Double Fine Productions Senior Producer Kevin Johnson has declared their upcoming title Psychonauts 2 to have been developed without the studio having to resort to the controversial practice of crunch. Since writing the tweet, Johnson has since locked down his profile so it’s visible only to his followers, likely due to the discussions it has since generated.
In the now private tweet, Johnson said:
Fun fact: Psychonauts 2 has had no crunch[.] The team has been amazing and I’m proud to have been a part of something so special that’s been made in the schedule we set forth. I think you’ll have fun too.
The part about the game sticking to the schedule they set forth is a bit odd, considering the game was delayed several times. Originally announced on crowdfunding site Fig, Psychonauts 2 was due to be released in fall 2018 after it smashed its funding target. The game was then delayed to 2019 after the team realized “a lot more about the size and scope of the game we are going to make.” Then the title was pushed back into 2020, the reason later revealed to be because the studio’s acquisition by Microsoft allowed them to put cut content back into the game. Finally, the coronavirus outbreak pushed the game into 2021. It is now on track to release on August 25th.
Crunch is a controversial practice where developers carry out many hours of (often non-negotiable or pressured) overtime to push a game past the finish line. Double Fine isn’t the only studio to take pride in avoiding crunch. Insomniac Games has said Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was made without crunch, while both Digital Extremes and Obsidian Entertainment have commented that avoiding crunch leads to a happier workplace. Many studios are still working on practices to improve workplace environments, but in some cases this seems to be easier said than done when it appears to be baked into the culture.
Studios like Asobo Studio, Blizzard, and Telltale have all said crunch was a necessary practice for their studios to thrive, or even just survive in some cases. Employees from other studios such as Naughty Dog, Epic, and NetherRealm have reported poor working conditions and weeks where they can sometimes work up to 100 hours. Crunch is not an uncommon practice and it seems like there’s a lot more to be done in the future to ensure the health and wellness of the development staff while still achieving project goals and timetables.
Despite Double Fine being acquired by Microsoft, Psychonauts 2 is release on PS4 on August 25.
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