Red Dead Redemption 2 Devs May Have Left A Hidden Message About Crunch

Tireless hours and weekends, you say.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 hit a PR snag when, just weeks before release, co-founder Dan Houser made comments that seemed to suggest the studio had undergone periods of heavy crunch development. Now it seems someone at the company may have been trying to make some clever commentary on it within the game itself.

As spotted by a Reddit user, an in-game advertisement for the Cattleman Revolver contains some verbiage that could easily apply to development culture. "It is made by skilled laborers who work tireless hours each week and on weekends for little pay in order to bring you the finest revolver on the field today." To top it off the gun is said to be manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts, a town just outside Boston and relatively close to Rockstar New England.

Granted, this could be a coincidence. The writers of flavor text may have just chosen a historical town nearby and written in a self-aggrandizing advertisement style. Still, given that Rockstar reportedly has a culture of crunch that is emblematic of a pervasive problem in the game industry as a whole, it seems more likely that not that someone was cleverly nodding at their own work situation.

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Though Houser referenced 100-hour work weeks, he quickly clarified that he was only referring to himself and other senior members of the writing team. In an effort to clear the air, the studio encouraged its developers to speak openly about their own experiences. Many of those did mention short bursts of heavy overtime, but few approached the 100 hours Houser had mentioned. The company also followed up with its own employees, calling a meeting in at least one studio to emphasize that overtime is not mandatory. However unintentionally, the studio opened up a larger conversation about crunch in the industry as a whole, and this in-game advertisement appears to be a possible artifact of that.

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Avatar image for SCImonTemplar

Worcester?! That's only 25-30 minutes away from me. Total dump.

Avatar image for proxima1025

I work site maintenance and am required 1 week out of 2 to be available at a moments notice and I also have to work some weekends but no-one gives a crap about my working conditions (and they shouldn't), this is just garbage trash tier hack 'news'! Most of the working population have to work to deadlines but highly paid (a damn site more that I earn for example) programmers know what is expected of them and do what is required, so someone mentioned long hours during 'crunch time' which has been going on since time immemorial (as far as the industry goes) but its different and is newsworthy now somehow?

Avatar image for cappy

@proxima1025: Yeah, it is different and news worthy. This industry has a long history of employees being pressured or even required to work crazy long hours. Working an occassional weekend or being on-call is nothing compared to being forced to work 80-90 hour work weeks. There is plenty of info on the web about it. Try a Google, but here is a some good info to get you started:

Re: “Highly paid programmers,” Game dev teams are made up of much more than just programmers and while the average salaried wage for game devs is around $83,000, it varies widely based on expereince and studio. I’fe heard of entry level positions at $25k, though not sure hiw accurate that is.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c1c32e0b8cc8

@cappy: $25k isn't too bad for somebody who may just be starting in the field! That's a hell of a lot more than my first job was paying. I couldn't imagine making $83k though! That must be amazing.

Avatar image for cappy

@jayskoon93: Hi, and thanks for the reply. Depends on the cost of living of where you are at re: $25k. In a more rural area it might be ok, but in New York, Boston or San Fransisco, etc, you couldn’t survive on it without having a few roomates (I grew up in New York and started my work life there). That’s about what I made when I started in Social Services 25 years ago, so I think it’s really really low by today’s standards.

IMHO I wouldn’t want to make $83k if it meant having no personal life. Ich father make $50k and have personal life. Great quote from director of God of War (who likely made much much mkre than $83k) when asked what he was going to do next: “After 3 years, go get to know my wife and child again.” That, to me, is a devil’s bargain. My family is worth immesurable more than anything else in my life.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c1c32e0b8cc8

@cappy: I suppose that is true. In my area on the east side of Atlanta, you can buy a brand new 3 bedroom home for $150k or less, so if you were making $25k, you could just about pay for it yourself. 2 bed 1 bath apartments are roughly $600 per month.

Avatar image for cappy

@jayskoon93: Oh wow, that’s so low! I moved from New York to SE Alaska, and the housing costs are a little less crazy here, but still high. 3 bedroom here is around $300k. Rent for 2 bedroom 1 bath is around $1300 on the low end (just checked to make sure). But granted, Alaska is not the norm by any stretch.