Video Game Delays Cause More Crunch

Video Game Delays Cause More Crunch

Kotaku·928 views·2020-01-18 01:45

These days, most video game fans are sympathetic to delays. They recognize that more time makes for better games, and that game development is too complicated for anyone to accurately predict release dates very far in advance. So after a string of high-profile delays this week, including the role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077 and an action game based on The Avengers, a whole bunch of fans were happy to declare that theyd rather wait a few extra months than see developers work overtime to hit their deadlines. If only!Crunchthe colloquial term for extended periods of overtime that can last for weeks or months on endis an epidemic in the video game industry. Sometimes its just a few extra hours a week; other times its mandatory Saturdays at the office. Companies might ask their employees to crunch to make an E3 demo, to hit a development goal for their publisher, or to squash bugs before a games release. Often, game developers willingly put in extra hours to help ensure the game is polished or prevent their favorite features from getting axed. Crunch happens all the time, but it peaks in the months just before launch, when the contrite emails start going out. Hey everyone, thanks so much for all your hard work. Were just going to have to push a little bit harder to get this game in the best shape possible!Imagine, then, having a single release date in mindknowing that youll just have to work nights and weekends until thenonly for that date to slip back five more months. Maybe at that point, the emails will start getting even more contrite. Hey everyone, thanks so much for all of your hard work. The good news is that we just got some more time, which means well be able to get in all those kick-ass features we wanted. The bad news is that were just going to have to keep pushing a little bit harder.Yesterday, Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red announced that it was delaying the much-anticipated role-playing game from April 16 to September 17. During a Q&A with investors last night in Poland, where the company is based, co-CEO Adam Kiciski took a question about overtime in the wake of this delay. Heres how that went:P6: And is the development team required to put in crunch hours?AK: To some degree, yes to be honest. We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately.This shouldnt come as a shock to anyone, even after the studios promises to Kotaku last year that it would do its best to mitigate overtime. Ambitious video games like Cyberpunk 2077with a massive open world and hundreds of branching storylinesdont get made without extra hours. At least CD Projekt Red pays for overtime (thanks to Polish labor laws), which distinguishes it from most of its North American counterparts. If youre on an annual salary instead of getting paid hourly, all you can hope for is some extra time off after the game ships and maybe, if youre lucky enough to work on Fortnite, a generous bonus.With very few exceptions, video game delays lead to more crunch, not less. Naughty Dog bumpingThe Last of Us II from February to May has meant three more months of developer overtime at a studio thats well-known for workaholism, according to those Ive asked about it. Earlier this week, when The Avengers was delayed from May to September, the developers at Crystal Dynamics may have been relievedThe Avengersdid not show well at E3 2019 and will undoubtedly benefit from the extra timebut the crunch will continue, even if, as at many studios, its still called optional. (Crystal Dynamics, also infamous for crunch, has a raffle system in which developers can acquire tickets and win prizes in exchange for their overtime hours, according to two people familiar with goings-on at the studio.)Its natural for human beings to work hardest when a deadline is imminent. In video game development, where progress is non-linear and the pieces might not all come together until the very end of production, the crunch tends to be hardest at the last minute. Thats why delays in the final year can be so difficult on developers lives. All that extra polish has to come from somewhere.Crunch in the video game industry wouldnt be quite as harmful if it werent coupled with so many other issueshigh stress, low pay, inadequately trained managers, sexism, extreme volatility, and so onbut delays can sometimes exacerbate them all. Delays might be good for games, but theyre not always good for game workers.

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