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How is the work quality at Blizzard as a developer?
49 points by johnlevenstein on Oct 26, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments
How is the work environment at Blizzard and what challenges are you facing there? I wanted to apply 2 years ago but then I gave up cause someone told me it's not what everyone expects.


> someone told me

The problem, ultimately, is that every place is made up of people. People are fallible, limited, and not gods. They're just people. They have to eat and sleep. They like having interpersonal relationships. Sometimes they're jerks.

When I joined Microsoft as an intern in the Mac Business Unit back in 2002, my biggest surprise was that the people I worked with—the first real software engineering organization I'd ever been exposed to—were just people. They weren't perfect, and sometimes they got grumpy when a certain over-enthusiastic 19 year old wouldn't shut up.

Anyway, back to your question: Blizzard is probably an interesting place to work. They maintain the biggest(?) MMORPG, they have a huge amount of history, and I expect having a role at Blizzard on your résumé looks great. But, since it is the games industry, you should probably expect endless death marches, crappy pay, and incredible amounts of churn in between projects.

tl;dr: check Glassdoor and see what employees have to say. If you have unreasonable expectations about a workplace, you will be disappointed.

I would also add that a largish company isn't one place, it is many smaller places that only looks the same from outside.

Once you're past that 150 number or so, you will have multiple cultures and environments. There will be the small hot next thing, the big incumbent, the team everyone is waiting on, the hasbeens, the guys in the corner no one knows what they're doing, the guys everyone has to work with even though no one knows why, etc. Some traits will be the same, but environment varies a lot.

See recent discussions on Amazon for instance. Some people disagree completely on their experience.

Relevant (explanation of "150"): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

This is so true. I live in Seattle, and the diverse set of answers I hear from Amazon employees on what it's like to work there are profound. Ranging from a guy I know at AWS, who literally said, "I don't know anyone who works more than 45 hours a week", to a coworker who told me that he worked 4 months straight of 80 hour weeks.

I checked some websites but I was interested in a more personal view from someone working there or who worked there for some time. Sure it's all happiness on social networks but inside is different. Maybe Blizzard employees don't come here often.

One thing to keep in mind is that employers in 'creative' (film, games, etc) industries often treat their tech employees worse than employers whose main source of income is the tech itself. I haven't worked at Blizzard specifically, but I've spent time at other game shops and VFX shops, and my experience is that you are expected to work for longer hours and for lower paychecks than your friends writing REST apps for web oriented startups (let alone established players like Google, Facebook, or even Apple).

Are you interested in Blizzard because you only see yourself developing games and games alone? Are you interested in graphics and '3D math' and find Blizzard appealing because they need those skills? Will you be happy being a 'tech' employee without the tech paycheque?

This varies a lot from place to place, a big part of the cause of the problem is supply side. For a lot of people working in GameDev or doing artistic work is a "dream job" so there tends to be no shortage of fairly talented young folks who are willing to put up with anything just to get into the business. And often that labor pool is abused by big companies. But that's not always the case, it's just more common than elsewhere in tech.

I'd say that another big factor is the financial part. Take your average game studio, even large-ish ones always have a very uncertain future after their next game. When your ability to make payroll depends on getting your game out at the deadline agreed with/imposed by the publisher, this is going to mean plenty of crunch time. And then you may get laid off once the game is out, because the studio doesn't need a lot of programmers during the pre-production phase of their next game.

I currently work at blizzard and it is an interesting company to work for. Lots going on, many small teams and a little growing pain from wow but improving bit by bit. Email me john, mchandler@[company].com and i can tell you more and get you in touch with the right people.

If you get him hired, does Blizzard give you a referral bonus?

My last boss, CTO of a fairly small YC start-up, was ex-blizzard (SCII player matching infrastructure + D3 launch) and he's hand's down the most amazingly technically skilled person I've ever worked with. He did have a few brutal stories from the trenches at Blizzard, but to be 100% honest I'd probably take a 15% pay cut there vs a typical large SV company just based on what I heard (and saw).

Judging by their work, I am sure they have some top talent. Most of the products are well polished. How would a brutal story go?

Can you go into more detail about what you heard/saw that made Blizzard stand out to you?

Well according to my 6 year old information from WoW, they used C++ for their servers and have a bit of a NIH streak.

So I am guessing it's probably still a C++ heavy shop like many gamedev places.

I've heard a lot of enthusiastic talk of entity-component architecture from those interested in game-dev. The way of modelling seems very appropriate and well-suited to C++. Things like holding each entity in a component class's static member array and calling the static method to, for instance, update the health component of every health-having entity is just too elegant not to appreciate. Immediately the problem is mapping each component across threads and just trivial to make parallel/concurrent.

To start though you need multiple inheritance likely to get this to work idiomatically. C would also do fine, as would Java, except the Java would look like C because of the lack of multiple inheritance/mix-in, while the C code could result in some type insanity -- although components can be implemented as simple structs in structs for entities, except the whole construction/destruction phase of life.

As an outsider looking in, C++ seems filthily well-suited to game development.

Somewhat related, CppCon 2015: Ben Deane “Testing Battle.net (before deploying to millions of players)" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPoZWnYIcP4

Ben deane is a very smart guy. He gives a lot of talks internally as well.

I don't work at Blizzard but know someone who recently went there. I have not spoken to her yet about her experience but I would imagine that by "not what everyone expects" is probably related to the fact that at the end of the day it is still a business, gaming or not, they have bills to pay.

I feel like Blizzard would have been really sick to work at when WoW was actually a growth business

Have you looked on Glassdoor?

Working at Blizzard is awesome - you will love it there.

Are you saying this because you work there or you heard about it?

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