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Epic president defends 'crunch' comments

Michael Capps responds to criticism, details studio's crunch rules

Epic president Michael Capps has responded to recent criticism about quality of life comments he made in late 2008, defending the need for occasional 'crunch time' and outlining the studio's standards and expectations for employee hours.

In an interview with consumer weblog Joystiq, Capps responded directly to criticism from Manifesto Games CEO Greg Costikyan and several members of the International Game Developers Association community, who called out Capps for advocating long work schedules during a late 2008 discussion panel.

In the panel Capps said that the company culture at Epic was "very different than the traditional forty hour work week kind of stuff."

"We're not about that. We split the profits internally with the people in our company, so no, we purposely don't hire people, because we want to work sixty hours a week so we don't have to split the pie up as much," he continued.

"The nine to five work week, I don't think that fits for our industry," he added. "And it's not just because we mismanage or mis-schedule."

Critics have reacted harshly to these comments, with Costikyan saying that "The notion that a f*cking board member of the IGDA should defend (and indeed, within his own studio, foster) such exploitative practices is offensive on the face of it, and has caused a considerable kerfluffle within the organisation."

Speaking recently with Joystiq, Capps responded: "Honestly, I'm not sure which of the various things that got everybody so upset. I think the main one was that if someone walks into the door and says, 'I refuse to ever work past 5pm, I'll never work more that 40 hours a week and you can't make me,' they're probably not a fit for us."

"I mean, our average number of work hours is what, 49, 50 in the US? So to have someone walk in and say they refuse to ever crunch for an E3 demo, it's kind of silly."

When questioned, Capps revealed that Epic employees observe three rules during a work day: they must work eight in-office hours, they must be in the office between 1:30pm and 5pm for meetings, and they must be out by 2am.

"Honestly, the rule I have the most trouble here with these guys is kicking them out at 2," said Capps. "That's the one that pisses folks off. It's not the 8 hours a day, it's the 2am and I'm still working and I'm on a 'I've got a bug by the tail and I want to finish it.' And we'll have someone going around banging on doors, kicking everybody out because they need to go home."

Capps also admits to crunch, estimating that for Gears of War 2 the team was working approximately twelve hour days, five days a week, for a six week stretch. Even during crunch, the 2am rule is "absolutely" enforced.

Capps also revealed Epic's voluntary turnover rate averages between 1 and 1.3 per cent per year, or approximately one employee, which he described as "shockingly below industry standards."

"Everybody here is incentivised," said Capps. "All of our money stays in the building. There's no 'send it off to the ownership' or to some fund or something like that. They're paid extremely well and we're very creative about spending money rather than just giving out money. You know, spending on benefits and finding new ways to make the benefits here better."

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Frank Cifaldi