Bonnie Ross speaks about how 343 Industries have dealt with crunch during the development of Halo titles.
Developers having to work extra long hours as a game approaches its release date – which is often referred to as “crunch” – has been an issue in the games industry for a long time now. Just last year, it was brought to light with great force, with reports emerged about the culture of crunch at Rockstar Games, most recently during the development of Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s something that most studios have to deal with, and while some deal with it better than others, there aren’t many that can claim they are completely free of it.
Recently, while speaking with USGamer, 343 Industries chief Bonnie Ross – who was recently inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame – spoke about the issue of crunch, and how her studios handles it, talking about their struggles with it during the development of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, and how they have strived to create a development environment where crunch can be mitigated as much as possible.
“With Halo 4, just given the nature of being a brand new team that had not worked on the Halo engine before, we did put the team through a really bad crunch,” said Ross. “Obviously we had a ton of feedback that that was not a great thing. And one of the reasons is that the Halo engine is a very technical engine, which means it’s a lot harder for artists and designers to get content into the game. So we promised the team that for Halo 5, we would do the work. And we did a ton of work to improve the engine along the way, but we promised them that we would do the work to really create tools and pipeline that was easy to work in so that we could help prevent crunch.”
“And we didn’t do that for Halo 5,” she continued. “It ended up being a bigger game than we thought it was and we didn’t have time. When we shipped Halo 5, it definitely was a point of, I think, crisis with the team. Crisis might be not the right word, but it was a point where the team was like, ‘You promised us and we’re not doing crunch again.’ And they were right.”
However, with the upcoming Halo Infinite – which also uses a completely new engine, incidentally – 343 Industries have allowed themselves to take their time with development, as is evidenced by the longer gap between it and its predecessor.
“That’s why we’ve taken a bit more time—usually it’s three years between every Halo—to really do the investment in the engine and the tools and pipeline, and we’re still working on it,” Ross said. “But we showed it at E3 last year, and it is basically trying to create an environment that we can build the game better, faster, and ideally, you know, prevent crunch. I think there will always be with any game, I think there will be times where we need to work longer hours. But I think that we need to be really deliberate with that because it’s not fair to the team, and the team doesn’t want to do it. And so we’re trying to work out how do we create the best environment to hopefully mitigate that.”
Recently, Ubisoft Quebec, the studio that primarily handled development of last year’s behemoth RPG Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, also spoke about crunch, and how the studio had managed to avoid “massive crunch” for the game’s development. Read more about that through here.
Halo Infinite is scheduled for a launch on Xbox One and PC, but is without a release date as of yet. Stay tuned for more updates.