Path Of Exile Founder On Crunch: 'I Will Not Run This Company That Way'

Image: Path of Exile

With studios around the world struggling to find ways to manage crunch, the founder and part-owner of Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games has gone public about the studio's approach to responding to feedback, and why working longer hours isn't an answer for them.

The open letter was a response to recent frustration from the Path of Exile community, particularly over the state of the current Synthesis league which launched in early March. Chris Wilson, the founder and part-owner of the New Zealand-based developer, explained that the gameplay prototype for Synthesis took more development than expected, which affected the amount of time for testing and balancing that could be done before launch.

Under most circumstances, developers would either delay the launch of the league or try to fix all the issues by crunching. Wilson acknowledged this, saying developers often felt pressure from the Path of Exile community to work overtime when seeing the response to patch notes and development updates.

"A big topic in the gaming industry recently is development crunch," Wilson wrote. "Some studios make their teams work 14 hour days to pack every patch full of the most fixes and improvements possible. Sometimes when we read our own Patch Notes threads and community feedback, we feel that we are being asked to do the same."

"I will not run this company that way. While there's inevitably a bit of optional paid overtime near league releases, the vast majority of a Path of Exile development cycle has great work/life balance. This is necessary to keep our developers happy and healthy for the long-term, but it does mean that some game improvements will take a while to be made."

Wilson didn't go into detail about the length or amount of optional paid overtime, although the company is due to answer replies from a public Q&A soon.

He did, however, outline some of the difficulties that the Kiwi developer faces when community feedback comes in. The developer has two main difficulties. If they opt to directly respond to the community with a proposed solution, the result of corralling a team together to work out that solution often derails other important projects.

Alternatively, Grinding Gears could opt to consider the feedback but opt to handle it down the road. The problem there is that it leaves the community feeling like their concerns haven't been heard - predominately given because the Path of Exile devs are particularly active, posting daily and weekly updates - and results in more rancour.

"We feel that our internal emphasis on longer term improvements to Path of Exile has caused some damage to that relationship [with the community] in the short term," Wilson said.

But one solution they won't be adopting, at least while Wilson is at the helm, is mandated crunch. That doesn't mean a studio doesn't end up crunching anyway, with employees at other studios talking about cultures where optional overtime wasn't really optional. But at least openly, Grinding Gear Games is taking a stand.


Comments

    More companies need to be transparent about the consequences of responding to fan feedback and feature implementation. Far too many gamers expect things to be fixed immediately or wonder why certain things go unfixed despite there being "A whole team of people who could fix it". If people understood more about what's involved I'd like to hope they'd be a little more understanding about when things take time.

      It's the age of entitlement. No one cares to think about what's required behind the scenes.

      It's like everything sets gamers off.

        It's just people in general and it's nothing new either, its just people's bullcrap is easier to find these days and easier to write about.
        If you've ever worked in retail or hospitality, healthcare or pretty much any job where you have to deal with humans, you're gonna find your entitled lot demanding instant satisfaction.
        I once spent 20 minutes in my youth arguing with a lady who wanted extra salmon on her sandwich but refused to pay the extra 50 cents.

          While there is some of that, it's gotten worse over the last 20 or so years.

      I've seen companies who have been very transparent, it didn't help at all.
      Some people are just bastard coated bastards with a chewy bastard centre.

      On another note I wouldn't mind companies just being transparent all around, despite the bastard snacks.

    "I would do anything for games, but i wont do that. No i wont do that" - Chris 'Meatloaf' Wilson

    I think that forced/pressured overtime is always a potential problem for salary based jobs. With no penalties to the company in terms of increased costs there's no reason to do the right thing.

    i wouldnt think crunch would be that big of issue either here or in new zealand thanks to strong labour laws and unions which is something that the USA and other countries lack

      Even then some employers and their management minions then just resort to finding subtle and creative ways to punish you if you don't dance to the beat of their drum as often as they think you should.

      I had a job in a factory years ago and would see it all the time... You don't do overtime one week, or call in sick for a few days and suddenly you spend the weeks following on tasks your manager knows you dislike. Meanwhile 3-4 other people who actually enjoy those tasks would be volunteering to do them each and every day.

      There's a lot of petty shit like that, and it's all basically impossible to argue they're doing it because they're vindictive assholes.

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