During an interview with New York Magazine Dan Houser, head writer on Red Dead Redemption II, commented on the strenuous work weeks Rockstar has seen on the game.
A massive game the size of Red Dead Redemption II obviously needs a lot of work, but the comments have, justifiably, stirred up some ire on social media about the way game publishers and developers can mismanage employees and their time. Something known as “crunch” is a notorious problem in video game development, and recent developments with studios like Telltale Games have shone a light on the problems within studios like it. Here’s Houser’s full original quote from the interview.
“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.'”
Twinfinite reached out to Rockstar for comment on the interview and statement, and here’s what we received in response. Rockstar attributed the statement to Houser himself.
“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.”
Whether or not 100-hour workweeks and crunch are truly an issue at Rockstar, it’s a well-documented issue in the video game industry. Multiple outlets, including Gamasutra earlier this year, have reported and written on the topic. In 2010 a group of spouses for Rockstar San Diego workers, even took to Gamasutra’s blog to write an open letter about their significant other’s working conditions. This included 12-hour workdays and more.
We’ll make sure to update you should there be any further comments from Rockstar, or any new developments on the matter.
Red Dead Redemption II releases on Oct. 26 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.