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Developers react: The #RyseFacts hashtag, and the war on crunch
Developers react: The #RyseFacts hashtag, and the war on crunch
October 16, 2013 | By Mike Rose

October 16, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    30 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



The #RyseFacts hashtag on Twitter was definitely one to watch last night. What started as a "fact" about late night office dinners for the team behind upcoming Xbox One game Ryse: Son of Rome soon snowballed into dozens of developers sounding off about development crunch.

The Crytek team is currently putting numerous extra hours of work into development of the Xbox One launch title, in the run-up to release next month.

In an ill-advised tweet, the official Ryse account explained that "we will have served the crunching team more than 11,500 dinners throughout development." The hashtag #RyseFacts was plopped on the end for good measure.

What followed was a torrent of game developers displaying their dismay at not simply the fact that the Crytek team is crunching on its latest game, but that the tweet appears to suggest a level of pride in this fact.

Below, we've collected together many of the thoughts of game developers following the tweets. Reactions range from thoughts on how crunch can affect the lives of developers, to more tongue-in-cheek criticisms of the original tweet.

For more information on how crunch affects video game developers, check out the Game Developer Quality-of-Life survey from earlier this year.



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Comments


David Navarro
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It takes a lot of pizza to come up with all those QTEs.

Alex Boccia
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Twitter is obnoxious

Jennis Kartens
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Yeah it is. The circumstances are too.

Alex Boccia
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Very true.

George Menhal III
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Crunch probably won't turn out to be as miserable as the review scores when this game launches.

It looks pretty bad so far.

Kujel s
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This tweet was in poor taste but the internet tends to blow everything out of proportion.

Jay Anne
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Outrage scapegoat dogpile. It's a common Internet phenomenon. At least this time, it was directed at a general company and product, rather than ruining some innocent victim like Adam Orth or Jennifer Hepler.

Gil Salvado
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It takes a lot of organisational blindness and lack of empathy to take pride in bad management skills.

Andy Lundell
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This is one of those situations where people forget that what they're doing is shameful. Like oil executives bragging about weaseling around an environmental law.

I'm sure the big-wigs at the studio really are proud that they're cashing in on the health of their employees. To them it's a successfully deployed cost-saving measure.

They just forgot that all us peons think its shameful.

Dane MacMahon
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This.

The gaming industry is so used to this exploitation they don't even think about it anymore. The ones who do realize they're being exploited know that a 22 year old is waiting to take their job.

George Menhal III
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The game development industry is notorious for brutal crunch times, but throughout the software development industry at large, salaried employees are expected to work for as many hours as is needed to get the job done. I know this from my own personal experiences as I work in IT consultancy and even we see crunch times as code is prepared for delivery.

Crunch can happen for trillions of different reasons, and it doesn't always equate quite simply to poor management. Last-minute bugs may arise, code refactoring could scale up towards the end and demand more developmental resources, etc.

But I'm not defending the status quo, which in the game development industry equates to months of overtime and unhealthy crunch. I just wanted to put it out there, that crunch is pretty much guaranteed in software development, and for all kinds of wonky, insane, last-minute reasons.

It sucks, but it's just an occupational hazard of sorts.

Dane MacMahon
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Because you accept it.

Jay Anne
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I watched a "behind the scenes" video of the Lord of the Rings movies where the team was proudly discussing the ludicrous number of hours they worked. The team felt proud for having worked so hard, and fans think it's great that somebody worked hard to contribute to a great outcome. Same with doctors. Same with lawyers. Same with CEOs.

Why does the video game industry complain when those industries don't? Money and prestige.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Jay

Well yeah, if you get paid enough to make the life-lacking worthwhile then a lot of people are willing to do that. Not me, but a lot of people. A lot of businesses, high-level positions and industries work that way.

Correct me if I am wrong though, but I don't think the average game developer gets these benefits.

Jay Anne
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@Dane
If the message is "Crunch is evil (unless you pay us more)", then it's difficult to care that much about the outrage.

Amir Barak
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Crunch is evil even with the paid benefits because in the end it diminished the outcome over time (contrary to what people seem to believe). I think Brooks said it really well when he refers to the idea that throwing more people at a particular problem will solve it quicker/better.

Also, crunch over long period WILL damage your personal life. That includes lawyers, CEOs and whatever (which is why we have concepts like workaholics and people going to life coaches, marriage counselors, etc). Just because someone is greedy enough to not care doesn't mean I shouldn't care either. And it's not just a matter of priorities (as in some people prioritize differently), the more we educate people that work is better than personal happiness/self-realization the more the cycle continues and the less happy people we have (I guess you could model these kind of relationships in a game like sim-city or whatever and see what happens to your 'kingdom').

The idea in the end is finding a balance between work and personal life.

And finally, if a product goes into "oh shit we've got two more days and have only made 57% of it" crunching is not the actual solution. Either release what you have and work on as it is out, postpone the release or cancel the product and start fresh.

Dane MacMahon
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@ Jay

I don't understand why? People work for money right? Some people are willing to work a lot more for a lot more money. Most people are not willing to work a lot more for no extra money. Seems pretty simple to me.

I personally would never work crunch hours for any reason, but if some people want to for a lot of extra pay or prestige more power to them. In software development you are forced to work and don't get either. That's a problem.

Andy Lundell
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@Jay, you realize that "Behind the scenes" videos are marketing right?

They're advertising to make you excited about the product.

Rob Walsh
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What's amazing to me with everyone's comments is the insane amount of assumptions being done, from a single tweet. What if the conditions are not so bad? What if they're compensated properly? What if by your own self-righteous comments, you're implying that that team doesn't know any better than to get exploited??

These people are right in the middle of their crunch right now, trying to deliver a game to the very people who are probably typing faux-outraged comments on their iphones while taking a dump (to paraphrase Louis CK).

Why not try to encourage the TEAM through this period, instead of being so hung-up on having the moral upper-hand? Do you think they're not reading all this right now? Regardless of why/how/who, they're probably working their asses off to put a solid game on the shelves along with the console. I'd say most comments seem to actually care more about some "ideal" crunching team "somewhere out there", than about these real people right now.

That's my 2 cents.

Amir Barak
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I'm not sure if you've noticed the rate of experienced developers leaving the games industry but it isn't because of butterflies and goat-milk. And no amount of 'paid benefits' will solve this by the way. Providing a better working environment will, this includes no fucking death marches [ie. crunch].

A better working environment also includes many other things which are not really supplied by companies but that's a discussion for other posts.

Jacek Wesolowski
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I take pride in the fact that the development team I'm in follows these rules (some of them are easy, though, because they're in the law):
- "no one left behind" hiring (i.e. we always hire with the assumption that we're never going to fire this person)
- overtime during the week must be taken back (i.e. you're eligible to take an equal amount of paid time off that doesn't count toward your paid leave quota)
- overtime in the weekend must be either paid for or taken back (employee's choice)
- if you can't get your work done in fourty hours a week, you need to say so, so we can find someone to help you
- everyone has to have someone on the team who can take over their current tasks in case of absence
- we're open to custom arrangements (we have a few)
- the paid leave quota is 20 or 26 workdays per year, depending on stuff

We're a contractor. Our team is several dozen people, not counting QA and localisation (they're separate departments within the same company). We have multiple clients and multiple projects running in parallel. We mostly do porting, but our biggest project right now is much bigger in scope than a port. We're profitable. You have heard of games that we helped create. We have not yet managed to eliminate the crunch completely, but we're getting there.

Gord Cooper
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Crunch is just setup so that people who complain about games industry employees being overpaid can revel in our per-hour pay becoming sub-standard, under the guise of 'doing it for the love of the game', whereas the amount of employees actually working on a game they would consider for their own personal consumption is so exponentially low as to make 'the love of the game' a pejorative used to guilt people into staying.

Of course I'm being facetious, but honestly, crunch is a practice this industry could do without, and won't do without until the people who believe in it as a 'labour of love' on the production side and the people who believe in it as a cost-saving method on the business side have all been shaken and made to understand that it is completely unhealthy, and driving people with families out of the industry.

Joshua Dallman
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Good process makes good product. Kaizen not crunch.

Jay Anne
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Many of the games I idolize were born out of crunches and broken processes that cause some of its members to leave the team or the industry. Thief, Bioshock, Journey.

Kaizen may produce great Toyota cars, but the creative process does not always follow the same rules.

Jacek Wesolowski
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If you take a closer look at this sort of thinking, you'll discover that this isn't even correlation, let alone causation, unless you also take poor games whose developers crunched into account. All you can say at this point is that there's a development process that may produce both crunch and a great game.

I really dislike this kind of fallacy, because it reinforces the stereotype of a doomed artist. Well, I have two cats and a girlfriend, I come to the office at ten and leave at six, the flower pot in my window has a flower and not pot, and I don't drink, and I'm still highly regarded by my peers for my fertile imagination.

The naive development process that most studios use does not shield developers from crunching, and that's a fact. It's so because the process fails to take into account certain key dependencies that emerge in preproduction, but only begin to impact the schedule during production. The most common kind of project with a lot of crunch is a project that doesn't know what it wants to be until very late in its life cycle.

There's no excuse for not knowing your own creation. We just need a better process. If we can invent one that provides greater visibility at early stages of the project, then we can expect it to result in both less crunching and more creativity in games. This is the main reason why I'm advocating things like designated research teams that solve technical challenges posed by creative ideas before they become a liability.

Jay Anne
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@Jacek
Yes, there is no causation or correlation between crunch and game quality. My point is that lack of crunch shows no correlation or causation to game quality either.

Amir Barak
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Yes but it wasn't the process that made the game it was the people and as you said they've left...

Duong Nguyen
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Lol those games weren't "born" out of crunch, crunch can occur and does occur often on any project but those great games were the result of the strong processes and teams with proper management to insure quality all along the pipeline. If anything games which "over" crunch which indeed were born out of crunch, from which otherwise they would never get finished, those are the ones which garner low 30's in metacritic. Unless your celebrating those, i don't think u can use "crunch" as the definitive factor in making those great games.

Justin Sawchuk
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Use you abuse and throw you out like a used klenex, they know there are 100s no 1000's of people just chomping at the bit to take there place. They should be paying developers 10x the money they are look at athletes there is no way you can do it for a long time without burning out or having major health problems.

Kaitlyn Kaid
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" they know there are 100s no 1000's of people just chomping at the bit to take there place"

Maybe for junior level slots. Once you have a few years in the industry, some specialized knowledge... I doubt there are 100 people in the whole industry that can do what I do.


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