The Crunch Factor on The Last of Us Part 2

Oh hey look, it's another Kotaku article on the horrors of AAA crunch

But really, still an interesting read nonetheless. Makes you wonder how long they can keep this kind of thing up as games get bigger and more complicated, trying to keep all us spoiled brats happy, ha.

Having said that, I'd probably be kinda relieved to play smaller-scale games at that kind of quality. For a good chunk of people there's only so much time in a day that demands other aspects of life in the meantime.

Crunch will never stop. Games are too expensive, and require too much labor with too much of a deadline to stop.

Even Companies who can apparently work on a game forever like Rockstar and CDProjecktRed still have crunch when the games are on the verge of release.

The real takeaway with this article is why does NaughtyDog work in such a shitty building that is falling apart around them?

CritialGaming:
The real takeaway with this article is why does NaughtyDog work in such a shitty building that is falling apart around them?

Nah, it's really not. It's that communication is so fucked weeks worth of work is being wasted on cut assignments and training dozens of new employees because of their shit and pointless crunch culture. But hey, fuck the the people I guess.

CritialGaming:
The real takeaway with this article is why does NaughtyDog work in such a shitty building that is falling apart around them?

Maybe they're still stuck in their "garage" mentality from when they were a smaller studio making Crash. Apparently they don't have a producer either, which seems to be causing them a lot of stress as well.

OT: It's always depressing to hear the things I enjoy cause so many people so much agony. I could say that if only we as the consumer didn't ask for so much the crunch would go with it, but it appears that a lot of developers themselves seek out the crunch because they want to push the envelope of what is possible. And just a few workaholics are apparently enough to pull along others to "meet their standards". But the fact that there's a lowkey hope among a certain amount of Naughty Dog employees for Last of Us 2 to flop just so it might alleviate the crunch on the next project is pretty fucked up, and eerily reminicent of Bioware.

Casual Shinji:

CritialGaming:
The real takeaway with this article is why does NaughtyDog work in such a shitty building that is falling apart around them?

Maybe they're still stuck in their "garage" mentality from when they were a smaller studio making Crash. Apparently they don't have a producer either, which seems to be causing them a lot of stress as well.

OT: It's always depressing to hear the things I enjoy cause so many people so much agony. I could say that if only we as the consumer didn't ask for so much the crunch would go with it, but it appears that a lot of developers themselves seek out the crunch because they want to push the envelope of what is possible. And just a few workaholics are apparently enough to pull along others to "meet their standards". But the fact that there's a lowkey hope among a certain amount of Naughty Dog employees for Last of Us 2 to flop just so it might alleviate the crunch on the next project is pretty fucked up, and eerily reminicent of Bioware.

Do the consumers really demand crunch though? I mean I feel like this problem could be easily solved if the industry simply stopped announcing games two years before they are ready. You can't demand a game that you don't even know is coming *coughcough* Half Life 3 *cough cough*.

Like if we didn't know about Last of Us 2, would we be demanding the game be rushed?

And to be frank games get delayed all the time, so how is the crunch our fault?

Companies gotta make money, and a game can only sit in the oven eating money for so long before it has to come out regardless of it's state. (see Wolcen as an example) Public demand has very little to do with it.

And we'll see the usual reaction: Fans of the game claiming that "it's not that bad" and "it happens with a lot of studios" and "you're just trying to slander the company", because gamers care more about getting their precious games NOW NOW NOW than people working themselves to the state of mental breakdown or physical illness.

CritialGaming:
Crunch will never stop. Games are too expensive, and require too much labor with too much of a deadline to stop.

Even Companies who can apparently work on a game forever like Rockstar and CDProjecktRed still have crunch when the games are on the verge of release.

The real takeaway with this article is why does NaughtyDog work in such a shitty building that is falling apart around them?

Well AAA do it to themselves. If they didn't lie to gamers about content, and lie to shareholders about profits then they wouldn't have to rush.
They tell people Last of Us 2 will have blackjack and hookers and everyone gets a puppy and a handjob from Lucy Lu to be released on March 75th, and they tell shareholders they'll make millions in profits.
So come March 76th people expect Lucy to show up with lotion, and shareholders expect millions. And that's why they do crunch, 'cause its March 30th and no has found any puppies, the blackjack machine doesn't work, the hookers have COVID19 and Lucy is shooting Charlie's Angels FF in Spain and they're two bottles of Coke over budget.
And its all because they lied so much.

Just like any other sector of industry, bad management leads to overtime and crunch in the case of video games. If Naughty Dog treated there employees better, those veteran employees would still be there producing 2/3x more work in the same amount of time as the new hires. Bad management also causes a bunch of unneeded work to be done just as the article references. I'm not sure how they plan out their storylines, but you can do what filmmakers do and storyboard your scenes or do live readings of the script to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. The fact that Neil Druckmann said that the game needs to be massive to tell the TLOU2 story is a huge red flag for the game. Uncharted 4 had tons of things it didn't need, it had a whole chapter that you had to play that never even fucking happened for one. Lastly, why does a burlap sack losing sand after shot take any time to implement from a studio like Naughty Dog? Shouldn't they already have the coding from games ago to copy/paste into whatever game they want, all they really should need to do is up the detail on the bag and sand probably. Fucking MGS2 on PS2 had sugar bags that did the same thing.

Silentpony:
They tell people Last of Us 2 will ... a handjob from Lucy Lu

Well, that would totally make video game crunch morally right in the eyes of Utilitarianism.

This is a horror story.

Everyone is their own producer? 3 WEEKS OF WORK WAS WASTED FOR 3 PEOPLE, because there was disagreement over one stealth section?! No wonder they're bleeding personnel over burnout!

And of course, if they're losing senior staff all the time, that DRAMATICALLY reduces the productivity of the team, which leads to more continued crunch and MORE scrapped work.

You can't keep bleeding seniors like this. On top of being cruel and inhumane...It's unsustainable.

I'm just going to close off with this twitter thread from another former Naughty Dog employee, who has the mother of all mic drop lines at the end about what this bleeding of seniors has led to:

https://twitter.com/GameAnim/status/1238199242256052224

"While talented, their 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. "

TLDR: Crunch is counterproductive. You actually get MORE done if you work reasonable hours. Also, having an actually good production team and pre-production phase so people are all on the same page is important, especially with large team sizes.

aegix drakan:
This is a horror story.

Everyone is their own producer? 3 WEEKS OF WORK WAS WASTED FOR 3 PEOPLE, because there was disagreement over one stealth section?! No wonder they're bleeding personnel over burnout!

And of course, if they're losing senior staff all the time, that DRAMATICALLY reduces the productivity of the team, which leads to more continued crunch and MORE scrapped work.

You can't keep bleeding seniors like this. On top of being cruel and inhumane...It's unsustainable.

I'm just going to close off with this twitter thread from another former Naughty Dog employee, who has the mother of all mic drop lines at the end about what this bleeding of seniors has led to:

https://twitter.com/GameAnim/status/1238199242256052224

"While talented, their 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. "

TLDR: Crunch is counterproductive. You actually get MORE done if you work reasonable hours. Also, having an actually good production team and pre-production phase so people are all on the same page is important, especially with large team sizes.

Makes a lot of sense when you step back and look through a different lens. It's a dysfunctional work environment that shouldn't be fueled by some twisted sense of pride in putting in those long hours. Granted yes like the Twitter quote said, they are talented but going about it so inefficiently. That talent shouldn't be strained by having to compensate so much for ineffective management, or a lack of it altogether.

It's one thing to have creative freedom, but a bunch of creatives leading each other is ultimately a recipe for disaster. Whether they agree with it or not, logistical guidelines must be in place and followed to plot a course and stay on it. Why they think they're above this simply reeks of a certain level of arrogance that's almost certainly brought on by their elite status as a top tier developer.

I personally don't like Last of Us much but do recognize it's a product of immense ambition and skill. It's sequel appears to be even more so. However same with Rockstar games I don't understand how crunch is necessary when you have seven(!) years of development time and infinite budget and leniency from your corporate sponsor. At some point bad work culture simply becomes poor project management.

Casual Shinji:
But the fact that there's a lowkey hope among a certain amount of Naughty Dog employees for Last of Us 2 to flop just so it might alleviate the crunch on the next project is pretty fucked up, and eerily reminicent of Bioware.

Well, I'm not buying it so that ought to make those employees happy...for want of a better word.

Honestly, I don't see the need for crunch. Yeah, delays are annoying but if it means that people aren't killing themselves for what is ultimately a unnecessary luxury product, then I prefer delays. There are always other games to play or replay. Something that has bugged me this year is that I've seen people bitching that there hasn't been any new games released so far this year. Or rather no big AAA games released this year. Seriously, you have no games in your backlog, or can't pick an older game up on the cheap or even check out a highly rated indie game? I feel like this "got to have it now" mentality is one of the main reasons for crunch.

CritialGaming:
Do the consumers really demand crunch though? I mean I feel like this problem could be easily solved if the industry simply stopped announcing games two years before they are ready. You can't demand a game that you don't even know is coming *coughcough* Half Life 3 *cough cough*.

Like if we didn't know about Last of Us 2, would we be demanding the game be rushed?

And to be frank games get delayed all the time, so how is the crunch our fault?

Companies gotta make money, and a game can only sit in the oven eating money for so long before it has to come out regardless of it's state. (see Wolcen as an example) Public demand has very little to do with it.

I don't think it has to do with consumer demand or deadlines. It's not the root of the problem anyway. Consumers generally want what the industry provides, and if the industry decides 'you should buy this cuz it's really great' then most people will typically go spend money on it. Not always, but usually. And deadlines don't seem to have as much impact either, because even if there's 3 or 4 month delay they'll simply use that time for even more crunch.

The real problem seems to be industry standards "needing" to be raised. Everyone wants to be top dog (no pun intended), and when a new game by a AAA studio gets released they want/need it to be bigger and better than anything that came before. It's an addiction to (technological) advancement.

Though in the case of Naughty Dog an equally big problem seems to be studio management. Also, they should probably stop breaking their developers up into two teams to work on different projects, it's not working for them.

 

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