Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Bungie, and Blizzard Discuss Crunch
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Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Bungie, and Blizzard Discuss Crunch
23 May, 2018
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What is your take on game dev crunch? Is it a necessity? Are there other ways to release a game in time? Senior developers from four top game studios – Bungie, Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and Blizzard – have recently discussed their ideas on the problem during Digital Dragons 2018. In fact, mixing long days and no time off is one of the worst ways to lead a team and here’s why. 

We have a zero-crunch policy so we do not allow crunch. That was very important to us.

As a lead, if I see my guys working late, I question them. People are passionate and if they have something where like, ‘Man I just can’t go home until I get this thought out of my head’, that’s fine. But if I see you doing that for too long then it’s like, ‘Hey man, I don’t want you to get burned out.’ It just results in less productivity, and I don’t think people can maintain that level of creativity if you’re killing yourself like that. There’s a healthy version of that but it is super spotty when it happens.

Jason Sussman, Bungie’s World Art Lead Jason Sussman

Andrew Maximov, technical art director at Naughty Dog, was the next one of talk crunch. And here’s how replied to Bungie: 

It’s tough. We definitely have not found the balance you guys have. We’re very lucky to have the kind of people who actually have a passion that is so hard to control for us, because we don’t have producers, we don’t have dedicated management, it’s all just an absolute free for all, but that empowers ownership to a level where you can say ‘I really care about this thing’. For us that has been the price we have to pay.

Crunch is never mandated at Naughty Dog. That’s the one thing that will absolutely never happen. No one will ever tell you to stay late. But, people do it, because they absolutely believe they want or need to do this one thing.

 

Andrew Maximov, Technical Art Director at Naughty Dog

And here is a story by God of War senior sound designer Daniel Birczynski, who had to admit the truth:

We do still have crunches, but what I want to mention is I see the mood of upper-management beginning to understand the effect it has on people’s lives, so this is evolving and changing. I’ve seen people get burnt out a lot, and it’s not worth it. It depends on the studio and the culture of the studio, but I see progress for the environment I work in.

Daniel Birczynski, God of War Senior Sound Designer 

Thiago Klafke, a senior environment artist for Overwatch at Blizzard, concluded the discussion with the importance of the mental health:

Sometimes I have some mini-burnouts when I’m working on a thing for too long. I look at the same thing for two months and I’m like, ‘I hate it, I can’t look at it anymore.’ That’s the time I go for a walk on the weekends and forget I work on games and do random stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with games. I do meditation.

We have to take care of our mental health because we put a lot of a pressure on ourselves. We want to make better stuff, we want to get better faster, and that’s something that burns you out. You’ve got to be careful with that. You’ve got to learn to enjoy the process, and when you’re working try not to be over-thinking, ‘Oh I’m slow and I can’t do this…’ It’s hard but if you can do that, you burn out much more rarely.

Thiago Klafke, a Senior Environment Artist for Overwatch 

So, what’s your take on the crunch, guys? What’s the situation at your studio? 

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5 Comments on "Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog, Bungie, and Blizzard Discuss Crunch"

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ANON
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ANON
I have being working in the AAA industry for tha last 3 years and the crunch is what is forcing me to find something else to do in life even if I love 3d. Some places may be more respectful with their employees but in my experience the crunch is even calculated in advance cause they know the workers will accept that. Some people is very passionate and don´t mind to do it and that is fine but a lot of people have families and they want to build a healthy environment with them or other goals outside the working… Read more »
RobWu
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RobWu

Crunch time is everywhere in the creative ‘arena’.

As long as we except the client’s last minute changes without any budget and/or planning changes, it will keep haunting us.
It’s one of the reasons I moved away from doing 3D work on commercials.
Burning the midnight oil for the last week was a rule more than the exception. Takes a strong person to keep going under all that ‘abuse’.

Xxxx
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Xxxx

I came home from work at 23:35 and I read an article about the crunch )))

Mirek
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Mirek

Thiago has escaped from a question about how is the policy in Blizzard 🙂 Or it’s just too short quote?

Boris
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Boris

We should talk more about this, all of us…
I work multiple jobs in gaming and entertainment in general so I burn out once or twice a year and I need months to recover. Screw that.

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