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Thread: Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons

  1. #1
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    Default Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons

    There's a bottom-line reason most industries gave up crunch mode over 75 years ago: It's the single most expensive way there is to get the work done.

    [...]

    When used long-term, Crunch Mode slows development and creates more bugs when compared with 40-hour weeks.

    More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.
    - http://www.igda.org/why-crunch-modes...rk-six-lessons (emphasis mine)

    Crunch comes up from time to time here, with Yaustar and I agreeing that it doesn't work and Darklights suggesting it is an unavoidable part of the industry. Today, I rediscovered a 2005 essay from the IGDA's "Quality of Life" Special Interest Group and thought I'd share it.

    Go read it and then come back. I'll wait...

    To sum it up, it was 1893 when big businesses started to realise that a 40-hour week is more productive than a 60-hour one. Henry Ford abolished it in 1926, not because it was cheaper or better for the staff, but specifically because it made more money. Despite this, the games industry (a high-tech industry) sticks to processes which are over a century out of date.

    So, I ask you all; what is your opinion of crunch? Is it a relic of flawed thinking, something we do because we always have done? Are games developers not the same as mortal men? Does it make a difference that we are computer users and not machine-operators?
    Subject Matter Expert: Games Design and Narrative Theory
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    As someone who has done more than a little unpaid end-of-project overtime I'm not crazy about the phenomenon. Getting a memo an hour before home-time saying that it is mandatory to stay at work for another 6 hours unpaid doesn't win management any friends. Even when it made me physically ill to be working at 2am again I was not allowed to go home, even though I found myself in such a state that I was incapable of contributing anything. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of le crunch, but I don't know what the alternative(s) might be.

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    I feel that crunch is akin to slavery in some respects, and it's akin to the rich (i.e. managerial people) pissing on the poor (i.e. the worker).
    For many years I worked in the NHS, and crunch would be a very dangerous thing to have in that industry - it could cost lives (and it probably already has).

    I for one would find it intolerable to be put in a situation like that and I have a mercenary attitude to work i.e. if you want me to work you should pay me well, but don't take the piss.

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    According to the research, the alternative is either a) to phone the client / publisher and say 'sorry, but we will miss the deadline', b) to do crunch that week and give the staff time off on the following week to recover from the crunch or c) discipline the slackers if they are obviously not putting in 40 hours' work.

    It sounds insane, but all the statistics point to the idea that giving your staff time off improves their productivity enough that they get more work done in less time by sticking to 80 hours of work per fortnight. Anyone who took business studies (or media studies) at school should be aware of the law of diminishing returns.

    edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by AndyRH View Post
    I for one would find it intolerable to be put in a situation like that and I have a mercenary attitude to work i.e. if you want me to work you should pay me well, but don't take the piss.
    Unless there is a disciplinary problem (e.g. people playing minesweeper when they should be working) I would suggest that unpaid overtime is a false economy, because it perpetuates the myth that crunch can be written off as a freebie rather than a cost to be accounted for in the budget.
    Last edited by AnthonyHJ; 07-27-2011 at 09:28 PM.
    Subject Matter Expert: Games Design and Narrative Theory
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  5. #5

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    THe problem isn't so much as a couple of hours here and there to meet a milestone but the fact heavy, extended crunch should be avoidable through better planning and better management of expectations of deliverables.

    I am at the stage where I will cross out any opt out of the EU work hours directive clause in the contract. At that stage, they can't refuse you the job as it would be against the law. I don't mind putting a couple of hours in but it will be on my terms and not forced on me.

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    Agree, very much so. I don't mind doing a bit of crunch when it's due to bizarres situations. The manager at my company was off ill, someone needed to lead both the morning and evening shift - so I stepped up. It was only for a couple of weeks, so I could handle the hours - problem sorted. But I chose to do it, it wasn't imposed on me, and it was for a limited duration. More important from my point of view, it was responding to an unforseen situation. Likewise, if the email server dies at midday on Monday, I can accept that I'ld probably be working late that night... but again - my choice, my decision, unforseen circumstances.

    Finding out that the company just hasn't scheduled resources properly, has let projects slide without correction and expected that they'll get "magically caught up" at the end is just lunacy, and I wouldn't be happy working for a company where it was expected that this was the answer to previous errors. Finding out that crunch time is expected because people were slack at the start of the project, working reduced hours, and not meeting deadlines and milestones is NOT a good excuse or situation. You need better control of resources and stronger management - not 60 hour weeks to get it done at all costs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yaustar View Post
    I am at the stage where I will cross out any opt out of the EU work hours directive clause in the contract. At that stage, they can't refuse you the job as it would be against the law. I don't mind putting a couple of hours in but it will be on my terms and not forced on me.
    The thing about the Working Time Directive is that it limits the worker to 48 hours in a single week, whether the overtime is paid or not. That is one whole extra day of work every week, which should be enough for any company who have create contingency plans.

    Even those 8 hours are bad for productivity, so I would actually suggest that any studio asking you to opt out may be shooting themselves in the foot...
    Subject Matter Expert: Games Design and Narrative Theory
    Working on: Steampunk Fiction (i.e. a book)
    How I broke into games design * How I broke into writing for games

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    Ah crunch such an exciting thing, a game isn’t a made until you've seen the sun rise above the office.

    • In eleven years I have never seen a company that doesn’t crunch.
    • Some try to avoid it, others do not. No one has ever avoided it completely.
    • My record 3 days and 2 nights without leaving my desk.

    It is very much a given in the industry that you will do whatever is required to get the game out on time.
    Try telling your boss that the 20million ad campaign will be out a few months before the game.

    So people say lets plan things better and avoid, never ever happens. It’s not down to poor planning it’s down to the contract negotiation.
    Studios will under estimate the amount of staff and time required to win the contract and then down the line realise they’ve fluffed it, but due to budget restraints it’s easier to get your staff to work longer than hire more.

    With regards to the 48hour working directive, 90% of the industry is on temp contracts. No company I know would ever extend that for someone who sticks to the 48hr working time directive and why would you if you have others who are willing to ignore it, remember there’s thousands of people who want to work in games.

    If you do not do the crunch don’t even bother trying for a GI career you won’t last if you do get a job.

    Some people say its un productive and sure it is at 4am but at the end of the day coders need to give QA a decent build to test and QA need to turn that around if that means the game is built at 3am and tested at 4am so be it.

    The only way you’ll avoid it is in social networking and phone games.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darklights View Post
    Ah crunch such an exciting thing, a game isn’t a made until you've seen the sun rise above the office.
    ********. Stop glamorising crunch to perspective students. One offs (let's say a week for arguments sake) are fine as milestones are there to be met and sometimes the extra hours are needed. Extended crunch or Death Marches should not be tolerated as it damages the health, productivity and morale of the team. Why are they working extra and sacrificial hours towards a game? Where is their incentive to do so?

    Any lead, manager, director, etc who forces their staff to work extra hours over an extended period without proper incentive or motivation is a irresponsible idiot who doesn't give a **** about the health of their team. Plain and simple.

    http://ilovecrunch.co.uk/

  10. #10
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    You have your experiences I have mine.
    Crunch can be great fun, yes its damn hard work, yes it affects health and yes productivity as well.
    But life is what you make it you may not agree with it and neither did I, but it is standard and will be for a long time yet so either man up and do it or go get a different career. Oh you did

    Simply put as I said above if you do not do crunch you will either be working on phone and browser games or you’ll not get your contract extended.

    You call it glamorising I call it being realistic.

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