We've just ended a few weeks worth of crunch to meet the alpha milestone and we're expecting to crunch a bit more in a couple of weeks before beta and gold, this is a lot more crunch than on the previous project.
It should not be that hard to figure out how to avoid crunch if your experienced enough, especially on an iterative project. You've got x amount of assets/features going into the game. You've got y amount of dev staff. Z amount of time expected to complete tasks = z(x/y) in a very simplified fashion. That means you have three options to get stuff done to meet the mandated deadlines if that doesn't match up -
- Hire or contract more people in house
- Cut features
- Move deadlines
It still happens mainly because we're pillocks and they can get away with it. If your lucky, you've got laws protecting you from slave labour, which is what unpaid work essentially is such as in the EU. We don't have that over here in the US, and being in a right to fire state means your job is more of a commodity and your easily replaced for some other eager beaver. That'll help keep the trend going, that and having new people so happy to be in the industry that they don't mind so much.
There is a time and a place for it, shit happens and you've got to get the product out of the door, you can't help it if everyone gets sick or people get poached en-mass. You should how ever plan for contingencies, people will get sick, especially in this cold part of the country in the winter. People also have babies and people just plain move on.
The last project, I didn't mind so much about the crunch because a couple people were off work for a long time with various illnesses and the like that couldn't have been planned for and with bad timing and over all it wasn't that much crunch.
At the moment on the other hand, after spending time looking for contract people that we could call on a bind, the place just hasn't been calling those people. People have been sick for the long haul, people have left for bigger and better jobs, or because they are just sick of the cold, mostly everyone that's out of state, so people I had something in common with, so friends leaving. That is across the disciplines from code and art.
We were until the new year looking for more staff, that doesn't seem to be happening any more, and we're not contracting out, that means we're expected to crunch, not exactly the family friendly face that the company puts out and to be fair is generally quite good about. It's made all the more worse that there's no milestone bonus, no project complete bonus, no annual bonus, no performance or sales base bonus and no paid over time. I'm not sure if I like this honesty or the usual carrot and the stick that is offered, at least there is hope in that situation I suppose. They did do a bit of flex time for people working the weekends on the last project, but they haven't done that this time around.
Shall have to see how this pans out when my review comes around in the summer. Made balls all for difference last year and that pissed me off, so we'll see, but then again, held hostage to the job because of the medical insurance benefits and with a baby on the way that's even more important. That's such a sad state of affairs.