Overworked developer? Don't get grumpy - get passionate

Insight: Dead Space 2's Steve Papoutsis says pain is temporary

EA's fantastic form of late is making it tough to remember, but the publisher once had a reputation for working its employees to the bone.

CEO John Ricitiello admitted last week that EA's obsession with hitting yearly release dates put at least one studio on a 24-hour "death march" - or 'crunch', as it's known in the industry.

The Need For Speed team at Black Box, said Riccitiello, were locked to their desks seven days a week, 365 days a year, grinding to get a franchise release on the shelves - resulting in lower quality and, ultimately, lower sales.

EA claims that its corporate whip-cracking has been banished to the history bin, replaced with a "it's done when it's done" mentality. But that doesn't mean the sleeping-under-your-desk crunch culture has disappeared completely.


According to Visceral exec producer Steve Papoutsis, crunch can work in a game's favour - as long as it comes from the passion and dedication of the team, rather than an executive order.

We asked Papoutsis his opinion on the old EA crunch culture. His answer referenced the benefits of a 'self-imposed crunch' at Visceral, which helped remedy the "immense pressure" the studio was under when making the first Dead Space.

Crunches aren't all about money, he says - they also leave the final product in a better state. Clever organisations merely keep dev teams on the right path - avoiding the temptation to add unnecessary features and focus on the wrong things:

Games are forever, pain is temporary. So when you're working hard on something, in the short term it may be tough - but at the end you're going to have this thing forever that people are going to get to enjoy.

You may be burnt out, tired or grumpy from putting in all that time, but at the end it's going to be worth it once you have this thing that people love and enjoy.

It's a self-imposed crunch - that is the thing with the Dead Space team. Maybe nobody [at EA] is telling you 'you have to be there' but those people are there because we love it, want to be there and are putting our heart and soul into it - so that's the way we approach making these games.

Nobody ever comes in and says "you have to be here on Saturday". But people respect each other, and when it comes to the work we're doing that they do themselves, they think, "hey, if I can get this thing done so that Sophie can do her work on Monday I'm going to do that so it makes the game better."

That's motivated by the team. There is no pressure - it's a labour of love, passion and wanting to do better than what we did last time.

With [the first] Dead Space, any time we showed it [to EA] there was immense pressure. At any minute we might have got cancelled, they might have said, "This isn't making any progress, we don't like it."

There's no formula to game development - it's a matter of having the right types of people that are passionate and motivated about what you're making. That applies to anything you do in your life, if you love what you're doing it is going to show itself in the end result.

If you're passionate about it and care, it's going to yield better results than if you're grumpy. It's a special thing to be able to work with the creative team back at Visceral and see that passion and energy that they put in to the game that we're making for the players. Hopefully it pays off when the game comes out and people will enjoy it.

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