Crunch time at Naughty Dog.

Discussion in 'Console Industry' started by Silent_Buddha, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. Silent_Buddha

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    https://cogconnected.com/feature/naughty-dog-crunch-game-development-sony-playstation-ps4/

    I remember a few years back that there was a thread here about how horrible EA treated their developers. This basically makes it seem like it's endemic to the AAA game development community with Sony basically condoning the same type of behavior (wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft also did stuff like this).

    While the excessive overtime and weekend shifts aren't "required" they affect employees performance reviews and if not done can potentially lead to employees being fired.

    I guess this is the price you pay if you want great single player gaming experiences?

    Regards,
    SB
     
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  2. DSoup

    DSoup meh
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    I don't think this is ever going to change, nor is this something unique to the games industry. This is pretty much what happens at the end of any project where there is lots to do before you wrap up. This happens in the aerospace industry when launching new products, movies, Government projects, everywhere..

    Before every project is due to be delivered there is always been a final review and it is usually at this point when you're looking at whether there is simply too much to do and you push it back, or you commit to it and overtime (crunch) begins.
     
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  3. Xbat

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    My opinion is that all the drama made about crunch is overblown. You want to work at a place that demands certain things from you well it's your choice. Remember these are educated people that have choice if it was a minimum wage job where the employee doesn't have a choice I would agree. I find this a very "first world problem" I read these so called horror stories on reset era and Kotaku or whatever and it's frankly embarrassing to me and pathetic. Go work in a f***ing mine and then come back to me about these so called horrific conditions.
     
  4. Florin

    Florin Merrily dodgy
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    Any time overtime or crunch time is required is a planning failure and managers responsible for resources and scheduling should be taken to task. Not the workers.
    I don't care at all that there are, or have been in the past, others that are suffering even more gruelling conditions. All of that must be fought and clear red lines must be established.

    A race to the bottom is not a desirable development model in any industry, nor is it sustainable.
    Developed countries must lead the way in demonstrating that it is possible to have a responsible degree of balance in work/life, so that workers in developing countries are empowered to emancipate and strive for the same.
     
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  5. Shifty Geezer

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    Absolutely. The argument 'other people have it worse than you so quit complaining' is moronic. It'd mean no attempt to improve quality of life for anyone because the worst of the worst sets a bar as low as slavery. Working 14 hours a day in a Victorian factory with a chance to get your limbs cut off by the machinery for minimal wage? Think yourself lucky that you're not in the workhouse subsisting on thin gruel with no chance of ever leaving and stop complaining. Or, recognise it's all shit and introduce social change and laws that protect human beings as human beings instead of mindless drones to be exploited for the purposes of Economics. Rather than fob off gamedev crunch as no issue, it should be looked at alongside all the other working conditions people face and a clear, preferred future of people having a decent work/life balance should be worked towards.

    In this case, there are people out there who love making computer games and are good at it and want to do it, and lots of people who want what they do. Their choice shouldn't be to either give up being game devs because it's unworkable and instead become corporate devs writing soulless application software, or to suck it up and have no life because that just happens to be the price for doing what they love. They, along with everyone else, should be allowed to make a living doing what they enjoy and are good at alongside actually living. Those who enjoy playing computer games should be encouraging changes to support the people who make their hobby happen. They can also champion better working conditions for miners, and low-level health workers, and Amazon distribution staff, and the people stuck in Chinese factories churning out iPads and the like, and, you know, actually want a better world and encourage it rather than just argue for everyone to suck it up because at least they aren't starving sewer children or kidnapped sex slaves or illegal immigrants who tried to find a better life for themselves and have been trapped in dangerous indentured servitude situations.
     
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  6. manux

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    Crunch/extreme work hours are pretty normal thing in california. Often it's at will employment and there is no defined working hours. You work as much as you are asked or you might be gone. I suppose in gaming industry it is extra bad as the money paid might not align as well as in some silicon valley jobs. Many people are working with visas that are tied to employment and there really isn't choice unless one is willing to move away from usa.

    A lot of people cope with this by working less hard while giving impression of working hard. It's really difficult to do long and hard days for extended periods when having to use your brain. But of course there is the illusion of a lot of work being done as everyone is at office.

    Add in the deterioration in mental and physical health. No free time to be with family/friends and to exercise will make productivity less and break people both mentally and physically. Long crunches are the most idiotic thing ever but that seems to be the california way.

    edit. When I write extended periods, i don't mean a month, I mean much longer time periods.
     
    #6 manux, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  7. Xbat

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    Yes but if they want to do it at the top level they have to sacrifice. Same as if you want to be a top athlete you have to sacrifice. Wake up at 4am to start training have to have a strict diet have to do lots of traveling away from family.

    As with everything in life if you want to be or work at an elite place or level you have to sacrifice.

    My reference to working in a mine is aimed at the hyperbole that you get at forums like reset era where they say things like it's only a matter of time before someone dies from crunch.

    And yes most people have a choice there are lots of things I love doing but don't do because I can't make a living out of it, I love boxing but you don't see me getting up at 4am to go for a 10km run to start my day and then proceed to train and have a strict diet to torturous levels because I choose not to.
     
    #7 Xbat, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
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  8. Tkumpathenurpahl

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    If crunch time is inescapable, why not adjust non-crunch hours to accommodate? A standard working week of 4 days, 9 hours per day, with an hour's lunch would be a dream for many. And crunch time transforming that into 6 days at 11 hours per day would be a substantial increase in hours (32 to 60) whilst maintaining some semblance of normality for the devs.

    Even if you're not approaching this from an emotional or moral perspective, people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night or their IQ begins to drop, and people need to exercise or their hormone production begins to suffer, which also impedes ability. People also have pesky habits such as eating and living in homes to which they need to travel.

    So to tally this up:
    7 hours - sleep
    1 hour - travel
    1 hour - exercise
    1 hour - dinner

    We're looking at 10 hours per day of basic maintenance. That's being conservative with the commute and exercise, and assuming no social commitments or entertainment. So the 14 hour work days mentioned in the OP can only be sustained by people who live nearby the studio, don't have any friends, don't have a family, and don't watch, read, or play anything on an evening. Does that person seem likely to create something entertaining?

    My previous job involved 12.5 hour night shifts as a carer for the elderly. As much fulfilment as it brought me, the fact that my working week ranged between 50 and 73 hours left me isolated and crazy. And I was definitely worse at my job within my last few weeks there, and I knew I had to get out. Is that the effect that studios want to have on their devs?
     
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  9. Tkumpathenurpahl

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    But if you wanted to train to be an elite boxer, and were taken into a training camp in order to do so, you could expect to eat properly, sleep properly, and exercise properly. You could expect to exercise hard and spar regularly, but you could also expect periods of rest and recovery. You would need to be disciplined, but you wouldn't be expected to wear yourself out, otherwise you wouldn't be able to perform when needed, and you'd be a poor investment.

    AAA game dev studios just need to realise that they're kidding themselves with this poorly planned out crunch time. They aren't getting the best of their employees, they aren't getting the best product realised, and talented, hard-working developers are fucking off.
     
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  10. Shifty Geezer

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    The difference here is that's a necessity for boxing as it can't be done any other way due to it being a professional competition - it's you vs them and whoever trains hardest wins. For game dev, like pretty much all business, it could be operated differently. It's just a problem with our economic systems that demand not only successful productivity, but relentless growth, that sees everyone being overworked. In terms of human productivity and survival, we can easily produce enough of everything working a few hours a day to keep everyone fed and clothed and whatnot, and then spend a few hours a more each day working on nice extras. In The Olden Days, everyone had to work long hours as the work needed making and fixing and harvesting and everything took forever due to it all being manual labour. We've solved all those problems through invention and gone on to create a world where the relentless time demands are completely artificial. There's nothing about the world we live in that requires 14 hour days other than the social structures we've created. Working at Naughty Dog requires 14 hour days not because there's a time limit on perishable products like a harvest that needs to be done in time, nor a certain window like a Mars mission launch that needs to be ready on a certain day, but because the corporation demands more profits this year than every other and if you aren't willing to sacrifice, someone else will - it's an entirely man-made problem that requires a man-made solution.

    I can't see this thread belonging anywhere other than the RPSCA forum.
     
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  11. Xbat

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    Comes down to my underlying point though, you have a choice if it's to much for you you can quit and try at another dev or something different and in doing so if enough people do it things might change.
     
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  12. Florin

    Florin Merrily dodgy
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    42.5 hours a week + travel is sacrifice.

    We need to get away from a mindset where "you won't get a negative mark" is an acceptable reward for putting in even more.
     
  13. Shifty Geezer

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    Throughout the entirety of human history, that has never worked. There are always people in a more desperate situation that are willing to take on more sacrifices. What's been shown as necessary for change is a concerted movement, which is what happened over hundreds of years of European history to the point Europeans actually get decent amounts of paid holiday and capped working hours and forced reasonable working conditions, and all sorts of other things people want. In this case, game dev could be unionised and everyone act in agreement to force change. Importantly, without stories like this being surfaced to start the social change, nothing would ever happen. If a bunch of devs just left ND to go do something else without anyone knowing about it, nothing would change. If a bunch walk out very vocally, people will take note and then forget about it. If devs en masse protest and strike and everything else, then possible the corporations will shift attitude when they feel that they need the workforce just as much as the workforce needs employment.

    It's exactly like sexual discrimination in the workplace. "As a woman, you are expected to put up with a degree of flirtatious behaviour because it's normal. If you don't like it, you can get another job. If enough women avoid working for sexist men then things might change." Reality is you need money, there are a finite number of jobs available, people who can offer you money can also feel entitled to some perks so will exploit the situation, and if you aren't wiling to put up with them, someone else will so you can't force any sort of change - may as well just put up with their leering and remarks and unwanted physical contact. That's a perfectly sound, logic argument, that sees everything stay the same including outmoded mentalities. Alternatively, point out what's wrong, get a unified voice, challenge stereotypes and existing accepted behaviours, get people to realise what's considered normal is actually wrong, and change things for the better.
     
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  14. Xbat

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    I wouldn't call people that went to college and are programmers desperate or put them in that category or put game developers as a necessity skill that is needed. Still this is getting way past the point I was trying to make yes crunch is bad unionize or whatever I don't really care but don't make it more than it is. It's people working a lot of hours sitting down in air-conditioned buildings.

    It's nothing like sexual harassment, that's just a ridiculous statement.
     
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  15. milk

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    I've worked in creative jobs my entire life. Never ha e I ever blamed my employee for the quality of my work conditions. Your job is only as good as your leverage as a professinal is to negotiate your work/reward tradeoff with your employer or prospective new employers.

    If you told your boss you can't have 14 hours work days become routine and he is ok with you leaving the company, either your work is actually not that valuable in the end, or your boss is a bad manager and it's in your best interest to not work for him. I'm sure all these guys at ND have online portfolios with some of their best work on display and they check out job listings at different studious every now and then.

    If not, that's their failure at doing basic life mantainance, it's like brushing your teeth and doing your taxes. Don't blame the system for things you could change yourself.

    "All AAA studios are like that too" Yeah, I hear the same thing about my industry too. All big ad agencies have terrible work conditions too. Yet at the same time, there are hundreds of medium sized and small agencies where the work environment is much more sane where you can very well make a living off of, and where you have an actual much better chance actually making a dent in than as a borderline bluecollar worker in the production line at the large studio (medium fish, small pound and all that)

    The truth is, most people working at ND at this point,l are not geniuses at the top of the job market food chain. That's like 10% of the veterans working there. For every Lead Character Artist there, there are 10 minions clicking the export button on whatever tool they have all night because some part of their production pipeline is not very optimized yet, and no programer has had the time to automate that one menial activity and till then they might as well have this 26 year old fresh out of collage new hire do it manually.

    The guy wears hip clothes that look the same as half his team mates, he follows the same people on twitter and instagram, he has a fucking pokemon tatoo and a Mario Bros figurine on his desk. As much as he is being screwed by ND, he is getting more out of being there than he is giving them. He is easily replaceable and he knows it himself and that's why he won't leave.

    The lead character artist managing him loves the 14h work week. He lives and breathes that life. That's the only possible justification for a person as qualified as him to work on such a demanding industry. with his linkedin, he could find a job in a less cut-throat position if he really wants to. But he doesn't. He likes the competition, the prestige, the royalties, etc. He is not complaining about work hours. It's his minions.

    The minion conplaining also could go for a different field, or be really brave and try to make his own independent project, and work as a uber driver in the meantime to pay the bills. The fucker might even end up having a less stressful lifestyle as a uber driver in a less expensive city than being ND's bitch in LA. But he dreams of one day being just like his boss, even though his other 10 workmates in the same position all have their own eyes in that same prize. He chose to try his hand in this highly competitive environment, because he thought he could handle the struggle. Then he might as well suck it up and handle the damn struggle. Quietly.
     
    #15 milk, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
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  16. tuna

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    If you look at the actual article it seems like only the QA contractors are "required" to crunch. I assume those are paid an hourly salary so it is not as bad as it would be for a regular employee.

    Also, QA people for games have a really hard time migrating their skill set to different industries.
     
  17. Shifty Geezer

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    Sexual harrassment is an example of where expecting individuals to take an individual stand and walk out precipitating change just fails. Better working conditions for everyone won't happen with some devs leaving one overworked workplace for another. Better treatment of women won't happen if some leave a sexist workplace to land at another.
     
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  18. milk

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    So that's even more of a nothing burguer then. QA has always been the least respected part of any studio, because they are the most repleceable. It's not a high skill job.

    If you don't have any other skills, then develop them, or find other low skill jobs. Again, go drive for uber. Or download unity and try your hand at gameplay design maybe?

    There have never been more carreer oportunities and niches than today, but you still have to be strategic about the market realities around you.

    Watch your own back as much as you can, and depend on other authorities to take care of your own butt the less you possibly can. A pimp may protect you and take care of the borinf business, but then you are also his bitch. Real life is hard though, and we are almost always somebody's bitch to some extent. But it's something to be aware of, and to actively try to avoid.
     
  19. BRiT

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    The others are not "required" to work extra hours, but you can be absolutely certain they will be treated worse off for it, regardless of what the company says.
     
  20. tongue_of_colicab

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    Exactly.

    This issue also isn't related to just game development, it isn't any different working a normal desk job. Though depending on the country that might be less of an issue. Living in Japan I certainly know I'm getting screwed for not putting in much overtime.

    Bad planning, management etc. aside, what is the point in working 14 hours a day? I don't believe people can perform anywhere near their best working such hours week after week or year after year. Sure, the occasional workaholic might, but 99,99999% of the people will probably have their productivity and quality of work drop considerably even after just a couple of days of doing long hours.

    What you get is what I see at work every day. People spending 5 hours a day scrolling through the same excel file trying to look busy.

    At the end of the day stuff would probably get doing just as fast if not faster if they'd just stick to normal working hours but actually allow people to sleep and live a little and come to work reasonably happy.
     
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