• Nate Hermanson

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart could be the anti-crunch release we've been waiting for

After weeks of hard work on the VGG redesign, daily E3 coverage, and our week of daily reviews, I recently found myself with a bit of downtime. With nothing urgent on my plate, I decided to right a wrong that had been brewing for weeks.


It was time to finally start Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.


I was almost instantly blown away by the quality on display in this PS5 exclusive. Never have the "playing a Pixar movie" cliches been truer.


Sadly though, the first thing on my mind, after having just written about the horrendous work culture at Activision-Blizzard, was "clearly this must have been made by a team under severe crunch, because this kinda game can only be made that way, right?"

Wrong. Turns out, video game development can actually be good sometimes.

Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart launched on June 11, 2021 to critical acclaim. Universally, critics praised the incredible graphical fidelity and the always enjoyable gameplay, touting the release as one of the first true next-gen games out there. It skyrocketed to the top of the best-reviewed games, and early sales numbers were promising with it topping the charts in the UK in its first week, only to surpass those numbers in its second week.


Developer Insomniac Games had to be thrilled with the response to the latest release in the Ratchet and Clank series, but were they celebrating with dejection after months of endless work?


Apparently not.

Just as reviews were released, several individual developers took to Twitter to celebrate the reception. But more than that, to celebrate what they claim was one of the healthiest work environments the gaming community has heard about in years.

Designer Grant Parker said, "I didn't crunch once. 40 hour weeks the whole time. It is possible to work on a great game without suffering." Animator Lindsay Thompson was quick to add on her own thoughts as she retweeted Grant's post and added "I didn't crunch once, entire production. A couple late nights here and there finishing something up, but COMPLETELY CRUNCH FREE. It is possible. Team wellness lets the creativity flow free."


It's important to note, as both developers did in follow-up replies, that these two can only speak for themselves. They both add that, to their knowledge, the "no crunch" work-life was true for their teams as well and that management had openly encouraged a healthier work environment, although you can never be 100% certain.


This is the same team that simultaneously developed another PS5 launch title, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which did not have the same public messaging after its release in November. Regardless, this feels monumental.


When you've got higher-ups all over the industry implying crunch is a necessary evil and the only way to find success... news like this is incredibly heartwarming.


Video games don't have to be hell to make, at any level. Statements like these don't invalidate the push for unionization either — if anything, they serve as the perfect ammunition in the coming fight for better workers' rights in games.


It's one studio.


It's one game.


It's two developers feeling comfortable enough to talk about it.


But it's a step in the right direction.


And it is completely the type of news video games are good wants to celebrate — until hopefully, one day, it'll be so commonplace that we don't even need to. Rift Apart's major success and stunning quality tell us everything we need to know: the harder we push for healthy work conditions industry-wide, the better the gaming world will end up for everyone.

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