Developers should go all-in at the end of a project's development to make it as good as possible.
That's according to Bethesda Game Studios' director and executive producer Todd Howard, who was asked by IGN Unfiltered's Ryan McCaffrey about crunch at the studio. The development vet said that the Fallout and Elder Scrolls studio has become better at managing overwork, also saying every game "deserves" developers to "leave it all on the field" towards the end. That sports idiom essentially means to hold nothing back in the last few minutes of a game.
He also said that part of the issue with overwork in development is that so much of making games is research and development which may ultimately come to nothing. The challenge, Howard explains, is making sure that this kind of extensive R&D work doesn't become too common.
"A lot of people here have done [development] for a long time. We've been through every type of crunch that you can imagine and long ago, some were very difficult for a lot of us, personally with your time and your health. We have become much better at it. We're at the point now where we can really manage it," Howard said.
"We have enough people to move them between. That's why people stay here. Each studio is very different. I don't know enough about how other groups run to really judge that. I can only look at ourselves. The one thing I will say is that every game deserves an amount - at the very end - that is healthy to leave it all on the field. It's important to us and important to our fans, you've just got to make sure that is communicated really well. A lot of industries have people who work really hard. When people ask me about it, I tell them that the difference is sometimes in games there's a lot of R&D effort. You can say: 'We're going to crunch. We're going to 10-to-12 hours a day' and that can end up being meaningless because it didn't work. If you start doing that for weeks on end, that's when it really starts to weigh on you. Outside of the hours, that's the part that you have to manage."