I could see myself developing games for a living. If I had the talent, vision and several years worth of educational experience with the latest software that allows for video games to be rendered one glorious pixel at a time. Also, I really wish I could maths good because that would also be helpful. The catch here, is that developing video games isn’t exactly easy, and the working culture around that process more often than not finds itself under a microscope for forcing employees to endure horrible conditions.
I’m not painting every studio with the same brush (Indeed, there are tales of WONDERFUL places to work at within the industry), but it’s all too common to hear of bigger brands implementing crunch protocols to get a game out in time. The video game industry can and should strive to treat their staff better without having to wait until a video game site exposes them, and that’s where the latest studio on the block comes into the picture.
Say hello, to Gravity Well.
Billed as a new AAA game studio, Gravity Well is being helmed by industry veterans Drew McCoy (who left Respawn Entertainment last year after) and former Apex Legends lead software engineer Jon Shiring. Gravity Well’s primary goal is to not only make games, but to do so in a manner that changes how they’re made. “We want time to iterate on everything and get ideas and feedback from the whole team,” McCoy wrote on the Gravity Well website.
We’re building this studio to last for decades, and that doesn’t happen without putting the team first. We take team health as an absolute top priority. That means we are anti-crunch. That means good compensation. That means everyone at Gravity Well has creative freedom, because when someone else makes all of the decisions, work isn’t fun and the end product isn’t as good.
We prefer to cut and focus down so we only ship what we love.
“Ask around, and you’ll get the same answer from devs – once your team size crosses 100 people, everything changes,” Shiring added.
It’s nobody’s fault – big organizations just move slowly. You need meetings just to make decisions. Choices get siloed and brilliant creatives become less creative. So let’s just not do that. We’re going to build a team that is 80-85 people at peak. We aren’t satisfied with the low level of creative risk that gets project funding these days. We want to explore bold new ideas exclusively for next-gen hardware and PCs.
You can see the genesis of this better working environment theme in McCoy’s stint at Respawn Entertainment and through Apex Legends. While Epic Games got lambasted for the neverending crunch that Fortnite: Battle Royale developers were saddled with thanks to a brutally aggressive update schedule, Apex Legends focused on smaller updates instead with occasional big events. “We don’t want to overwork the team, and drop the quality of the assets we’re putting out. We want to try and raise that,” Respawn big cheese and CEO Vince Zampella said to PC Gamer in 2019.
You’ve got to draw a line between work and life when it comes to video games. This is a career of creativity, one that thrives on motivated people bringing their A-game to the table and running their engines at optimal blast before they take an eventual pit stop. Burnout is all too real at many a studio thanks to a wide variety of factors, but it’s nice to see one studio isn’t just talking about the problem and are instead tackling it as part of their manifesto.
Last Updated: May 12, 2020