Crunch is once again in the spotlight after a damning report on the tradition at Naughty Dog revealed worrying working practices.
In an outstanding report by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, improvement sources expressed concern at the capacity of workers at Naughty Dog to proceed working underneath brutal crunch circumstances.
The report reveals how delays to the upcoming The Last of Us 2 solely proceed the crunch at Sony’s celebrated studio, somewhat than alleviate it – and burnout has triggered Naughty Dog workers to depart.
Here’s a snippet:
“Many who have worked at Naughty Dog over the years describe it as a duality – as a place that can be simultaneously the best and the worst workplace in the world. Working at Naughty Dog means designing beloved, critically acclaimed games alongside artists and engineers who are considered some of the greatest in their fields. But for many of those same people, it also means working upwards of 12-hour days and even weekends when the studio is in crunch mode, sacrificing their health, relationships, and personal lives at the altar of the game.”
Following the publication of the report, former Naughty Dog animator Jonathan Cooper took to Twitter to say The Last of Us 2’s gameplay animators “crunched more than I’ve ever seen” to construct a demo of the recreation proven in September 2019, which “required weeks of recovery afterwards”.
The cause I left is as a result of I solely need to work with the greatest. That is now not Naughty Dog. Their fame for crunch inside LA is so unhealthy it was close to not possible to rent seasoned contract recreation animators to shut out the venture. As such we loaded up on movie animators.
— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) March 12, 2020
“One good friend of mine was hospitalised at that time due to overwork,” Cooper continued. “He still had over half a year to go. There have been others since.”
Cooper went on to say Naughty Dog’s fame for crunch inside Los Angeles “is so bad it was near impossible to hire seasoned contract game animators to close out the project”. As a outcome, Cooper claimed, Naughty Dog employed movie animators who “lacked the technical/design knowhow to assemble scenes”. This, coupled with “the attrition of key roles”, meant the design workforce “ballooned with juniors”.
“Every aspect of finishing this game took much longer due to the lack of game experience on the team,” Cooper claimed.
Cooper then claimed Naughty Dog’s success “is due in large part to Sony’s deep pockets funding delays rather than skill alone. A more senior team would have shipped TLOU2 a year ago”.
Sony and Naughty Dog have did not remark formally on Kotaku’s report or Cooper’s feedback, however Vice President of Naughty Dog Neil Druckmann took to Twitter to again the studio’s animators – whereas failing to deal with the crunch-related accusations.
Even after years of working on it, I?m nonetheless blown away by the animation in Part II. We have one of ? if not the ? greatest animation workforce in the business ? each in uncooked animation ability and technical data. Can?t wait so that you can expertise their unimaginable work.
— Neil Druckmann (@Neil_Druckmann) March 13, 2020
Crunch is of course a long-standing difficulty in online game improvement throughout the world, but it surely has in current years develop into a extra mentioned difficulty, with a raft of experiences revealing the human price of some of the world’s hottest video video games.
In 2018, forward of the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2, experiences revealed brutal working practices at Rockstar. The Witcher three and Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt has additionally come underneath hearth for its tradition.
Are issues altering? The hope is as the scrutiny of working practices proceed, studios must make significant modifications to the method they function – and the lives of the many workers behind our favorite video games will get higher.