We talk a lot about crunch here, because it’s so indelibly tied to the past and present of game development. But a great new video has shone a spotlight on a side of crunch that often gets very little attention.
It’s a long chat with almost 20 workers from two studios in Malaysia. These studios are important because they work at outsourcing studios for some of the biggest publishers and games in the business, or some of the best games of the last few years: Command & Conquer: Remastered, The Last of Us Part 2, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Gears 5, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers.
Studios like these are what end up making a substantial bulk of major productions. Warcraft 3: Reforged is a good example. The credits list 9 artists at Blizzard, but more than 200 artists are credited from Lemon Sky Studios, a Malaysian-based CGI studio.
“In order to be appealing to a AAA client, like Activision-Blizzard, you need to say I have 100 to 150 people and we can do this much in this much time,” one former employee was quoted as saying.
It is a fantastic piece of work, so watch Bratt’s efforts above and check out other videos on this channel. It’s a great reminder that as a lot of studios talk up their company culture, we also need to remember about the studios that are left out of the conversation. The QA testers that come in as contractors, the artists and animators credited 25 minutes into the end of a AAA game, the humans responsible for some, potentially the majority, of the work on a project.
And as the cost of video game development goes up — and major Western studios increasingly challenge their own internal culture, either to retain staff or through unionisation efforts — there will be greater incentives to use lesser-known companies in China, South-East Asia and other territories that don’t get the spotlight.