Insomniac Devs Say Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Was Made ‘With No Crunch’

Insomniac Devs Say Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart Was Made ‘With No Crunch’
Image: Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Usually, any video game that launches to a hugely positive reception is inevitably followed with the miserable news of developers toiling away, pulling 60-plus hour weeks for months on end to make it happen. But apparently, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the exception.

Developers at Insomniac revealed on Twitter early Wednesday morning that — at least for some staffers and some teams — the “entire production” of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was managed without one iota of crunch. That’s astonishing for almost any project: some degree of crunch, even in small spurts for a couple of days or weeks, is assumed to be the normal for a lot of software development.

In video games, brutal crunch lasting months and even years is all too common. That’s especially true for AAA games. The Last of Us 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are recent examples of games made under substantial crunch, with the extending working conditions causing an exodus of talent from Naughty Dog.

Insomniac, however, has appeared to crack the code. Lindsay Thompson, a senior animator at Insomniac according to their LinkedIn profile, said they managed to avoid crunch throughout the entirety of the game’s production bar from a few “late nights here and there finishing something up”.

The experiences from Thompson and Grant Parker aren’t necessarily reflective of the entire studio, but it’s an astonishing accomplishment nonetheless. Consider Thompson’s perspective as a senior animator on a game with so much high quality animation, amongst not just the individual playable characters but the uniqueness of the various alien races and enemies that have their own movement styles.

Even for a game that’s a little on the shorter side — Leah finished the game in 15 hours, and the game reported a 97% completion rate for myself with 19 hours played — it’s hands down one of the best bits of news in gaming all year. Developers, observers and critics have argued for many, many years that games, from indies to the most expensive of projects, can be made in a more humane manner without sacrificing quality. People don’t talk about Insomniac Games with the same reverence as From Software, Sony Santa Monica, Supergiant Games, first-party Nintendo games, Sucker Punch, Naughty Dog or others — but after Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and what was accomplished, maybe they should.

Comments

  • I am genuinely curious regarding ‘crunch’ and whether it’s something that’s become a little more infamous in video game development than perhaps is the reality.

    As someone that works in a high stress workplace ( I am a chef) we are in a seasonally busy part of the country there’s easily four months a year where our work load and hours are doubled, overtime is expected and breaks are near on non-existent and it’s an industry wide existence.

    Either hospitality is far behind everyone else with fair work conditions (wouldn’t surprise me), or the video game industry is getting alot of attention for an issue that is felt in all manner of other workplaces.

    • Crunch, whether it be in the games industry or the situation you describe, is a result of poor management. If you’re that busy for those 4 months then the company is making more money, why don’t they bring on more staff? I strongly suspect profit is the motivator here, and if they can exploit workers who have been conditioned to believe that’s just how it is then why not? I work in software (but not games) and it sure isn’t my experience, despite management seeking to remove conditions every time bargaining rolls around. And that’s largely thanks to my union.

    • Hospitality is notorious for its awful working conditions, so probably not the best point of comparison. Some of the hospo work I did was the most stressful, abusive, degrading, and low paying work I’ve ever done. Thank god I got out.

    • The graphic design industry can be like that as well, especially if you work for a studio. A few of the bigger ones are known to hire graduates for next to nothing and then just work them into the ground. My first job into the industry was for a real estate marketing company, stupidly stayed in it too long and it took a full blown panic attack to realise I had to get out.

      Like crotchdot said, profit and bad management and it probably shows up in most industries to a certain extent.

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