The following interview was conducted in November 2018 with an experienced senior games industry employee currently working at a large company in Canada. For the security of all parties involved, all identifying information on the companies has been removed and the employee’s name is withheld. No information shared during this interview constituted a violation of the employee’s Non Disclosure Agreement. This is the conclusion of this interview, the first part can be found here.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?
A: Ah ah, many things. Scope and scale need to be addressed better, I think. People need to realize games aren’t movies, the parts move very differently. What players expect from AAA releases now is very different from what even very large international teams can accomplish on these short dev cycles. Quality control, operations, staff management — these are things first to fall by the wayside when you’re rushing to a deadline.
Q: So make the dev cycles longer?
A: Yes. I don’t know how many franchises need to be annual. But that’s my opinion. Sales don’t reflect this opinion, so it won’t change. Not yet.
Q: Do you think consumers should withhold preordering games?
A: No comment. (laughs)
Q: What were your thoughts on the Rockstar crunch controversy over Red Dead Redemption 2?
A: It did not surprise me. For many, crunch is a badge of honour. It’s the “good old days" mentality, you had teams of five or six people who are all friends working day and night to make a great game. Now, it is different. It is hard to get thousands to consent to the same team mentality. [Large Japanese company] had a big problem with this in the 2000s and on, a total disconnect between management and executive expectation and the realities of their staff’s feelings. Designers, producers, they’re often insane people. They’re passionate about these projects to the point of mania. But this mania, will it transfer to someone doing walk cycle animations on Slovenia for sixteen hours a day, with no consistent overtime? What about a group of contractors with no health insurance doing debug in a windowless room?
Q: So there’s some disconnect.
A: Yes. Rockstar, you must understand, they’re in the middle of the pack for this. They take their time on projects, they don’t lose their mind over a missed deadline. Some of this crunch mentality on RDR2 does come from old guard people who were at DMA Design (ed. note: the company that Take Two Interactive renamed to be Rockstar after acquiring them), and I know they mean well. This is not an industry of sadists…mostly. (laughs) I will not elaborate on that!
Q: You’re a tease!
A: But I feel for people in these companies who don’t want to be doing these stupid long hours. When I was in California, it was so much worse. There was outright hostility toward anyone who left their desk at 5. No management, no corporate responsibility, just cruelty. When I work with my team, on anything, we plan ahead so we don’t get stuck and minimize our crunch that way. The lack of proper management at some of these AAA companies, in some departments, it pains me.
Q: Do you support game developers unionizing?
A: I will say that I broadly support the concept of unions across all occupations, and leave it at that. But what I will say is I support the industry taking stock of what the long-term ramifications of churning out these games is going to be — we may see another crash in this decade.