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Programming IT Technology Entertainment Games

Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work 90

Posted by Zonk
from the chomp-crunch-chomp dept.
so sue mee writes "There's a bottom-line reason most industries gave up crunch mode over 75 years ago: It's the single most expensive way there is to get the work done. When used long-term, Crunch Mode slows development and creates more bugs when compared with 40-hour weeks. Evan Robinson has an article at the International Game Developer's Association site talking about the harsh realities of crunch time, and why the gaming industry should stop using it." From the article: "It is intuitively obvious that a worker who produces one widget per hour during an eight-hour day can produce somewhere between eight and 16 widgets during a 16-hour day. As we've seen, that's the essential logic behind Crunch Mode's otherwise inexplicable popularity. But worker productivity is largely dependent upon recent history."
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Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work

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  • SSDD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @01:51PM (#12759809) Homepage Journal
    My boss tried that on me again last week, just put in a couple more hours, take on another task, work smarter not harder...

    WTF are these people thinking? I'm working a few more hours on the last damn project you gave me, i'm already working smarter since you downsized our company every year for the last 6 years. Take on more work?!

    Then he has the nerve to say, if your working more than 50 hours, we can get you time off. Ahem, 60 is the norm there bucko. Tells us he wants us there 8-5 while we are also working maintenance and weekends. Ya, thats gonna happen. Last I checked with HR im salary, you cant make me clock in and out.

    Crunch time seems to be the norm. Either your working mega hours, or you are in a quiet time before something breaks. Like Sys-admins are like fire fighters, you automate as much as you can, and when something does break, you work your ass off.

    Trying to work as a corporate whore, I mean sys-admin and try to balance a personal life isnt working out so well. Having to deal with PHB's who think computers are magic fairy dust and can make anything happen is slowing killing my soul.. Then come home to a wife who says I'm not spending enough time with the kids, ARGH!!!

    So tempted to switch my job for a differnet crunch time. Flipping burgers during rush hour.

    American Beauty is a great movie, to say fuck it and go be happy again.

    I'd join a union, but all these ass-hats want work and burn out, and of course they do burn out. Happy hour can only keep you going for so long....
  • I'm a gamedev (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @01:52PM (#12759824)
    And I was at work until 2am last night. I wish I knew a way around crunch time... but with marketing, disk pressings, public betas, christmas, and all that fun stuff, it seems impossible to avoid.

    If anyone has any good ideas I'll pass them onto my manager :)
  • by LordZardoz (155141) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @02:06PM (#12759990)
    In controlled doses, Crunch works. It is perhaps even necessary. Shit happens, and you have to meet a critical deadline, so you work late for a few days in a row.

    Death marches dont work. They just result in angry workers and an increased rate of errors.

    And yes, I am a game developer, and I know all too well what I am talking about.

  • by epine (68316) on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @03:54PM (#12761084)

    I have an odd metabolism where my body prefers long nights and long days (my cycle can range between 26 and 40 hours). If I'm well rested, I rarely witness a loss of productivity until 22 hours of wakefulness. Rarely at my best first thing in the day. I'm still gaining speed twelve hours later. For some reason, I go down like a rock after 28 hours of wakefulness and this has always been true. I've gone from near normal to "legally drunk" in the space of twenty minutes. I have far more problems with my body not being designed to sit in a chair for that length of time than I have with my mind falling apart. Unlike most people, I rarely allow myself to operate in a sleep-deprived state. Everything that article says about extended wakefulness is suspect because the studies didn't differentiate "rested" from "well rested" relative to how much sleep the body really wants as opposed to cultural norms (most people think that eight hours is luxury, and in the Army they expect to function on six hours routinely). There's plenty of research that shows that up to ten hours is needed to achieve the "well rested" state. Measure those people for task decay. You'll get entirely different numbers.
  • Re:Obvious (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2005 @05:14PM (#12761961)
    This post nails it.

    As a producer, I do get aggrivated when people are like "producers need to talk to developers when they schedule." Oh, really, no shit, thanks! That never occurred to me!

    But the reality is that estimates on complicated tasks (basically talking about implementing new technology here) are almost *always* wrong, regardless of hot-shot quality. Sometimes you can add multiplier to a particular hot-shots estimates (like, any estimate Toby gives you, simply multiply by 3 in the schedule), but even when you add the multiplier on a hot-shot's estimate, it's frequently off.

    A more interesting question is to figure out why the estimates are wrong. Usually, in games, it's because there's unanticipated stuff that comes, not just stuff that people should have thought of, but stuff people, even hot-shots, never would have reasonably thought could happen when you're implementing new technology. Stuff that only a hot-shot can solve.

    So the ideal solution may not be to marginalize a poorly estimating hot-shot, or have someone else make an equally uninformed estimate, but to simply schedule unestimatable tasks, or tasks on which you think may have demons lurking there, in parallel with other tasks so that you can keep as much of the team on schedule as possible, knowing that the hot-shots are invariably going to be late no matter how much buffer you try to build in.

Ma Bell is a mean mother!