How Bungie Dismantled its Culture of Crunch

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Crunch is a widely accepted practice in the game development industry, despite its well-documented dangers. In Crunch Hurts, our experts offer a ton of helpful suggestions on how to mitigate those dangers.

But the most effective way to keep your employees from feeling the impact of crunch is also the most controversial: End mandatory crunch. Depending on your perspective, that might sound easy or it might sound impossible. As Bungie proves, it is possible — but it can be anything but easy, especially once it’s part of your studio culture.

At Casual Connect USA, Bungie’s Luke Timmins related 16 years of the studio’s approach to crunch, from the Halo 2 crunch that he says almost killed Bungie as a company to Destiny 2, which is its fifth overall release and first full launch with no enforced company-wide crunch. It’s been quite a journey, and GamesIndustry.biz took notes for all of us who weren’t there to hear about it.

Timmins warned the Casual Connect audience that crunch will become part of internal culture faster than most expect – and it will take far longer to purge that from the company that it did to take hold.

“When your company is used to crunching, not relying on crunch to ship is now hard,” he said. “Un-ringing that bell is very difficult. It requires changes to planning and culture, which takes a long time to do. It took us years and multiple games to move away from crunch philosophy.”

WIth Halo 3, Bungie started to think about “people management as a craft” in greater detail, laying the foundations of a new philosophy intended to improve trust and communication within the company. The “bedrock” of this new approach to management were “one-on-ones” – mandatory weekly meetings for every employee and the manager assigned to them.

Timmins had a lot more to say about crunch, all of it valuable for anyone thinking about how to eliminate or reduce crunch in their studios. Head on over to GamesIndustry.biz for more.

[GamesIndustry.biz]