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Crunch time

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"Crunch time" is the point at which the team is thought to be failing to achieve milestones needed to launch a game on schedule. The complexity of work flow and the intangibles of artistic and aesthetic demands in video-game creation create difficulty in predicting milestones.

Background

Most game-development engineers and artists in the United States are considered salaried employees; as "exempt non-hourly-paid professionals", they are not subject to state laws governing overtime.

Some video game developers (such as Electronic Arts) have been accused of the excessive invocation of "crunch time".

Examples

  • Rockstar Games: Made their employees work 100 hours a week during Red Dead Redemption 2's development.
  • Electronic Arts: Made their employees crunch during the development of many games like Anthem. (See below)
  • CD Projekt Red: Made their employees crunch towards the end of Cyberpunk 2077's development despite promising they wouldn't.
  • Activision Blizzard: Made their employees work 14 hours a day during the development of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, sometimes as late as 3 AM.
  • TT Games: Made their employees crunch in nearly 5 years development of Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga due to struggles of their new in-house engine NTT (pronounced Entity), instead of Unreal Engine.
  • Sega: Made Headcannon crunch, rush and meddle which ended up with the team being unable to finish the Sonic 3 & Knuckles remaster in time due to the publisher considering them as "outsiders creating a separate project that was then wrangled into something entirely different" in Sonic Origins.[1]

Consequences

The protest against crunch time was posted by Erin Hoffman (fiancee of Electronic Arts developer Leander Hasty), who contended that her life was being indirectly destroyed by the company's work policy. This led to debate in the industry but no visible changes until March 2005, when Electronic Arts announced internally that it was planning to extend overtime pay to some employees not currently eligible. 

"Crunch time" has become a common and hated trend in the video game industry because it has led to the release of rushed, unfinished and unpolished games. It has been compared heavily to the equally infamous "Christmas rushing".

The excessive amount of stress and overwork developers go through during Crunch time is bound to cause health problems to them. Sonic X-Treme's lead developer suffered from this so much that he was diagnosed to die in about 6 months if he didn't quit the project immediately. A similar situation happened during the development of Anthem, where BioWare staff were often mandated to take week to months off due to excessive stress.

It has been also criticized by video game developers and other staff because they are forced to work overtime without getting paid all the extra hours.

Recent reports have suggested that managements think very little about the health hazards of "crunch time" and dismiss it as "hard work". For example, when BioWare was confronted about the excessive "crunch time" that caused multiple "stress casualties", they responded by claiming that the crunch time was "BioWare magic".

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