Crunch time, defined as the interval of time when software developers (which is where crunch originated) keep their heads down to work extended times in order to complete a project’s milestone according to the mandated schedule, is notoriously one of the biggest work issues in the games industry.
It comes as no great surprise that the most popular game of the past two years, Epic’s Fortnite, is also powered by extended developer crunch time. The report comes from Polygon through anonymous sources of both current and former Epic Games employees.
According to them, while overtime isn’t technically mandatory, it has become expected by higher-ups as Epic tries to keep the Fortnite pace up. This is inevitably affecting the lives of some employees, who have to choose between their career and having a balanced, healthy life.
I work an average [of] 70 hours a week. There’s probably at least 50 or even 100 other people at Epic working those hours. I know people who pull 100-hour weeks. The company gives us unlimited time off, but it’s almost impossible to take the time. If I take time off, the workload falls on other people, and no one wants to be that guy.
The biggest problem is that we’re patching all the time. The executives are focused on keeping Fortnite popular for as long as possible, especially with all the new competition that’s coming in.
I know some people who just refused to work weekends, and then we missed a deadline because their part of the package wasn’t completed, and they were fired. People are losing their jobs because they don’t want to work these hours.
I’ve had friends come to me and say, ‘I can’t take this anymore.’ I’ve had friends break down in tears. The crunch is constant.
Polygon also got a statement from an Epic Games spokesperson. The representative didn’t deny that developers are ‘working very hard’ on both Fortnite and the Unreal Engine at Epic, though he did say extreme cases are rare and those are ‘quickly remedied’ anyway.
Fortnite achieved a far higher level of success than we had ever anticipated. Everybody throughout Epic responded to the success with incredible vigor and commitment. The Fortnite team rapidly expanded the game to grow the audience; the Unreal Engine team began a broad effort to optimize for 60fps and support seven platforms; others throughout the company moved to Fortnite to maintain momentum.
People are working very hard on Fortnite and other Epic efforts. Extreme situations such as 100-hour work weeks are incredibly rare, and in those instances, we seek to immediately remedy them to avoid recurrence.
Hopefully Epic, given the sheer number of resources they have available right now, will be able to slowly build up their development team as needed so that ‘forced’ overtime can go away for good.
Meanwhile, the Fortnite x Avengers crossover event is being teased and should go live tomorrow to piggyback off the theatrical release of Avengers