Epic VP Says "Passionate" Developers Are Cool With Crunch

Epic VP Says "Passionate" Developers Are Cool With Crunch

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Epic Vice President Mark Rein says good developers don't mind crunch without overtime because they're "passionate" about making great games.

"Crunch," that magical time in the game development cycle when employees work 14 hours a day or more, six or seven days a week for weeks or even months on end, is kind of a thorny issue in the videogame industry. On the one hand, it's pretty much universally regarded as bad; bad for health, bad for relationships, bad for sanity. But on the other hand, just about everyone does it. And according to Mark Rein of Epic Games, that's because developers, at least the ones who really believe in what they're doing, don't actually mind.

"I'm sure we crunch just like everyone else," he said at the recent Develop in Brighton conference. "But passionate people will want to ship the best product they can. We've been successful at managing our resources, both financial and human."

"We just went through a lawsuit, and when you see how hard the lawyers work, they crunch harder than many developers," he continued. "My dad was a doctor, and he put in more hours than most developers. Firemen and policemen work just as hard, but they just don't have blogs writing about it."

Miles Jacobsen, managing director of Football Manager developer Sports Interactive, added that people who want to work at studios that make great games should know going in that extra work will be called for, but generally won't complain as long as the heads of the studio are working just as hard. And although most workers at both Epic and Sports Interactive don't get overtime pay for crunch, Rein said Epic employees are "well paid in bonuses."

"The difference between companies like Epic, Valve and Sports Interactive is that we really do share the wealth," he said. "It's not like you're just working super hard for someone else to go home and have a swimming pool."

Things may very well be sunshine and lollipops at Epic and Sports Interactive, but based on what little I know about the industry I'd say that makes them the exception, not the rule. And one of the biggest problems facing the industry is that there really are no rules; one studio may ensure that all employees are properly paid for any and all overtime worked - or, even better, manage their resources so that full-on crunch never becomes an issue - while others reward their workers with sweeping layoff notices mere days after, or even before, a game launches. As long as that remains the case, suggesting that people with an aversion to crunch somehow lack "passion" for what they do is disingenuous at best.

Source: Develop

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This guys if fucking stunned.

when you see how hard the lawyers work, they crunch harder than many developers

If I got paid what they get paid, I crunch too.

This whole article is bullshit, and I doubt any developer is okay with the crunch but deals with it, and pretends to be okay so they can put food on the table and keep the lights on.

Also he states they are well paid in bonuses, good for Epic, most companies don't seem to do that, and they even try to get out of the over time pay.

Yeah, I'm sure developers who are passionate about the project they're working on will endure the crunch time, but that's not the same thing as not minding it. Ask them whether they'd prefer to just extend the deadline by a month or two and I'll bet that none of them will be clamouring to save the crunch.

Hell, I'm sure there are developers who really can't afford to lose their job that "don't mind" crunch time either, because they'll be fired if they do mind it.

What is this guy smoking?

Bad developers release unfinished work. Good developers crunch. Great developers delay. It's the reason why console Zelda games are so consistently better than almost everything any of the big developers put out.

P.S. Thanks

That dude looks like the kind of person who would say "All the cool kids are down with crunch time."

Guy reminds me of a friend of mine. Slightly masochistic, yet thoroughly and authentically enjoys it. It's like a self feeding work-ethic cycle; it's these type of crazies that participate in marathons and chili-competitions.

I think this would be more authentic sounding if came from one of the lower level programmers instead of the Vice President. The Vice President saying "The developers really do like crunch time!" seems a bit too much like a slave driver claiming the slaves are having a wonderful time. (Probably not the most flattering comparison but I'm too lazy to come up with a better one)

so to translate: if you dont like to get exploited, you probably arent a passionate (good) developer.

what a slave trader...

It's easy to crunch when YOU don't have to.

There are several things wrong with his assumptions.

First: The idea of shared suffering doesn't make it ok that you basically require people to go above and beyond the call of duty (beyond their contractual obligations). Sure they get paid, but if they don't want to do the crunch they will get fired by a guy like this for reason number two, down below.

Second: He is asserting that if you may have something that is just slightly more important than work (family, health problems, etc), then you are clearly not passionate about what you do. This line of thought essentially makes people choose between work and other at least equally important things that may be lifetime issues versus working for a company.

Third: Don't compare the jobs of developers to that of people who make significantly more money. Also, out of the jobs listed, they clearly have the expectation upon entry that there will be times of extremely long and hard work requirements. Doctors, Firemen and Police Officers go in knowing full well the expectations placed on them long before they operate on someone, go into a burning building, or attempt to subdue a potentially dangerous suspect. which leads me to my fourth reason.

Fourth: The jobs listed have expectations of uncontrolled situations. Game development does not, or at least not nearly at the level of the jobs listed above. If you need to have someone working 14 hours a day for weeks or even months, you are doing something wrong. Either your employees are not working during the initial development phases, or the time goals are not at all realistic.

All of that said. I'm sure some people don't mind the crunch, they may even like it. But to make the statements that were made here is just not realistically looking at things.

I love how he compares game developing to things such as doctors and firemen. You know WHY they have to work long hours? CAUSE THEY'RE SAVING PEOPLES LIVES!

Don't get me wrong, I love my video games but they're not performing heart transplants and saving babies out of burning buildings. They don't do their job, they don't work long hours, people DIE. Meanwhile you bump your game back by three months, people get...angry...disappointed...but they're still likely to buy the game.

Someone needs to link him to The Trenches and have him read a few of the stories there. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them were from Epic employees.

EDIT: I worked for people like this guy. He is a "I live to work" instead of a "I work to live". What's wrong is when the first type doesn't recognize that the second type exists and just assumes everyone else is lazy.

Fappy:
What is this guy smoking?

Something good considering how much money Epic makes off its Unreal Engine; they're more a middleware company than an actual game developer. Rein is a guy who should keep his mouth shut considering whenever he talks it's to say something completely stupid.

wetfart:
Someone needs to link him to The Trenches and have him read a few of the stories there. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them were from Epic employees.

EDIT: I worked for people like this guy. He is a "I live to work" instead of a "I work to live". What's wrong is when the first type doesn't recognize that the second type exists and just assumes everyone else is lazy.

Link no longer works

obviously this moron has not spent 8 straight hours playtesting a single gameplay element that lasts 5 minutes and sending a report after rerport...

there's a ton of grade a schmucks with a degree in management that have no idea about how tiresome it can be for a person to stare into a screen for prolonged amount of time.

good tip for me, when looking for career options I shall not even bother thinking about epic.

Baresark:
There are several things wrong with his assumptions.

First: The idea of shared suffering doesn't make it ok that you basically require people to go above and beyond the call of duty (beyond their contractual obligations). Sure they get paid, but if they don't want to do the crunch they will get fired by a guy like this for reason number two, down below.

Second: He is asserting that if you may have something that is just slightly more important than work (family, health problems, etc), then you are clearly not passionate about what you do. This line of thought essentially makes people choose between work and other at least equally important things that may be lifetime issues versus working for a company.

Third: Don't compare the jobs of developers to that of people who make significantly more money. Also, out of the jobs listed, they clearly have the expectation upon entry that there will be times of extremely long and hard work requirements. Doctors, Firemen and Police Officers go in knowing full well the expectations placed on them long before they operate on someone, go into a burning building, or attempt to subdue a potentially dangerous suspect. which leads me to my fourth reason.

Fourth: The jobs listed have expectations of uncontrolled situations. Game development does not, or at least not nearly at the level of the jobs listed above. If you need to have someone working 14 hours a day for weeks or even months, you are doing something wrong. Either your employees are not working during the initial development phases, or the time goals are not at all realistic.

All of that said. I'm sure some people don't mind the crunch, they may even like it. But to make the statements that were made here is just not realistically looking at things.

I have worked for the last 20 odd years in wide verity jobs in both the public and private sector.Every time a major deadline comes up you end up working longer and harder than normal, to get the work done that you are paid to is the most important thing. If you miss a deadline, in the case of private sector, the company makes less money and reduces the medium term chances of you having job. In the public sector, if you miss a deadline someone somewhere suffers. The don't get the services or benefits that they are entitled to. I see 21 year old kids come into work these days with unreasonable levels of expectation, without unpaid overtime companies would go bankrupt and the ability of government to provide basic services would collapse. You are directly competing against poeple in China and India who expect to work 40 hour weeks year in year out. Currently the levels of skill in games industry is lower than available in the west, but with in the next 5 years or so don't be surprised EA Indian and EA China studious start churning out AAA titles at 15 million dollars a pop instead of the current 50 million. At that point the games industry will become just another out sourced business, unless the western workers and can maintain higher productivity. That means putting in long hours with unpaid overtime or say good by to your job. Just like everywhere else.

albino boo:

Baresark:
There are several things wrong with his assumptions.

First: The idea of shared suffering doesn't make it ok that you basically require people to go above and beyond the call of duty (beyond their contractual obligations). Sure they get paid, but if they don't want to do the crunch they will get fired by a guy like this for reason number two, down below.

Second: He is asserting that if you may have something that is just slightly more important than work (family, health problems, etc), then you are clearly not passionate about what you do. This line of thought essentially makes people choose between work and other at least equally important things that may be lifetime issues versus working for a company.

Third: Don't compare the jobs of developers to that of people who make significantly more money. Also, out of the jobs listed, they clearly have the expectation upon entry that there will be times of extremely long and hard work requirements. Doctors, Firemen and Police Officers go in knowing full well the expectations placed on them long before they operate on someone, go into a burning building, or attempt to subdue a potentially dangerous suspect. which leads me to my fourth reason.

Fourth: The jobs listed have expectations of uncontrolled situations. Game development does not, or at least not nearly at the level of the jobs listed above. If you need to have someone working 14 hours a day for weeks or even months, you are doing something wrong. Either your employees are not working during the initial development phases, or the time goals are not at all realistic.

All of that said. I'm sure some people don't mind the crunch, they may even like it. But to make the statements that were made here is just not realistically looking at things.

I have worked for the last 20 odd years in wide verity jobs in both the public and private sector.Every time a major deadline comes up you end up working longer and harder than normal, to get the work done that you are paid to is the most important thing. If you miss a deadline, in the case of private sector, the company makes less money and reduces the medium term chances of you having job. In the public sector, if you miss a deadline someone somewhere suffers. The don't get the services or benefits that they are entitled to. I see 21 year old kids come into work these days with unreasonable levels of expectation, without unpaid overtime companies would go bankrupt and the ability of government to provide basic services would collapse. You are directly competing against poeple in China and India who expect to work 40 hour weeks year in year out. Currently the levels of skill in games industry is lower than available in the west, but with in the next 5 years or so don't be surprised EA Indian and EA China studious start churning out AAA titles at 15 million dollars a pop instead of the current 50 million. At that point the games industry will become just another out sourced business, unless the western workers and can maintain higher productivity. That means putting in long hours with unpaid overtime or say good by to your job. Just like everywhere else.

So your suggestion for competing with China is top reduce the right, work place safety and pay of of worker to that of a third world country?

Andy Chalk:
snip...

Translation: "Stop complaining and get back to work slaves! We don't want to take precious time out of our schedule to learn how to manage well, so suck it up and like it!" -_-

Software companies really need to get this idea out of their heads. It is incredibly pervasive and highly damaging, yet we still can't figure out this is stupid after dozens of years. I have read textbooks from the 90s that warn against this stuff. Why can't software devs actually learn from their mistakes? Urgh.

Oh look... someone with lots of money in the gaming industry that doesnt know jack shit about anything opening his mouth and blabbering nonsense...

He and the EA boss must be buddy buddy with all the nonsense that they spew forth...

DugMachine:

wetfart:
Someone needs to link him to The Trenches and have him read a few of the stories there. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them were from Epic employees.

EDIT: I worked for people like this guy. He is a "I live to work" instead of a "I work to live". What's wrong is when the first type doesn't recognize that the second type exists and just assumes everyone else is lazy.

Link no longer works

Here you go. These are mostly tales from QA folks (the true dark underbelly of game development), but crunch time is a foul practice borne of incompetent, self-serving management.

And people wonder why I'm such a cynical bastard.

Andy Chalk:

"My dad was a doctor, and he put in more hours than most developers. Firemen and policemen work just as hard, but they just don't have blogs writing about it."

Well gee, might that be because they spend their long hours SAVING LIVES instead of programming video games in a nice, safe, comfortable office?

Dark Togashi:

So your suggestion for competing with China is top reduce the right, work place safety and pay of of worker to that of a third world country?

If you don't compete on cost and your production becomes to expensive you go bust. Just look at the 8000 Peugeot car workers who just lost their jobs yesterday, they all had the right to 35 hour working weeks, with long mandated holidays and retirement at 60. The only problem is that made the cars to expensive to buy and the plants closed. Rights cost money and if the cost of your rights makes the product to expensive to compete then you lose your job. The same thing happened to the US car industry and they got a massive taxpayer bailout and in return the workers had reduced benefits. If they hadn't agreed to reduction of their rights they would be out of job. The games industry isn't going to get tax payer bailouts, it doesn't employ enough poeple in vital swing states, if they become uncompetitive their jobs will be in china and India buy the end of the week.

albino boo:

Snip

You very much speak truth. As a former developer and a technical project manager, it is the company's responsibility to make sure the services they offer make sense to market and for its employees.

When employees are proud of what they do, they'll make something come true, satisfaction is worth more than money. Granted you HAVE to be taken care of, or working there will not make sense. It's a hard balance, but companies that don't outgrow their thinking will find ways of balance.

I've often found rewarding teams with freedoms like the ability to create their own specs, their own daily schedules, passion projects, that are earned on merit is worth way more than money to employee retention. You *should* pay proper market value of course, but everyone is motivated differently.

Employees are especially motivated to see their management working right along side them during crunch time because it's a company goal they believe in. Not some back-breaking chore to make some one else richer.

Of course, the only way to make real money is to be a corporate cock-sucker, so what do I know. Just ask EA/Activision how they do it.

Who wants to bet that Mark Rein goes home to his family at 6:00 every day without fail? This guy wouldn't know overtime work if it bit him on the ass.

 

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