Lately we have seen the resurgence of public interest in the notorious practice of crunch time, i.e. having developers work inhumane hours the closer a product is to launch, but Outward developer showed it doesn't always have to be so.
Nine Dots Studio is based in Quebec, Canada, and impressively enough, the team that developed their open-world RPG Outward was only 10-15 strong, yet achieved what they set out to do with no crunch whatsoever.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, CEO of Nine Dots, discussed this at a live GDC stream recently, claiming the main elements that made their endeavour possible were pre-production and avoiding crunch.
What Boucher-Vidal considers crunch is exceeding 52 hours of work per week, for more than two weeks, in which case you can say that Nine Dots' development team has never crunched.
What Outward's team quickly noticed is that making enemies went much quicker than making different environments, so they scaled accordingly.
"We could sort of shape the game according to our own abilities while we were developing. It was more effective, and it was also a matter of maintaining the velocity", he said.
Once they hit a roadblock in one of Outward's environments, having difficulties in getting the terrain right, they scaled the environment back, and the enemies up.
Boucher-Vidal reminded that they're a small team that cannot afford to throw away 70 per cent of content they make, so they have to come up with ways to keep the design process functional and efficient.
"I have something to prove. When you treat developers right, you actually achieve more and [spend] less. We're trying to lead by example, something I feel the game industry is doing wrong", he added.
Naturally, no development goes flawlessly, and neither did Outward's, but Boucher-Vidal insists that many game devs are too lenient and wasteful of precious resources, which is not something his team can afford.
"I see the game design job as being closer to an architect or director, like you would see on movies where you actually have a plan laid out and try to execute it", he said, arguing that many game developers are unwilling to accept the realities of being a business that must deliver a product at minimum cost.