I made such a long comment on Jason's blog (although I may have accidentally posted it anonymously) that I thought I'd share it here as well, prompted by his article in the Escapist. I think a lot of us get tired of hearing we're bad managers - my first ever Manager in A Strange Land article mentions that. (It reminds me of years ago when I had back problems and a friend told me, "Dude, why don't you just do crunches every day? That'll fix your problem." You think I hadn't tried that? Of course I tried that! It didn't work! "Well, you must not have done them right." Fuck you!) Anyhow, the comment:
I agree with your article -- too many studios out there, when faced with hardship, the first thing they think is: "We've got to make everyone put in more overtime." That really should be the last thing they think. Absolutely, let's take care of our guys and ourselves and not burn everyone out. And there are a few studios out there that walk the talk, like Infinity Ward, and boy do they get results.
But I also find the article a little hurtful. Your article talks about how we're in the dark with our project management, and how if we got out of the dark we wouldn't have to kill ourselves anymore.
Maybe except for Tim Moss, I think most of us bust our asses to "get out of the dark", to bring good practices, processes, and management to game development, and then the projects go into crunch anyway, and then everyone tells us, "Maybe you guys should bring good practices, processes, and management to your projects."
I felt the same way about the McConnell talk at the GDC last year (didn't see it, saw the slides online) - you guys aren't in the trenches with us, but when we screw up, you tell us "If we were running things we would have done it right, and you guys wouldn't have had to crunch, and your game would have turned out even better."
I've never worked for EA, but they are the poster child for rigorous management - they do everything they can to implement all the best practices you can name - when waterfall was big, they were all about educating their teams on how to use waterfall. Now that agile is taking over, they're all about educating their teams on how to be agile. (Don't get me started about the waterfall-agile thing. If something goes wrong on your project, it's because you didn't plan enough - you should have used waterfall. If your project flounders along for months in the design phase, you're planning too much - you should have used agile. Usually both happen. You should have been more agile AND planned ahead more.) EA University, management classes, programs, you name it. And still they end up crunching.
You guys are offering us silver bullets. As you know, there ain't no such thing.
Game development is one of the most difficult endeavors known to man - it combines the unpredictability of software engineering with the unpredictability of film-making and the unpredictability of creating an interactive experience that's different for every user...unpredictability cubed.
Here's a metaphor: when you go to war, nobody says, "You know, this war'll be easy if we bring in good management practices." Good management helps - a lot - in war but doesn't make it easy. It doesn't mean that there won't be times when everything goes wrong and you're back in crunch mode.
Neversoft's a good example of that - kick ass studio, good practices, they kept the overtime down for three straight projects - then along came GUN, and as I understand it, they ended up behind schedule and Activision had to reassign a ton of people to their team in order to ship. I don't know if they ended up crunching or not, but I do know things didn't go anywhere near as swimmingly as the previous few Tony Hawks.
Well, listen to me ramble. Would I have you change your article? No, keep preaching it, brother, but don't be surprised if even the believers are still crunching at the end of the day.