Midnight Club canceled at beleaguered Rockstar San Diego?

Apparently disgruntled game-developer spouse blasts severe quality of life infractions at studio; commenter claims racing franchise is no more.

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Source: A blog posted to game-industry news site Gamasutra.

What we heard: In 2004, someone claiming to be the spouse of a developer at Electronic Arts issued a now-famous manifesto that brought to light quality-of-life concerns at the publisher. The blog post was issued alongside class-action lawsuits filed by employees at EA over unpaid overtime dues--suits that each resulted in multimillion dollar settlements.

Midnight Club: LA may be permanently garaged.

Now, a similar online denunciation has been leveled at Rockstar Games and specifically its San Diego studio, which is prepping Red Dead Redemption for its April 27 release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Posted in the blog section of industry news site Gamasutra, the missive was issued by "Rockstar Spouse" on behalf of the "Determined Devoted Wives of Rockstar San Diego employees" in an effort to "assert their concerns and announce a necessary rejoinder, in the form of an immediate action to ameliorate conditions of employees."

According to the lengthy post, conditions began to deteriorate at the San Diego studio in March 2009, as management at the outfit began enforcing mandatory 12-hour workdays and extended the work week to Saturday. "The managers at Rockstar San Diego continue in their dishonesty, pushing their employees to the brink [by] promising temporariness, fully equipped with the knowledge of another deadline just around the corner," the post reads.

Rockstar Spouse goes on to note that the studio has also cut benefits at the studio, including promised time-off credit, milestone bonuses, and cost-of-living raises. "This is especially unjust to those who significantly contribute to projects," Rockstar Spouse wrote. "Further than unappreciative, employees are disrespected when lied to as a whole on how Rockstar games [do] not generate money and, as claims of justification for unappreciated employees are made, [point] to the deficit, meanwhile the last Grand Theft Auto game made over a billion dollars of revenue."

Rockstar Spouse ends the post by threatening legal action against Rockstar San Diego, but the allegations against the studio continue into the comments. Corroborating Rockstar Spouse's claims, a poster by the name of "BitterPartyOfMany" offers other condemnations against the studio that range from overtime exploitation to fiscal irresponsibility.

"Where is the detail about people getting performance warnings for not working 11hrs+ a day?" BitterPartyOfMany wrote. "The running joke is that donuts were taken away every other week (about $200 in savings per month), yet Rockstar flies in people from all the other studios (Vancouver, Leeds, Toronto, New England, etc.) and puts them up in a luxurious rental home, gives them per-diem, and rents cars for them. How about the temporary appointment of a new studio president who spent thousands at a time on drinking outings, only to give up the position after a few short months?"

BitterPartyOfMany also claims that Rockstar dismantled the San Diego studio's Midnight Club team. "Please, someone explain why the profitable and very functional Midnight Club team was ripped apart, their technology thrown away (after Midnight Club Los Angeles), and everyone who wasn't fired or quit was shoved onto a project that has been struggling for well over 4 years?" the posting states.

Another commenter posting under the handle "Code Monkey" claimed to be a current employee at Rockstar San Diego and also offered damning words against the studio-level and corporate management team.

"We're producing a fantastic game right now, but in times past, it seemed to have little in the way of direction or conception," Code Monkey wrote. "If it did indeed have these attributes, they were largely lost upon the majority of the development team, and many of us had little knowledge of what kind of product we were actually trying to put out there. I think we all do now, but it's in no thanks at all to any concerted effort whatsoever to actively motivate the team and evangelize the product to the developers themselves."

The words echo other statements made by BitterPartyOfMany, who claimed that Rockstar's New York division has done away with the San Diego studio's top managerial talent.

"They have fired and demoted all the best and most well respected managers," BitterPartyOfMany wrote. "They lost some of the best graphics and optimization people in the industry because of their attitude and management style. What they're left with are a few managers who nobody believes deserves their position, or who nobody likes/respects, and some very talented developers who are just waiting for the project to end so they can move on. You're just not going to get the best work out of people when they don't like/trust/respect their managers."

The official story: Rockstar had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that somebody is mighty steamed at Rockstar San Diego. The gaming industry has developed a reputation for its exploitative work schedules, especially in the lead-up to a game's ship date, and many commenters on Rockstar Spouse's entry concurred with the assessment at the studio. However, it remains to be seen how the working conditions will affect Red Dead Redemption or any future installments in the Midnight Club franchise.

Discussion

145 comments
im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

@HawkeDB Lol, I was just having some fun with you, no worries. :)

HawkeDB
HawkeDB

@im-a-roustabout That's right! I'm a programmer, not an english major ;) And the last time I used the word "precedent" in a program... was never. :D

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

@HawkeDB You're a programmer and yet you can't spell "precedent"? Maybe "crunch time" would be eradicated if there weren't so many bugs in your programming! ;)

HawkeDB
HawkeDB

Godspeed to the programmers! Get your fair due. I'm a P/A as well and I know how badly we get treated by management during "crunch time". Its total BS. 14 hour days while being paid for 7.5... Free weekends too sometimes. I hope these lawsuits set a good precident.

Jakaro76
Jakaro76

Those pennies allow your voted-in co-workers to work full time on collectively bargaining on your behalf. It doesn't line the pockets of some fictional "union boss". Wake up and organize!

Jakaro76
Jakaro76

It's not "letting a union in", you organize with your co-workers who are already there. No outside entity "comes in". Unions aren't perfect, no organization is. But clearly software workers would benefit from organizing themselves, it is their right as Americans. Don't be scared of anti-union propaganda about big scary union dues and losing your individuality, this is rubbish. I'll gladly give .001% of my wages to ensure my fellow workers and I are not taken advantage of while we make money for management and it's shareholders.

shaunn191
shaunn191

the midnight club series is so much better than need for speed, although i wish L.A. it didnt freeze so much

Hiddos
Hiddos

I hope this isn't true. I really, really love the Midnight Club series.

rangeraa
rangeraa

@Zloth2 Except some places would rather close down rather than let a union get in...

Zloth2
Zloth2

Yeah Rangeraa, you can get used to it. Or you can get unionized and actually get paid for your hard work. Your choice. This is very bad for Rockstar. The economy is nasty right now so it's easy for management to scare people into working massive overtime for free. However, once the economy starts to come back again, these employees are going to jump ship. When word gets around that you're a sweatshop, you've got no chance at all of hiring people in a good economy.

P0T
P0T

This isn't looking too good for the new Red Dead Redemption game because the San Diego studio is working on that game. A developer working on Red Dead called the game a "disaster of epic proportions." Here is the full comment from Gamasutra. "The saddest part of the above is that Red Dead Redemption (the game the entire studio is working on) is an organic disaster of the most epic proportions. The pain just might be worth it for everyone if the work was world class and they could proudly place it on their resumes as they walk away from that mess. Sadly, it is anything but, and Bitter is correct mismanagement up and down the Rockstar chain is the direct cause. Red Dead Revolver 2: Dead On Arrival." Those are harsh words! Of course, reviews will tell the whole story but when one of the people making the game calls it a disaster of epic proportions, I get a little worried!

steven141
steven141

wow, bad news from rockstar for a change

geoff-uk123
geoff-uk123

I hope the end of the Midnight Club series isn't confirmed. Mabye another studio could work on it, like Rockstar London or Rockstar New England.

Jorlen
Jorlen

Isn't it funny that the devs who are making these great games we play are gettnig the sh!t end of the stick? Something really wrong with that picture.

rangeraa
rangeraa

like I get it..this is unfair for the developers...But at the same time...I work 12 hour days 5-6 days a week of hard labour...Trust me it's alot more taxing than sitting in front of a computer, and we are ununionized and extremely underappreciated...My point being that being underappreciated and overworked is just a part of life..get used to it!

jojoforpres
jojoforpres

Just another case of poor management. When will this industry get with the times and unionize?

TheLastCamba
TheLastCamba

Midnight Club LA was at first a really good game, really enjoyed it, but all the glitches and bugs ruined the game, completely.

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

"Crunch time" can be a horrid experience for developers, who don't so much work X hours per week, but work instead to getting milestones done before deadlines. Being in 6 or even 7 days a week is not uncommon, and the hours can easily go over 12 per day, finishing after midnight. It takes an awful lot of things to go wrong for a group to get together and produce something like EA Spouse and now Rockstar Spouse have done, but hopefully it will result in a wake up call and better conditions for everyone in the industry. The biggest problem as I see it is the attitude of some managers. You can push a team incredibly hard for a short period and they can produce fantastic results, but it's when you start taking that for granted and expect that all the time, and rely on it to hit the endless calendar of deadlines that it really causes problems for the people actually creating the project. It is a shame that Midnight Club may be getting cancelled, but there are much bigger issues than that being raised here.

grasshopper6
grasshopper6

they better not mess up Red Dead Redemption, and wtf midnight club was good

Zakukun
Zakukun

It's likely the long-term project that's been suffering is LA Noire, which has been in development for roughly that amount of time. Very little has been heard of the project, other than, "we're totally developing it!" A shame, too, since I rather like the concept. It's one not often seen these days. Red Dead Redemption likely won't take a hit, as it's hitting the market at just the right time, and it's filling a niche no other game on the market is taking care of [both sandbox and Western]. The GTA series will flourish simply because it's GTA. Outside of that, there's no telling what's suffering. It could be the sports games, or DLC teams on Bioshock 2 [which I hope isn't the case]. It's a shame so many people are getting screwed out of their efforts at Rockstar San Diego. Game development involves spending loads of time away from family and friends, working long hours, and essentially giving up your life to a project, even if you're not all for it. If work conditions are poor and the studio is tense, that makes the sacrifice given to the game seem far less worth it. Even in these economic times, if you're getting screwed over, you have to strongly consider bailing and hoping you can find work at another studio. Which is already a very risky proposition. My heart goes out to those who're getting terminated; R* San Diego is [was?] a fantastic studio, and definitely worthy of respect thanks to a small but very solid archive of games.

grungeman91
grungeman91

I hope not, DUB edition was awesome.

Timberwolf8889
Timberwolf8889

Thank god these people aren't in the film industry, lest their brains explode from the unfairness. Entertainment industry is a cruel mistress...at least they get paid hourly! =D

burtonboy05
burtonboy05

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

threedown
threedown

i dont agree with the way theyre treated, but i dont see anything that warrants any kind of legal action or lawsuit. its legal for employers to work you 12 hours a day, 6 days a week as long as you get all your scheduled breaks, lunchs and whatever pay is in the contract, they can work you 16 hour days if they want. and pay you as little as minimum wage. if they have in writing promises of bonus's or paid time off, then thats different, but i doubt thats the case. i have similar conditions in my workplace, usually putting in between 65-70 hours a week for the last 6 months. theres a flood of people who would love to get into the gaming industry, all these workers are unfortunately easily replaceable with people who will put up with the long hours and poor working conditions. its not right, but it is reality

Phacet
Phacet

If you don't like your job, find a new one. Instead, these employees send their wives in to fight for them, threatening legal action? I'd be embarrassed.

mp5xm8
mp5xm8

3rd midnight club was one of my favorite racing games ever, goes up there with forza 3, but MCLA wasn't up to par with their usual work, its still profitable though, heck, i will probably pick up MCLA complete some time soon.

denicola_a_god
denicola_a_god

oo man i loved midnight club hope they dont cancel the franchise

the2gamer
the2gamer

As long as GTA isnt touched at all. Im ok. MC is a good franchise, but if its true, its true.

-ArchAngeL-777-
-ArchAngeL-777-

Games sound fun to develop, but I often hear stories much like this one at Rockstar Games...long days, long weeks for months at a time, poor profit sharing, etc. I am a software developer who believes that you work to live, not live to work. What is the point if it stresses you out to your wits end, and you never have the time to actually enjoy life outside if work? To be fair, this is not just a gaming industry issue. These types of stories happen often in the commercial software industry as well as others. It's a crime IMO, and I have a LOT of respect for these folks who have to deal with it.

demeor
demeor

could someone please tell RogueWolfl77V that he's a maricon (mah-dee cohn) because of his prejudice against ghetto cars?

demeor
demeor

i always did like the ghetto cars of LA (lets not forget QUEENS) just not usually the ones who drive them and also, GARAGE MY ASS, NOT MCLA!

demeor
demeor

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

demeor
demeor

GARAGE MY ASS, NOT MCLA!

demeor
demeor

what is this, the 19th century? GARAGE MY ASS, NOT MCLA!

NND1
NND1

I need to pickup midnight club complete

ZedX-14Pilot
ZedX-14Pilot

If any of the claims in this story are true, I am DONE buying their games. DONE! They better get their s**t together (Rock Star), or I am sure I won't be the only one finished buying your games. I know one thing, if this mess IN ANY WAY hurts the quality of RDR, I will definitely avoid their games for life. I am a loyal consumer, but I will never be loyal to sweatshop operators, or companies I can't trust will be around for support. Wasn't EA a poster child example of how NOT to run a company? Another lesson wasted...

CharlieFubar
CharlieFubar

12 hour weeks? i wish i worked that little (i think they mean 12 hour days)

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

They need to make the DLC's for GTA4 available both to the PS3 and the PC. Plus, the next GTA really needs to bring back the old sense of humor and fun. I have never really been a street racing fan, but I hate to see Rockstar take hits like this as GTA3, and Vice City are still two of my favorite games.

grognard
grognard

I'm not a fan of Unions; but if ever an industry needed a strong union, this is it. This is even more incredible when you consider that most of these employees are professionals (college educated, with a marketable skill). The problem with these huge publically owned publishers is that they care more about their shareholders than the employees who generate all this revenue for them. There's something terribly wrong when the people (investors) who have the least to do with a companies success have the greatest influence.

gameboy900
gameboy900

Man Midnight Club LA canceled. It really was a good game because for Christmas I got Midnight Club LA Complete Edition which has everything. I just don't know why there going to cancel Midnight Club LA because it's the best street racing game out there.

bbdowalt
bbdowalt

Midnight Club was and still is a great racing franchise with the right mix of arcade and customization. This would be awful news. Maybe if they had made their expansion packs for GTA available on the PS3, and not released them in the Modern Warfare 2 window they wouldnt need to kill off a good franchise.

ferrarimanf355
ferrarimanf355

Oh man, I loved Midnight Club LA, R* would be beyond dumb to kill it.

-Fromage-
-Fromage-

Too bad, I enjoyed the third one.

tevic
tevic

If you read the comments, there even seems to be a serious possibility of the studio closing after the release of RDR... Too bad, because as my emblem shows I'm a big fan of the Midnight Club series... Also I empathise a lot with these people. I hope everythig will go well and the working climate at R* SD will improve after the end of this project.

oneligas
oneligas

typically management BS and abuse. i hate the structure of american business today, whatever happened to working your way to the top of the ladder, i mean nowadays management is a course in college not a skill learned through years of service in the company, so managers never know a damn thing about the company that they run and just push people around like bullies and crunch numbers to keep profits up so that management gets another raise this fiscal year.

solidstein
solidstein

12hours a day weeks and then i have to work when i come home

solidstein
solidstein

i myself work 12 hour weeks because i am a small business owner but i guess the difference is i reap the benefits of my hard work these people work long hours and yet do not get the benefits all the get is there salary and maybe a thank you. maybe the game industry needs to be more productive in the beginning stages of game development so there is not this major crunch at the end or maybe they sould give themselves a little extra time i understand time is money but when your forcing people to work 12 hour weeks i am pretty sure they are not working to hard or maybe add a few more people to the staff thats prolly cheaper then paying people overtime

hoossy1
hoossy1

thats silly, game makers don't have wives.... their nerds!