Talking as part of an in-depth Gamasutra feature on 'quality of life' for game developers, 'EA_Spouse' Erin Hoffman has suggested Electronic Arts "tremendously reformed" in its QoL efforts, but is warning that forced crunch time is still a major problem in the game business.
Hoffman, who is today a freelance game designer and writer in upstate New York, wrote an open letter in November 2004 about publisher Electronic Arts' game development crunch practices - a discussion that helped lead to a number of California companies instituting a paid overtime rule.
Hoffman has observed significant positive changes in the industry, especially at Electronic Arts, the target of her EA_Spouse letter.
"I think EA is tremendously reformed, having made some real strong efforts to get the right people into their human resources department," she says.
"I've been hearing from people who have gotten overtime pay there and I think that makes a great deal of difference. In fact, I've actually recommended to a few people I know to apply for jobs there."
While hard data is hard to come by, Hoffman is brimming with qualitative information, the result of her having become a sounding board for many of the industry's ills. Unfortunately, she says, she has begun to hear what she calls "horror stories" once again.
"We seem to be entering another valley," reports Hoffman, "especially outside of California, mainly at smaller studios in places like Austin. I was contacted by one woman whose husband is in the same situation as was my then-fiancée three and a half years ago."
"He's been having a lot of health issues and, despite letters she's written to management, his crunch time has gotten out of hand. It just goes to prove that there is definitely a group of people in the industry who believe that excessive crunch is the only way to make good games on time. That hasn't changed."
You can now read the full Gamasutra article on the subject, including further interviews with IGDA executive director Jason Della Rocca and 'Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work' author Evan Robinson, and additional perspectives on the still thorny issue.