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GDC: Gears of War 2 Producer Fergusson Talks "Necessary Crunch"
GDC: Gears of War 2 Producer Fergusson Talks "Necessary Crunch"
March 26, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield

March 26, 2009 | By Brandon Sheffield
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    44 comments
More: Console/PC, GDC



In a talk that a producer friend described as “Along with Rich Vogel’s talk, the two best hours of production talks ever at GDC,” Rod Fergusson, executive producer of Epic Games spoke about his methodology for producing Gears of War 2.

His most salient point was that producers should work with the team to fix a release date early, once it’s possible to have a vision for the project scope, and then stick to that date, barring extreme circumstances.

In the traditional “iron triangle” of important elements of production, there’s schedule, scope, and resources. Fergusson paraphrased Jim McCarthy, author of “The Dynamics of Software Development” in saying, “In software there are thousands of variable. Every project has risks and issues. But what if you could take just one of those variables, and fix it? Just lock it. Hold it to a certain value, and let that help you gauge your other problems.”

For Fergusson, that variable is the schedule, but of course you need a belief that the ship date is both realistic and unchangeable. “One of the great things is it creates a clear goal for the team,” he says. It proves there’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel. “They say you need constraints to have creativity and prioritization.”

To supplement this, at the beginning of Gears 2’s development, 16 project areas were asked what they thought were the five most important things to push forward in the next game, compared to the first, and they used that list to define the actual feature scope and schedule.

These main points then should be grouped to form the “pillars” of the game, according to Fergusson. This is essentially something like “engaging co-op experience,” which is supported by things like individual difficulty levels in co-op. Pillars are good talking points for the press, and also help determine what’s going on the back of the box. “If you can’t talk to the press about ‘here are the four most important things about the new game,’ you’re kind of lost,” he says.

Pillars also help when it comes time to cut or add features. “The question is does it support a pillar? If someone comes and says I really like open-world ideas, we’re going to say well that’s great, but that’s not one of our pillars,” he says. But if there’s something to add that really will support a pillar, he’s all for it.

Cut early, cut often is a mantra for many, and Fergusson believes this is necessary when managing scope. At the same, time, don’t completely throw it away. He gave an anecdote about an artist spending 45 days modeling an “Uber Reaver” for Gears 1, but they realized they didn’t have the time or resources to animate something that would only be in the game once. However, they saved the model for the second game, and the work didn’t go to waste.

Fergusson reminded attendees to always keep test burden in mind, as well. What a programmer may call a “one-line change” isn’t the only cost. “It’s also it’s four weeks of five testers doing this test plan,” reminds Fergusson.

Crunch
“I am a believer that if you’re going to make a great game, and there is that caveat, I believe that crunch is necessary,” Fergusson says. “I believe it’s important because it means your ambition is greater than what you scheduled out. Going in with that idea that crunch is necessary means you can plan for it. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Crunch should be driven by the ambition of the team, and not the inaccuracy of the schedule.”

But he cautions that crunch should be managed by milestones, or some other regular method. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he says, though realistically “It’s a marathon for a really long time, then at the end it is a sprint.”

He also believes in empathetic crunches. “If we’re going to crunch early for something, we made them teamwide. Everything can benefit from getting more done. If the artists were on schedule, then they crunched and they got ahead.” This sometimes led to more being added to the game, or simply more human resources later on. At the end of the project though, they keep crunches as small as possible, because having fewer hands on the project later helps polish.

He cautions though, that people have limits. “Working later than 2 am is a net loss. The productivity of the person who’s doing that to themselves ultimately ends us costing them at the end of that week,” he says. Epic has put a “go home law” in the company handbook as a result.

“Every crunch is different for every team,” he says. “If you’re not doing it because of mistakes in the schedule, but through planning, it’s much easier to go to your team and ask them how they want to crunch.” If they have that light at the end of the tunnel, in terms of a fixed launch date, crunch becomes much more manageable.


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Comments


Joel McDonald
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Sure, setting the schedule in stone may sometimes work when the quantities are relatively known already when making a sequel using the same engine, as GOW2 was, but I don't think it's quite this simple for games that are starting more at square one.



Regarding his belief in the necessity of crunch, baloney I say. I'm simply not going to buy that it is integral to the success of a game. Companies may *think* it is necessary in the current state of the game industry, but I certainly don't believe it to be fundamentally necessary to crunch to make a great game. It really comes back to setting realistic deadlines/schedules. Now none of this is to say that limited crunch can't be beneficial, because it can. But being beneficial in certain scenarios and being absolutely necessary are two very different things.

Jason Bakker
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Yeah, it sounds like he's making excuses for the fact that they needed to crunch on GOW2. If crunch is something that's "required" for a great game, it's no longer a real black eye for him - rather, it's a feather in his cap!

Andrew Heywood
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This is utter, utter nonsense. So we should _plan_ to force people to work 60 hour weeks? What? Why? Because you want something for nothing? You want everyone to work harder instead of just working smarter from the start. Never mind the fact that this kind of working practise has been proven to be suboptimal in terms of both the volume and quality of work produced.



Big companies with huge budgets like Epic should be leading the way by showing that the most efficient, conscientious way to work is by enforcing an 'out at 5' or similar policy to make sure the team stays fresh and produces the best quality work in the shortest period of time. Not demanding more and more from their hard-working employees.



I continue to find it hilarious that guys like Rod Fergusson are arrogant enough to believe that they know better than a century-worth of collated data on worker productivity which has lead every other industy to realise what constitutes an optimal (40hr, 5 day) working week.



Working a handful of 10-12 hr days here or there to get that feature finished up and checked in before a milestone is fine. Extended periods of crunch are not, and indicate a serious scheduling problem. Actually _scheduling_ crunch inicates a producer who is detached from reality, and a company people very quickly don't want to work for.

Alex Waterston
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It is unfortunate and truly sad that this kind of attitude is still rife within game development and is so prevalent in the larger companies. Crunch is not a signifier of a "better product" or of "aiming higher than you can achieve" it's either a signifier of inept management or, as it seems to appear in this case, pure greed!



Planning for crunch means that you want a project done quicker and for less money and this, in my honest and brutal opinion, is amoral and unfair. Amorality is easy to come by in this industry and as such it reflects the industry's sad, neglected youth. It is long gone time that the industry as a whole grew up and starting taking responsibility for the people that keep it going instead of running them into the ground.

Scott Nixon
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I love the spin he's trying to put on it here by trumpeting a '2am go-home law' like he's a benevolent emperor doing what's best for masses (the subtext here is that the team, if left to their own devices, would work 24/7.) Absolutely ludicrous.

Armando Marini
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Truth is that salary is one of the top expenses in development. Crunch time is almost never reimbursed making crunch time, cheap time.



The law of diminishing returns states that the "extra" effort will net you very little. Working until "2am" isn't going to turn a 50% game into a 90% game unless that game was scheduled out to be only a 50% game inthe first place.



Developing up to the date of release is a process that should go the way of the do-do. With this generation's extended life cycle, a development cycle should be scheduled to end several months prior to release. If the game has the potential to exceed expectations, work on it a little longer.

Aubrey Hesselgren
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It also can't be ignored that Epic are in a unique position within the industry: working on a sequel to a secure and established property, with a team well versed in their own engine, which also happens to be used by many, many professionals and amateurs alike. All this means that crunch is a production vehicle they can afford to use with real risk, regardless of the cost to workers, and the fill down effects to the industry at large. Not only can they cherry pick crunch-happy employees, even if an employee does burn out, they've got spares. Lucky for them. Unfortunately, if they're held up as an example of how to get a game made, you get perfectly talented people bounced from one crunch happy Epic-wannabe to the next, and eventually, total burn out. That's a net loss to the industry.



This is the primary reason I warn against holding Epic up as anything other than the exception to the rule. With so many "spares", and such a big talent pool to call from, they can afford to do this. Chances are, you cannot. The industry as a whole is better served to make a company and product that people love coming in to work on. Involve excessive crunch in your plans, and you sour your relationship with your team. You'll be able to taste their tears in final product. You'll burn your very limited supply of workers.

Aubrey Hesselgren
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*without real risk

Bob McIntyre
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It seems strange that you would plan to work so much that you have to have a written rule saying "don't stay at work past 2 AM." That sounds like bad management. Gears 1 and 2 were good games, but that doesn't prove all of these laws. And even the idea of a fixed, unchangeable release date isn't obvious and isn't always right. Look at Blizzard. They release "when it's ready" and they make some of the best products out there. That doesn't prove that their way is "always right" either, but it proves that it can be right.

Logan Margulies
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Crunch isn't a good thing, clearly, but perhaps it has less to do with the invidiousness of certain producers, and more with just the nature, up to this point, of project-based work, at least in games. I'm coming from law, my slight experience being with commercial litigation, which is also project-based, case-by-case. The hours can be unconscionable. A popular rumor is that one prominent New York firm, on introducing a newly hired summer class, takes them to the "bunk room", where there's a couple rows of bunk beds and lockers so they can catch quick naps overnight without having to leave the office. In either games or law, this kind of ridiculous work schedule might sometimes be the product of uncaring, if not sadistic, managers. But part of it might just be that managers in project industries haven't yet been able to develop a successful model that blends productivity and humanity.

Steve Austin
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Crunch time is just a failure of leaders of the team to properly scope the project. If Gears required crunch time to complete it, it probably means they wanted more than would fit into the time frame of their project. Wanting more is fine. Not staffing up to meet the projects needs is not fine.



Crunch time takes a very short term view of the company's greqatest assets...the employees. if you do crunch, there will be a higher turn over rate. This is lost knowledge....knowledge that competing companies gain when employees have been run too hard for too long.

Giles ODell
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No matter how you spin it, crunch is endemic of poor management. And there are highly skilled workers who will not consider working for companies that insist on this practice. And the workers who do subject themselves to this treatment often won't stick around for the next project. So there is a long term cost, and an implicit view of employees as interchangeable, well... "gears."



I often see crunchtime pitted against "quality of life." I think the phrase "quality of life" has somewhat trivialized what we're talking about, as if this is merely about having enough time to sit and watch TV at the end of the day. It's really about health. Physical, mental and emotional health. You can't tell me that it's not only acceptable but necessary to risk the health of your employees.

Logan Margulies
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Granted, but in terms of lost knowledge, if we want to talk about a high-profile studio like Epic, the assumption they might operate under is they have the pull to attract almost any talent to fit their needs. So they lose a few in this department, a few in that. Others with that knowledge willingly will replace them. A lot of positions, even those requiring advanced knowledge, are fungible. So if Epic can benefit financially from its current production model, and because of fungibility limit the lost-knowledge problem, there's no incentive to change. Of course, there's a lot of other potential problems, such as an employer acquiring a negative image (a la "The Walmart Effect"). I'm not saying this is how the employment model should be, I agree, no matter what industry we're talking, people ought not be treated that way. Here are just some reasons why it might still happen nonetheless.

Mandi Grant
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This sounds terrible! I'm all for putting in extra effort when I'm inspired to do so or it's absolutely necessary, but this reminds me of the lawsuits against Walmart that alleged the company required employees to work hours before clocking in (or after clocking out). Labor isn't free.

Eric Carr
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I agree with, "it means your ambition is greater than what you scheduled out. " As an indie, my ambition is always greater than what I can schedule or what my minute resources are capable of. Trying to do more than you may be capable of, stretching yourself to try to achieve, that's what makes great games. If it does happen, crunch should come from passion, not from schedules.

Bob McIntyre
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I interviewed at Epic. They make great games, but their crunch policy is specifically why they weren't able to hire me, even though they offered a little more than the company I went to. People shouldn't "burn out" in five years. People shouldn't have to sacrifice their personal lives, their families, or their health for their jobs. There's no amount of money that Epic or any other company can pay me that will make up for those things, and Gears being a really fun shooter isn't good enough.

Giles ODell
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I have also pushed myself voluntarily in a crunchtime mode out of sheer passion, but even so I can see that it has potentially bad effects on my own health and on my relationships. It's not something I would want to require of people who I manage, and if I was managing a project in which it became necessary I would own up to the fact that I screwed something up along the way: I mismanaged time, resources, something about the scope of the project was miscalculated. Let me ask this, what is the great achievement and benefit in being a highly successful studio with blockbuster hit games if you can't utilize that money and that reputation in order to make fundamental changes to improve the working conditions for the employees who earned that success for the studio?

Eric Carr
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@Giles

It's a little different when your working with a really small team I think. If I had dozens of people then it would be different. But as I work now, I'm trying just to do it. I don't have the years of experience and projects under my belt and neither does my team. The drive to make it is what we've got. If I worked with or managed a large team with consistent time and resources, then I agree that crunch is something to be avoided at all costs due to what you say. It is toxic in a professional environment, but for some it's the only way we've got.

Mike Smith
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In the end there may be crunch, but it is NEVER necessary. Crunch only happens when people want to crunch, there is poor management, or something happens that pulls the rug out from under the schedule.



If you plan to crunch for a deadline, plan for significantly less productivity afterward while the team recovers. Either that, or just plan that people will not be as productive during the crunch because they know they have to be at work for x number more hours so they "take their time" with what they're working on.



You can't get "magic" extra work for free. There is always a cost. Best to keep your employees happy, productive, and excited about cranking out sweet games instead.

Bob McIntyre
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Eric, we all crunch sometimes, and it often turns out to be necessary. And we do it with no complaint only because we think we're going to make something worth the effort. But when it becomes required, that's not good. It is, ultimately, a failure of management to provide the equipment, money, personnel, or planning structure needed to make the desired product in the timeframe, or to extend the timeframe appropriate to the needs of the project. It's not an unforgivable failure that calls for some heads to roll, but it is a failure. Planning on requiring it, though, means that management is at fault. Either the company is forced to squeeze more than it should need from its employees because it can't afford to hire enough of them, or the planning was done wrong, or the publisher surprised them with something, or whatever it may be. But I think that the point we're all making is "planning on crunching super-hard and being at work until 2 AM regularly is ridiculous and unhealthy."



Mike Smith, I especially agree with your last paragraph there. Well said!

Eric Carr
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"Planning on crunching super-hard and being at work until 2 AM regularly is ridiculous and unhealthy" - I agree in every way. I just happen to find myself doing it frequently, but that's my problem really.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Eric - no, it means "I've changed my mind in the meantime". In this case, it means "I asked my teammates to do this much, but I've changed my mind and now I want them to do more". Built-in crunches border on fraud - you don't tell your teammates how much work there really is until it's too late to protest.



There are three major uses for overtime:

- you've caught that magical someting and don't want to lose it, so you stay after hours in order to do as much as possible while in the flow,

- you need to get more work done,

- someone has messed up and crunching is the lesser evil (than, say, missing your release window).



The first option is only possible when the overtime is voluntary. Inspiration cannot be decreed, it simply happens. At best, you can try and encourage it with good work conditions and easy access to saccharose-rich foodstuffs. Crunch will never make your game better by the virtue of making it more inspired, because crunching means the overtime is more or less compulsory. Crunch also puts you under additional stress. I don't know about you, but stress kills my creativity. I get most of my best ideas when I'm home.



The second option means you're not doing better, you're just doing more. While excessive attention to detail does result in more polished work, working long hours actually dilutes your attention. The more tired you are, the more things you overlook, and more mistakes you make. Working 10 hours a day two days in a row can make some sense, but a 50- or 60-hour work week is just counter-productive.



And the third option says it all: someone has messed up. But I would be more supprised to hear a manager admit they've messed up, than to hear Marcus Fenix sing "Y.M.C.A.".



As for the impact of crunching on team morale - it's complicated. I know people who only feel alive when they're so tired they cannot walk. Then there are people with the martyr complex, who like to perform heroic exploits just so that they can claim they're miserable. And then there are people who simply don't mind working extra if the base pay is good enough, or if they can put the word "lead" on their business cards. I've always managed to avoid the crunch mode myself, but I cannot honestly claim I'm happier than they are.

Eric Carr
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@Jacek

Sorry, my comment may have come across badly. I do not ask my team to crunch, I crunch. In my team I'm acting Producer, Designer and Programmer and I work a different job. So almost all of my work happens after 10:00 PM if a deadline isn't coming up (then it's later). That's really what I mean when I say that sometimes crunch the only option I have. I'm thinking that this may be the case for many shoestring indies.

Personally, if I'm almost too tired to stand because I was doing something I'm passonate about, then that's cool with me. But, like I said, if that's expected in a professional environment, if it's a crunch or you'll lose your job, what your saying is very correct.

Mickey Mullasan
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Crunch == bad. Money == good. Esteem == good.



So the argument is whether or not money and esteem can be made without crunch. Can it be made with crunch? Epic crunched and they made both. Could they have made as much money and esteem without crunch? I'd say yes. I think it's in their heads that what they did during off-peak hours made a difference. For the most part workers mess around during crunch more so then they work since they work all the time. So all you get during crunch is people spending their hobby+family time playing ping pong or WoW at work. It's a big illusion.

Heinz Schuller
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Well I will give them kudos for at least being up front about it. But even then the message is clear, "If you want to make great epic games, then you will sacrifice any notion of work-life balance".



Ironically a lot of times the people trying to support that approach aren't the ones sacrificing the son's soccer games, helping their daughters with homework, making the dates with their partners, the time with extended family... the things that make you human.



If you want your job to define who you are, then go for the crunch job. Enjoy your acclaim and money while the rest of the world wonders why you turned into a robot. And when you reach 50 yrs old and the industry spits you out because you're no longer relevant, you may wonder why you gave so much and wound up with nothing that really matters.

Eric Scharf
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Well-stated, Heinz.

Giff Ransom
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Well said, Heinz. It's comments like these that we need to keep in mind when people in the Games Industry excitedly talk about how our work is "changing the culture". Frankly, before we talk about changing the world, I think we need to consider the need for a Hypocratic Oath. At the very least, we should aspire to "do no harm". If a company shows callous contempt for the lives of its own employees, why should anyone expect it to be doing good for the culture as a whole?

Dave Smith
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back in my mandatory crunching days, you might get about 30 minutes of actual work from me per 3 or 4 hours of overtime, and it seemed to be the case for most others as well. I generally got more work done working 30 minutes to an hour more on my own than being forced to work 3 or 4 hours later by the company. From my experience and data, mandatory crunch time did little to increase productivity.

I Already
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I'm delighted to see that in the face of Epic's attempts to spin crunch as "good" and "necessary" for producing hit titles, the commenters here have uniformly panned them.



There are much better ways to run a modern games studio. If you're interested, there's some manifestos going around for how things could be done much better than this that focusses on the people first and the greed of the executives last - we've got a google group here: http://groups.google.com/group/game-studio-manifesto



Personally, I believe that even the 40 hr / 5 day week is not optimal for a creative industry (it was borne out of studies on factory workers, not information-era creatives).

Paul Sinnett
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"I am a believer that if you’re going to make a great game, and there is that caveat, I believe that crunch is necessary,"



This is pure logical fallacy. It's a cheap debating trick to counter any example to the contrary with the phrase "that is not a great game." By which he means "not a great game by my definition." Which in turn means "not a game requiring crunch to make." Of course if he flat out said "by definition, great games require mismanagement of the developers time" he would be laughed off the stage. At least I hope he would.



It is somewhat concerning that some people are apparently taken in by this kind of circular reasoning.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_scotsman

Duong Nguyen
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Long term crunch is a failure of many factors, it's hardly inherent in the system. You cannot call it crunch when you work your employees into the ground for 8 out of 12 months of the year. That's a systemic failure of process and companies which fix that succeed, those which don't lose talent and ultimately lose in the marketplace, producing mediocre lifeless products ( as a result of both talent loss and loss of the creative drive which drives innovation and gameplay ). Crunch does have a valid use, it's useful for focusing and pushing for the last leg of the project when people's energy and resolve are at their lowest. Mature teams use this when they need it the most and plan for it, but it's longterm use has negative consequences which echo far beyond the current project.



Though I would disagree with the statement that great games require crunch, as there have been many a poor game which also used crunch to no effect, so crunch isn't a determinate of a great product. It's more so crunch is a tool to be used judiciously, and those who wield it wisely keep their teams together longer and ultimately produce the best quality product for it. Perhaps crunch was needed for them to meet their schedule deadlines, but if they abuse it, the lost of talent would be far more devastating in the long term.

Audry Taylor
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Every other entertainment industry tends to have its crunches, as well, even those with strict unions. They have learned how to integrate the concept of crunch into their workloads so that they can still have lives outside of work, and show up fresh and well-rested every day (or every night).



After listening to a discussion about eliminating crunch at IGDA Annual, I found myself separating out different kinds of crunch in my head. Mandatory crunch caused by bad management or poor planning is the kind the industry most needs to eliminate. Voluntary crunch will probably always exist, especially near the end of the schedule, but having rules around it will help prevent employees from burning out (such as the rule that work ends at 2 A.M., no matter what).



Even if the industry eliminates both bad management crunch and voluntary end-of-schedule crunch, I think we still need to allow room for what I call "creative crunch." This is working straight through lunch or life because you've tapped into a creative zone that is so driving and passionate that you can't stop until you're done. This happens to artists, writers, programmers, creators of all kinds in all industries. Allowing room for "creative crunch" means letting employees produce their best work when they're in the right mindset to do so, even if it means they miss the morning meeting. OTOH, when you're a full-time employee rather than WFH, you probably still need a set of rules to follow so that you don't end up damaging the schedule or disrupting teamwork for the sake of creativity, if what you're being creative about has nothing to do with the job at hand.

Mickey Mullasan
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By every other entertainment industry, I assume you mean movies and if you mean movies you mean unions which all get paid overtime and have royalties etc in their union contracts. Games are not every other entertainment industry, it's a completely different monster which looks something like a cross between a software industry and the movie industry.



Voluntary crunch is fine as long as people are made aware that you can not advance in the team/company by voluntary crunching. Once there's any type of preference shown to a voluntary cruncher it will create involuntary crunchers who are trying to keep up. Development is kinda like a marathon and no one wants to be outpaced. A team should run together but it should not dehydrate and kill its team members.

Dave Smith
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at least in many cases when crunched we got a period of payed time off afterwards, usually about the same amount. it was worth it in that case.

Nathaniel Meyer
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The thing that bothers me the most is that despite poor project management, never do I see improvements being made. Far to often people turn a blind eye to a situation and hope for the best. Maybe they recover costs, maybe they don't. One thing is certain, most never learn their lesson or even bother to analyze the project's successes and failures. And this isn't an attack on just management either, the whole team shares equal responsibility for this industry trend. People are quick to point the finger, but never willing to be on the receiving end of it. The only way improvement in working habits and lifestyle is going to be achieved is if people start taking this industry a lot more serious and put forth professional engineering practices. Learn from your mistakes, understand them, and work towards eliminating them. Both management and employees need to incorporate this into their careers. I really do feel sorry for fellow game developers that live life by the keyboard. There's just so much more out there.

Joel Bitar
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Has there ever been a impressive game coming out of one of the companies having "no crunch" as a selling point for their employees?



I mean I'm sure they are great and stable places to work, good business etc, so it's good that they do their thing. But all I've ever seen has been either snazzy casual stuff or rehashed / basic games that nobody really remembers two years on. I'd be glad to see examples opposite of this.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Well, I barely remember 90% of games I keep on my shelves. Didn't their makers crunch?

Maurício Gomes
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So, according to this nutty guy, Freespace 2 suck (to those wondering, they finished the game way ahead of schedule)...



Seriously, I will never work for him.... Unless he offer a lot of money, then I work, get rich and make my own 2D Boy-like company...

Mark Harris
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Isn't "scheduled crunch" and oxymoron? If it's scheduled, that's the schedule, not crunch. Crunch by common definition is unscheduled labor to make up for either bad planning, bad execution, or ad hoc issues that could not be foreseen. If you just scheduled crunch at the end of your cycle, you just made a bad schedule on purpose and codified lunacy.



I repeat: crunch is by definition not planned, it is what you do to make up time and effort when your plan goes to shit.

John Paul Zahary
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Interesting piece from a production stand point. I do like the "pillar" method as a form of streamlining information and keeping focused on a goal, however, I do understand the people's problems with crunch.



From an artistic standpoint, you want as much time to make the game the best possible and if the deadline is not realistic, then just push it. However, from production, money, revenue, etc., all business wants to get a quality product out as quick as possible so they create their "mandatory cruches" etc. to make sure the game is complete in their time.



Creativity vs. Schedule. Sometimes...a Masterpiece vs. Widget making.



I have to tip my hat to Epic for coming out with a quality product through this system. There has to be order, however, all companies are different and others might not want this strictness to schedule and allow for a flowing creativity.



I will give a difference...Nintendo - they make a scheduled date, but they have no qualms about pushing the title a few months to even over a year. They come out with a quality project as well.

Bob Stevens
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Fixed, unchangeable launch dates are extremely important. Nothing screws over morale like being lied to about deadlines, but this happens at a lot of studios. If you want any trust at all from your team, don't lie to them about deadlines.



However: “Every crunch is different for every team,” he says. “If you’re not doing it because of mistakes in the schedule, but through planning, it’s much easier to go to your team and ask them how they want to crunch.”



Planning for crunch *is* a mistake in the schedule. I didn't attend the talk and I'm hearing this all second hand, filtered through another party, but I really don't understand how you can reconcile "crunch should be based on the ambition of the team" and "you should plan around crunch so it isn't a surprise".



If you need crunch to make a game you've planned to make in the time you've planned to make it, you've either decided to intentionally exploit your team or you're a miserable failure at scheduling. Either way, I don't see how you should be advising others in talks at GDC.

Dave Smith
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planned crunch is an admission of a company's intent to exploit its workforce to keep labor costs down. end of story.

Joe McGinn
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Halo 3, I'm told. I was told Bungie had ~6 months crunch on Halo 2, seriously improved their project management, and brought that down to ~2 weeks on Halo 3.

Dan Whelan
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I attended the session and wondered how the crunch compared from Gears 1 to Gears 2. I believe he said the development time was shorter for Gears 2. Obviously there is a ton of reusing assets on a sequel, but once you have one project under your belt, it should help you make better decisions the next time around. I would be interested to read a post mortem about Gears 1 and how it effected the development of 2.



He also mentioned that the crunch was not around the clock, it was just when the project was close to completion. I don't remember that actual amount of time the crunch was. He was verbal in saying that he wanted to maintain a good quality of life for the team members. Here is a link to the powerpoint.



http://cmpmedia.vo.llnwd.net/o1/vault/gdc09/slides/GDC09_Fergusso
n_HeWhoShipsWins.pptx


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