Splash Damage: we don’t take crunch for granted
Paul Wedgwood, CEO and game director of Brink developer Splash Damage, has weighed in on the crunch debate, telling us that his studio goes to great lengths to ensure that excessive overtime is the exception rather than the rule.
Speaking to us at the Develop conference in Brighton last week, Wedgwood explains that staff are expected to work an average of 160 hours every four weeks, but that crunch inevitably becomes necessary when approaching major milestones or press events. "There's just no way of avoiding that; things just get forgotten," he said. "We're human, you know? We make mistakes.
"We constantly strive to improve production so that [crunch] isn't a demand that we take for granted, that we assume we're going to be able to make, and I think that's absolutely critical.
"Nailing the crunch problem is a real priority for Splash Damage, and getting to a point where, when we do overtime, it's planned in advance and we're able to compensate people appropriately for, in an ideal world, volunteering to do additional work. That's the ultimate ideal goal."
Wedgwood's comments are refreshing in an industry where excessive overtime is widely accepted as par for the course. Perhaps the worst recent example of this is LA Noire developer Team Bondi, with former staff recently complaining of 100-hour working weeks, without overtime pay, being the norm.
One developer said: "There was simply an expectation that you'd work overtime and weekends. I was told that I was taking the piss by saying that I couldn't give every single one of my weekends away…you were just a resource to be burned through." While studio head Brendan McNamara dismissed the criticism, saying: " If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you'd be in another business," Wedgwood's stance is markedly different.
"All there is in the game industry is people," he said. "It's possible to do really well, but you have to, at all times, have real respect for staff. The sign of a great company is one that has great staff retention.
"There's always that risk that people start to move on, and when they do I think company owners need to realise that's a signal that things need to be improved, and changed, and dealt with quickly."
Wedgwood claims staff turnover at Splash Damage is minimal, and indeed, the studio is now ramping up recruitment as it enters pre-production on its next project. "We have 14 positions open today, on top of the ten or 12 people that have joined in the past six or so months," he said. "I imagine we'll double the size of our dev team in the coming 12 months."