Monday, we’d made the decision, everyone’s going home, that’s it.”

It was a particularly serious decision for Hight. He’s executive producer for World of Warcraft, an online game with an estimated 4.8 million players, whose monthly subscription fees have helped make Warcraft one of the highest grossing game franchises in history.

WoW, as it’s often known, gets a major update every two years or so, adding new story and gameplay elements. And the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, was in the middle of development when COVID and the lockdowns hit.

The disruption would ultimately create a nightmare for Hight and his team of hundreds of programmers, artists, and writers. After first announcing the game would be released on October 27, Blizzard was forced delay the date to November 23.

But the difficult decision to delay Shadowlands, and the hurdles that Blizzard cleared along the way, came with invaluable lessons. Here are the most important takeaways Brack and Hight shared with Fortune.

The global advantage

Before it was clear what was coming to the U.S., Blizzard's global reach gave it an even earlier warning.

“We have several offices in Asia, and an office in China," says Brack. "So we were able to see, from our own employees, what was happening in China starting in February. And we saw the China response, which was to send everybody home.”

That, says Brack, gave company leaders a game plan when cases started showing up in the U.S. “We were able to prepare a little bit ahead of, I think, most companies.”

Office space is the place

“First, Mea culpa. This was my screwup,” says Hight of the Shadowlands delay, which inevitably disappointed fans.

But of course, much larger forces were really to blame. In particular, working from home made it more difficult to do the kind of refining needed to make a game – or any product – truly great. That didn’t become obvious until the original October 27 release date got closer.

“Functionally, everything was done” by early fall, says Hight. “But there were things that were confusing, the bug count was still kind of high … That polishing and tuning was something that we hadn’t done enough of before we made the decision to announce the [October] date.”

Getting those last few details right, Hight says, would have been a lot easier with the whole team in one place.

“Especially on the design side of the game, we [normally] work in a fairly open space. The combat designers sit together, the level designers sit together. There’s a sharing of ideas. When you’re in a room together, it’s very natural to have that communication … If we were all in a room together and playing, we could have said, ‘Hey, I don’t really get this.’”

Nerds (with high-end home PCs) rule

Blizzard had an edge when it came to the technical infrastructure of working from home. After years of collaboration between teams worldwide, infrastructure for remote access to things like email and the corporate intranet was basically ready to go. So were tools to share the huge video and texture files that make up modern games.

And getting designers and testers the hardware they needed wasn't much of a problem either: “As a company of gamers,” says Brack, “There’s a lot of high-end hardware that our employees have at home already.”

Quiet staffers aren’t necessarily happy staffers

Running a company full of gamers does have its downsides.

“A lot of folks are super creative, says Hight of his team, “but they’re also kind of introverted.”

That became a bigger issue with the transition to working from home. “In the world where we’re all talking through webcams, in our own space, it’s natural for humans to kind of hole up.” Some team members, Hight says, felt “reluctant to ring somebody up and interrupt their home life to ask a question or share an idea. It took us a while to overcome that.”

Blizzard's managers had to do more than usual to keep those channels open.

“You just check in on people," says Hight. "Hey, how are you doing? How’s the family? They don’t necessarily think to get out and push themselves on others, but that also doesn’t mean they want to be neglected.”

The mission is the answer

World of Warcraft is meant to be enjoyed together, with players from around the world forming groups to delve into dungeons and take down fearsome enemies. That social element helps make it an ideal form of pandemic entertainment.

“That helped us," says Hight, "Knowing that we were doing something that was super important to people who needed entertainment during this time, needed some connection to the outside world."

“Every day, the news was getting more dire. Answers weren’t really there … Having purpose during all of this, I think, allowed us to carry on.”

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