More And More Game Makers Are Talking About Crunch

When you’ve been reporting on a subject for a long time, you can feel when the winds are beginning to shift, and in 2018 it’s started to feel like game studios are actually having serious conversations about crunch. This week alone we have significant examples from two of the biggest publishers around.

Crunch, or extended, usually unpaid overtime, has been an epidemic in the video game industry since the video game industry started. Although it’s often thought of as a final burst period in the last weeks of a game’s development, that’s misleading.

Game developers can crunch for all sorts of milestones and all sorts of reasons. Crunch can happen any time during a project, not just at the end.

Conversations surrounding crunch culture at Rockstar Games over the past few days have led other big game studios to speak out about the practice, and there are two new reports worth reading.

Yesterday, the website Gamesindustry.biz published a guest editorial from Matt Webster, the GM of Criterion (Need For Speed, Burnout). It condemns crunch and details ways in which he says his studio has worked to avoid it.

“There’s a mistake somewhere in the concept of ‘passion’ equalling time spent in the office,” he wrote. “You can come into work and put in eight ‘passionate’ hours or 12 ‘unpassionate’ hours. Time does not equal passion.”

Overnight, a new Gamasutra interview with the makers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey also talks crunch, which the developers at Ubisoft’s Quebec studio say they’ve been trying to avoid.

“I can tell you hand on heart that [Assassin’s Creed Odyssey] hasn’t required a massive crunch, like maybe some of the triple-As from five or ten years ago,” said the studio’s managing director, Patrick Klaus.

“We can still always do better, but we have managed pretty well to succeed in delivering a game of huge magnitude which is hitting a good quality [level], while making sure that our teams are not burnt out and disgusted with working in games.”

The conversation around crunch has changed in significant ways over the past few years, and it’s no longer become a subject reserved for GDC bars and glorified tales from the trenches.

Now, finally, it seems like top people at game studios are talking about crunch in a way that might lead to serious change. Maybe there’s hope for video games after all?


Comments

    Look at all the nasty steam reviews games get when they're release as "unfinished" and/or "buggy messes". Hell, look at the reviews these games get from sites like Kotaku. @alexwalker 's article "Patches Aren't An Excuse" written earlier this year is a perfect example.

    Then compound this with the fact these developers are generally working under the umbrella of publicly listed companies with demanding shareholders, and you can see why this issue isn't going to go away because a few journalists write about it.

    Crunch isn't going anywhere, sadly.

      People forget that games are getting more complex even with more middlewear and off the shelf engines helping to simplify some of it.

      Hell back in the early and mid 90s if a game had a bug you probably didn’t get a patch unless you wrote to the publisher or happened to buy a copy that was updated.

        ummm no, there was no patch. fullstop. games just went with it

          There were definitely patches. Soldant is right, you had to contact the publisher to get them. Example.

            yeah disk games on PC
            console carts not a chance.
            and seen although this is a console site as well then its more appropriately put.

            Last edited 28/10/18 3:16 pm

              It should go without saying that retro consoles didn't patch since carts are read only. Instead they tended to silently re-release the cart with the updated software.

              This site certainly covers both PC and console, but you were challenging Soldant's comment specifically, and what he said was correct.

      I like to think that games can be released in a state that justifies a full price tag *without* having to resort to crunch. This is particularly true for the title referred to in Alex's article as it was rushed to market on an absurdly short time frame.

      If the industry is going to get rid of crunch, companies need to realise two things. First, they employ 'people' not machines. Secondly, people tend to perform at their best when they are well rested and have enough time to iterate on their work.

      Last edited 27/10/18 10:56 pm

    We need to stop talking about "crunch" if it's outside of that last couple of weeks of finishing up on a major milestone. If it's a couple of weeks, and then there's a chance to recuperate after delivery, it's crunch. I've been on many IT infrastructure projects where I've worked 20 or more days straight. And then, I have some time in lieu so there's a few days off before returning to normal work hours.

    If it's habitual, it's not crunch. It's exploitation. Resource teams properly. Pay people for the time they work. Don't steal family time and weekends. If your dev teams are working 75 hour weeks or being pressured to stay back late or come in on weekends just to be seen to be "working hard", it's illegal and immoral.

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