Managers not welcome at Sony's hit studio
"There is not one person at Naughty Dog whose only job is to mange other people. We have very little hierarchy."
At the DICE conference in Las Vegas, Naughty Dog co-lead game designer Richard Lemarchand outlined the company's "loose" culture and structure, which eschews management hierarchies in favor of communal empowerment.
He said, "The only way to get the best out of game developers is to let them work for themselves, to trust them to do a good job. There is no-one at Naughty Dog with the job title of 'producer', no-one who is solely a manager."
He said the firm's culture was very much like a volunteer work ethic, a "do-ocracy". "Individuals choose roles for themselves. The responsibility is on the people who actually do things, rather than people arbitrarily chosen to manage. The strongest networks of leadership are built on trust."
He added, "Micro-management is the enemy of excellence. Organizations that are bogged down with politics and bureaucracy are prone to paralysis and are unable to respond to rapid change. Bosses must lead by the example of the work they do, and that feeds a healthy and constructive environment."
In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, even the company's directors pitched in, creating assets and code. All members of staff are encouraged to offer criticism of the project.
"It doesn't matter who you are. Everyone is obliged to express themselves and everyone is obliged to listen and talk through whatever issues arise. That way, things that suck get fixed. We have an informal contract not to take anything personally, and to be objective. We are accountable to one another."
Lemarchand acknowledged that the system requires a certain amount of "flying by the seat of your pants". He said, "It's a lot like Gromit, laying down the track just in front of the speeding train."