Apex Legends boss addresses developers suffering work-from-home burnout and crunch

    
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I blew things up!

The Apex Legends subreddit had a little tire fire this past Friday as a result of a Glassdoor review of developer Respawn Entertainment that was shared. In the review, the unnamed current developer claims that they feel burnt out due to the complexities of working from home while attempting to meet regular update deadlines.

“We have no idea how to do a live service project, which means poor planning decisions and no sizing of work, means we actually have very little idea of how much we can accomplish in a given month,” claims the review. “I currently work 12-13 hours a day and there is no separation between my home and work life. I am so burned out that I am considering leaving without a next job to go to just so mentally I can be in a better place.”

The post, which has received over 800 comments at the time of this writing, drew such a reaction from players upset that Respawn Entertainment was apparently crunching its devs that game director Chad Grenier offered a lengthy reply:

“Regarding deadlines and delays, I was very vocal to the team about their deadlines. Like a broken record I continuously asked that people speak up to their managers or producers if they will not be able to get their work done on time without crunching. Delays would be ok, we just need to know one is needed. Remember that odd 2 week delay when season 4 was supposed to end, and then magically an additional 2 weeks was added to the end of the season with no weekly challenges? Yeah, that was because I delayed Season 5 by 2 weeks. That also had a trickling effect of many other much longer delays, but I won’t go into details as it’s mainly for unannounced content.”

According to Grenier, the problem is not so much with leadership failing so much as developers not wanting to admit they need to step back, though he also admits that leadership is trying to pay closer attention to warning signs.

“I’m definitely not trying to say this person who wrote the review is wrong, and I’m not defending myself against the review. They’re absolutely right in how they felt, and they were clearly working too much, despite being told it was ok to miss their deadlines. […] Nobody wants to be the person to raise their hand and say they’re not going to hit their deadline. Nobody wants to be the one who got a feature delayed. Nobody wants to let their teammates down, or let the fans down. Everyone wants to fix that bug, finish that cool new character, or get that new gamemode up and running, and will crunch themselves unknowingly to get it done. […] Because of this, all of us leaders on the team have learned to better look for the signs, check-in more regularly with the developers, and push features back proactively after reading the signals, instead of waiting for someone to raise their hand.”

source: Reddit (1, 2) via Kotaku

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HalLundy
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HalLundy

What a sleezeball. Dodging responsibility and blaming the victim in the same sentence!

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Stormwaltz

According to Grenier, the problem is not so much with leadership failing so much as developers not wanting to admit they need to step back…

Yes, well, that’s the mindset of a manager, isn’t it?

As a line employee, allow me to assure the Gentleman In Question that no one on his team wants to be perceived as weakest-link, poor-team-player, layoff fodder in the middle of the worst economic collapse in decades.

That may not be the cultural perception he’s personally cultivated, but the game industry at large absolutely has.

Leo
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Leo

a work day of 12-13 hours should never be normal or expected

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Jo Watt

This also feels like a huge issue with game development these days being centered around fast progression easy money content that players end up finishing within days.

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Greaterdivinity

Oh fuck OFF. If the teams aren’t asking for more time it’s because of a culture that’s been fostered that discourages it. And we’ve seen that loud and clear as crunch and a failure of leadership to create a healthy work environment has plagued Apex Legends for a long time now.

Yeah, your team is passionate. But that passion isn’t driving them to work to the detriment of their own mental and physical health, that’s expectations and demands from leadership.

These posts are a pretty solid example of, “I’m not the problem, it’s you! But I didn’t say it’s you that’s the problem, at least not directly, so don’t get mad at me for redirecting blame to you!”

I’m sure Grenier is a lovely, caring person, but he comes off as a right piece of shit from this one interaction.

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Arktouros

From what I understand of the work culture of game development from people in those fields crunch is rarely something directly asked of employees. It’s more of a culture where if you don’t willingly and voluntarily “crunch themselves unknowingly” then review time comes it reflects that. If you’re the person in the office who maintains a healthy work/life balance, shuts down for the day when you’re supposed to and “speak up to their managers or producers” those people will quickly find themselves looking for new work. This is especially true because they can be easily replaced anytime by a near endless supply of young people who get into game development because they think the work will be like their hobby only to find out it’s rarely like that at all.

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Bruno Brito

Basically. Crunching isn’t asked for, but it’s the kind of thing that corporate doesn’t try to stop. They want to benefit from your work, they don’t impede you to be a workaholic, and it starts to feel mandatory not by ruleset but by culture.

It’s mainly peer-pressure. Some sleazy managers actually try to pressure you into crunching by what i call “the media of half-truths”. They never say overwork or crunching, they just go “you guys should give 110%” or all that corporate jargon.

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Bruno Brito

“I’m definitely not trying to say this person who wrote the review is wrong, and I’m not defending myself against the review. They’re absolutely right in how they felt, and they were clearly working too much, despite being told it was ok to miss their deadlines. […] Nobody wants to be the person to raise their hand and say they’re not going to hit their deadline. Nobody wants to be the one who got a feature delayed. Nobody wants to let their teammates down, or let the fans down. Everyone wants to fix that bug, finish that cool new character, or get that new gamemode up and running, and will crunch themselves unknowingly to get it done. […] Because of this, all of us leaders on the team have learned to better look for the signs, check-in more regularly with the developers, and push features back proactively after reading the signals, instead of waiting for someone to raise their hand.”

This is a hunk of shit. Developers don’t want to raise their hands because they end up targeted if they do. Crunching is normalized because managers end up passive-agressively demanding their workers to “pour your passion” or whatever bs reason they have to make you work unpaid overtime so the moolah can keep pouring.

Why should we believe, in a industry rampant with overworking devs to the bone and cutting them before announcing historical profits, that devs would be well treated now? I’m actually surprised they didn’t even say “you can’t be overworked from home!”

Nobody wants to let their teammates down, or let the fans down. Everyone wants to fix that bug, finish that cool new character, or get that new gamemode up and running, and will crunch themselves unknowingly to get it done.

This specifically gets to me. NO ONE wants to work 13 hours a day “unknowingly”. People want to enjoy their homes. To enjoy their families, their hobbies. He’s litterally throwing responsability on the workers.

If you’re a fucking manager, then fucking MANAGE. This is them literally benefitting from overwork and not raising a brow until a worker finally tells them it’s bs.