CD Projekt Red orders mandatory crunch for employees ahead of Cyberpunk 2077 launch

Nick Calandra

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That's part of the issue, the stories themselves are always incredibly bias to paint a narrative that working a Crunch period for any reason is the equivalent of sweat shop work. And it's obviously done to rile people up for clicks. Yet completely circumvents the fact that overtime and mandatory overtime is the reality of the working world from time to time.

The articles always like to emphasize how stressed the developers are, but they would be stressed regardless of the overtime because finishing a project you've been working on is always stressful. Remember the stress of double checking your papers in college right before the due date? Combing over the paper late into the night just to make sure you didn't miss anything. Or in some people's case, waiting until the night before it was due and pulling all-nighters to get it done. Deadlines are deadlines and in the real world sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to get it done.

Now people can discuss the merits of overtime all they want. But even in the best scenario it isn't a workplace situation that can be 100% avoided even if your management was the best fucking management on the planet.

At very least this is Crunch that they knew was coming. And it isn't even a "bad" crunch the way we've seen reported from other companies (I.E. the Rockstar example I've already pointed out).

I think the reason why people get so butthurt about it is, like you said, the article does a bad job of painting the real situation and is written like a knee jerk reaction based off a minimal source for the sole reason of making it all look bad.
I think you're missing the point that working conditions could always be better. It's one thing to work overtime to be paid more, it's a completely separate issue to work overtime because a failure in management or due to unrealistic investor expectations, etc.

Crusader Kings III, one of the highest rated games of the year, was made without crunch. Crunch isn't good and while this year may be an exception due to COVID, it shouldn't happen. Schedules should be shifted if you can avoid crunch, that's something all developers agree on.

I don't think Jason's article was written to elicit a knee-jerk reaction. It's how he publicizes the story on social media that I have a problem with. He inserts himself into the story and drives a social media outrage mob before the studio even has a chance to respond. He's got such an ego that he doesn't see that while reporting on these issues, he's causing more issues by riling up social media into such a frenzy over these things, that discussions can't be had and it's just people screaming at one another.
 

Nick Calandra

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Nick, I understand your argument, and having worked as a games reporter in the past, I know how a lot folks feel about him in the industry -- upper management and rank & file (I still have friends and contacts in the business). But I disagree with your take on the article. It DOES mention Polish labor laws, and it mentions the bonuses the employees will get too. So I don't think it's speaking for employees as a good thing or a bad thing for them. As for the reasons the project is not on time...does that even matter? And is CD Projekt even going to say? I mean, Badowski released a statement on Twitter about the decision and said it was the only way -- but he didn't explanin why. HE is the one who should be explaining the situation, not Schreier. I think the important issue is that the company said they were going to change, promised to not do crunch, and then...turned around and did it. That people are getting pissed at him seems a little odd.

And I don't think criticizing a weak take from Colin Moriarty is an example of making himself part of the story or spreading toxicity on social media.
I was mostly referring to Jason over the long-term in regards to my and people's criticisms of him. Not so much in this particular story. My main complaint is that I want more information about it, which his story provides really just the bare minimum to get something out there. The reason for the crunch doesn't matter, you're right, it's just something I'm curious about to provide more context.

As for Jason criticizing Colin, that would never have become as huge an issue as it was if Jason would just not even bother responding to that take. It was misinformed, Colin has even less info than Jason does, so why give him the attention if he knows it's not worth his time?

Because he knew the reaction it would gather by calling it out, and thus driving more interest to his story. Don't be fooled by how people like Jason utilize social media. You really think anyone that's following Colin religiously is going to give any sort of a shit what Jason thinks? No, absolutely not.

They generate controversy to feed right back into their stories and drive more eyes and social media attention, and the people that get caught in the crossfire every single time are the devs.

Like I said, Jason CAN do good work. He's one of the only people in the industry digging into a lot of stuff that hopefully in the long run leads to better working conditions, especially in AAA. But I cannot stand how he handles himself on social media, getting embroiled in all these pissing matches with people he fundamentally disagrees with instead of being a great source of information that everyone knows he can be.

Edit: Not to mention anyone that even slightly disagrees with him gets a block and labeled as a GG-person, which then his followers dogpile on relentlessly. One of my colleagues was dogpiled for even suggesting the two speak to one another over the issues because he thought it'd be an interesting discussion. To Jason, as long as you agree with him you can be as nasty as you want to anyone that disagrees with him and for that alone I will never respect him.
 
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CriticalGaming

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I think you're missing the point that working conditions could always be better. It's one thing to work overtime to be paid more, it's a completely separate issue to work overtime because a failure in management or due to unrealistic investor expectations, etc.
Of course working conditions could be better. But to expect that there should never be overtime ever is unrealistic.

Crusader Kings 3 got off without crunch? Great. But the project's scopes are far different. Development team of 80 people (give or take) versus a studio with over 1000 employees. These are two very different games, with two very different creation requirements.

And the complexity of the code between the two projects has got to be astronomical. I shouldn't have to tell you how little changes in a code that size can have unforeseen problems.

But yes, I guess in a perfect world we could never have overtime, and every project would complete smooth as silk.

What nobody has yet to address is how crunch in the video game industry is any different than mandatory overtime in any other line of work. Shit happens in the real world and sometimes you have to work late. But I want to emphasize again that crunch is not the more development schedule. It occurs in the final weeks of a project and then goes away, and since most developmental cycles are two years or more, I don't think give up a handful of Saturday's every couple of years is the biggest issue in gaming.
 
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09philj

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I don't think mandatory overtime should be necessary to complete work on a videogame, but I'm able to hold that position because I want to dismantle capitalism, which at the end of the day is the system forcing worker's short term health and wellbeing to be weighed against potential financial losses from not getting the game done on time.
 
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Of course working conditions could be better. But to expect that there should never be overtime ever is unrealistic.

Crusader Kings 3 got off without crunch? Great. But the project's scopes are far different. Development team of 80 people (give or take) versus a studio with over 1000 employees. These are two very different games, with two very different creation requirements.

And the complexity of the code between the two projects has got to be astronomical. I shouldn't have to tell you how little changes in a code that size can have unforeseen problems.

But yes, I guess in a perfect world we could never have overtime, and every project would complete smooth as silk.

What nobody has yet to address is how crunch in the video game industry is any different than mandatory overtime in any other line of work. Shit happens in the real world and sometimes you have to work late. But I want to emphasize again that crunch is not the more development schedule. It occurs in the final weeks of a project and then goes away, and since most developmental cycles are two years or more, I don't think give up a handful of Saturday's every couple of years is the biggest issue in gaming.
No offense, but I don’t think you know as much about game development as you think you do. It’s absolutely false that crunch only happens at the end of dev cycle. Crunch happens a lot more than that. It happens at key milestones, E3 prep, before holiday breaks, etc.

But this is also one of the reasons I get peeved when these stories go crazy on social media, because people think they know a lot about game dev and don’t know jack. It’s a very fluid thing that changes often, and games are never actually finished, just released (quote from one of our docs).

And yes, I can see the point from people that work overtime on the reg not having much sympathy, but that’s really why I bring up the overall larger picture that across the board, working conditions can and should be better so that this doesn’t happen REGULARLY.

There are some instances where it cannot be avoided and I understand that.
 

Baffle

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It occurs in the final weeks of a project and then goes away, and since most developmental cycles are two years or more, I don't think give up a handful of Saturday's every couple of years is the biggest issue in gaming.
Just add the crunch hours to the beginning of the schedule using the correct timings of a normal working week. Ta-da!
 

CriticalGaming

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It happens at key milestones, E3 prep, before holiday breaks, etc.
All of which are predicatible and short term. Hell you could argue that having to work the E3 booth itself is over time because it forces people to give up their weekends and is clearly outside of their normal working hours. But I've never seen people upset by E3 overtime. (though they do get upset over E3 for other reasons)

Admittedly it has been 9 years since i saw game dev and things have obviously changed. So I can only relate to my personal experience.

But this is also one of the reasons I get peeved when these stories go crazy on social media, because people think they know a lot about game dev and don’t know jack. It’s a very fluid thing that changes often, and games are never actually finished, just released (quote from one of our docs).
This is a telling statement in the changes of game development since I left. The fucking absolute seeming REQUIREMENT for everything to be live service garbage is fucking sad really.

Though there are certainly games that do get finished still. So it's not a statement made without cynicism. Bloodborne is done, God of War is done, Dark Souls is done. So to say things are never finished is a little exaggerating. Unless you want to make the argument that those games aren't technically "finished" just abandoned.

And yes, I can see the point from people that work overtime on the reg not having much sympathy, but that’s really why I bring up the overall larger picture that across the board, working conditions can and should be better so that this doesn’t happen REGULARLY.
And this is mostly where I'm coming from. As someone in the sales business now, I regularly have to answer e-mails from my factories overseas in the middle of the night. I work weekends to man booths at trade shows. While it's all technically overtime, I don't consider it as such because it's part of my job and there are about 12 weekends a year I have to give up for the job. Improved working conditions would not change the fact that my factory is in Thailand and I have to work late into the night sometimes, because no change in working conditions are going to change how timezones work. No improvement of working conditions will make trade shows not occur on weekends.

Overtime, or rather working 'off-hours" is not always a detriment to a job but rather a part of it.


There are some instances where it cannot be avoided and I understand that.
Look I would love to be able to wave a wand and make it so nobody has a crunch. And I've said already how the excessive crunches are not okay by me. 100 hour weeks and the absolutely excessive stuff should absolutely be abolished. But a few Saturdays here and there are really no big deal. That's all.

Clearly people aren't going to ever agree with that, and nothing I say will change that. So I think I've adequately said my peace.

I hope everyone has a great rest of the Week.
 
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All of which are predicatible and short term. Hell you could argue that having to work the E3 booth itself is over time because it forces people to give up their weekends and is clearly outside of their normal working hours. But I've never seen people upset by E3 overtime. (though they do get upset over E3 for other reasons)
They're not ALWAYS predictable, which is my point. If a game isn't shaping up right, devs might crunch to redo things and get it working, or crunch to change art directions etc. There's no such thing as a perfect dev cycle. Social media likes to act like there's such a thing, but at some point the game HAS to be released and if you're going to launch alongside a new-generation of consoles, things like this are bound to happen.

I also meant by games never being finished, not as a nod towards Games as a Service, but that no game is absolutely free of bugs, or completely polished, etc. At some point devs just have to say OK, it's done. It's time to release.

Anyways. People can scream about crunch on social media all they want. The only way it's going to change is for developers to either to strike, unionize or refuse to work at companies that have bad reputations for crunch culture and practices. But with how competitive the job market is for games, I don't see that happening anytime soon unless new laws are put in place to fight against it.
 

happyninja42

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Of course working conditions could be better. But to expect that there should never be overtime ever is unrealistic.
Overtime isn't crunch. The incredibly loose term crunch is used primarily when someone is talking about the unusually excessive level of overtime that a company will either directly enforce (like CDPR are), or indirectly enforce via heavy suggestion of negative consequences (as other companies have done).

The example I gave of my own, was crunch. We were forced to work, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for MONTHS. I had no say in this, and it wasn't because I WANTED to do it. The management of the company were idiots, dicked around and didn't do things properly, and strained the workforce and schedule to the breaking point, and because we needed our fucking jobs to live, we had to just put up with it. There were probably legal avenues that could be pursued, but the reality is that humans don't do shit like that if it's going to risk their job. If given the choice of speaking up about an injustice in how they are treated at work, and potentially losing their livelihood, or keeping their mouth shut and just suffering, but keeping their job, they will almost without fail, pick option 2. And employers know this.

THAT is crunch, and that is what people are talking about. To just say "Well gaming companies just expect to do crunch at the end of a game cycle, for weeks if not months" doesn't make it ok, and also isn't always accurate, according to stories coming out, of how this crunch is ongoing. Online games with constant updates, new characters/content, means there is always a crunch issue going on.

And that isn't healthy. There are reasons why there are labor laws on how much you can work an employee in a given time period. Though the impression I get is that there are very few, if any such laws that apply to the gaming industry, for whatever idiotic reason.
 

Baffle

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....damn you!! Stop adding more layers of deviancy to my imagination!!
They're being whipped by middle managers who can't schedule things properly. Except whippings, obviously.

A game journalist is hiding in an air vent scribbling it all down in his notepad. With one hand.
 

Exley97

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I think the reason why people get so butthurt about it is, like you said, the article does a bad job of painting the real situation and is written like a knee jerk reaction based off a minimal source for the sole reason of making it all look bad.
Dude....you didn't even read the article! How can you be in ANY position to say what it did or didn't do if you missed the direct quote from the corporate memo about mandatory crunch and about employees being required to work their five-day work weeks *plus* another day on the weekend?

Also, the "minimal source" as you call it is Adam Badowski. He literally runs the studio.
 

hanselthecaretaker

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Ok, but if I was running CDPR I’d have everyone who did work overtime also enrolled in a profit sharing program directly from the game’s earnings (because pretty sure this one will take in a tidy net sum) preferably tax free.
 
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hanselthecaretaker

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I wish people would stop making a big deal about overtime. People work overtime sometimes it's a thing that happens. It's not a big deal and if you can't handle overtime here and there then you need to grow up and realize that sometimes shit happens on the job and you sometimes need to put in extra effort to get shit done or fix problems.

These developers have been working on this game with a probably very normal work schedule for the better part of five years. Now we are 6 weeks away from the launch, and they can't push the release back and further. Which means people might need to put in some extra hours in work to make sure that nothing goes wrong and as much polish is applied as possible to the game before it's out the door.

The reality of business is sometimes there is overtime. Sometimes you have to do business during other countries work hours on top of your own. Sometimes you have to travel for work, sometimes a project deadline is approaching and you have to put in extra hours to hit your deadline. That's how the working world operates.

Engineers work overtime on almost every project to draft papers and blueprints because there might be construction deadlines that can't just be pushed back.

Lawyers may have to put in overtime to make sure they are prepared for a trial because the trial can't just be pushed back.

Traveling sales people have to work weekends through trade shows, or meetings with clients on off days, because business can't be pushed back.

All workplaces have to have deadlines, they have to have milestones, because despite being a coorporation money isn't endless and you can't bleed into a project forever. At some point they have to shove it out the door regardless.

The grown up working world has overtime. Fucking deal with it. And frankly I think the public gets more offended by crunch than employees do.

I remember even as a tester for Activision the last 5-6weeks of a project we worked 7 days a week 12 hours a day. And i loved it because the company paid for all my food, they arranged cabs to take me home and pick me up from work. Honestly crunch periods were the best times at work because not only did I make overtime pay everyday, but the company also paid for a lot of my expenses during that period.
That reminds me of what I read about Valve, where they had problems getting anything done because of their plateaued structure. I think Naughty Dog also commented on this before, where creatives need some oversight because if they didn’t they’d keep working on something indefinitely. The necessity of the business end doesn’t really enter their minds.

And yeah, I used to love those overtime checks when I worked in a machine shop during busy summers. Didn’t have any of the perks you did but it was nice having nearly twice the cash flow.

Anywho, were there any interesting stories you’d be free to share with the class from your days at Activision?
 
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CriticalGaming

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Anywho, were there any interesting stories you’d be free to share with the class from your days at Activision?
interesting stories. Depends.

My first game I worked on was Spider-Man 3 the Movie the Game. Back in those days we recorded bug onto VHS tapes and sent the VHS compilations to the devs at the end of the week. Each tester had a VHS and we got new ones on Mondays to fill by the end of the week. I feel bad for the devs having to watch basically no commentary Let's Plays of people only showing off bugs.

I worked a lot of Movie tie-in games.

But the first project that I was really hyped about was Guitar Hero 3. That game was so much fun to test. After that game I got Promoted to Certification, which meant instead of only working on one game, I worked on every game they made. Which made the days more interesting for sure.

In the down time everyone had illegally installed WoW on all the work computers. WE weren't allowed to play 3rd party games at work, but since everyone (including management) wanted to play WoW, they looked the other way when we did it.

Then Activision bought Blizzard, and it became a 1st party game so we didn't have to hide it anymore.
 

Dirty Hipsters

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They're being whipped by middle managers who can't schedule things properly. Except whippings, obviously.

A game journalist is hiding in an air vent scribbling it all down in his notepad. With one hand.
Stupid sexy programmers.
 

hanselthecaretaker

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I run my own business. I work seven days a week for months on end sometimes (though I spend a lot of that time on Twitter), and I make enough money doing it to justify that. Because I choose to do it. This also is a failure of management because I'm not very good at handling my own workload (that is, I just keep taking on more and more work).

If I had underlings and I said to them 'Sorry lads, cancel your weekend plans for the next six weeks, I've taken on too much work again (shut up Tom, I don't care if it's her birthday)' I would be a shit boss. Following up with 'Don't worry lads, I'm going to pay you' as though that was in some way magnanimous, I'd be a colossal prick as well as being a shit boss. It is music to my extremely large ears to know there are people out there prepared to eat my shit just to get paid and maybe have a pizza thrown in.

Back when I was an employee (oh, those lazy, hazy, halcyon days), I was frequently asked if I could do overtime in busy times. If I wanted to, I could; but no obligation. It's an important distinction.

Work to live, don't live to work. Trite, but important.

There’s also a distinction between people there for a paycheck vs those who call the shots. Like the old adage, The one bow knows how will always have a job; the one who knows why will always be their boss.

In that respect, I completely get why John Carmack calls it your life’s work. However, that really only extends to people thinking beyond a paycheck, and it’s unrealistic and impractical to think otherwise. How possible is it for people - even in leadership roles - working in the sanitation industry to be passionate about waste management, for example. So that obsessive drive has variable mileage.

Labor laws are generally a good thing, but good management can often alleviate unnecessary strain preemptively. There can be room for that and passion, depending on the person and position.


Lastly, your avatar is a trip. Kinda looks like a coked out Trump junior or something.
 
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Dwarvenhobble

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“If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

― Rita Mae Brown
I think honestly the deadline and the urgency in some cases is needed because people will look at the deadline and think there is plenty of time in some cases.

I know a company who came up with what they thought was the smart idea of holding doing orders until they were "Red" on the system which meant less than 7 days until due date (Amber was 8 days to 1 month left, Green was over 1 month left). The reason being they claimed it let them run less shift / less machines. Until there was a load of orders that all went "Red" at once and had to run masses of overtime shifts running all the machines 24/7 basically to meet them.......... which then broke the machines by the end of it.

I think (and yes this might seem awful) is there needs to be a false deadline sometimes where if people don't make it then it doesn't matter but it had to be played up as real to get people to go 100% at something. However that will only work so often and I don't know how you'd really get the work out of people who really do only pull out the stops at deadlines.

With Cyberpunk 2077 I think it might be CDPR and the creators etc behind it trying to push everything to be super polished and ripping stuff out.

E.G. Since the first deadline there's been word of the Melee system being pulled out and redone. The wall climbing / wall running removed and redone. A rework of some kind to the gunplay apparently.

This could be a case of perfectionism causing issues.

The Crunch in this case might be a case of Crunch vs the alternative of bringing in a closer (guys who basically force the team to tie up what they have and ship it as is to stop it dragging on and being re-done again and again and changed again and again)

Probably being one of THE big 3rd party next gen titles too likely will have put pressure on it.