Diecast Unplugged #3: Scheduling Madness, The Boys, Crunch

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 12, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 62 comments

As you’ve probably figured out from the title of this post, there’s no podcast this week. But! The tireless machine of pop-culture entertainment chugs ever onward, and there are things that need to be complained about in a timely way. I’d hate to think that something would dare to disappoint me in some way and escape the justice of my overlong bitch-and-moan style of analysis.

So here is a collection of topics that we would have covered on the show, but didn’t because there wasn’t one…

Ghostrunner


Link (YouTube)

I spotted GhostrunnerNot to be confused with Ghostwire:Tokyo or Ghost of Tsushima. on Steam and I really liked the look of the trailer. I love cyberpunk, I love games with a lot of mobility, and I love to surprise people with fatal stab wounds. I tried to buy it, but then I saw the release date: October 27.

I’ve only played two proper 2020 games so far this year: Doom Eternal in March and Flight Simulator 2020 in August. And to be fair, FS2020 is more like a tech demo than a proper game to me. There’s no real gameplaySure, flying a plane is the gameplay, but hopefully I don’t need to explain why this isn’t quite the same as a game with win states, lose states, reward loops, or system mastery. or narrative to analyze. So I kinda feel like I’ve only played one new AAA game this year.

So check out my end-of year lineup:

Items in green are games I KNOW I'm getting. The rest are games I'd be willing to try if I had time.
Items in green are games I KNOW I'm getting. The rest are games I'd be willing to try if I had time.

This is asinine. Every month has more games I’m interested in than the first 9 months of the year combined! I hope this is just an unfortunate side-effect of COVID-19 and not something deliberate on the part of the various publishers. I know the end-of-year is always a bit crowded, but this is ridiculous.

Also, it seems crazy that none of the big publishers bothered to release stuff during a summer where the whole world was trapped indoors.

Anyway, let’s do a quick run-down of these games:

  • October 20: Amnesia: Rebirth – The first Amnesia game is probably the last good horror game I played. I favor psychological horror rather than survivalGames with a focus on resource management and fiddly combat, rather than mood manipulation. / jumpscareFive Nights at Freddy’s et al.  / actionDead Space. based horror, and trends bias towards those last three. Moreover, I’m really picky about my horror. So even though the PC indie scene is drowning in horror games, there’s rarely anything that interests me. But this one definitely interests me.
  • October 27: Ghostrunner – I just realized that if I could manage to play this, Watch Dogs Legion, and Cyberpunk 2077, then I’d have an end-of-year cyberpunk trifecta.
  • October 29: Watch Dogs Legion – A game where any NPC can become a player character? I have to check this out. Also, one of my friends worked on this. Also, it looks unusually good for a Ubisoft title. I generally hate Ubisoft protagonists, so the lack of a central protagonist is actually a point in favor of this game for me.
  • November 12: Godfall – I’m not 100% sold on this. It’s being marketed as a looter game along the lines of Borderlands, or perhaps something Diablo-ish. I’d have jumped on this if it came out in the four-month April – July drought, but now? It comes out exactly a week before Cyberpunk. It’s like, why bother releasing the game at allYes, I know not everyone cares about Cyberpunk. But a LOT of people do. So why are so many games crowding it??
  • November 12: Spider-Man Miles Morales – I liked the first game I guess. I thought it was a good start for a franchise, although they had some gameplay and narrative issues they needed to work on. But hey, that’s true for a lot of franchise firsts, right? It usually takes two or three tries to make a classic. But then they released the preview for this game and my hopes fell. Everything I disliked about the original seems much worse here. Still, this game would make excellent fodder for columns and retrospectives. Again, this would have been a must-play if it came out ANYWHERE ELSE in the year.
  • November 19: Cyberpunk 2020 – I’m sure everyone is sick to death of my fanboying about this thing. I want it, you know it, let’s just move on.
  • December 1: Twin Mirror – I like the mood and style of Dontnod games, but episodic games do not mix well with my play schedule / review workflow. I don’t want to play a game a chunk at a time and then try to write about it, because the early episodes won’t be fresh in my mind. I don’t want to play it after all the episodes are out, because it feels like the audience has moved on and people have stopped caring.But! This game isn’t going to be episodic like Life is Strange. So this could work for me. Or it would, if it wasn’t coming out 12 days after Cyberpunk.
  • December 10: The Medium – Another psychological horror game. I’m hungry for more of that, but I’m not usually hungry for horror during the Christmas season. Did this game miss their intended release window? Mid-October would make way more sense for this. It’s possible I might check this out, depending on reviews and how long it takes me to get through Cyberpunk.

Now I’m wondering: How many of these games will I be able to play before the end-of-year? Is next year going to be overflowing due to the number of 2020 titles that got bumped to 2021?

Maybe I’ll be able to catch up next summer. Most of this stuff will be on sale by then. Or maybe I’ll be too focused on 2021 games to revisit the dregs of 2020.  I don’t know. This COVID stuff could drag on for a long time.  So far it seems like the best plan is to not make too many plans.

The Boys

Actor Antony Starr plays Homelander. Fun fact: His American accent is so flawless that I didn't realize until now that he's actually from New Zealand.
Actor Antony Starr plays Homelander. Fun fact: His American accent is so flawless that I didn't realize until now that he's actually from New Zealand.

You might remember a couple of weeks ago I was massively disappointed in the season finale of Raised by Wolves. Thankfully, I didn’t get a second dose of disappointment from The Boys. Season 2 wrapped up on Friday, and it was exactly what I’m looking for in a season finale.

Non-spoiler comments:

The story wrapped up a lot of subplots, but also left the ongoing plot open-ended. If the show was canceled and we never got a third season then I’d be sad, but I’d be okay with this as an ending to the story. On the other hand, the writers gave themselves lots of things to work with in the future, so continuing the story wouldn’t require a bunch of contrivances or clumsy retcons to get the conflict going again.

Some characters died for sure. Some had a quick fake-out death. Some wound up in a state that suggested death, but could plausibly show up again later. Some are really, honestly, totally, super-duper dead.  It was fun going through the ending sequence and never knowing who was going to make itOkay, there are a few characters that clearly have plot armor, but most don’t..

I really enjoy this show, and I appreciate how the show managed to stay true to the premise of the graphic novel while also dialing back the ultra-dark tone. The comic dove too deep into nihilism for my taste, but the show manages to present a bleak world without making it so distasteful that I stop caring.

Homelander is the main villain of the series. His character is basically, “What if Superman was a toxic, petty, controlling, damaged, emotionally needy narcissist asshole?”  The answer is about as terrifying as you’d expect. I like how the show managed to maintain that without his character becoming one-note.

Cybercrunch 2077

Let’s end with a mailbag:

Dear Shamus and Paul,

[…]

As far as I can tell, it was an internal email that leaked. While some of the staff are probably unhappy about it, it seems that CDPR handled things as professionally as they could, limiting the time and scope of the crunch, assuring employees they would be directly rewarded for it, and accepting responsibility. Given that the game was already delayed twice, and that they have to set a launch date, I’m not sure that delaying again at the last minute was feasible, and would like to hear your thoughts.

As a side aspect to this, I thought that some commentators, such as YongYea (whom I respect greatly), had a perhaps-unrealistic understanding of the business side of things. For CDPR, missing the Christmas release window could be devastating to sales and/or might include contractual penalties with Sony or Microsoft at this stage. Under those circumstances, well, it might be a case of crunch vs. layoffs.

I’m not sure how companies should handle this in the future. However, the reaction to CDPR’s management decision does not, in my view, spell the end of crunch. Rather if anything, it means companies will assess that good planning and management has few rewards, and double-down on secrecy and bad behavior. From their perspective, if they get punished anyway, they may as well get the extra labor for it.

Thank you, gentlemen.

(Name Withheld)

I’m mostly fine with what CD Projekt RED is doing.I’m a little unclear on the exact details, but it sounds like a lot of people have been working voluntary crunch for months? I would generally disapprove of this, but there’s a lot of complexity in the idea of voluntary crunch and I think it’s a topic for another time. Maybe I’ll come back to this topic in a future column, but for now I’m ignoring the voluntary crunch and just sticking to the contents of the leaked memo. Back in 2016 I wrote a post about crunch, and my position hasn’t really changed since then. I feel a strong need to draw a clear line between these two things:

  1. Everyone must crunch all the time to “prove their loyalty” to the company.
  2. We’re up against a hard deadline and we need to crunch to meet it. We’re sorry and we realize this is really unfortunate. We’re going to do our best to limit this to just a few weeks, and you will of course be paid for the extra time.

Number one is ridiculous, idiotic, and self-defeating. As I’ve said in the past: The most talented and experienced people will leave for less toxic and stressful jobs. The remaining people will be bitter, unmotivated, and incredibly disloyal. They will suffer from burnout, their quality of life will go down, and they’ll stop caring about the quality of their work in  direct proportion to how little you care about their personal life. You’ll suffer from brain drain, your staff will do worse work, and everyone will be eager to tell Jason Schreier what an unmitigated bastard you are. And after all that, you’re not going to get much (if any) extra productivity of your now-embittered staff. Stop doing this, you fucking morons.

The second option is a perfectly normal thing. All kinds of professions have this. It’s particularly prevalent in areas where art and engineering meet. Movies have insane work schedules because shooting a modern blockbuster is a logistical nightmare. Bad weather might delay your huge civil engineering project and everyone needs to work long hours to get the thing finished before winter sets in. Your toy company might have a supply chain problem and then need to work insane hours at the last minute to get the stuff shipped in time for Christmas. Your coders need to finish the new version of your business software before the next version of Windows, or your userbase will flee to the competition and never come back.

Companies can and do go out of business for missing ship dates. You can stamp your foot and demand that setbacks should never be allowed to happen, or that people should never have to work long hours due to problems beyond their control, but that’s not going to fix the fact that we live in a world of finite resources, the future is uncertain, and even intelligent good-hearted managers can make mistakes. If you insist that people should never work long hours, then you’re saying it would be better to let layoffs happen than have the employees work extra hours for a few weeks.

My personal policy would go something like this:

  1. You should always schedule with the intention of avoiding crunch. If you fail and people need to work long hours, own up to it and apologize like CDPR did. You’d be amazed at how far a heartfelt apology can go to protecting loyalty and morale, particularly if you don’t make a habit of it.
  2. The usefulness of crunch drops off sharply after ~6-8 weeks. If two months of crunch can’t get you there, then you’re probably too far behind to close the gap with crunch. It also means you’re too far behind to solve this problem by throwing more bodies at it. Just accept you’re going to miss the ship date. If that means you’ll go out of business, then you’re doomed either way. If you can’t get an infusion of cash, then it’s better to end here than to grind your people down with months of death-march crush and THEN go out of business. (CDPR was apparently only asking for 6 weeks.)
  3. Pay people for their time. This might be hard or impossible if you’re running out of cash. If that’s the case, then offer X% of the profits to the team after release. (CDPR apparently always gives 10% of the profits back to the team.)

There’s a huge moral difference between an exploitative manager sucking the life out of his workforce out of sheer bloody-mindedness / greed, and a manager that’s just trying to keep the company afloat in a tough situation.

Lots of jobs out there require uneven and unpredictable work hours. Gamedev is often one of them. That’s okay. Let’s do our best to avoid it, but let’s also not make villains out of everyone with a scheduling problem.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Not to be confused with Ghostwire:Tokyo or Ghost of Tsushima.

[2] Sure, flying a plane is the gameplay, but hopefully I don’t need to explain why this isn’t quite the same as a game with win states, lose states, reward loops, or system mastery.

[3] Games with a focus on resource management and fiddly combat, rather than mood manipulation.

[4] Five Nights at Freddy’s et al.

[5] Dead Space.

[6] Yes, I know not everyone cares about Cyberpunk. But a LOT of people do. So why are so many games crowding it?

[7] Okay, there are a few characters that clearly have plot armor, but most don’t.

[8] I’m a little unclear on the exact details, but it sounds like a lot of people have been working voluntary crunch for months? I would generally disapprove of this, but there’s a lot of complexity in the idea of voluntary crunch and I think it’s a topic for another time. Maybe I’ll come back to this topic in a future column, but for now I’m ignoring the voluntary crunch and just sticking to the contents of the leaked memo.



From The Archives:
 

62 thoughts on “Diecast Unplugged #3: Scheduling Madness, The Boys, Crunch

  1. Joe says:

    Ghostrunner is one of those games that I love the look of, but I played the demo. Playing the whole thing would drive me mad. The worst part, all the best speedruns are still six months away.

    What’s the difference betwen voluntary crunch and being a workaholic? Or just being in the zone and going with it? I support healthy working hours, never fear. But if someone wants to keep going, I say let them. Tell the rest of the staff, though, “Bob’s on a hot streak. I want you to go at your own sustainable pace.” I also want them to have a rest at the end. They’ll have deserved it.

    Also, you messed up a tag on Brook’s law.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Could you explain what you didn’t like about Ghostrunner? My initial concern is that it’s a first-person action-platformer like Mirror’s Edge, but without the obvious visual markers that tell you where to go. Similarly, I’d thought that melee combat worked better in third-person, not first-person; Super Hot works well as a slo-mo kung-fu game, but lacks the advanced combos or moves from the Batman brawlers, or the deliberate combat of Dark Souls et al.

      1. Geebs says:

        Personally, I felt Ghostrunner is way too fiddly. Mirror’s Edge was pretty forgiving about not breaking the player’s flow state even if they’re not playing optimally. Ghostrunner has far more combat, and it’s the sort of quick-fire stealth combat where you get one-shotted if you don’t do everything perfectly. The levels are pretty linear and you either pick the Right Way to do things and have fun, or pick the Wrong Way and feel like an incompetent moron.

        That was the demo, though. The full game might be balanced differently, although IIRC it’s being targeted pretty specifically at speedrunners.

        1. Joe says:

          That’s about the strength of it. I like more room to move around, to explore at my own pace, and to be able to survive a couple of hits. Ghostrunner is completely the opposite of my playstyle.

  2. Thomas says:

    Sony put out Ghost of Tsushima and Last of Us 2 this summer, so their releases have been fairly normally spaced.

  3. Lee says:

    FYI, The Boys was “renewed” for season 3 early last month, so this is definitely not the end.

  4. Thomas says:

    Aside from the actual conspiracy, all the corporate BS in the Boys feels terrifyingly realistic if we had real life superheroes. Of course you’d get gossip mags, and concealed sex scandals and PR handlers. I’m impressed how well they pulled that off considering the level of violence in the show. They didn’t quite tip into the territory of every superhero being evil for evils sake, and it would have been easy to go down that route.

  5. Leviathan902 says:

    I completely agree with Shamus’s very sensible (and well articulated) approach to the crunch situation at CDPR and wish some other internet personalities, such as Jim Sterling whom I’m a big fan of, could take a similarly nuanced approach instead of pointing and screaming “Liar Liar Pants on Fire! You said there would be no crunch and now you’re crunching you big fat liar!”

    I get that Sterling works in hyperbole, but we live in the real world here, and while I generally agree that people should not have to push themselves to the breaking point for a freakin’ videogame, I think some amount of crunch is quite reasonable when it’s constrained and properly compensated.

    Hell, I’m going to have to crunch this week to meet a project milestone and this is a project team of 1 person (me) managed by 1 person (me) and I’m STILL going to have to crunch a tiny bit. To expect that crunch will never happen in the real world, when hundreds people are people involved in a massive endeavor is just unrealistically silly.

    1. Asdasd says:

      I am mystified that so many members of the professional commentariat are adamant that crunch is something that should never happen, and cannot be justified under any circumstances. As though crunch is like an iceberg that the suits can always see on the project horizon, and are just too damn incompetent/exploitative not to steer around it.

      Shamus’s position is realistic, pragmatic and fair. The idea that people would be expected (or able) to crunch permanently, without fair compensation for the extra hours worked – that’s the real evil.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Shamus has also worked in an office working on software projects and deadlines where crunch and overtime are inevitable. I have a feeling that a lot of current gaming pundits and commentators either never worked such a position, getting into games writing as their career immediately and thus having very unorthodox work hours/patterns, or worked in 9-5 jobs that were effectively “white collar assembly line”. Most of my experience is the latter, but even then there were nights I worked in an eCommerce company and stuck around beyond quitting time in order to make sure something was done and ready to go live the next day.

        It’s an assumption, of course, but it’s the only way I can figure out the less nuanced position outside of broad strokes accusations of media pundits only being extreme in their opinions (which itself is an extreme opinion).

        1. baud says:

          a lot of current gaming pundits and commentators either never worked such a position, getting into games writing as their career immediately and thus having very unorthodox work hours/patterns

          Interestingly, I would have though that gaming journalists (and other journalists) would have periods of crunch too, with important deadlines (finish a review for the release day/end of embargo) or even periods with a lot of work to do (E3/Gamescom/TGS time, even if it’s becoming less and less true or a period with a lot of release to cover).

        2. stratigo says:

          “This bad thing that happens is super common and who cares when it happens?”

          Maybe the real answer is that some people feel the need to stand against bad business practices as a principle, because once you start making excuses, it becomes easier and easier to excuse the next practice. Something that companies know well and spend untold millions trying to get customers and employees to accept the next little erosion of their rights and power.

          Crunch is never good. Not ever. In an ideal world, it would never happen. Whenever it happens, it is a failure of management, and when it happens, but there’s absolutely no consequences, it just incentives a company to do it more. If no one calls it out, 6 weeks of crunch becomes 3 months, 6 months, a year, endless. CDPR only scaled back their crunch time BECAUSE of push back from the media and employees over the Witcher 3 crunch. You accept CP2020 crunch without comment, and they will just push more crunch next time.

          This is incredibly common human psychology. Indeed, it’s a major issue in a lot of things in modern American society, both in the private and public spheres. A financial or political incentive to do borderline shady or immoral or illegal things combined with minimal to no punishments for when these things are revealed. Look at American policing.

          1. Shamus says:

            “You accept CP2020 crunch without comment, and they will just push more crunch next time.”

            I really disagree with this. Corporations are run by people, and therefore corporate behavior is a reflection of the values of the leadership. You assertion seems to assume that ALL people are callous sociopaths, and that’s just not true. To a certain extent, I feel you’re letting the guilty off the hook by claiming everyone would behave like Andrew Wilson if they were entrusted with Wilson’s power.

            Also, I disagree that ALL crunch is the fault of management. Engineering has setbacks. It happens. Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom, and Ed White didn’t die on the launchpad because the President / NASA engineers didn’t care about the astronauts and tried to cut corners. It was a mistake that happened among the engineers because engineering is hard. (Yes, I’m choosing an extreme example. I’m not saying crunch is morally equivalent to the death of 3 human beings, I’m just trying to show that even a group of highly-motivated genius-level engineers with tons of funding can make mistakes. And if those people can make mistakes, then the legions of normies trying to push out the next Shoot Guy can make mistakes too.)

            Also, I’m not sure why you’re bringing “American Society” into this. The specific case we’re talking about is Polish, and you can find crunch – and worse – all over the globe.

            1. stratigo says:

              I mean, more and more information is getting relayed via Shreier that CDPR has been crunching regularly for like a year now over CB2020, so, eh? Give an inch, they take a mile.

              Corporations are indeed run by people. But corporations are also institutions. They have incentive structures. They have preferences. They have culture. They take on a life of their own as they grow. The people in a company are not perfectly atomized individuals available to make choices based on perfected moral systems. The incentive for a company is simple, make money. If you aren’t doing that, you have no place in the leadership of a corporation and won’t stay there long. If you can do that and still direct a company to act morally and benevolent to both your customers and employees… great, you might actually be a literal saint. Most corporate leadership doesn’t care, and the nature of corporations diffuses any direct harm you cause away from your sight, so you don’t ever really have to acknowledge the dev sleeping under his desk. This is likely a reason so many corporate leaders are also kinda shady and do their utmost to siphon profits from the company to their own pocket, because making money is the entire incentive structure and relentlessly pressured into your skull, so why would you not use the same tricks a company does in the market on the company itself for your personal enrichment?

              Companies select for bad people to lead them, and as good people rise, they compromise more and more until they are no longer good people. It is a rare executive that can actually resist the call to use shady, immoral, or outright criminal practices for a few dollars more, and those that do burn out hard. Look to Chris Metzen. Not a bad guy, trying to provide leadership for blizzard crushed his soul in a corporate environment until he HAD to get out for his own health.

              Bad incentive structures are riddled throughout american society, and CDPR isn’t that different from an American corporation. So, for anyone wanting to equate CDPR to something, pick your average US business or dysfunctional government agency, it’s not much different at the core than that. It’s a useful analogy for readers who are mostly american. For example, it can and does simply ignore Polish labor laws because it is one of the most valuable corporations in Poland, great for national prestige, and the current Polish government is super pro corporation and very anti worker protections and has been doing real bad things to polish courts (eg the people that judge worker rights violations)

              So, CDPR is an employee crushing corporation, it’s been pushing crunch for WAY LONGER than a few weeks, but it makes good games and treats customers better than a lot of publishers. So it gets forgiven by the public, any stories about its awful conditions buried or ignored, the word of its PR and execs taken over employees too afraid to share their names, addresses, and social security numbers to prove they’re real.

          2. Radkatsu says:

            “In an ideal world…”
            You’re one of THOSE people, huh? Hate to break it to you, bud, but we don’t live in an ideal world.

            1. Shamus says:

              Hey Radkatsu, you’ve been commenting for over 5 years and you’ve always been cool. And today you’ve gotten inexplicably hostile with 2 different people in the space of a couple hours. You okay?

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      In my work I’m pretty big on work/balance life but I also absolutely agree with this position. 6 weeks of crunch with extra pay for a pharaonic project during a biblical plague is more than understandable, and additional delay might cost them dearly. The real enemies are permacrunch and unpaid crunch.

      1. stratigo says:

        And the company should still be called out and reprimanded for the crunch to remind them that crunch is not an okay state, and they should use it only sparingly instead of always.

    3. ivan says:

      Seem like you guys have collectively decided in unison that this is a binary choice, I guess? Like, that when something unexpected comes up, the choices are:
      a: crunch, hopefully temporarily and rarely, but with compensation.
      b: lay people off, because not crunching will mean missed deadlines and possibly fines for not meeting those deadlines, so lost revenue and extra cost, both of which can *only* be met by laying people off.

      I kinda see people like Sterling as the suffering idealists, who are pleading with people to demand at least one possible third solution. Namely: not crunching, and not laying people off, and maybe absorb the costs of that by paying the executives a few million less dollars of the many they currently get, and can more easily afford to lose than the low level grunts of the workforce.

      Like, why did none of you even contemplate that as an alternative that people could hope for? The solutions you all seem to have assumed are the only possible solutions, all have the commonalities of the low level workers getting screwed one way or the other, and the actual decision makers being completely fine.

      Is this realistic? Well, no, not as long as no one even considers asking for it, and dismisses it utterly. But c’mon, the only choices are NOT just between crunching and layoffs.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The third option you’re describing is called “delay the release of the game” and it happens all the time. It already happened with Cyberpunk! I have no idea what you’re on about when you say no one even considers it.

      2. Leviathan902 says:

        As Ninety-Three said, nobody is saying there are only 2 options, there’s a third, delaying a game. Delaying a game can have significant ramifications in all kinds of ways. Especially if instead of crunching for 6 weeks they delayed for 6 weeks, pushing certification out until after Christmas. How do you put a price on that that you would deduct from Executive pay?

        Also, as Shamus rightly points out above, not every delay/crunch is caused by poor planning/executive meddling. People screw up. People don’t make as much progress as they planned to make. Scope creep happens, sometimes for good reason! None these are a failure to plan, they’re things that happen in the real world every day. I do a lot of project management, and even with the best intentions and the best training and the best efforts of everyone involved, shit happens, and things get delayed and crunch happens. If you took that out of my (nowhere near executive level) pay, IT WOULD STILL HAPPEN. That’s just the way the world works.

        It’s easy to dump on executives like they’re all the evil in the world (some legitimately are), but that doesn’t mean the solution would be to pay CEOs 90% less. It would be the solution to other problems, sure (executive compensation is out of control), but even if you did, delays and crunch would still happen. Guaranteed. There just isn’t a direct correlation between CEO pay and project delays. It could be helpful to prevent lay-offs, sure, but acting like that would solve the ills of project planning is just silly.

        1. ivan says:

          See, but the thing is, Executive pay is so high, because they’re supposed to be taking responsibility for things. And that includes not just successes, but also failures, it is supposed to be the executive branch’s job to take responsibility for that. Whether or not it’s their fault personally – that is why they get paid so much, in theory when the company does well only – so they can weather not being paid much when the company does poorly. This isn’t about blaming executives, this is about executives fulfilling their role.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            See, but the thing is, Executive pay is so high, because they’re supposed to be taking responsibility for things.

            I’d like to trust that you have enough detailed knowledge of corporate pay negotiation to make this assessment, but you seem to think “executive branch” is a term that applies to businesses instead of governments, so this whole thing seems like a bit of an ass-pull.

          2. Leviathan902 says:

            But that’s why a lot of CEO compensation is tied to stock performance instead of salary, if the company does poorly they make less money.

            And regardless, reducing CEO pay doesn’t solve the challenges of project planning. You could pay the CEO $0 and you’d still have delays and crunch to get a project out the door.

            I mean I get it, you think C-level executives make too much money. So do I. So does pretty much anyone who isn’t a C-level executive. But while “Eat The Rich” is a nice anti-capitalist slogan and killer Aerosmith song, it’s not the solution to every problem. Certainly not the problems in the discipline of Project Management. There’s a reason there are classes and training and PMP certifications and all that jazz associated with teaching people how to Project Management. It’s really freaking hard! Reducing CEO pay doesn’t solve those problems.

            To be clear, I agree that Executive pay is out of control and reducing it would be extremely beneficial, but again it wouldn’t stop delays, it wouldn’t eliminate crunch, and it wouldn’t prevent layoffs. It could be helpful, sure, but it doesn’t solve these problems. It solves a different, adjacent problem with knock-on effects to this one.

            And for context the CEO of CDPR makes about $1.5m in salary, plus stock options. If the game hit cert after Christmas, I feel pretty confident there’s more than $1.5m in lost sales in that scenario.

    4. Ninety-Three says:

      I get that Sterling works in hyperbole, but

      I think the bigger issue is that Sterling works in telling people what they want to hear, and approximately no one wants to hear a nuanced explanation of why the thing they’re mad about is not actually a big deal.

      1. Asdasd says:

        *raises hand*

        *thinks*

        *lowers hand*

      2. stratigo says:

        Sterling tells people what he believes. He isn’t faking or manufacturing his outrage or disgust.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Our premises are not contradictory.

        2. Leviathan902 says:

          I’m not saying they are. I guess I’m using the colloquial definition of hyperbole instead of the literary one. But the point is that Sterling works in exaggeration (Thank God for ME!), that’s their Schtick. I do believe that Sterling believes in what they’re saying, but I also think there’s room for a more nuanced, realistic, view of the situation than “All crunch is bad. There should never be even a single solitary second of crunch ever.”

    5. Dreadjaws says:

      This is why Yong Yea’s video on the subject has such a large amount of dislikes. I get it’s a subject that bothers him, but he refuses to see reason and sees the subject as merely another developer breaking promises. I’m glad he doesn’t just think CDPR are beyond criticism, but he’s not taking a muanced look to the subject.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I’m surprised he even has dislikes. Uncompromising anti-corporate hot takes are kind of Yong Yea’s thing.

      2. Leviathan902 says:

        I think there’s a component from a lot of Youtubers where they feel like they need to be critical of CDPR because they’ve been critical of other studios in the past. Additionally, a lot probably feel that CDPR is kind of getting a pass because they’re a beloved developer of beloved games, and that that’s kind of bullshit.

        And that’s fair, but if we act like there’s no discernable difference between what CDPR is doing, and what Bioware did with Anthem or what happened with LA Noire, or the Last of Us 2, or (etc, etc, etc), then we’re diluting the point we’re trying to make. We’re tossing the baby out with the bath water. As someone else said, you’re not going to stop crunch, you’re just going to make companies be more underhanded about it to prevent it from getting out when they do, inevitably, end up crunching.

        Overall, in my opinion, an open, honest discussion about sensible and acceptable crunch is more productive than ranting and raving about how all crunch is evil and it should never happen when said individuals likely have no experience with project management.

  6. John says:

    Maybe it’s just the angle or the lighting, but to me it looks like the woman in that picture has a very odd haircut.

    Anyhow, Shamus, I hope all those games live up to your expectations. It’s nice to have games to look forward to like that. It doesn’t happen all that often for me. In the last ten years, the only games I can particularly recall following avidly prior to release are Battletech and Street Fighter V. Battletech lived up to my expectations, more or less, though I had to wait a while for the Linux version. I’m still waiting on Street Fighter V. In the year or so after the game’s initial release, Capcom tested a Linux version but at some point they quietly dropped it and I have long since given up hope. I’d be heartbroken except that I’m still surprised that they did any work at all on a Linux version to begin with.

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Shamus I see all your games coming out at once and I raise you one more : Baldur’s Gate 3. I was a bit skeptical about it, I find that the Divinity series is great but has a lot of flaws, but BG3’s early access is insanely promising. What really strikes me as interesting is that they managed to make accepting failed skill checks worth it, because it changes the story in fun ways instead of just making you want to save scum. And apparently the combat system heavily promotes pushing people of ledges, which I seem to remember was something you enjoyed quite a bit.

    1. tmtvl says:

      You mean Divinity 3: Forgotten Realms. What’s it got to do with BG 1 and 2? It takes place on the Sword Coast and that’s it.
      The Bhaalspawn is dead, Bhaal himself is back, a hundred years have passed, and fans of the originals can go spin up a tree.
      The REAL Baldur’s Gate 3 is Throne of Bhaal. But if that’s out of the running due to being an expansion pack, the real BG3 is Siege of Dragonspear.
      I don’t care whether D3FR is a good game, it isn’t Baldur’s Gate 3 and Larian can go burn in a fire, together with all the enablers who purchased the game despite knowing what it is.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        C’mon bruh

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        I was a huge fan of BG1 and BG2. They’re some of my favorite games of all time. I fully realize that Larian is not making BG3 according to BG1 and BG2’s formula.

        I’m also not insane enough to think that what we’re getting from Larian is somehow preventing us from getting a “real” BG3. The series has been over for a very long time now. The developer who made it is no longer in the business of making RPGs, and the only developers who are even coming close to making games like the old BG games are Owlcat and Obsidian.

        We’re not getting any fewer BG-style games that we would be getting if Larian hadn’t been handed this project. I’m frankly happy for any party-based RPG that I can get that’s not some bastard “Action RPG” trash.

        So, yeah, I’m planning on buying this game, and this “burn in a fire” stuff is completely inappropriate.

      3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        I would have completely agreed with you when I saw the first gameplay demo, which was totally Divinity, but they really listened to the community and Baldured it up. Most people who played seem to agree that it’s really a Forgotten Realms game (maybe more like a Neverwinter Nights than strictly BG1&2), so I’m cautiously optimistic.

        “can go burn in a fire, together with all the enablers who purchased the game despite knowing what it is.”

        That’s just disproportionate…

      4. Corsair says:

        Wow, that’s a completely reasonable and not totally insane perspective.

    2. Narkis says:

      BG3 is out only in a (very rough) Early Access though. I wouldn’t count it as released until, you know, it’s actually released.

  8. ccesarano says:

    Covid hit a lot of developers hard, causing a lot of delays out of the summer and into the Autumn. I guarantee you that Nintendo’s big November release wasn’t intended to be Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. In fact, that might have been intended to grease the player wheels until Breath of the Wild 2 hit in November. But Nintendo has been hurt really big by Covid, with some of their biggest releases of the year being… not the biggest of releases. Paper Mario: The Origami King, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Pikmin 3 Deluxe, and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity aren’t bad, but it’s a pretty anemic and limited release year compared to their usual output.

    It is absurd that so many are insisting on this November release time, come Hell or high water. Also releasing in November are Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, The Pathless, and Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. I’ve already skipped out on 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and Star Wars Squadrons due to time and money, with the latter being a particular problem as I’m unemployed. So, uh… yeah. I’d love to view 2021 as time to catch up, but I highly doubt it at this point.

    I was fortunate earlier in the year, though. Persona 5 Royal and Final Fantasy VII Remake were fun games, as was Ghost of Tsushima. Looks like most other 2020 titles were let downs (Darksiders: Genesis, Katana Kami: A Way of the Samurai Story, I’m looking at you) and I still got to play others (Sakura Wars in particular), but 2020 has had some good releases earlier in the year for me.

    Really though, it’s been all about going back to old games and replaying them or discovering them for the first time.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      A game I’m enjoying replaying this weekend – A Robot Named Fight. The final boss is hard as nails, but I can at least get through the normal metroid-knockoff parts of the game easily enough, as long as I’m careful. I don’t know how you’re supposed to beat that boss without getting very lucky in what items the game rolls for you, but I guess I’m just an unskilled scrub. :)

      As a corollary, I couldn’t get back into Factorio. It just seems like the game is a big, slow grind, even without enabling “expensive mode” for all the recipes. I had a thought this morning, that my problem is that I don’t like spaghetti, which might be hindering my ability to get items built in the game. Like, one messy factory slowly producing every item, is a lot less grindy-feeling than my hand-crafting a bunch of items, or hand-carrying ingredients into my batch-producing crafters. Hopefully I prove myself right, and can enjoy this again. :)

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        My big problem with Factorio is that the tools the game gives you for building things doesn’t scale as your factories do.

        I mean, part of the point of the game is to solve ever-tougher logistical problems with ever-bigger factories, but instead I’m spending most of my time riding around on trains to get from one area to another and then walking around my ever-increasing big factories in order to build anything. The construction bots help a bit, but they’re really slow and can’t do everything.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I’d thought that the construction (and logistics) robots actually could do everything the player can. The last thing that was fiddly, if I’m remembering correctly, was the lack of circuit/control wires on blueprints, but I thought they’d added that. As long as everything’s in range of a roboport, you should be able to put down blueprints/ghosts from the map-view, and let your robots do everything else.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          For me anyways, the bigger problem I’m re-learning after having forgotten the game for 6 months, is that all of the puzzles are static. FTL, Spelunky, Rimworld, even Mini Metro – all of those games offer a randomized puzzle, for various definitions of “puzzle”. In Factorio, once you pull out the calculator to optimize your factory for making one product, you just copy-paste that design with blueprints forever. Worse, the rest of the recipes all use exactly the same process to solve – look at the required ingredients and build time, do the arithmetic / algebra to figure out the ratios of assemblers and inserters you need, then slap it all down onto the map. Even using robots, trains, and fluid buildings, it’s the exact same problem-solving steps every time. :|

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            Not exactly- as you scale up, you wind up with different things being your bottlenecks. At one level, it’s the number of items that your belts can carry. At another, it’s your train network. At another, it’s your fluids.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              Those all require the same basic arithmetic though – the number of things I want, the capacity of the transport medium, and the output of the things feeding that transport medium. Recurse as necessary, for the inputs feeding your producers, and the infrastructure you need to build, to build the things you care about from previous steps.

    2. Thomas says:

      Yakuza Like A Dragon! That one I’m excited for. I could never quite get into the beat ’em up thing, and it’s good to see Persona 5 might be having a real impact on turn-based RPGs.

      I’m am less excited for Godfall than I was Anthem. I hate the Powers Rangers meets Greek Gods meets spiky bits aesthetic. And it’s just going to be a Destiny style live service game. The combat will probably be good but I have a theory that all hack and slash combat dependent on a strict levelling system sucks (Diablo being a ‘click and watch’ instead of a hack ‘n slash)

  9. The Rocketeer says:

    Shamus, I’m sorry to hear you haven’t played any good horror games since Amnesia. I’m an old fan of horror games going way back and while I enjoy action-focused horror more than you do, I’ve also been on the lookout for slower, more dread-inducing fare of the sort you’ve been missing.

    Well, I’ve got good news on that front! I’ve been playing lots of smaller horror titles on Steam looking for gems, even finishing one late last night, and you’ll be relieved to know that absolutely all of them are garbage and pose no threat at all to your overburdened Q4 schedule.

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    Also, it seems crazy that none of the big publishers bothered to release stuff during a summer where the whole world was trapped indoors.

    Well, it’s not like they could have planned for the pandemic, could they? Their other choice would be to release unfinished games.

    Plus, Sony, Bethesda, Capcom, Square-Enix and even freaking Valve released proper franchise games in these last few months. And didn’t EA just release a Star Wars game? It hasn’t been that crazy either. Frankly, I’m surprised some of these release dates were even met. Can you imagine if Final Fantasy VII had been delayed to next year? How long has this game been expected by the fanbase? Since the early days of the PS3 at least (granted, it hasn’t been in development for that long, but still).

    Also, man I’m so glad The Boys didn’t jump the shark. I like that rather than falling into regular Hollywood trends it does commentary on them. It’s the entire purpose of the series, yes, but so many have started like this only to end up falling into the same pits (*cough* The Simpsons *cough*). Granted, we’re only on Season 2. There’s still a lot of opportunities to ruin it. I hope they quit while they’re ahead rather than trip and slam into the ground.

    By the way, have you watched The Tick on Amazon Video? Certainly not the same kind of satire, but it’s still pretty good.

  11. guapimao says:

    Wow! Homelander is a New Zealand actor? That makes two, alongside Karl Urban.

  12. Gautsu says:

    The Boys took 2 seasons to get the titular characters (the Boys, natch) to where they start in the comics. Everything doesn’t have to be a complete echo of its source material, but neither does everything have to echo the issues 2020 has specific to the time. At least the Boys is good enough that I can accept it’s not the comics and still enjoy, unlike say, Preacher by the same production company

    1. Crimson Dragoon says:

      I enjoyed the comics well enough, but I love what they’ve done with the show. The changes in tone and characters have largely been big improvements on Ennis’ way too edgy comic. The only complaints I have are that we don’t see enough of the superhero world outside the Seven (which I understand for budgetary restrictions) and not enough Terror, but those are minor issues.

    2. stratigo says:

      I mean, the issues of 2020, and, you know, from 2017 to 2020 cause it isn’t CV that the Boys are tackling, are probably among the top 5 most important issues in american history. You know, teetering on the edge of “do we get to be a democracy still or not?” Is kinda a big deal

      1. Gautsu says:

        Consider the scene where Starlight first gets to the tower in the comics. It’s not just The Deep who coerced/forces the blow job it’s the entire male cast od the Seven. When she goes to the bathroom to be sick Maeve then forces her to go down on her as well. We have then established that all of the Seven are vile not just a few. Or that comic book version of Homelander wouldn’t give a shit about his social media appeal dropping and would have just killed Maeve and Elena for threatening him. Or that all of the Boys were already dosed with compound V, Hughie being secretly by Butcher, so we wouldn’t have had a girl power scene (well done comparatively to many other scenes in similar media) for the Stormfront confrontation. Likewise changing Stormfront from the Russian communist version of Thor to a female Nazi white supremacist strikes me as that particular brand of now. It’s still a good show (due to a number of imprecise performances), but I feel like the further off script they go the lees they know what they are doing. And I agree with on the importance of tbe issues plaguing our country today

  13. Gautsu says:

    Shamus, I’m sorry that you don’t like games in the Souls vein, I’ve played 2 I really enjoyed that released this year (Ballpoint and Mortal Shell) as well as the Remnant from the Ashes expansion. I feel like the game drought hasn’t been that bad (maybe); is it potentially just where your gaming interests lie?

  14. Lino says:

    I hear you on the game release schedule! I’m so behind, it’s not even funny! The good news is, I’m slowly getting to my massive backlog. I just started playing Hades, and I’m absolutely loving it. It reminded me why Supergiant is one of the best devs out there. My only complaint is that some bosses and enemies can feel pretty unfair at times, but I guess that’s par for the course when it comes to rogue-lites.

    1. Syal says:

      Bosses are really rough until you learn the patterns, then they become a lot more manageable. Think I got clobbered at least five times by every major boss except the Hydra.

      Shield enemies never get easier, those guys just suck.

      1. Lino says:

        I hear ya on the shield dudes! Regarding bosses, my biggest problem right now is Hades and his god-awful spinning attack. While I appreciate the long wind-up, I definitely don’t appreciate how huge of an AoE it is. Half the time, even when I double dodge, he still gets me with it.

  15. Gautsu says:

    For all of the debate regarding the CDPR crunch, it’s basically what, 6 days of paid overtime by this point? I work that very 2 weeks in a much more physically strenuous job. Yes it’s shitty that it happened but comparatively it’s a non-event versus crumching for weeks or months on end for no extra incentives.

  16. Mousazz says:

    Typolice:

    You’ll suffer from brain drain, your staff will do worse work, and everyone will be eager to tell Jason Schrier what an unmitigated bastard you are.

    Should be Jason Schreier, with a missing e.

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