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Gears 2 producer: Crunch is necessary

Rod Fergusson believes that release dates should be honoured by dev teams

Gears of War 2 producer Rod Fergusson has explained his view that crunch time in a development project is sometimes necessary, and is an indication of the team's ambition, rather than the inaccuracy of the schedule.

Talking in a GDC session yesterday, he outlined the "iron triangle" of software production, noting the "thousands of variables" involved, but advised the audience to lock down the schedule as a means of helping to define the process, writes Gamasutra.

"One of the great things is it creates a clear goal for the team," he said. "They say you need constraints to have creativity and prioritisation.

"I am a believer that if you're going to make a great game, and there is that caveat, I believe that crunch is necessary. I believe it's important because it means your ambition is greater than what you scheduled out.

"Going in with that idea that crunch is necessary means you can plan for it. It shouldn't be a surprise. Crunch should be driven by the ambition of the team, and not the inaccuracy of the schedule."

However, he did add that there were some basic limits to crunch, beyond which productivity will drop off.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," he said, adding, "It's a marathon for a really long time, then at the end it is a sprint.

"If we're going to crunch early for something, we made them team-wide. Everything can benefit from getting more done. If the artists were on schedule, then they crunched and they got ahead.

"Working later than 2 am is a net loss. The productivity of the person who's doing that to themselves ultimately ends us costing them at the end of that week. Every crunch is different for every team - if you're not doing it because of mistakes in the schedule, but through planning, it's much easier to go to your team and ask them how they want to crunch."

The subject of crunch can be a divisive subject in the development community, with some companies historically being accused of exploiting staff, while others - such as Relentless - make a point of marketing a 'no-crunch' policy.

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