Another crunch-ridden game studio exposed: This time it’s Fortnite’s Epic Games

    
21
Another crunch-ridden game studio exposed: This time it’s Fortnite’s Epic Games

Crunch” was surely the gaming industry word of the year in 2018, thanks to a massive backlash over horrible working conditions at some Rockstar studios working on Red Dead Redemption 2. But it was neither the first nor the last incident, not even in 2018, which was also the year Netmarble finally released its own plan to combat crunch after the Korean government held it responsible for the death of an overworked employee.

This spring has seen its own scandals: first with Anthem, and now with Fortnite. Polygon’s Colin Campbell has a lengthy piece out this week focused on conditions at Epic Games after Fortnite blew up, the result of a dozen interviews the publication conducted. Interviewees chronicle what can only be described as extreme crunch, with folks working upwards of 70 hours a week – in some cases 100. Here’s one source:

“The executives keep reacting and changing things. […] Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal. […] I hardly sleep. I’m grumpy at home. I have no energy to go out. Getting a weekend away from work is a major achievement. If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I’m not being forced to work this way, but if I don’t, then the job won’t get done.”

Another source claims that in at least one instance employees who refused to work weekends missed a deadline and were fired, with another sayings employees are “in tears” because of the constant crunch. Managers reportedly referred to hiring disposable contractors as getting “more bodies.” While Polygon notes that Epic executives – some of whom are worth absurd amounts of money – “have sent out directives that overtime is voluntary, and must not be demanded,” it doesn’t actually seem like those mandates are being followed.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Source: Polygon

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
overbyte

I’m surprised to see Nintendo being given a pass in many of the comments here. Being on “Mario Time” is a well known phenomenon in Nintys game dev cycles.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

This is the history of game design for as long as I’ve been reading about it. These things are why they do need to be unionized. Otherwise, employers get away with all sorts of shady practices. They simply don’t care. They care a little when outside people find out about it, but otherwise don’t care that much as long as the projects get finished and their pockets get lined.

They care about the bottom line and that’s what they will continue to care about. Unions sadly are needed.

Reader
NecrococoPlays

Crunch has been a major issue in the industry for longer than I’ve been in it – which is something like 8 years? So the idea that it’s suddenly a buzzword in 2018 misses the mark a bit. Especially after the saga of the game dev’s wife (I don’t remember the name of the letter) years ago, that led to actual legislation getting passed in California.

PurpleCopper
Reader
PurpleCopper

I’m actually surprised that Epic has crunch. You’d think that being a private company with billions of dollars they’d be able to do whatever they want at their own pace like Valve.

Or I guess that explains how Epic is able to pump out the crazy amounts of content every month.

Reader
Utakata

Epic games, epic workloads, epic schedules, epic breakdowns… /bleh

ihatevnecks
Reader
ihatevnecks

This has already prompted discussions from various former NetherRealm Studios employees about similar crunch practices. Two different threads I’ve seen on Twitter so far.

laelgon
Reader
laelgon

I would advise any young person interested in the programming side of game development to not pursue a degree specifically in game development. Get a regular Computer Science degree, then you have vastly more career opportunities. In my experience, it’s much easier to land a game development job with a CS degree than it is to find a non-game development job with a game development degree.

And not that there aren’t tech companies that will still try to crunch software developers, but I would say it tends to be much less common than in the games industry.

Reader
NecrococoPlays

Agreed. At the last studio I was with, our lead devs had backgrounds in everything – from mathematics, to computer science, to engineering. You don’t need a game dev degree to pursue that path – you just need to understand programming/software development principles. And Please, never ever pay a for profit school like the Art Institutes or whatever for a game developer program – it’s a joke, and you may as well light your money on fire.

An engineering grad (I don’t remember his specialization) was on my dev team, and he taught himself the language we were mainly programming in – and learned others along the way. Build a portfolio, and diversify your skillset to include various programming languages, etc. — or just go look at the job listings for the studios you’d like to join, and work on building a resume that meets their needs.

Get a degree that provides a strong foundation without leaving you pigeonholed in an industry that may not be ideal in the long-run.

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

Man, pretty soon these companies are going to start asking for your ovulation cycles just so they can make you more performant!

smh

Reader
Witches

My guess is that few will be dumb enough to talk about it publicly.

Reader
Fervor Bliss

There is no game that I am looking forward too. The one’s made are turning into hacked pieces of garbage. Now the ones making them across the industry have no personal life (reporting the color of mucus) and worked to death.

Agreed Why we can’t have nice things.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

I was reading a story the other day about a Japanese production assistant for an animation studio that was hospitalised from overwork having worked 393 hours in a single month a lot of which was unpaid overtime.

Its not just animation or the gaming industry that has a crunch problem and it needs addressing before more people suffer, fall ill or god forbid die. Sadly though I think its something we are going to continue to see for a long long time to come /sigh

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

It hits every industry as companies always want to have as few employees as possible to save on costs, because who gives a shit about employee well being? But it’s definitely brutal across the entertainment industries from the looks of it.

The rank and file suffer for the sake of the companies bottom line, just to keep investors happy so that C-level execs can get those sweet, sweet bonuses and stock options.

Eat the rich.

Reader
Nathan Aldana

yeah, entertainment as an industry chews up and spits out people, but people only see the starks making millions and so assume everyone who works in hollywood is rich.

Reader
Bruno Brito

As Jim Sterling said: Companies firing hundreds of employees on a profitable year should NOT be normal. It shouldn’t EVER be normal. Companies have a responsability with their employees, and we’re failing to uphold them to it.

Reader
Danny Smith

The games industry is really bad about this and always have been. In many cases its been worse but before the days of ad revenue and gossip being profitable it was just on the heavy downlow.

For some fascinating stories i recommend the book “The untold history of Japanese games development” where among such darling stories as “I can’t legally say it was Sega of America, but Sega of America hired the Yakuza to kidnap my sister to step me defecting to Nintendo in ’89” type stuff the most comparable one to this from back in the day was the scandal of “punishment rooms”.

Essentially companies across the board figured out the best way to save money was take the developers not down with extreme crunch or other staff abusive practices and each day when they came to work they would be locked in an empty room with a chair in it called a ‘punishment room’. They were free to leave at any time provided that they quit voluntarily. This would void all health insurance, they would get blacklisted in an industry at the time still heavily tied in the public eye to the ‘pink market’ of brothels and casinos pachislot parlours inhabit today and in general be ruined but seen as part of a sketchy industry so nobody would come to their defence.

It lead to depression, suicide, breakdowns en masse and so on until enough was enough and devs starts to speak out. In a massive scandal only a handful of companies including Nintendo, Bandai and Hudson were not doing this. Every other game publisher you love that made games at the time? they were all in on it and folks bought games and were none the wiser till enough employees spoke out and it couldn’t be silenced anymore.

The games industry as a whole has deep closets with very dark secrets in. Employee abuse to the point of beatings, literal assassinations, fraud, corporate sabotage, international crime. Shockingly the industry riddled with lootboxes and microtransactions is by and large more dirtbag than not. Its called ‘the new hollywood’ for a reason and its not a good one.