Neil Druckmann and Evan Wells, co-presidents of Naughty Dog, have issued a response about the crunch that affect employee morale last year.
Following what several employees called a massive crunch in the making of The Last of Us Part II, despite its delay far into its development, co-presidents Neil Druckmann and Evan Wells have come forward to talk about Naughty Dog's workplace culture. The wake of the crunch clearly left an impact on the team which inevitably led to members speaking out about the pressure and low spirits in the studio.
Both studio heads were confronted about the criticism during an interview with Game Informer's Ben Reeves on Aug. 28. When asked about their personal experience, Wells noted that they "are working very hard on every project to find the right balance." He wants to find that sweet spot between giving employees "the opportunity to leave their mark on the industry" while still giving them "space."
"We have post mortems," he said, "and we dig really deep into all the things that could have been better and the things we got right. We do the same thing with production."
Druckmann chimed in about the amount of diversity with the studio's staff when it comes to accessibility and, therefore, work style. Unfortunately, this makes solving a problem like crunch and employee burnout a difficult task.
"Everybody has a different definition of what crunch means," he explained, "We find that there is no one solution that fits everybody. Everybody has a unique situation we might need to address."
Naughty Dog Co-Presidents Address Workplace 'Crunch' Culture
Reeves mentioned unionization for studio employees as part of a solution for the feedback they received. However, Wells seemed to disagree that it was the right answer for the crunch mentality. He echoed Druckmann's point about how work style differs across the full staff in the studio. To create a good environment for employees, they have to cultivate an atmosphere where everyone is allowed to work "as hard or as little as they want."
"If we had some sort of restriction where when the clock strikes 40 hours the servers shut down and you can’t work anymore, that would frustrate people to no end." He said, adding that those who wanted to put more "polish" on the game would likely feel restricted.
Druckmann added that Naughty Dog had put in similar limitations in the past with mixed-to-poor results, according to them. When they placed restrictions such as "no work on Sundays" and "no work past this hour," the team often had sets of individuals saying Sundays or hours beyond the specified time were more convenient to get things done.
"When you try to have a silver bullet, like one solution, you’re always leaving someone behind. That’s why we feel like we need multiple solutions," he said.
Hopefully, the studio will be able to find the best resolution for everyone involved before The Last of Us Part II's multiplayer ends up in a similar situation.