Dragon Quest XI Director Acknowledges the Harm of Crunch, Suggests AI Might Help Reduce it Someday

Dragon Quest XI Director Acknowledges the Harm of Crunch, Suggests AI Might Help Reduce it Someday

A stressed-out workforce appears! Command?

"Crunch" is the term used for the period of long workdays leading up to a game's final development deadline. "Crunch" also accurately what happens to some developers' souls when they're glued to their computers for hours at a time to get the job done—especially if a crunch period extends past a few weeks (which is often does).

Crunch has always been a heated discussion topic in the industry, but it's been near the forefront of the news since Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser boasted about Red Dead Redemption II developers working 100-hour weeks in an interview last month. Houser walked back on the boast following backlash, but like many triple-A game publishers, Rockstar doesn't have a reputation for offering its employees a sensible work-life balance.

Waypoint's Aron Garst recently asked several game developers in Japan and Europe about their thoughts on crunch culture, and what they do to combat it (if they do at all). The document, published today, has considerable insight from Hokuto Okamoto and Takeshi Uchikawa, the producer and game director respectively for Square-Enix's critically-acclaimed RPG, Dragon Quest XI. The pair acknowledges the harmful effects of crunch, but also says the game's developers, all Dragon Quest fans, understand crunch is inevitable.

Okamoto and Uchikawa say Square Enix encourages its developers to go home and rest during periods when crunch makes it easy to lose track of time. They also say the team used an Unreal engine plugin when making Dragon Quest XI, which cut down on necessary bug-hunting. But Uchikawa admits despite Square Enix's efforts, some developers worked days that stretched beyond 12 hours.

"Most members of the team joined as fans. They love the series, they play it, and they have really strong motivations," Uchikawa tells Garst. "They are also used to making the series, since many of them have done it for years over several iterations. So there is a strong team cohesion to make the game as good as we possibly can in the time provided."

When Garst asks if Okamoto or Uchikawa are worried developers "[p]utting in tons of extra hours that might make their health suffer or even harm the quality of the work they put into the game," Okamoto asks "I don't understand, how could them putting in more work hurt the quality?" Garst clarifies: "I think what I was trying to say was is there anything you do to make sure their passion isn’t manipulated? Even if it’s not intentional?" to which Uchikawa responds, "Square Enix would never do anything like that, although sometimes we will say ‘if you love the game, are you really ok with being this quality?’"

Okamoto and Uchikawa say they're aware long work hours is a big problem in Japanese society, and they believe video game crunch time will likely reduce when AI is robust enough to tackle the tedious job of bug-testing. Dragon Quest XI came to North America in September.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Related articles

The Console Wars Are Almost as Dumb as Actual Wars

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Phil Spencer says tribalism could drive him out of the industry.

Cuphead's Delicious Last Course Pushed Back Until It's Ready

The final sip will need to steep a while longer.

Super Mario Maker Support on Wii U is Coming to an End Next Year

That means it'll also be removed from the eShop soon.

Microsoft Is Working to "Identify and Resolve" Performance Issues in Xbox Series X Games

A Microsoft spokesperson says that developers are "just now scratching the surface" of what the new Xbox consoles can do.

You may also like

Metro Exodus Is Getting a Next-Gen Version Next Year

4A Games is also working on the next Metro and exploring potential for multiplayer.

Sony Promises More PS5 Supply for Holidays After Record-Breaking Launch

Despite the widespread e-commerce woes, the PS5 had the biggest console debut ever.

Marvel's Avengers Has Yet to Make Back Its Development Costs

Square Enix is saying it will continue pushing toward making the game profitable, however.

Baldur's Gate 3's Next Update Will Have Its First Story Changes

Be sure to read the fine print about your saves, though.