“We understand your life outside of work is far more important than what you’re doing in the office, and we try to respect that,” says Stig Asmussen.
Crunch is something that not all studios in the industry know how to deal with properly. Just within the last year, major developers like Rockstar, BioWare, Epic Games, and many others have come under a lot of fire for their treatment of employees. At the same time though, there are others that have taken an open stance against crunch, such as Gearbox Software, Obsidian, and Respawn Entertainment with Apex Legends.
But it’s not just the Apex Legend team that is cognizant of the dangers of crunch, and how easy that pit is to fall into. Speaking with Eurogamer, Stig Asmussen – director of the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – spoke about how his team handled crunch during the game’s development. Similar to what CD Projekt RED announced not too long ago, it seems Respawn’s answer to the issue of crunch was to enact a non-obligatory and voluntary crunch rule.
“We did something different on this game compared to what I’ve been involved with in other projects,” Asmussen said. “Projects I’ve worked on in the past, they had mandatory crunches – basically everybody said “you’ve gotta work these hours”, and we realised that wasn’t a fair and sustainable approach. And we left it up to the team – it’s like “look everybody I think carries their own responsibilities and their own tasks, and takes them very seriously, so why treat people like children, and say you have to be here at a certain time?” So if you’re going to be here doing these extra hours, it’s your choice, we’re going to support you and make sure you’ve got food, we’re not going to tell you there are certain hours we’re going to be crunching at. You can make your own schedule, and the leads made a commitment to put in extra effort and extra hours as well to show that we’re all in it together.”
That said, it goes without saying that non-obligatory and voluntary crunch policies don’t always prove to be the most effective. The industry has a proven track record of developers at studios feeling like they’re indirectly being pressured to crunch by their coworkers and bosses, in spite of any such policies being in place.
However, according to Asmussen, Respawn was careful not to fall into that trap.
“Absolutely,” he said, when asked about whether he kept an eye out for any members of his team feeling indirect pressure to crunch. “I know there are several times over the course of development where I told people to go home. You get so close to it you lose perspective, and not only that you risk people burning out. At Respawn it’s a really big deal [that] we understand your life outside of work is far more important than what you’re doing in the office, and we try to respect that.”
While it’s hard to judge what goes on inside a studio just based on what creative leads are saying, we can at least decipher that Asmussen is saying the right things. Respawn does have a history of treating its employees fairly and handling crunch issues properly, so it’s likely (hopefully) that the same was true with Fallen Order as well.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order recently wrapped up development, and will be out for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on November 15.