Ahead of the stream, CSE’s Mark Jacobs told Massively OP that developers had already been working under an optional soft crunch and that now they’ll be working 12 hours a day, five days a week to get beta 1 out on schedule without a delay. We spoke to him about the need for crunch and the impact it’ll have on the developers.
Massively OP: “Crunch” is pretty much looked on as a really horrible awful no-good thing in this industry — a word uttered with disdain, usually in the same sentence as “EA” or some other unloved overlordy publisher. I know you guys want to get the beta out and not disappoint backers, but aren’t you worried that the backers will actually be more concerned by the need for crunch than for a minor delay?
Mark Jacobs: Nobody likes to crunch less than me, but we believe that our Backers deserve our best efforts to open up Beta 1 according to the current schedule. The bottom line is that we don’t want to disappoint our Backers with another delay, and we are going to do everything we can to avoid that disappointment. The team is performing great, and now is the time to level that performance up to a heroic level. Our Backers deserve that effort, and we won’t let them down by not making that effort. We might fail, but we are going to do everything we can do to avoid that outcome.
As to crunch being necessary, well, the good news is that overall, things are going really well if you look at the amount of output the team has produced. Our User Stories are updated at a pretty impressive rate for a small team and we haven’t had to scrap and/or totally refactor any systems. The bad news is that we are still trying to hire programmers. I know it sounds a bit like a broken record, but we are still smaller than I wanted to be at this point. So, things are taking longer since we just don’t have enough hands to get everything done. Even our recruiters are frustrated, but it is a sellers’ market for programmers over the last 5 years with all the money that has poured into mobile and now VR. And, as always, we are still picky because it does pay off in the end. The stability of our game, the technical achievements of our engine, are testament to that approach.
What about the risk of burnout for your loyal staff?
That’s why we are going into crunch now and as hard as it is going to be, when we talked about it with some of the veterans on the team, they laughed at what we are calling crunch compared to some other studios. One of our folks’ wives even said “Is that all?” We aren’t “going to the matresses” in a 6/7 day, 12-16 hour crunch. We will work hard and then, our team will be rewarded for their effort. FYI, I also promised them that we wouldn’t call crunch again during the life of this development cycle. I promised our Backers that we wouldn’t rush the release of Camelot Unchained and we won’t. Now I also promised the team the same thing. Everybody is and will be, happy with that decision.
As always, we thank Mark Jacobs for speaking to us. The stream is included below.