Developers can waste too much pursuing 'the wrong ideas', claims Shank creator

GDC 13: Shank dev: There’s no excuse for crunch

Development studios that expect staff to do extensive overtime in an effort to ‘innovative’ are hurting the studio and its staff, says Mark of the Ninja creator Jamie Cheng.

As reported by Gamasutra, during his GDC talk in San Francisco, Cheng had sharp words for those that see ‘crunch’ as just part of the creative process or a means to excellence.

“I find it disingenuous when game developers claim that the reason they work a whole load of overtime is because they are trying to do something new. To hide behind ‘art’ as a shield for poor process is wrong. You will screw with future developments by taking this approach,” he said.

The founder of Klei Entertainment explained that, following a taxing development process behind one its first downloadable titles, Shank, he made a promise to himself that he would never put himself or his team through crunch again.

“I realised that not only do we need to build great games but we also need to find a way to do this without ruining our lives in the process,” he said. “While there is no template to making games, there are theories we can use.”

In Cheng’s view, the biggest waste of time development teams spend is on pursuing the wrong ideas; which he likened to chopping down trees in a forest.

Cheng concluded by encouraging developers to concentrate their energy on figuring out whether they pursing the wrong idea or project as soon as possible, lest they risk expending it on bad assumptions.

“The key to this is to create a theory, test the theory, learn from failure, make adjustments and repeat,” he said.

“Many talks examine how you need to be able to cut features from your game to make the development more manageable. The way in which you know what to cut is through a solid theory that you’ve tested your assumptions on.”


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