Better games are made when game developers work normal hours, Gas Powered Games head and Supreme Commander designer Chris Taylor says.
In a Game Developers Conference (GDC) lecture that was part evangelical sermon and part stand-up comedy routine, Taylor argued against what he says is the game industry's ingrained excessive work culture. Taylor said Supreme Commander--the recently released real-time strategy game published by THQ--was proof that great games could be made without relying on constant overtime. Taylor's Gas Powered Games had previously developed the Dungeon Siege series, with Taylor himself probably best known for his work on Total Annihilation.
"We would have made a worse game [Supreme Commander] if we had worked 14 hours a day. Dungeon Siege would have been a better game if we worked the way we did on Supreme Commander. It's just the right way to work, and it puts fun back in the business," he said.
"You make better games when you work regular hours. You're more creative--when you go home at night you're still thinking, because you're creative people. So when you get back at the computer, you have all these ideas and you get them down anyway. So we didn't put a bunch of stuff in our office that would make people think that they should work there until late. We don't want people to live in the office at Gas Powered Games."
Taylor said one of his proudest achievements about working on Supreme Commander was the minimal amount of overtime his team had to put in to finish the game. He used the example of one employee at Gas who had joined from another company where he had completed more than 1,000 hours of overtime in one year. During the last two years this new employee was at Gas, Taylor said he racked up only 150 hours of overtime.
"I'm proud of that. Because it goes against everything we've been taught about," he said. "I want everyone here to be filled with inspiration to move our industry in that direction. I feel like we're saving something with our kids and our marriages--you know, marriages actually work a lot better when you spend time with your spouse."