Mojang's Kaplan: Endless hours will only slow staff down

Crunch helps no one, says Minecraft boss

Punishing 80-hour working weeks isn’t just damaging to a developer’s quality of life, it is also highly inefficient, the business development boss at Mojang has said.

Daniel Kaplan, whose studio broke onto the scene with the Minecraft phenomenon, said he was “saddened” by revelations of unremitting crunch work at Australian studio Team Bondi.

The LA Noire developer is alleged by many to have enforced staff to work seven-day weeks, for at least ten hours per day, in order to complete unrealistic project deadlines.

“It is saddening to hear about a studio that has to crunch for months because they agree to milestones that they couldn’t possibly complete in time,” Kaplan told Develop.

“I don’t think anyone benefits from crunch. Certainly the workers don’t. Everyone suffers. People don’t work better when doing more hours, they work worse,” he added.

“Crunch usually happens when projects aren’t planned properly. It’s a management problem. A lot of the time a studio will crunch when things aren’t planned to reasonable time frames.”

Kaplan’s comments add to the outpouring of scorn against Team Bondi, which has been near-universally criticised for enforcing crunch work on its studio staff.

Many developers have condemned the practice as “unacceptable”, while the International Game Developers Association said it would investigate the matter.

At the heart off the issue is a number of conflicting requirements within the games industry.

In modern triple-A development, increasingly polished products often need to be produced as efficiently and cheaply as possible. Development costs have skyrocketed, while a retsil game’s margins for profit have shrunk.

Publishers have become highly risk-averse, even more so in the wake of the global financial crisis, and in turn game studios can afford to make only a few mistakes and even less risks.

The theory of crunch is that often these conflicting requirements channel down to the developer, who must complete numerous projects under unreasonable, illogical and often harmful deadlines.

“I think at Mojang we’ve only crunched once, when we wanted to get an update finished faster than planned,” Kaplan added.

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