Chris Wilson, co-founder of Grinding Gear Games and lead developer on their free-to-play action RPG Path Of Exile recently took to Reddit to explain the studio’s current workload and priorities, including a healthy work/life balance for their employees. “Some studios make their teams work 14 hour days to pack every patch full of the most fixes and improvements possible,” he wrote. “I will not run this company that way.”
I could get behind “we don’t crunch” as a badge of PR pride. After reports about Epic Games’ awful workplace practices to keep the Fortnite juggernaut churning out constant updates, competing battle royale Apex Legends's studio Respawn came out to say, hey, we don’t do that. It means you get your sweet, sweet content slower, but it also means people’s lives aren’t ruined. A pretty fair trade off, really.
“It is opportunistic to say this right now. That doesn’t mean it’s not earnest. Well, assuming Respawn do actually treat employees better,” said Alice O at the time. Same thing applies here.
There are some signs in the post that Grinding Gear Games isn’t thinking of the bluest of blue skies. Their latest expansion, Synthesis, “was developed over the Christmas holiday.” Similarly, Wilson writes that “there's inevitably a bit of optional paid overtime near league releases.” The “inevitable” and the “optional” feel clashing in that sentence.
And even without attending to every single bit of community feedback, they still have a lot on their plate. A new league will be revealed “in three weeks,” with “a focus on repeatable fun, and the combat revamp has a lot of focus on improving the fundamentals of Path of Exile's gameplay.” At the same time, they’re working on a “mega-expansion” that is designed to keep them competitive with “the next generation of Action RPGs;” the ExileCon convention; launching the game in South Korea; and improved console features. It’s not hard to see how all this could potentially push that cheery “optional paid overtime” longer and more extreme.
Still, the community response has been broadly positive, with the most popular comment on Reddit reading: “Please know you have our support in this. This doesn't just help your employees - it helps change the awful crunch paradigm in the industry for the better.” Fingers crossed.