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Want crunch to go better? Pay for it
Want crunch to go better? Pay for it
May 1, 2012 | By Staff

May 1, 2012 | By Staff
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In a new feature which lists the top 10 things game development can learn from film production, producer Tess Jones notes that the movie biz's "golden time" means producers avoid overtime.

"When a film crew member hears the words 'Golden Time' they will either shudder or smile. The term refers to the large salary jump crew members earn when hitting the 16th hour of work on a given day," writes Jones.

"At 16 hours, many crew contracts hit paydirt, receiving an entire day's salary for hours 16 through 20, regardless if they work 1 minute or 4 hours."

This has two major benefits, she argues: the creative energy comes flowing back onto the set, and producers avoid triggering golden time if they can -- for obvious reasons.

"At the end of the day, the producers are responsible for overages, and they do everything in their power to avoid them. If a crew goes over, it is the producer that is punished, incentivizing them to do everything they can to effectively manage the work hours of their crew."

"I'll leave it up to you to decide which system is better or worse," writes Jones. "Crunch is loved by some, hated by others. Film golden time has a similar split. Crunch can drive up quality, or demoralize a team."

"One thing is clear, however. In the film industry, crew members are mandatorily and openly compensated for their extra effort. If a film goes into overages, it falls squarely on the shoulders of the producer and management, instead of punishing team members for unexpected events," she notes.

"Does this incentivize producers to avoid long hours at all costs? You bet. Does the crew appreciate this and work harder for it? Probably."

The full feature, which lists nine more things the game industry could learn from film, is live now on Gamasutra.

--

Photo by Giorgio Monteforti


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Comments


Nathan Champion
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Note that I'm speaking out of total ignorance of how the film industry operates, but is it likely that this arose from unionized labor?

Fred Marcoux
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so if people slack off, don't do their job on time and then go into golden time it's the producer's fault and they get paid a whole day extra? Am I missing something here?

Victor Reynolds
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if they slack off, they should be fired. A producer should know if they dont have a team player by the quality of work.

Mike Motschy
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if people slack off, those people will be let go. I'm sure a person can do it irregularly and not get noticed, but it will be noticed eventually.

Mike Motschy
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double post it seems

Jeff Turner
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all of a sudden those time estimates your team proposed at the beginning of the sprint and that burn down chart of tracked hours becomes a lot more interesting... (assuming you're using Agile)

Ian Uniacke
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Sorry Fred but that argument is a load of BS. I've not once in my 10 years in the industry seen a worker who consistently intentionally slacks off at work, let alone to get over time. If you're a boss and that's your opinion of your employees than I feel really sorry for your employees.

Jeff Beaudoin
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The really interesting thing is that exemption from overtime pay isn't based (at least in California) on being a salaried employee. Most companies in the games industry that I have heard of just exempt all their employees on that basis even though technically they aren't allowed to.

Implementing a different system (golden time) for companies to ignore wouldn't solve the problem. Workers need to call their employers on not following the laws that already exist to protect them.

Sean Francis-Lyon
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EA pays overtime because they lost a lawsuit.

Ryan Marshall
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Out of curiosity, how common is it to work more than 16 hours in a day, even during crunch time? I mean, seriously?

Twelve hour days are bad, but doable. Sixteen hour days, I can see for short periods. More than that seems counter-productive, as lack of sleep and proper meals reduce performance ability.

Joe McGinn
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Plus the scary thing is they are talking about how great it is that if they work for [more than] two full days in one day, they get two days pay. Woohoo?

Alan Youngblood
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Pssst...don't tell management this little secret discovered and proved by scientists all over the place for decades: anything much more or less than 40 hours a week from a worker and you are leaving money on the table. 40 hours is considered the optimal work week by the civilized world because it is that balancing point where you get the most productivity. Don't take my word for it though...look it up yourselves!

Joe McGinn
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What exactly are you saying Alan? That hundreds of scientific studies done over a century of research all showing the same results are more accurate than my individual anecdotal evidence??? ;-)

Chris Daniel
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Reason may be average human beings can only fully concentrate on a task for about 3-4 hours a day. The rest is spend with organizing, communication and preparing the work and recovering.

So the 7h-8h per day seem to be an appropriate and logic measure for working.

There are recent studies that show humans who haven't slept enough or are very exhausted show similar symptoms like drunken people. In a state like this mistakes are logic consequence.

Jason Hughes
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All our employees at Steel Penny Games get paid hourly. It is a *very* effective brake on extended overtime. We still work long hours from time to time, when we really need it, but you'd be AMAZED at how cheerfully people work when they see the fruits of their labors in their next paycheck, rather than in a vague and often empty promise of royalties, bonuses, or raises based on their current hard work.

The benefit to the employer is, it's easy to justify weeding out underperformers and people who are disruptive to the workforce. The benefit to the employee is you get paid for your efforts, and you'll be shooed out of the office by the boss rather than asked to stay late repeatedly.

JH

Simon Ludgate
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As long as a task requires only MECHANICAL skills, the higher the pay, the higher the performance. However, as soon as a task requires even rudimentary cognitive skills, monetary rewards actually DISENCENTIVIZE performance.

This is a really, really great video on human motivation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are the effective motivators in creative tasks. In other words, forcing people to work overtime sabotages their autonomy and, no matter how much you pay, you're going to get poor quality work.

Wylie Garvin
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There's an even bigger reason you're going to get poor quality work: Tired people make mistakes! Then more time has to be spent later to fix them. And fixing them takes longer than it should, because everyone is so tired...

I think most developers can probably sustain 60-hour weeks for a couple months, but it shouldn't be the norm. 80-hour weeks will totally burn out your team within a month or two. If you want to ship a better game, delay the game a few months so the team has time to get it finished without trying to work ten days per week.

Oh, and for the developers: If you ever find yourself doing 16-hour days more than occasionally, do yourself a huge favor and quit! No job is worth suffering through that.

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