CD Projekt Red resorts to crunch for Cyberpunk 2077.
Crunch time is a BIG problem in the video game industry. The actual act of creating a game is so difficult, and contains so many moving parts, that crunch has become an inevitability. Very often, developers are creating concepts and in-depth stories from the ground-up that require pushing technology to the limits. As such, there is a lot of time that goes into research and development that simply cannot be planned for. But that doesn’t change the fact that crunch time negatively impacts the quality of life of employees.
In fact, this has actually led to many delays in the past. Developer CD Projekt Red delayed their next big game Cyberpunk 2077 not just once, but twice this year. The hope seemed to be that the extra time would allow them to polish the game without sacrificing the sanity of the company’s employees.
However, with the game about a month and a half out, it looks like crunch time is rearing its ugly head yet again.
Stop! Crunch Time!
This Monday, employees received an email from CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski that said they would be going in to crunch time. More specifically, they would need to work one day on the weekend of paid work, which is nice, but it will still certainly push its employees to the limit.
“I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision,” Badowski wrote. “I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back — that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”
Jason Schreier, who wrote the piece and also helped uncover the crunch culture at developer Naughty Dog, also took to Twitter to embellish on the story. While this may be the first time crunch is happening on this game for some, it isn’t the first for others.
“Many developers on Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2020, have been working overtime hours for months if not years now,” Schreier wrote. “But this call for six-day work weeks, “mandatory” crunch, directly reneges on what CDPR’s bosses told me last year… Some at CDPR say they’ve been crunching for months. Others have been working overtime in fits and starts for years.”
Many developers on Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most hotly anticipated games of 2020, have been working overtime hours for months if not years now. But this call for six-day work weeks, "mandatory" crunch, directly reneges on what CDPR's bosses told me last year.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) September 29, 2020
Badowski reacted to this initial post with a statement about how difficult the decision was.
“This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in. And, like in recent years, 10% of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team.”
— Adam Badowski (@AdamBadowski) September 30, 2020
And apparently, Schreier received some hate and pushback from some folks on Twitter, including one from CCO of developer Lillymo Games Colin Moriarty. In his tweet, he argued that the extra pay made up for it and incentivized employees to work harder for the success of the game.
“Sorry, but that CD Projekt story is much ado about nothing,” Moriarty wrote. “Is it ideal? No. But the team is essentially being asked for seven extra days of -paid- work. The better the game is, the better off they’ll all do. Not everything is a crisis. This breathless calamity-seeking is lame.”
But Schreier’s position is unmoving, and he reiterated the unhealthy nature of crunch.
RELATED – Cyberpunk 2077 Has Been Delayed AGAIN — But The Game Is MOSTLY Done
“Crunch is too complicated and nuanced a subject for Twitter soundbites,” Schreier wrote. “It comes in many different forms and hits people in many different ways. The pressure, it’s culture, it’s people giving you dirty looks because you’re not being a team player by going home to your kids.”
This is quite a take. It's also spreading misinformation to a wide audience. As I reported today, this week's email is the first instance of "mandatory" crunch. Some at CDPR say they've been crunching for months. Others have been working overtime in fits and starts for years. pic.twitter.com/dUMRMgLQYF
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) September 29, 2020
Moriarty pushed back harder on the entire message of mandatory crunch being a bad thing.
“For real, can you imagine being so blessed that you get to make video games for a living?” he wrote. “Not just any game, but a AAA game that will sell millions, that will grace your resumé forever, make you lots of bonus cash, leave a legacy. And you’re asked to work seven extra paid days. And then a journalist with a blatant axe to grind, who seeks out literally anything that could feed his weird narrative, reports on this like it’s relevant.”
Moriarty continued: “Do these writers realize that many people who read their work have real problems? That this s**t comes off as tone deaf? Imagine working 10 hours at the supermarket with a fucking surgical mask over your face, you grab your phone to see what’s going on, and you read a story about the crisis of how a famous AAA game dev has to work seven extra paid days. Sorry. I’m just gonna call it like I see it.”
A Necessary Evil?
For what it’s worth, I can see both points of view here. On one end, a work-life balance is important. On the other, CD Projekt Red is working hard to make sure they get the product out on time to fan. What I personally don’t like is that all this is clearly in service of the bottom line. They don’t want to push the game again, and they likely want to get the game out for the holiday season.
In the end, the message seems clear. Employees are less important than the profits. Again, I can see both perspectives. The fact that the employees actually have a financial stake in the game’s success is great, but this shouldn’t be the norm. They shouldn’t have to put their lives on hold with every game for months or years on end. And yet, no matter how hard they seem to try, crunch still seems like an inevitability.
How do you feel about CD Projekt Red resorting to crunch time to finish Cyberpunk 2077? Sound off down below!
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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Jason Schreier, Colin Moriarty