Members of the three-man development studio Resonator took to reddit to answer community questions about their upcoming game Anew: The Distant Light, and ended up discussing some interesting game development tidbits in the process.
One question in particular spawned a conversation about how and why long hours and crunch have both become infamously common in game development. A second user then piped in, essentially asking why developers don’t hire more employees to even out the workload.
“The problem is vastly more complicated than the number of workers on a project. A team could suddenly be given twice the workers and still fail,” explained Steve Copeland, engineer and game director for the project. He’s one of the developers working full time on the project, and says he clocks 60 hours in an average work week.
“There are many dozens of such ways a project can run amok and tempt managers to overwork their team,” said Copeland, who has worked on both triple-A titles for developers like Bioware and with indie studios like Petroglyph Games. “And sometimes even the team is in agreement with the plan to work extra because [they] believe the rewards are worthwhile.”
There are ways, he says, that developers can try to cut back overwork, but he notes it isn’t easy for those stars to align. Copeland advises that developers try and ensure that the scope of a project is both well planned and well financed and that any financers, managers, or leaders involved in the project understand the game development process on some level.
Proper investment and planning in regards to tools and pipelines are also key to the process, as is an appropriate distribution of development autonomy throughout the team.
On the development side, he says it's important that the team maintains a strong and consistent vision and that designers get “reasonably lucky during the process of creative invention” to find that unique feature that’ll make a game stand out.
But again, different projects have different considerations that sometimes make avoiding overwork difficult. In the case of his current project, Copeland says that the long hours embraced by the small, three-man team are a result of both the trio’s own motivation and a tight budget. “We would probably hire one or two contractors if we had the money, which we don’t.”
There's tons of interesting discussion beyond just this in the full 'Ask Me Anything' thread. The development team stuck around 11 hours or so, and talked about everything from their past development experiences with games like BioShock and SoulCalibur to their favorite things about game development in general.