Neil Druckmann Comments on Crunch at Naughty Dog, Says Studio Needs to Put “Guardrails” in Place to Protect Staff

Neil Druckmann Comments on Crunch at Naughty Dog, Says Studio Needs to Put “Guardrails” in Place to Protect Staff

Naughty Dog's reported issues with crunch culture have now been addressed by Vice President Neil Druckmann.

While the main talk surrounding developer Naughty Dog this year has been in regards to the studio’s upcoming release of The Last of Us Part II, the company has also been dealing with a bit of blowback when it comes to crunch. Over the past year, and specifically in a new report that came about earlier in 2020, Naughty Dog has been said to be dealing with a high amount of crunch, which is essentially the equivalent of overworking, in the leadup to finishing The Last of Us Part II.

Now, in a new report from GQ, Naughty Dog Vice President, and director of The Last of Us Part II, Neil Druckmann, has commented on this problem that the studio has with crunch and what is being planned to resolve it. According to Druckmann, management at Naughty Dog has tried to not prevent the staff from working long hours if it’s something that they actively want to do. Druckmann mentioned that when Uncharted 2 was being made, Naughty Dog forced the developers at the studio to not work past midnight or work on weekends, which “people got upset” by.

“We don’t try to babysit people,” Druckmann explained. “We draw people who want to tell these stories and who want to leave a mark on the industry. And they’re gonna work very hard to do it. We need to put some guardrails [in] so they don’t injure themselves, but I don’t think we could prevent them from working hard and still make the kind of games we make.”

One such attempt at alleviating crunch at Naughty Dog comes in the way of bringing in producers. Historically, Naughty Dog has not opted to use producers on its past games, mostly because, as Druckmann alluded to previously, projects can get too micromanaged because of it. However, the addition of these managers along with some other attempts at cutting content sooner and not developing sections for projects that will go unused are some initial things that Naughty Dog is implementing to help lead to change.

It remains to be seen if Naughty Dog’s studio culture can improve in the future, but apparently, the development cycle for The Last of Us Part II has provided a lot of valuable feedback on what can be done better moving forward. Hopefully, Naughty Dog can reach a point where its high level of quality and polish can remain consistent while those who work on the studio’s games can not work as tirelessly.

As for The Last of Us Part II, the game is set to release next week on June 19, exclusively for the PS4.