Today the gaming industry is as big as ever. Projects grow exponentially in scale and become more difficult to create. Because of this, we have games like Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3 or Assassin's Creed Odyssey. And the bigger and cooler the game, the more difficult conditions it is created, being born, paraphrasing the words of Jason Schreier, through, blood sweat and pixels. And that's how crunches appeared in the gaming industry.
Crunches are overworkings that are often contrary to the Labor Code. This tactic is very often used in the run-up to a game's release to keep it workable. And in the past few years, this serious problem has become widespread. The developers report working over 100 hours a week just to bring the game closer to completion, usually citing poor management, poor schedule, or both. This approach leads to burnout, health problems and labor abuses.
Recently, CD Projekt Red, in a conversation with its shareholders, said that the transfer of Cyberpunk 2077 for five months will not save employees from overwork. Based on the material from Digital Trends and our own work, we decided to compile the top studios that had crunches and how they solved this conflict.
Bungie is one of the most famous studios behind iconic shooters like Halo and Destiny. However, the company also has a reputation as a studio with a "crunch culture". Halo creator Marcus Lehto recently left the studio as he couldn't keep up with the pace of work.
In an interview with GameSpots, Lehto explained that Bungie's overhaul periods could last for months, and this burnout played a role in his decision to leave the studio permanently. Subsequently, he founded the V1 studio, which is now developing the original Disintegration project. The studio reduces processing to only one day a week.
Another developer, Luke Timmins, said that at the time, the rework almost killed Halo 2 and the developers who worked continuously for more than half a year, 50 hours a week, simply because, according to managers, they should. And the studio has been practicing a similar pace for 13 years.
Decision. Eventually, in 2018, the company announced that it was implementing a zero crunch policy, which no longer exists.
In an interview posted by Vulture during the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar CEO Den Hauser proudly stated that employees work 100 hours a week.
Following an investigation by Kotaku, based on interviews with over 75 current and former Rockstar employees, a bleak picture emerged of the studio environment.
The developers said that they work an average of 55 to 60 hours six days a week, and that they have to work as long as possible due to tough crunches. And this approach did not appear with Red Dead Redemption 2, but back in 2010.
Workers reported a "culture of crunch and fear" in the studio, and if you don't overwork, you don't work enough and you need to be fired. Some said the experience worsened the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The stress was caused, at least in part, by Rockstar's tendency to change core elements of their games at the last minute, and sometimes this required rethinking a few cutscenes.
Decision. Executive Director and Writer Dan Hauser said that only he and a small team of writers worked on such a busy schedule of their own free will, and that Rockstar does not require anyone to do this.
The CEO of Take-Two said the company will remain willing to engage in collective bargaining to resolve issues like this.
Anthem developer BioWare was charged with overhauls in early 2019 following the release of Anthem, much of which seems to be the result of poor planning and management during the development of previous titles. Despite the fact that the game was planned for several years, it was made in just 18 months. The details, mechanics, history and even the name itself were thought up almost at the last moment. Working with the cumbersome Frostbite engine made the process more complicated.
In order to somehow be in time for the release, the workers reworked and reported that they work late and on weekends, since the creative direction of the game is constantly changing. Some employees reported that they had to leave their jobs for treatment with a therapist, as their health began to fail.
Decision. The studio responded to the allegations following Kotaku's blog post. BioWare said the investigation was unfairly targeted at individual team members and that the studio "sees no point in destroying each other and their games."
The backlash was heavily criticized, and BioWare CEO Casey Hudson sent out messages to his employees acknowledging that the issues outlined were real and that the studio needed to continue to work to improve working conditions.
Treyarch was accused of crunching during the creation of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The game underwent several major changes that fundamentally changed the development, including the final removal of the campaign mode, and the addition of a battle royale instead.
In Kotaku's investigation, it became clear that quality assurance testers in the studio were suffering a lot. Working 70 hours a week during 2018, they were forbidden to appear in the cafeteria and on holidays, as well as to communicate with developers in general.
Since some of them only earned about $ 13 an hour, they had to work several times longer to get acceptable wages.
Decision. Treyarch and publisher Activision did not respond to these allegations. Nonetheless, Activision released a statement saying that the company "is constantly [striving to] provide a useful and interesting development environment for everyone," and that it is important that everyone who works on their games is treated with respect. Nothing more is known.
Mortal Kombat 11 received positive reviews at launch, but developer NetherRealm was accused of crunch culture by several former employees. The accusations date back to the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot.
One former employee said the crisis began for Mortal Kombat in early 2011 and lasted for several months. During this time, developers worked 14 hours a day, very rarely on weekends. One employee also said that company executives are not working during this time.
Others also added that they are usually treated badly and rudely. Despite the long hours, former employees say the process was not efficient and people often waited for another department to finish something before they could work.
Solution . NetherRealm did not directly respond to the allegations, but did make a statement that it would address issues of the toxic atmosphere. Supervisors also said that employees had “confidential ways” to point out problems.
Fortnite is more successful than anyone on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Unfortunately, the constant pressure to keep their crown, as reported in a Polygon article published in April 2019, is causing employees to work 70 to 100 hours per week, while they need to continually patch the game, at least , partially.
Although the developers have stated that they technically have a weekend, it is unrealistic to go to it, because no one wants to shift their work to someone else.
Solution. Eventually, at the end of the year, Epic Games halted work across the company and released workers on a two-week vacation. Speaking with Polygon, a company spokesperson said it is “actively building up the team to balance the workload, improving the planning process, and experimenting with approaches.” One of these changes was the move to a two-week schedule for releasing patches or game fixes.
When Telltale unexpectedly closed in 2018, it became known that after the release of the first Walking Dead, the company was in an eternal crisis, including crunches in the studio.
The staff never stopped development due to the episodic game system. Overall, the studio had poor management and leadership. This killed the studio. We hope the new Telltale is doing better.
CD Projekt Red
Issues with CD Projekt Red have been identified primarily through anonymous feedback on the Glassdoor platform. In these reviews, several anonymous employees point out that CD Projekt's rework is a classic and the developers laughed at how Bungie employees complained about their rework
Co-founder Marcin Iwinski admitted that the company uses crunch in game development, but stressed that it is "optional." Earlier, he said that the approach the studio uses to develop their games is "not for everyone."
Decision. In the same conversation with shareholders, they said that they no longer have forced rework. Employees can stay to work of their own free will, or they can be asked to stay, but they have the right to refuse.
The Topic of Article: Crunch in the game industry: 8 studios accused of crunch.