Archive for July, 2011

Crunch is avoidable

Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web on July 28th, 2011 by MrCranky

I’m putting off my blogging responsibility this week onto someone else: a great opinion piece from Charles Randall of Ubisoft, rebutting entirely the piece by that moron Michael Pachter which I won’t even dignify by linking to it. Here’s Charles’ piece. Stand-out quote for me:

Crunch is avoidable. But it requires a level of maturity and acceptance that the game industry sorely lacks. People argue that there’s always a period of crunch necessary at the end of a project. But that’s not true, either. If you are disciplined enough to accept deadlines and understand that there’s a point where you have to stop adding features, schedules can be planned with some lead time for debugging.

Anyone who tells you crunch is unavoidable is a fool. It might be that the games being made just now are unprofitable without crunch, but that’s not a reason to crunch; that’s a reason to change the way we make games.

On a similar note, you will find a couple of opinion pieces from me over on I <3 Crunch, a new blog set up specifically to raise awareness about articles on crunch, studios who are crunching their staff (and those which aren’t). I hope that by talking about this more we can put to rest this ridiculous notion that crunch is somehow acceptable or something we just have to live with. It’s the industry’s dirty secret, and the more we bring it out into the open, the better we will all be.


Opinion: How the IGDA could help tackle crunch

Posted in Industry Rants on July 18th, 2011 by MrCranky

Erin Hoffman’s comment on my previous IGDA post got me to thinking. If the IGDA are looking for a tangible way they can help things, what can they really do? So here’s my suggestion:

My issue with the way the IGDA work with regards to these reports of crunch is pretty much the same every time. They don’t seem to do anything unless someone makes a formal complaint to them, and even then they seem to put the onus on the individuals at the studio to be acting on it themselves. To me, it should be the other way around. There should be a ‘report a company’ button on their website which is 100% anonymous, and really simple to find/use. Once pressed, the IGDA (or whomever) would come along to the company and ask the company if it’s true. Either:

  1. the company says it is, and they’re not ashamed
  2. the company says it is, and they’re sorry, and here’s how they’re going to address it
  3. the company says it isn’t.

In 3) the IGDA can then ask if it can speak to employees at random for their opinion. The company can only really refuse if they’ve got something to hide. The company won’t be allowed to know who said what, and they’ll have to ask enough people so that the employees can’t be threatened or accused of ‘ratting the company out’. The employees will either:

  1. confirm that there’s no crunch, and the original report was bogus
  2. confirm that there is crunch (and ideally give details), showing that the company is both deliberately crunching, and deliberately lying about it.

In most of those outcomes, they can publicly state the results of their investigations. It doesn’t have to be a big fanfare or singling particular developers out (at least to begin with), just quietly announcing what they discovered when they asked the question.

  • If a company is never reported on, you can take that as a good sign.
  • If a company isn’t crunching its staff, it can be held up as a good example.
  • If a company is crunching its staff and isn’t ashamed, the IGDA can publicise that fact (and discourage potential applicants).
  • If a company is crunching its staff but wishes it weren’t, that can be publicised, and the situation monitored; if they have a plan to fix it, the IGDA could go back in a year or two and see if they’ve made progress, and if so hold them up as an example to others as to how to get out of crunch mode.
  • If a company is crunching its staff but pretending they aren’t, that can be publicised as well, including the fact that their staff say something different, all of which will discourage potential applicants.

Even those at the IGDA who are convinced that the “40 hour week” is some crazed ideal that not everyone agrees with can’t really argue against that, because you can do it neutrally, without stating categorically that crunch is bad. Even if you think crunch can be a good thing, it can be highlighted in the findings. What matters is that the situation be made clear to one and all.

It only relies on the simple fact that any organisation can ask a question of another publicly. The respondent is then put on the spot, either they have to ignore the question, lie, admit it, or deny it. Failure to answer the question is damning enough in itself. An organisation which doesn’t crunch has nothing to fear, an organisation which crunches and doesn’t care (like Team Bondi) won’t mind the question being asked. The only organisations which would be disadvantaged are the ones who are crunching and trying to hide it. In which case simply asking the question is enough to bring it out into the light.

Our real problem is that the press and the IGDA and others aren’t talking about it enough. Not in general terms (‘crunch is bad’), but in specifics (‘the kind of crunch being talked about at Bondi is bad’). If no-one asks the awkward questions until after it’s been so f*(&ed up for years, then it’s only going to continue.

Pest Control

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on July 10th, 2011 by MrCranky

Ah, summer is in Edinburgh at last. Thunder and lightning storms, and flooding so bad the water breaks out of the sewers and comes up through the road. I love this city. I don’t think the squirrels in the garden were quite as happy though.

Baby mouse in a soup tin

Curse you and my steel (tin) prison...

At least the squirrels have the decency to stay on the outside of the office though. This little gent (or lady, I didn’t get close enough to check), was the second littlest of a family of mice that have been tormenting us for weeks now. Leaving little presents on our desks. Something in the last couple of weeks must have driven them out looking for nesting material though, because they were all inexorably drawn to the box of packing peanuts that lay out in our office. Bold as brass, we found them rustling around in the box, and popping out the top with a polystyrene peanut in their mouth, trying to get away. Thankfully, their attraction to the box made it much easier for us to arrange things in such a way that we could more easily trap them when they did show themselves. At the current count, I’ve caught four of them, and Tim caught one [Hah – I win!]. We’re presuming the one Tim caught was the daddy, as he was much larger.

All of them were released into the wild (or as wild as it gets 100 yards in either direction along Belford Road), as we’re both softies at heart and couldn’t quite bring ourselves to kill them. Tim’s catch was released on the Dean Bridge itself, much to the amusement of passers by – hopefully it won’t have decided to end it all and take the leap off the edge. They probably have a homing instinct of some sort, but we figure as long as they find a similarly attractive home somewhere along the way back we’ll be rid of them for now.

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