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Forums - Nintendo Discussion - Nintendo changed the culture at Retro Studios

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There was an interview with former Retro studio employee Mike Wikan, who gave some informations.

Apparently the work for the original Metroid Prime involved some really bad crunch at the time. As Nintendo became aware of this, they took control and switched leadership. And that new leadership stopped the crunch culture.

https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/09/nintendo_changed_the_culture_at_retro_studios_following_metroid_prime_crunch

It is nice to hear a story for a change, that a bigger company stepping in changed things for the better. I hope more managers in the industry realize that crunch is bad for the company, bad for the people working there and bad for the games. The crunch culture needs to stop. Thankfully Nintendo did that at Retro Studios. At least if we believe that employee.

Also this makes waiting for a delayed game much better. Because I know, it is for the well-being of the great persons creating the game I love. They deserve a good work-life balance.



3DS-FC: 4511-1768-7903 (Mii-Name: Mnementh), Nintendo-Network-ID: Mnementh, Switch: SW-7706-3819-9381 (Mnementh)

my greatest games: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

10 years greatest game event!

bets: [peak year] [+], [1], [2], [3], [4]

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Mnementh said:

There was an interview with former Retro studio employee Mike Wikan, who gave some informations.

Apparently the work for the original Metroid Prime involved some really bad crunch at the time. As Nintendo became aware of this, they took control and switched leadership. And that new leadership stopped the crunch culture.

https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/09/nintendo_changed_the_culture_at_retro_studios_following_metroid_prime_crunch

It is nice to hear a story for a change, that a bigger company stepping in changed things for the better. I hope more managers in the industry realize that crunch is bad for the company, bad for the people working there and bad for the games. The crunch culture needs to stop. Thankfully Nintendo did that at Retro Studios. At least if we believe that employee.

Also this makes waiting for a delayed game much better. Because I know, it is for the well-being of the great persons creating the game I love. They deserve a good work-life balance.

Let me preface what I'm about to say by declaring that I am in no way, nor have I ever been, in favor of crunch. But I think it's also incorrect when you say that crunch is bad for games. Some of, if not all, the greatest games over the last twenty years were all produced using crunch. It was damn near an industry standard at one point and considered the de facto way of getting things done on time. 

Having said that though, I'm glad it's starting to go away. I can not condone the practice, even if it does produce faster forms of entertainment.



JackHandy said:
Mnementh said:

There was an interview with former Retro studio employee Mike Wikan, who gave some informations.

Apparently the work for the original Metroid Prime involved some really bad crunch at the time. As Nintendo became aware of this, they took control and switched leadership. And that new leadership stopped the crunch culture.

https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/09/nintendo_changed_the_culture_at_retro_studios_following_metroid_prime_crunch

It is nice to hear a story for a change, that a bigger company stepping in changed things for the better. I hope more managers in the industry realize that crunch is bad for the company, bad for the people working there and bad for the games. The crunch culture needs to stop. Thankfully Nintendo did that at Retro Studios. At least if we believe that employee.

Also this makes waiting for a delayed game much better. Because I know, it is for the well-being of the great persons creating the game I love. They deserve a good work-life balance.

Let me preface what I'm about to say by declaring that I am in no way, nor have I ever been, in favor of crunch. But I think it's also incorrect when you say that crunch is bad for games. Some of, if not all, the greatest games over the last twenty years were all produced using crunch. It was damn near an industry standard at one point and considered the de facto way of getting things done on time. 

Having said that though, I'm glad it's starting to go away. I can not condone the practice, even if it does produce faster forms of entertainment.

I disagree. Well, with your first paragraph, not the second one. I may not be a game developer, but I am a programmer. And I can tell you, the most important resources you use to create software are concentration and inspiration. Inspiration to solve the problems you face, concentration to do it right. If you work for 10 hours, you may be exhausted and concentration is starting to wane. If you work that ten hours for a week, including the weekend, you are on the way to unravel. If you keep that up for a month or even months - then all you produce clearly suffers. Lack of concentration leadsd to bugs in software. In Games you have other areas, bugs here are plotholes in storylines, unclear solutions, strange gameplay decisions, wrong details in models. Lack of inspiration makes the work more dull. You may bet on the inital drafts the team made at the project start, but a good game find improvements big and small all over it's development cycle. So yes, there are great games that were produced with crunch. But they were great *despite* the crunch (speaking a lot for the quality and enthusiasm of the devs), not *because* of the crunch.



3DS-FC: 4511-1768-7903 (Mii-Name: Mnementh), Nintendo-Network-ID: Mnementh, Switch: SW-7706-3819-9381 (Mnementh)

my greatest games: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

10 years greatest game event!

bets: [peak year] [+], [1], [2], [3], [4]

JackHandy said:
 

Some of, if not all, the greatest games over the last twenty years were all produced using crunch.

Correlation=/=causation

Just because some great games used crunch does not mean that crunch contributed to those games being great.



When the herd loses its way, the shepard must kill the bull that leads them astray.

nintendo seems to be one of the very few companies that actually gives a damn about thier employees.
which is probably why they have such high talent retention.
even when buying studios they make very damn well sure that the studio getting bought is OK with it, down to the employees.
its probably part of the main reason nintendo takes so damn long to aquire one.

this all being said, I think nintendo's approach to crunch is 'no unwilling crunch, but if you want to...' basically they give thier devs as much time as they want (within reason), but won't stop anyone willing to personally and won't penalise anyone who doesn't.
casue when it comes to creative work... sometimes you get that burst of insperation that allow you to do more work in 24 hours then in the past 3 months. completly banning crunch as a policy/law would prevent this.



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For those who aren't aware of the story of Retro's early years I highly recommend reading up on it, it's a real rollercoaster.

https://www.ign.com/articles/2004/12/18/a-retrospective-the-story-of-retro-studios

Sadly, things have clearly gone to shit again as they've now gone 7 and a half years without releasing a new game. Perhaps someday we'll find out the story of how it all fell apart after Tropical Freeze.

Last edited by curl-6 - on 07 September 2021

Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.

Mnementh said:
JackHandy said:

Let me preface what I'm about to say by declaring that I am in no way, nor have I ever been, in favor of crunch. But I think it's also incorrect when you say that crunch is bad for games. Some of, if not all, the greatest games over the last twenty years were all produced using crunch. It was damn near an industry standard at one point and considered the de facto way of getting things done on time. 

Having said that though, I'm glad it's starting to go away. I can not condone the practice, even if it does produce faster forms of entertainment.

I disagree. Well, with your first paragraph, not the second one. I may not be a game developer, but I am a programmer. And I can tell you, the most important resources you use to create software are concentration and inspiration. Inspiration to solve the problems you face, concentration to do it right. If you work for 10 hours, you may be exhausted and concentration is starting to wane. If you work that ten hours for a week, including the weekend, you are on the way to unravel. If you keep that up for a month or even months - then all you produce clearly suffers. Lack of concentration leadsd to bugs in software. In Games you have other areas, bugs here are plotholes in storylines, unclear solutions, strange gameplay decisions, wrong details in models. Lack of inspiration makes the work more dull. You may bet on the inital drafts the team made at the project start, but a good game find improvements big and small all over it's development cycle. So yes, there are great games that were produced with crunch. But they were great *despite* the crunch (speaking a lot for the quality and enthusiasm of the devs), not *because* of the crunch.

I'm a software developer too and my work absolutely becomes worse after long periods (generally more than 3 weeks) of crunch. Can't even imagine how some devs can work over 10-12 hours a day every day (weekends included) for months straight

I guess I understand why people think there is a correlation between good games and crunching devs, but if crunch is so widespread that almost any AAA game have crunch then we can only assume that games can be both bad or good regardless of the existence of crunch 



TheBraveGallade said:

nintendo seems to be one of the very few companies that actually gives a damn about thier employees.
which is probably why they have such high talent retention.
even when buying studios they make very damn well sure that the studio getting bought is OK with it, down to the employees.
its probably part of the main reason nintendo takes so damn long to aquire one.

this all being said, I think nintendo's approach to crunch is 'no unwilling crunch, but if you want to...' basically they give thier devs as much time as they want (within reason), but won't stop anyone willing to personally and won't penalise anyone who doesn't.
casue when it comes to creative work... sometimes you get that burst of insperation that allow you to do more work in 24 hours then in the past 3 months. completly banning crunch as a policy/law would prevent this.

crunch when the game designers are all engaged is one thing.

crunch because your boss is a lazy boy and deadline crushing you is another thing.

The order of importance

is

customer

employee

company



zorg1000 said:
JackHandy said:

Some of, if not all, the greatest games over the last twenty years were all produced using crunch.

Correlation=/=causation

Just because some great games used crunch does not mean that crunch contributed to those games being great.

Of course not. I was just making the point that several of the greatest games ever made were created while using it. That it's more of a problem due to the way the workers are treated, rather than the outcome of the project itself. It's very close to slave labor.



curl-6 said:

For those who aren't aware of the story of Retro's early years I highly recommend reading up on it, it's a real rollercoaster.

https://www.ign.com/articles/2004/12/18/a-retrospective-the-story-of-retro-studios

Sadly, things have clearly gone to shit again as they've now gone 7 and a half years without releasing a new game. Perhaps someday we'll find out the story of how it all fell apart after Tropical Freeze.

Their own project they were working on before taking on Prime 4 clearly fizzled, but they have been doing support work for some of the other big games. It's not like they've produced nothing. They've just been doing background work for other Nintendo projects. Still would love to hear what went wrong with their own game, though.