What is crunch? Is releasing a game full of bugs a bad thing? Is critic based bonuses a bad thing? All these questions have been subject of scrutiny recently following the hotly anticipated Cyberpunk release.
Unless you have been living under a rock, with apparently access to this blog, you’ll have seen that Cyberpunk released recently. If you’ve been following it then you’ll know that CD Projekt Red have been under a lot of shit for various reasons.
Cyberpunk is probably the most hyped up game, ever. I think the next release to garner this much attention will be GTA VI (which Cyberpunk is no where near, btw) or Half Life 3, if it ever happens (I will forever include this (even though it probably won’t happen)).
Due to that the expectations kept being lifted, lifted and lifted until eventually it was on a pedestal that wasn’t realistic. It was supposed to be the best, action, adventure, open world, scifi, crime, do what you want, fps, sims rpg thriller that there ever was. There was no way it could meet these lofty expectations. What is could do was get the journey and release right, for whatever happened, but did it?
Before it’s release and for any major game release we’re constantly updated with how it’s cooking. Whether it’s at E3, press conferences or direct communications we are usually aware of whether or not a game is coming along well.
The closer we get to release we expect one of two things, crunch reports or a delay report.
What is crunch? If you’re unaware it’s the term given when a game is in it’s final stage of development, usually around a month of so before release where the devs tend to work very long days to get it out on time.
This has been going on for years, it’s not a new thing but with social media and everyones ethical compass all over the places we all have an opinion on it. Cyberpunk was subject to crunch, meaning that people behind the scenes were likely working longer. The details of which we will never fully know or understand. However we still look on CD currently (and other devs) badly for it.
Crunch is nothing new to gaming or anywhere else. If you’ve been in retail think of it like Christmas. You’re usually expected to work more days or longer hours to help facilitate the increase in demand.
If you’re a student you’ll have put time in before a deadline to finish a project. Movie stars have to do extremely long days during press tours and the same for musicians.
For Cyberpunk streamers have been putting in 16+ hour streams, if not more (and the same for other games). None of these are acceptable but they are accepted as part of the ups and downs of that industry. For some industries, this isn’t even considered a difference from day to day (nurses etc).
We’re too harsh on quickly pointing the finger when we don’t agree with the outcome of the company. If Cyberpunk, like Last of Us, released immaculate then we probably wouldn’t even think about the crunch.
Bugs in the System
First of, some games release with too many bugs, it’s part of the industry. However there’s only a limited amount of play testing that can go on in a closed environment. 10 people playing for 10 hours won’t find as much as 100 people for an hour each.
Early access is a way around this, and potentially why it’s more common than ever for games to release in early access. However not every game makes sense for early access and sometimes needs to be given benefit of the doubt or a small window of time to allow for repairs.
If one popular person has a bad bug, that normally equals a whole host of opinions and downvotes on that issue. It can spread like wildfire and unfortunately it will tarnish a games reputation.
The Devs Behind it All
Games are probably held to the highest standards for any entertainment product. That means the devs are the ones that face the music one release.
We often don’t consider the effort it takes to bring us 30 hours of entertainment and we can be quick to trash it and the work behind it. I know I have done it in the past.
Some games can take a while to make, Cyberpunk was 8 years and I think the average AAA game is around 5 years. That’s a mammoth effort, even with the size of the team. Indie games are a little less, but it seems they’re not as harshly critiqued due to their size. It’s a bit like that Gordon Ramsey meme.
On a side note, CD Projekt recently revealed that bonuses where due to be based on review scoring. Naturally this was met with uproar, but lets stop and think for a second.
The developers were due to receive a bonus due to making a good product. This isn’t new. Some say it’s not fair, out of their control, subject to trolls.
I once worked in a shop where my yearly bonus was based on sales and random customer feedback. As a frontline member of staff I had zero say in the sales and a minor influence on feedback. In fact no one had a grip on it. In our first year I basically didn’t get a bonus as no one knew out shop existed, Is this fair, no? But it’s performance based, like most other bonuses.
Yes review bombing is a thing and people choosing to buy a product could not happen but it’s no different from anywhere else. I’m glad they changed the structure and awarded bonuses anyway and tbh, some of the review scores probably meant the criteria was met anyway.
So, are we too critical?
We hold games so close to our chest we over analyse everything and take it out on the people behind the game. Not all gamers are the same and we aren’t all sending death threats over some female muscles, but we should try and appreciate what was put into these products and the Game Industry works just like any other.