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 Infinity Blade II 's Mustard: 'We Definitely Won't Death March' Again
Infinity Blade II's Mustard: 'We Definitely Won't Death March' Again Exclusive
November 30, 2011 | By Staff

November 30, 2011 | By Staff
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Exclusive, Production

In a new feature interview, Donald Mustard, co-founder of Infinity Blade developer Chair Entertainment, tells Gamasutra that crunching to finish Infinity Blade II in six months was "not worth the cost" to the team.

"Shipping a game in six months is definitely not my favorite thing. We've definitely done it, and we've now done it twice in a row, and there is something to it," says Mustard.

That's because he believes that the new model -- of shipping a game and then using player feedback and metrics to drive updates and refinements to the title -- is "something really key" to the future of games. That said, he doesn't think that the crunch required to ship Infinity Blade II in that time frame was wise.

"We don't look at that like that's a good thing at all. We only did it because we definitely, passionately wanted to get the game done, and we wanted a little more in there... It happens when it's that short of a development cycle. Stuff happens so fast," he says.

"I think in retrospect, having done it twice, that our development cycles are a little too short. Not that the games are less polished because of it, but we're way more burnt out because, in order to make II feel the experience it needed to be, required way more crunching than is effective. It required for us, for the last two or three months, to just death march kill ourselves. I mean, guys are just working so many hours, doing so much, and that's not really good, I think, for the longevity of our studio."

"And so we definitely won't do that again. It's not worth the cost. I would rather take an extra two or three months than burn the guys out, or burn even me out. It doesn't allow enough time to sit there and let the game breathe."

The full interview, in which Mustard talks more about how the development style informed the game's content, what Japan still has over the West, and whether he's still interested in developing Shadow Complex II, is live now at Gamasutra.

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Zack Hiwiller
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If only we knew beforehand that crunch was bad...

Allen Brooks
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"Guys? This crack we've been smoking for the past year is really good, but I don't think it's good for the longevity of our bodies. Let's not do it anymore, m'kay?"

In seriousness, good for Mustard for being forthcoming, but it's doubtful that he can guarantee they won't ever crunch again.

Gamasutra: Here's an idea for a story, follow up with a range of Chair staffers 6 months from now and see if Donald has made good on this statement.

Bradley Johnson
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I've had one too many execs & producer types say crunch is horrible and they won't have the team do it again. A couple months later after they forget how bad it was the team's crunching again.

But time flows like a river... and history repeats...

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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First and foremost, we need to get the decision to crunch to be a team decision, not a manager decision. I imagine managers who fear their skills aren't transferable (and thus fear losing their jobs more than a developer would), who are getting paid more, and to be fair who are risking more if they own the company, are not going to come to the same conclusion about the need for crunch as the talent. Time and time again crunch is shown to be ineffective, and managers seem to be acknowledging this... yet their fears seem to bias them toward crunch project after project.

I am particularly interested in this tidbit: "required way more crunching than is effective." How is sub-efficient behavior ever "required"? Why is it "Required" when it is admittedly not effective? What dynamics in our industry do we need to fix so such detrimental scenarios don't crop up again and again and again and again and again and again...

Joe McGinn
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"guys are just working so many hours, doing so much, "

Not true. They think they are, you think they are, but at 2-3 months of such heavy hours it is a certainty they have long passed the point of diminishing returns, into negative territory, and could have done at least as much work in well-planned hard-working 40 hours week.

The whole article is a nice sentiment, nothing more. Get back to us after you've done something about it, not while it's a wish and a prayer.

Jane Castle
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The reality of crunch: For every bug I fix I create two new ones in its place......