Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga's Delays Have Reportedly Led To "Extensive Crunch"
While both current and former members of TT Games say they think fans will be "satisfied" by the end result, it reportedly came at great cost to the team.
While we might have grown accustomed to thinking delays are a good thing for developers, granting teams ample time to create the best game possible without resorting to crunch, it turns out that's not always the case. According to a recent report, this is precisely the situation several TT Games employees found themselves in during their work on Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga--despite the game's numerous delays.
Per Polygon's report, more than 20 current and former TT Games employees have come forward with frustrations over "tight development schedules, the company’s crunch culture, and outdated development tools" while working on The Skywalker Saga. Some even said they remember "breaking down outside of work hours because of the workload and some of the stresses they were under."
“It was a very soft-spoken blackmail,” one former employee told the outlet. "'If people don’t start doing overtime, there’s going to be problems.'"
Unfortunately, employees also noted none of these issues are new ones for TT Games. One former employee went as far as to say crunch has always been a "premeditated" tactic for the studio because of the types of games they make, which are primarily licensed children's games and "stocking fillers" that all have "deadlines dictated by a holiday event or the release of some film." While some employees believed things might change for the better when the studio was acquired by Warner Bros. back in 2008, multiple management changes and poor results on employee satisfaction surveys have yielded little change at the company. One change that did occur, however, was the switch to a new engine called NTT--and with it came even greater discontent from the studio's developers.
Despite employees expressing their interest in using programs they already knew and were more efficient at using going into production on The Skywalker Saga, TT Games insisted they adopt this new engine. According to employees, not only were they not familiar with NTT and therefore found themselves spending a lot more time on tasks that were previously a breeze, but the program was also unstable, prone to crashing and causing work to vanish. This coupled with the studio placing a lot of pressure on the developers to make The Skywalker Saga the greatest Lego game ever crafted--“strive for 85," TT Games told employees, in reference to the game’s potential Metacritic score--has led to a serious morale crisis at the studio.
To make matters worse, some employees also cited concerns of gender inequality at the studio, claiming that TT Games is a "hostile environment for women to work at, with female staff being subjected to bullying, comments about their appearance, and withheld promotions and contracts." A recent government report seemingly backs some of these claims up, as TT Games was cites as one of the "worst game studios in the UK for women in the top quartile of pay," with women representing only 2.4% of the highest-paid employees and only 8.7% of employees in the upper middle hourly pay quarter.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, several changes have been made TT Games' internal structure, with new management coming into power and reportedly at least 40 employees leaving the company in 2021 alone. Since then, the studio has agreed to pivot back to Unreal Engine for future projects and, according to some employees, has been better about monitoring overtime.
After three delays and five years in development, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is now scheduled to come out on April 5. While both current and former members of TT Games say they think fans will be "satisfied" by the end result, it now seems pretty safe to say it came at quite the cost to the developer's working on it.