Spicy Horse's American McGee has been talking to Gamasutra about quality of life in China, noting that many major game firm employees are "working ridiculous hours" on their games, with little reprisal.
McGee's Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse developed last year's ill-fated American McGee's Grimm
, a fairy-tale inspired episodic series that was initially released digitally. While the series flew under most gamers' radars, the development of the episodes taught McGee a lot about running a tight development schedule.
But while he thinks he's solved the crunch problem at Spicy Horse, overall, crunch is still a problem in China as much as it is in the West, according to McGee, who in the past had worked for U.S.-based id Software and Electronic Arts.
"They're all working ridiculous hours, just like you do in the West," McGee said in a Gamasutra feature interview
. "They're all working crunch, overtime, weekends, you name it. And in the West, before, in California, before there was that 'ea_spouse' situation. I mean, the employers here take advantage of it."
He continues, "They hire somebody for a 40- or whatever-hour work week and then they get 60 to 80 hours out of them and they don't compensate them any more for it. Actually China, they're trying to crack down on labor laws and that stuff now. But it's a similar abuse. You get people who are passionate of games and then you take advantage of them."
"never made a dime" for Spicy Horse or its digital distributor, GameTap, but as the studio's first game, the work on the game put a reliable development process in place from the get-go. "What [Grimm
] did do was build us into a studio capable of really rock solid, on-time production, because we had such unbelievably short timelines," he says. A no-crunch environment is not only appreciated by employees, but also prospective employees looking for a job in development, McGee notes.
Today, McGee and Spicy Horse are working on a sequel to his 2000 PC game Alice
. The follow-up, like the original, is being published by Electronic Arts -- albeit via the EA Partners division rather than as an internally-developed title.
For the entire Gamasutra-conducted interview with McGee on Spicy Horse, China-based development versus Western, and more on the issue of crunch, read the full in-depth feature
, available today.