On October 14th, Vulture published an interview with Rockstar Games regarding the making of the long-awaited Red Dead Redemption 2. As developers of the famous Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar creates ridiculously in-depth, massive worlds that rival those of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls or Fallout games.
However, these big worlds lead to overly-long development times. These lengths cause one to wonder about employee life regarding hours, overtime, and the like.
In the Vulture interview, lead writer Dan Houser stated:
“We were working 100-hour weeks. 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.”
While this may seem like a harmless, even positive quote, Houser praised a workplace that doesn’t treat its team correctly. The interviewer didn’t comment on this, but the internet went wild after the article went live. Journalists and Twitter users alike went in on Rockstar, calling Houser out for being proud of that statistic.
Refuting The Claims
In a letter to Kotaku, Houser clarified his statement, claiming that it was only a small sect of the team who worked these ridiculous hours:
“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.”
However, despite Houser’s attempts to clear things up, gamers didn’t believe his claims. Rumors surrounding Rockstar’s terrible work conditions are nothing new. Suspicions started around the development of Grand Theft Auto 4.
Support for these rumors appeared close to the release of the first Red Dead Redemption back in 2010. There, spouses of many of the team’s employees released an open letter denouncing Rockstar’s work conditions. The message claims that Rockstar forces employees to work Saturdays, reduces their benefits, and pushes 12 hour days on average.
To combat the negativity, Rockstar allowed its employees to tweet about their work conditions. Many staff members said positive things about the studio, revealing that they’ve “not seen anybody forced to work 100 hour weeks, but I’ve definitely seen friends get closer to that figure than is healthy,“ reports gamesindustry.biz on October 18th.
A good amount of the stories were positive, but one anonymous developer sent a tip to VG247 describing Rockstar as a “hellish place to work.” It remains to be seen just how valid these claims are, but we can only hope the terrible conditions are being over exaggerated.