A few days ago, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser spoke about the scope of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. However, an offhand reference to working 100-hour workweeks has resulted in major concerns over the presence of crunch.
“Three weeks of intense work.”
During his interview with The Vulture on Red Dead Redemption 2, Dan Houser spoke a bit about the polish put into the game:
The polishing, rewrites, and reedits Rockstar does are immense. “We were working 100-hour weeks” several times in 2018, Dan says. The finished game includes 300,000 animations, 500,000 lines of dialogue, and many more lines of code. Even for each RDR2 trailer and TV commercial, “we probably made 70 versions, but the editors may make several hundred. Sam and I will both make both make lots of suggestions, as will other members of the team.”
The line about 100-hour weeks (14 hours over seven days) resulted in criticism from various parts of the video game industry. Adam Orth, who created the VR game Adrift, spoke about his experiences (click the tweet for the full thread:
Crunch is unnecessary and almost always used as a weapon against those who, for a variety of totally valid, basic life reasons, can't just walk away from a job. Looking back on my career, I've crunched a lot and it was never worth it (even on the good games).
— Adam Orth (@adam_orth) October 15, 2018
Another thread comes from Dylan Wildman, who formerly worked for Rockstar to create Grand Theft Auto 5:
Survivor of GTA V crunch here. It was hell.
— Dylan (@christs_chins) October 15, 2018
It’s well-documented how bad crunch can be for employees. While some companies try to minimize or eliminate crunch, it’s still commonly seen in the industry. Many large companies take part in crunch, such as Naughty Dog, Rockstar, CD Projekt Red, and Telltale.
Rockstar has dealt with concerns over crunch before. Back when the first Red Dead Redemption was ready to launch in early 2010, some spouses of the employees of Rockstar’s San Diego branch, which worked on both Red Dead Redemtion games, wrote an open letter criticizing working conditions at the studio.
When asked for elaboration, Rockstar sent out the following statement, attributed to Dan Houser:
There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview with Harold Goldberg. The point I was trying to make in the article was related to how the narrative and dialogue in the game was crafted, which was mostly what we talked about, not about the different processes of the wider team. After working on the game for seven years, the senior writing team, which consists of four people, Mike Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow and myself, had, as we always do, three weeks of intense work when we wrapped everything up. Three weeks, not years. We have all worked together for at least 12 years now, and feel we need this to get everything finished. After so many years of getting things organized and ready on this project, we needed this to check and finalize everything.
More importantly, we obviously don’t expect anyone else to work this way. Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release. But that additional effort is a choice, and we don’t ask or expect anyone to work anything like this. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard. I believe we go to great lengths to run a business that cares about its people, and to make the company a great place for them to work.
Red Dead Redemption 2 releases October 26.
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