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60 Straight Days of Crunch? Really? Please Explain.
by Keith Fuller on 01/14/11 10:31:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Choose Your Enemies Wisely

Honestly, I don’t want to have enemies. I like being liked too much to want enemies. But I suspect this is going to make some. I’m going to provide you with two quotes and I would like someone to reconcile them for me. Someone authoritative, mind you…not the good people who will likely respond in the comments section with amens and words of encouragement. God bless you, though, Comments Section People. Write your comments anyway. Our industry needs the support.

Here’s a quote from develop-online.net. Dateline today, January 12th, 2011:

“The development team at New York outfit Kaos has been subjected to a seven-day crunch phase for two months, the studio’s owning publisher THQ has said.

The Kaos workforce has been thrown into the brutal crunch phase in order to finish work on its current project, Homefront, before the scheduled US release of March 8th.

THQ has no intention of delaying the game past its release date.

The publisher’s executive vice president of Core Games, Danny Bilson, said on Twitter that he was yesterday in New York to visit the studio.

His message read: “At Kaos studios in New York sitting with a team that's finaling on 7-day weeks for a couple of months. Talk about that ‘thousand yard stare’.” ”

Now here’s a quote from the website for Kaos Studios, the company at which developers have allegedly been working seven days a week for months:

“Quality (of Life) Assurance

Above all, we are driven to ensure that our employees have a high quality of life and a good work/life balance. While game development – like any entertainment business – is a profession that lives on deadlines and overtime, Kaos places a high premium on our employees coming to work refreshed, relaxed, and ready to make industry-leading games. Key to that is our deployment of Scrum and Agile methodologies, our commitment to an 8-hour workday, and our refusal to burn out our employees. While we may not be able to eliminate overtime and crunch completely, we’re constantly evolving our business to better meet the needs of both the project and the long-term health and happiness of our workforce.”

Reiterating: Explanation, good. Enemies, bad.

All I’m after is an explanation as to how these two things can be true. Kaos has allegedly had some people working every day for 60+ days. Kaos also claims that they are “driven to ensure that [their] employees have a high quality of life.”

Now, I’m no simpleminded idealist. I’ve been in the industry for 13 years. I’ve worked with publishers. I've worked with irrational leaders. And I know you have to make tough decisions some times. But I’m here to say it does not have to be this way.

Mike Acton of Insomniac recently posted an enormously eloquent blog entry explaining what they do at his studio to prevent disasters such as the one befalling Kaos. The IGDA published a Quality of Life paper seven years ago explaining “how studios can adopt best practices to help alleviate some of the stress and allow for a more balanced life.” (source: IGDA Quality of Life White Paper Info) The problems aren’t new and they haven’t stopped. The solutions aren’t new either, but only a few studios seem to be implementing them.

Why Are You So Upset, Keith?

I’m upset because I’ve seen too many projects – worked on many of them – paid for with the currency of developers’ lives. Artists working overtime to bring the framerate up instead of being at home with their newborn child. Designers fitting maps into memory at the last minute instead of planning their wedding with their fiancées. I started my own consulting business because a big part of the solution involves better planning and better project management. And I happen to be pretty good at both. I’ve helped salvage woefully late titles. But I was also on a team that, when allowed control of its own destiny, turned out the most successful game (AAA, cross-platform) our company has ever shipped. And we did it in little more than 1 year, and without overtime. So if you don’t think it can be done or don’t know how, call me. I would be abundantly happy to help ensure debilitating overtime never happens again, at Kaos or anywhere.

Recap

  • Don’t want enemies
  • Do want an explanation, re: Kaos crunching like crazy on Homefront
  • Game production doesn’t have to be like this
  • If you don’t believe me or don’t know how to fix it, contact me

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Comments


Jamie Mann
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SPending two months in crunch-time seems like a recipe for disaster; it's almost certainly going to lead to more development issues, the final product may well have significant flaws and the people involved are highly likely to be burnt out afterwards - some may even be permanently so.



However, I would like to understand *why* they're being held to this deadline: you don't just try to cram 6-8 months work into two without a significant reason. Do they have a contractual obligation to meet, are THQ being nasty, is the money running out or something else altogether? And why haven't they been able to maintain their schedule: were the timeline estimates overly optimistic or has the team fallen behind schedule?



It's unlikely that there's a single root cause, but it'd be good to get an understanding of what caused this...

David Crooks
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One likely obligation that comes to mind is "THQ can't have this game leave the fiscal year, because they badly need the revenue generated from it to show up there".

Jordan Johnson
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As a realistic person, I understand that some overtime at the end of a project or other critical phases is pretty much a given, since it's impossible to realistically plan for all the unknowns that come up. But mandating unending and uncompensated overtime with no time off is borderline criminal. Having gone through 60 straight days of crunch, in the midst of a full-year death march, I sympathize with the dev team. If I could go back and change something about it, I would've told my bosses to get stuffed and that I was only going to work normal hours. This might be a scary proposition for some, as fear of losing your job outweighs the pain of personal time lost. But trust me, they need you more than you need them. In addition, the company's fear of a lawsuit for firing you on the grounds of not working an illegal amount of overtime will keep them in line. For others that feel like they are letting their comrades down by not enduring the same amount of overtime that they do, I say we are all letting each other down by putting up with it.

Christopher Thigpen
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As a Project Management Professional that utilizes Agile/Scrum methodologies, I would want to warn that Agile and Scrum methodologies are not a magic "silver bullet". To assume the ills facing Kaos, it seems that over aggressive milestone scheduling could have caused this oversight. Though this is only an assumption, but crunching seven days a week for 60 plus days shows an apparent lack of realistic scope from the upper management. I hope for their sake, they can rectify this error with smart Project Management professionals that will not only help streamline their development, but also push back against an unrealistic release schedules. The "100 mile stare" doesn't begin to describe the contempt that can fester and build within your development team by driving them too hard, for too long. Most companies fail to visualize, recognize, and acknowledge the psychological toil this has within their doors. Or in worse case scenarios, just ignore it completely. For the sake of their team, for their company, I hope they give them quick reprieve. An entire week off for recuperation, and also fatten their checks a little extra for their dedication. This is not the fault of the developer team, this is mismanagement from the top. Though not all is lost, learn from this mistake, never make it again. And I cannot wait to play Homefront. Great advertising, makes my interest grow for this game.



Kudos for their development team for sticking with it.



Tip of the Hat

Nicholas DiMucci
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This is the game industry and sadly this is commonplace. I wish it wasn't, but it is. Games wouldn't be released as quickly as they are though, if crunch wasn't part of the gig probably.



It's mismanagement like this that has completely erased any type of desire to work in this industry. No, not ALL studios are like this, but lets be honest, almost all are.

Christer Kaitila
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Any time a studio goes into crunch, a mistake has been made. Crunch time means someone failed to do their job properly. Crunch is always a failure of management: crunch is not a given.



If you are working on a game and you are put into crunch mode, forced to work overtime, or don't get the weekends off, your boss dropped the ball. A mistake has been made. Crunch is a result of inexperienced managers who are too young, too optimistic, and have unrealistic expectations and poor planning abilities.



That said, mistakes are made. People screw up. I just mean to say that you should never, ever, PLAN to have crunch time. Crunch means something bad happened. You never plan to crunch.

Robert Green
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"Crunch is a result of inexperienced managers who are too young, too optimistic, and have unrealistic expectations and poor planning abilities."

It would be more accurate to say that the need for crunch is a result of that. The fact that it actually happens is more a result of the entire dev team deciding that, for what ever reasons, it's more important to them to meet the deadline someone else set than to only work the hours they're paid for.

Ironically, what this means from a managerial perspective is that if you're not doing crunch, you're potentially wasting money, since you have staff that would probably work overtime for free and you're failing to take advantage of it.

Jeff Murray
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It's about time we stopped with the silly rigid timelines and realized that sometimes you just have to allow for true creativity to take longer. See Valve and tell me that taking longer isn't such a bad thing..



Devs are not meat. Suits, please stop treating them this way!

Tim Carter
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I'm not sure having a deadline is "treating someone like meat".



It's not clear from this story whether it's the suits or the devs behind the crunch.

Ryan Duffin
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I am not going to call out any by name but there are no small number of projects that suffered from having way too long of a leash. Valve and Blizzard are perhaps the only major studios that have proven they're responsible (and well funded) enough to ship "when it's done".



Deadlines are reality for most businesses but they're usually set pretty far in advance (often a year or two). Pretending like they come out of nowhere and not scheduling and scaling a project accordingly is a production problem.



Where the "suits" might have blame in these cases, is getting devs to sign bad deals that promise too much work in not enough time. But the existence of deadlines is hardly the problem.

Tim Carter
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Kaos Studios was originally a mod team.

Mason Mccuskey
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That's true, but 2 points -



a) I worked at KAOS, and can assure you, the developers there are a passionate and professional bunch - solid, experienced guys.



b) for the sake of argument, let's assume it is a new and inexperienced mod team, and they bite off more than they can chew.... that still doesn't make it appropriate for THQ, a publicly traded company, to mandate 7-days-a-week crunch for two months. They can take other action, absolutely. They can fire people, they can add resources, they can adjust ship dates. But no company should be able to abolish the weekend.



What THQ has done is egregious and immoral, if not illegal. A two month perpetual crunch, over the holidays, is bad enough, but for one of their top executives to then tweet about it like it's a feather in his cap just adds insult to injury.

Tim Carter
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Does it say that THQ mandated 7-day weeks?

Mason Mccuskey
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"The Kaos workforce has been thrown into the brutal crunch phase"



"THQ has no intention of delaying the game past its release date."



I'd say that's a mandate.

Mike Weldon
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Great stuff! If pointing out hypocrisy makes enemies with someone, you probably didn't want to be friends with them anyway.

Jesse Manning
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Meanwhile somewhere in a far off land the higher ups are crying all the way to the bank for your hard work. And then they smile because they remember that the supply of young people that will do anything to be in the industry is massive while the # of jobs is relatively low.



Its sad that the average career span in the games industry is equatable to the average career span in the NFL. And even more sad that the average compensation is drastically different.

Dave Sodee
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Given the way games are being made seems a sad industry unless you are Blizzard or Valve and release something when it is ready. All these crunches and pushes on overworked dev teams does nothing but destroy projects, earnings and create half-baked games with bugs. Yeah..you hit deadline...who cares as the product sucks.

Ryan Ireland
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We need more bloggers like Keith if anything is ever going to change.

Nick Green
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It's the same as any workplace.



Organisations make those nice, fluffy "we love our employees" statements to:



a) Make employees think they're safe, and

b) As a legal shield.



But what they say they do and what they do can be worlds apart.

Jeffrey Touchstone
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Well said sir

Duong Nguyen
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Some crunch is unavoidable due to the constraints of time and money but excessive amount of crunch time is usually due to poor planning and mismanagement (ie over 6 months of crunch time). Also that is rare now days since recent court cases proving that companies can be liable for overtime if they "crunch" that long and employees take them to court.. (ie EA spouses suit).



The mouth piece of the company do no have any say in the actually running of the company, it could be an absolute sweat shop but they are paid to say it's the best place to work ever. For a realistic view you'd be better off asking the employees..



If a company sticks around long enough they get into their groove and know what they are doing, so there is less "unknown" in the crunch time but it still will be there and people will just plan for that. Companies which push their employees for 6+ month crunch marches then fire them at the end, well those companies are just exploiting their employees.. Sad it but it happens often in this industry..

Dave Prout
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It is easier to employ crunch than to find a new business model.

Tyler Riojas
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A very thoughtful post. As much as I hate Unions, this is a perfect example of why they are needed.

Robert Anderson
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It would be nice to hear from someone at the studio.

I think this article raises good questions and does not attempt to get into the blame game. Especially when none of us here have any of the facts beyond the quotes above.

I am like you Keith, in the sense that I have been in countless death marches. Some unforeseen and some embraced because I am a bit insane, but 60 days is a strong sign that something has gone seriously wrong.

But that's just my opinion with no information on this situation to back it up.

M C
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All I have to say is - Only 2 months?

Rey Samonte
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Yeah..by today's standards, that's easy time! Sad to say but despite how many times we moan and groan about unfair OT that degrades quality of life, most of these large studios don't care.



I will not name any studios or any games I've personally been on that employed such horrendous manditory work days, but in the end, the sheer effort and sacrifice each developer contributed resulted in highly received games which almost justifies the cost to the studio. Unfortunately, that's as far as it goes for most as we shortly see those same hard working devs get laid off. I know, it's beating the dead horse but ignoring it doesn't make it stop.

Nick Halme
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Apparently, it was more like 6.

Ronildson Palermo
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I'm not looking to find any enemies too, but I guess it is pretty simple to think that you cannot believe and simply find pretty whatever you read. A plan's worst enemy is practice, we (humanity) have known that for quite some time.



It is necessary to take into account the human factor. I don't think it is anyone's place to try and guess what happened to the game and it's development cycle, but let's assume an idea didn't quite convince and had to be reworked multiple times before finally reaching it's final version in the design, if it's a big part of the game everything else will simply be pushed back, can't make cake with no eggs.



You also seem to be comparing your work on a AAA title which was the best your studio ever had with every other project. Many companies, and people, seem to forget games are about fun. If we take Uncharted, Bejeweled and CityVille and compare their design cycles I'm sure you'll find thousands of similarities and discrepancies on the macro level, development cycle, company policy and such. But you have to account for the micro. What if the designer for CityVille had that idea percolating on his mind and then it happened. You'll find the planning phase for CityVille might have been shorter and that sped up the whole process, just because the designer felt more inspired.



And that's coming from someone who has been working at home as an indie for the past year and a half on the same title. So I might not share the experience of years of professional craft, but to me it seems that the two sentences which will make you understand what happened are:



"We need to stay open" & "Mistakes were made..."



It is NOT like you take a guy from your design team and tell him "Ok, pal. Need three great mission for tomorrow". Those three GREAT mission will need time to actually become great. Every text needs to be reviewed just as much as every idea needs to be re-thought.



Not to mention creativity is something too unpredictable to be a cohesive part of planning, I just can't see you telling someone: "Yeah and you better come ready on the 24th, because you're deadline for the game's first level is on the 29th, so you'll need to have that great gameplay idea by 25th, because you need to move on to work on that first level."



And if hope to change is ever to be had, we need to make up the mind of those giving us the money, the almighty investors.

Neil Sorens
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While I am of course not in favor of crunching when avoidable, I will also point out that remaining employed because you did extra work to keep your company in business can help your quality of life.



I'd also like to point out that not everyone becomes less effective when working overtime, and that a great many people working in this business do so knowing the sacrifices they will have to make. They consider these sacrifices to be an acceptable cost for having a job that is fulfilling and challenging.



Some people do not, and they leave their company or the industry altogether. Or, knowing the nature of the business before they get into it, they choose a less demanding position in a less demanding industry. In fact, many of those who face the ordeal of crunch time would not be able to get a job in the industry if it were easier, because the labor supply would be more plentiful.



All that is not to say that executives and managers are always justified in ordering crunch time. However, in some cases, even when development is well-planned and managed, the economics of game development won't work without it. The success of creative endeavors is not easy to predict.



White-collar unions are not a solution, period. Unless you like your industry bloated, drowning in red ink, subsidized and/or heavily regulated by government, and shipped off to emerging economies in far-off lands.

Adam Bishop
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As someone who is a member of a "white-collar union" in another industry (as a programmer), I can say that the union has had a very positive impact on our working conditions, and that our jobs are very secure and in very little danger of being shipped overseas. I certainly can't speak to the effectiveness of every union everywhere, but this idea that unions are job killing or unsustainable is not reflective of reality.

Neil Sorens
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What industry are you in? In the US, white-collar unions nowadays are largely confined to government institutions, government contractors, and government-subsidized/regulated firms such as utilities, which aren't nearly as susceptible to the competitive disadvantages that come with fully unionized workplaces as game development companies are.



It's true that union jobs tend to be very secure - until the company falls over (GM), anyway. But in the brutally competitive and difficult games business, where companies are only as strong as their latest hit and development is already fleeing rapidly to Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe, the traditional union model just wouldn't work.

Jacek Wesolowski
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I don't mind making new enemies once in a while, but I think it's all too easy for most of us to boil this down to either "OMG!!!!! You bloodsucking corporate hypocrites!" or "OMG!!!!! You socialist profit haters!".



I actually do have a strong opinion on this matter. I was once called a loser because I quit a job that was about to enter a major crunch period, and I responded with calling the guy a loser because he would give up his relationship and two years of his life for something no one was going to remember in five years' time. It was cathartic - but not very constructive.



One of basic facts about big budget game development is that a hundred is a lot of people, and four years is a lot of time. Those are huge, highly complex software engineering enterprises, and on top of that, game devlopment is supposed to be artistically creative. I'm not saying this in order to claim that disasters have to happen, because I don't think they do. But it is impossible for a regular human being to track, control, and predict the dynamic of such a large project without the aid of procedures, methodologies and automated tools.



Generally speaking, there are few established procedures, methodologies etc. in this industry. We do borrow from utility software development, but we're not doing it very well. There is a lot of theory on the subject, but we're not very good at implementing it. We're on a tanker, and we're trying to steer it with oars. Our own projects end up surprising us on every turn.



I used to work in a team that ended up crunching for more than six months, with some sub-teams enduring an even longer emergency period. It was a textbook example of a software engineering disaster.



But, you know what? Before the crunch started, the director of that team spent like a year telling everyone how he believed in the 8-hour workday, and how avoiding the crunch was one of his top priorities - even as we kept warning him about delays. The production had managed to predict the crunch a year in advance. Pretty much everybody wanted it to not happen. And then it happened anyway, because we never really did anything about it. I mean, you can row very very very fast if you really really really want to, but the real solution to the Clueless Tanker Syndrome is to install a rudder. In other words, working harder won't help you; you have to change your strategy.



There are many strategic issues at work here, but I think the biggest one is that we're still in the 1980s in terms of mindset. We foster this illusion of being a lone self-sufficient settler on an untamed frontier, trying to rush to the nearest gold vein before other settlers can claim it. The biggest weakness of this mindset is the lack of sense of accountability. It's just us versus the frontier.



You wouldn't believe how hard it was to introduce something as simple as a priority list in that project I mentioned. Priority list is a basic accountability tool for project leaders. In order to use it, you have to acknowledge that you can't have everything you want because you're on a finite budget. Only the top of the list is going to be completed before we run out of time. If we cannot reach the bottom of the list, it means that you, the project leader, have put too many items on it. The concept is simple enough, but many people in leadership positions just won't acknowledge it.



One can give more examples like this, but that would be boring. Something that needs to be pointed out, though, is that accoutability is not just a producer's problem. Designers tend to want all their ideas implemented all at once, and they sure can have more ideas in an hour than you can implement in a year. Artists indluge in the search for that perfect balance that not even other artists can see. Programmers often find themselves unable to resist the allure of the feature creep.



In my experience, neither producers nor the suits are the biggest pain in the proverbial arse as far as project stability is concerned. The most disruptive people are dysfunctional designers, programmers, and artists in leadership positions (do note that "wannabe creator", i.e. an untrained person who wants to have an impact on game design no matter what, is a common variant of a dysfunctional designer).



The frontier mentality has to change, but it's not going to happen overnight. Meanwhile, I think there are two things that can be done about it.



The first one is that we need to stop running away from formalised solutions and development theory. We need those tools, so suck it up and go read a book now! Oh, and by the way, "The Mythical Man-Month" doesn't count. It's from the seventies.



The second one is a system of checks and balances. Essentially, problems are most commonly made by people who cannot get fired when they have pissed off someone. But when you take a closer look at the distribution of responsibilities within a team, it starts to look more like a circle than a tree. The team are responsible for making the creative direction's vision happen. The production are responsible for providing the team with the resources (e.g. time). Finally, the creative direction are responsible for staying within the constraints set by the production. This means that, in essence, everyone is responsible to someone.

Benjamin Quintero
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crunch is pretty inevitable for most developers, but if we look at the math.



2 months, 2 extra days a week + some extra hours on the weekday = ~20 work days = ~1 month.



If these developers receive 1 month's salary bonus or 1 month off of work then it sort of makes up. If it's business as usual after shipping then that's just messed up.

Aaron Casillas
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Great point. One method that can be used is schedule to 4 day work weeks, this will give you a better buffer.

Jacek Wesolowski
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That's a very old technique, actually. Programmers are known to overestimate their efficiency by 30 per cent on average, so let them make an estimate and then add 30 per cent.



Basic probabilistic calculus allows you to account for reiteration risk (i.e. "there is an X chance we're going to have to throw this away and do it again") in a similar manner.



Or, you could simply set project deadline and release date further apart, so that there is a buffer for the inevitable delay.



The reason why none of these work is that they allow you to make a better schedule, but they don't stop you from overloading it. "Hey, it looks like they're going to do meet their deadline, so let's give them one more task, because obviously they're not working hard enough!" Some people, if given more time, will simply keep making up more stuff that absolutely, totally, undisputably needs to get done. Their team will always spend the last six months crunching, even if the project took twenty years to complete.

Eric Schwarz
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It's an unfortunate truth that developers are so beholden to publishers that they often have very little say when it comes to the terms of their employment. Valve and Blizzard have already been mentioned numerous times, doubtlessly, and the only reason why their more creativity-sensitive approach to project management hasn't been adopted by others only really has one explanation: publishers are more concerned with shipping a game than the well-being of their employees and in delivering a quality product. Obviously, everyone involved wants to make money, but when the people holding the reins simply don't have an understanding of the amount of time, effort and passion that goes into making every game, disaster is almost inevitable and it's the developers who are forced to pick up the slack.

John Byrd
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Keith, it looks like most of your work has been at Raven. Raven is an excellent company that treats their employees respectfully. However, the level of crunch required at Raven is not representative. If, for example, you had worked at some of the other Activision studios, or EARS, during the early part of the last decade, you would have seen frequent crunches of more than 60 days.



Personally, I believe that crunch is wrong. But Kaos's approach is quite common in our industry. If one instance of 60 day crunch shocks you, then you ought to visit more devs in SF and LA... The true scope of long-term crunch in our industry is much larger than you seem to think.

Andrew Weldon
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John, I worked with Keith during my 2 1/2 years at Raven. I worked through death-march level crunch in the months leading up to Quake 4's release including a 36-hour non-stop weekend the days before alpha after which those of us who worked those hours got a single day before diving back into months of crunch before beta. A few team members had health complications during his time, including one team member who required six months of medical leave before leaving the studio (and the industry).

While I can't speak first-hand for Wolfenstein and Singularity, my understanding is significant effort also went into shipping these titles.



Now, I'm not going to say Raven was an evil pl

ace (second best to where I am now, as it would turn out),but

Andrew Weldon
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I'm going to destroy my phone.



Anyway, there are without question good people there, but Raven has also seen tremendous turnover, 2 major layoffs recently, and its fair share of destructive crunch. And Keith has seen it. You're right, the problem is VERY large. That still doesn't make it ok.

Raul Aliaga
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What if the crunch isn't as big as claimed? let's say, 10 hours each week day and half Saturday, or even no crunch at all, and the guy just tweeted that to brag about his people's commitment and just get ALL this buzz?

Albert Meranda
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Nail. Head. I don't think the comment was meant to get buzz, it was an off-hand tweet. But it was meant as praise for dedication. We are crunching. It is crunch. But it's not a death march and it's certainly not the entire studio working non-stop without a day off for two months.

Nick Halme
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"...a team that's finaling on 7-day weeks for a couple of months."

Robert Schmidt
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There is a book entitled, "the psychopath next door", it suggests that there are many psychopaths in society. They all aren't on the evening news after killing someone over a pair of running shoes. It suggests that they may actually thrive in positions of middle management where exploiting people to fulfill a personal objective is rewarded. A manager that demands his employees work 7 days a week for two months because of their mismanagement sounds like a psychopath. My suggestion is to fire these managers as soon as possible, then fire their bosses, and so on until you've fired all the idiots who don't know how to manage people and projects. That's their job. Two months of crunch is them failing at their jobs. Abusing your employees ensures that your company employs only those so incompetent or insecure that they can't find something reasonable, rather than those who excel at what they do. It also moves the game industry closer to unions like in the film industry.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I'm with you, but how do you fire your boss or your boss's boss?

Sebastian Bolinger
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i'm really want to play Homefront but i don't waste $60 on a game that was rush because of it's deadline

Christopher Enderle
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Well, as long as THQ and Kaos aren't breaking the law by not paying overtime I guess there's no big problem here beyond the general crappy situation.

marty howe
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Management. It's always management. They are ultimately responsible, yes? (scheduling, time estimation for tasks, monitoring work output, anticipating problems before they occur, adding a time buffer for unforseen elements) The workers at ground level are the ones being dictated tasks and timeframes.

Jason Schwenn
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Please allow me to play devil's advocate here. I'm sure most of you would want to consider video game making an art form. I would also assume most of you want your field and work to be respected amongst other creative fields.



But as a musician first and foremost who has been branching into video game design, I must say that most people employed in the video game business seem very...boring? No offense, but great art is made by great artists who throw themselves into their craft completely. I find most video game professionals to be very decidedly uncreative, and, frankly, whiny. You are artisans of a craft.



Point being, I've spent countless hours working on things for the sheer love of it, with no concern for pay, recognition or industry-approval. It sounds to me like a game company needs all-hands on deck and instead of a team of creative artisans banding together to finish their product, people complain about working 7 days a week. If you're lucky enough to being paid to create digital games and are on a team that has a project actually WORTH putting extra time into, it sounds like a win-win-win to me. Yet, people whine...



I find it hard to argue that the video game industry should be treated as the next true creative medium when the field seems to be so full of whiny, mediocre talent. (To be clear, I'm not stating the author is or is not such, just that I find it hard to see what the problem really is...)

Peter Saumur
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I don't think the whining is about the willingness to put in extra hours for the craft; it's being forced/coerced into a "death march" for months on end. I know many people who will gladly work extra hours because they love what they do and want to do "cool stuff". It's one thing to volunteer your time, industry, and passion to what you do. It's quite another to be ordered to do it, in excess. A few extra hours may not hurt at the end of the week. When it becomes mandatory, for months, it becomes a problem, and is probably masking other deficiencies in the company/project that should be considered first.

sean lindskog
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@Jason Shwenn

I love it when people say "No offense" while saying something completely offensive.



"Hey, no offense, but your baby looks like a half retarded orangutan that's been beaten in the face with an ugly stick. No offense, man, no offense!"



But you're right. People shouldn't complain about insane working conditions that lead to career threatening mental burn-out, family issues, and possible medical problems. They should do it for the art, man. /sarcasm

Evan Combs
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I don't think complaining about something like being forced to work 7 days a week has anything to do with being respected amongst other creative fields.



As well to single out the video game industry for having mostly bland and mediocre talent without acknowledging that all forms of art have an equal amount if not more bland and mediocre talent is absurd. Every industry is full of boring and mediocre talent, maybe other industries have more interesting people but the talent is no greater. Honestly the art work I have seen from artist working on video games typically far exceeds the art I see from any other industry, especially art you see in a museum.

Joe McGinn
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Good point Evan! Theodore Sturgeon's law.



Q: "Why is 90% of science fiction crap?"



A: "90% of everything is crap."



:-)

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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The blunt of the problem is found in your post; most games that are released nowadays are not WORTH crunch, they aren't even worthy of being made _period_ (from an arrogant artist point of view, which I will take to match yours). Just regurgitated pop crap that tries desperately to mimic the success of some previous example without realizing that it was the uniqueness and passion of the original that made it successful. If it is worth crunching on, it won't even be enforced.



"I find it hard to argue that the video game industry should be treated as the next true creative medium..."



Don't try too hard, we don't really need you.

Joe McGinn
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Off the mark there Jason.



For one thing, these people are professionals. They are paid to do a job, and as anyone else here working in games can tell you, games are one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. Only very small numbers of people have the opportunity for creative work, and even they are heavily constrained by marketing and other business reality. When you are a line artist reducing polygons for for months on end to get the frame rate up, saying "do it for the art" is about the most patronizing and ignorant thing you could say.

Heinz Schuller
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We often try to justify extended crunch under the assumption that the sacrifice will result in something great, or maybe brings in extra money to offset all the unpaid overtime. Unfortunately you can't put a price on burned relationships, or time you don't spend with your kids. That bill arrives separately, and if you're lucky you get an installment plan.

James Lett III
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It's encouraging to see professionals of the industry I'm going to college to eventually get into being concerned for the well-being of the industry, and each other. :) It makes me feel as if it won't be the wrong choice. (Though one could easily argue that following one's passion is never the wrong choice.) I feel like reading these articles also gives me an accurate impression of what working in the industry is like, from good points to bad.



Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that point, haha.


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