Marcus Lehto, president of V1 Interactive and co-creator of the Halo series, wants to assure people that the V1 team is hard at work on Disintegration, the studio's upcoming FPS and RTS hybrid. At the same time, Lehto wants to stress one of the lessons he took away from his many years at Bungie and wants to apply at his new studio: long periods of crunch were part of why he left Bungie prior to the release of Destiny, and he doesn't want V1 to fall into a similar pattern of overwork and burn-out.
Speaking with Gamespot ahead of next week's Technical Beta for Disintegration, Lehto reflects on how Bungie's notoriously long stretches of crunch took a lot out of its developers, and pledges that he wants V1 to embrace a healthier attitude towards working longer hours:
One of the reasons I left Bungie—and I know one of the reasons people from the industry have joined us here at V1—is that many of us have seen the bad side of extended crunch periods that would go on for months and months... and what kind of human toll that took[...] We don't want to experience that, we don't want to replicate that at all again [at V1].
While Lehto adds that V1 does buckle down ahead of larger milestones, he says the team only spends "a week or so working extra hours" at a time. Lehto also tells Gamespot that making sure everyone in V1's relatively small team is "intimately involved with what we're working on" helps matters, echoing our interview on V1 and Disintegration with Lehto from PAX West 2019. "I wanted to get back to those roots, because it's really important to me that, as a studio, everybody has a sense of ownership over some part of the project," said Lehto.
In 2017, Bungie's head of engineering Luke Timmins said that 18 months of crunch leading up to the release of Halo 2 "almost killed Bungie as a company." With one notable Destiny 2 update last year, Bungie said it delayed the patch for the sake of the team's "work-life balance" just months prior to the release of Shadowkeep, which itself was then pushed to a later date.
Lehto's not the only Bungie alumnus to speak out about crunch in recent months. Former Bungie CEO Harold Ryan says his new venture, ProbablyMonsters, aims to foster new triple-A studios that are "proactive about managing people and understanding the impact of time and stress."
With several high-profile games including The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 getting delayed further into 2020, and at least one developer admitting that the added months will entail extra overtime, the issue of crunch will likely continue to receive a spotlight from studios promising to do better, burgeoning unionization efforts, and even popular culture takes on the games industry.