Monday, May 28, 2012

"Crunch time"

You know, its not often I talk about the games industry and the depravity and filth within, however today I would like to bend your ears, open your eyes and perhaps even educate the cretins and executives out there. For the non-industryer "crunch time" is when a game, DLC or whatever is reaching it's deadline. This deadline will suddenly make everyone involved on that project start working at 200% (usually up from 50%) to get everything done, creating a great deal of stress on budgets, quality and people. The deadline itself is usually enforced by marketing, or by a separate publisher, who has dictated that, "this needs to happen by then".

Now, why does this exist?

In short, this exist because of poor project planning. The tl;dr version is: Persons are placed in positions of authority and management, due to internal promotions i.e. low ranking programmers, developers and even testers who get given these tasks, without professional qualifications or certifications. Where this gives them the essential willingness qualification and "understanding the industry" or "liking games", it does not bolster the structure and organisation of project(s). There is rarely a formal project plan, other than: get this done, by this time, no risk/budgetary/quality controls. Where many other media companies, outwith the games industry, that create software, use many of the principles which can be so easily applied to to games projects, the games industry tends towards a more haphazard project and organisational approach.

We have seen so many one hit wonders, industry newbies trying to make a splash in a vast ocean, where some of these games have gone on to be runaway success stories, this is only based on a gaming core which is successful. Many of the popular console games churned out today are akin to movie blockbusters huge budgets time, money and resources, so many of the smaller companies who try to edge in this industry have a very difficult time to adhere to the monstrous project structure of pipelines, controls and methodologies.

But it is not all grim, one very simple solution is that industry professionals should simply re-evaluate the meaning of the term "Crunch-time". Rather than viewing it as an expected crazy time near the end of the project where everybody is expected to put in 80 hours a week. Consider it a swear word, because frankly, having crunch time means that someone along the way fucked up. Things can go off-track, however with planning, and especially the all important "understanding of the industry" these things should be budgeted for. The same with the risks involved, use experience to plan for the things than may go wrong, have solid planning structures for determining when and where a project is expected to be. These things exist and can be so easily applied to gaming projects.

Meh, case over.

Love and Nestle,

Richie X

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