Rockstar Clarifies Red Dead Redemption 2's 100-Hour Work Week Comments

"We obviously don't expect anyone else to work this way."

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Now Playing: Red Dead Redemption 2 File Size, Other Stats Revealed - GS News Update

As we approach the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, now is the time for the publisher to promote the game with impressive stats about just how much work went into the final product. But one number has been raising eyebrows, forcing Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser to issue a clarification.

In a lengthy interview, Houser suggested that the team worked 100-hour weeks several times throughout 2018. But now in a statement to Kotaku, he has elaborated that he was referring to the senior writing team, not the entire Rockstar development 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," he said. "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."

His clarification does square with the original piece in Vulture, which used the 100 hours quote immediately after explaining rewrites and edits. Houser's clarifying statement also goes on to explain Rockstar's general policy towards "crunch"--the widely used practice in AAA game development to put in long hours, especially near the end of a project that's preparing to ship.

"More importantly, we obviously don't expect anyone else to work this way," he said. "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."

This all has a tone of history repeating itself. When the first Red Dead Redemption was nearing completion, an anonymous letter alleged poor working conditions at Rockstar San Diego, including mandatory overtime. That prompted mediation from the IDGA. Houser's clarification suggests the studio does not expect its employees to work such long hours.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming October 26. Its online mode, Red Dead Online, will follow in November.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for Defender1978
Defender1978

They need to up the hours and get the game running at 1080p 60 fps.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c56012aaa167

No problem.That's what they want to do.

I remember id software staff worked the same amount of time per week for the first Doom game.

Avatar image for deactivated-5c2b926b0d74a

Judging by the state of a lot of games 100 hours a week clearly isnt enough and they need to start upping it to 140

Avatar image for Salt_AU
Salt_AU

Get over it, who fucking cares what other people do or don't do.

Online
Avatar image for KerenskyTheRed
KerenskyTheRed

Unfortunately, this type of situation is not completely unheard of in CA. If you are an "exempt" employee you are salaried but don't qualify for overtime. You usually get additional benefits to help compensate. There are days that I work 13 or more hours a day but I usually don't work more than 40 hrs a week. That's how the system is supposed to work, but it can be taken advantage of. There was a time a former boss worked me for 50+ hrs over 5 weeks and I wasn't too happy. 100 seems insane.

At least it wasn't the entire development team and it was only 3 weeks out of the 7 years of dev time. Honestly, this seems more like marketing bait than anything.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

@KerenskyTheRed: LOL... whining about 50hr weeks?

You wouldn't last a month on the East Coast (NYC, NJ, BOS, PHL etc).

Look, the smartest companies tie these to targets with profit sharing payouts. Win-win.

Avatar image for KerenskyTheRed
KerenskyTheRed

@Pyrosa: If I was getting overtime or some other benefits, I wouldn't be complaining. Working 50+ hours starts to matter when you aren't being paid, at all, for the hours past 40. Most people dont enjoy working for free.

Most people are familiar with hourly pay schemes but not other types. In my particular case, my former boss took advantage of his "exempt" employees. But he was sacked, and it hasn't happened since.

Avatar image for ballashotcaller
ballaShotCaller

Rockstar is the opposite of efficient. They just burn through their money cause they have so much. The reason is because management is so bad and they often develop things that is never used because of terrible planning. A friend of mine was a dev there.

It's incredible people still crunch so hard when there are companies like Insomniac who avoid it as much as possible and offer decent work-life balance.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

It puts the patches in the code or else it gets...

Avatar image for barcaazul
BarcaAzul

It's not healthy at all. I've done some stupid hours in my time and not for the love of it, more through need. It wasn't rewarding and took weeks to recover.

In the end you become less productive and if you aren't rewarded after you become resentful.

I guess these guys will get paid for it though

Avatar image for nurnberg
nurnberg

100 hours work week? Isn't this really unhealthy? I am not sure my body is even capable of doing this.

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

@nurnberg: I've done it a few times in my career...the worst being nearly 240 hours in two weeks. It was a red bull fueled drunk code rage of bloody murder, but critical for the company I was working for at the time. It was fun for a short duration...and I got 3 or 4 days off to chill after along with some other substantial perks.

I pitty heavily people who do this regularly for no benefits. I don't care how much you love anything...if you spend that kind of time putting that much intense effort into it, you burn out.

Avatar image for sdzald
sdzald

This has everything to do with the insane labor laws here in California. They are CYA, trying to stay out of the cross hairs of the state labor board. Good luck to them.

Avatar image for mattcake
mattcake

Pff I often sit down at my PC on a workday at 8am and not turn it off til midnight.

Granted, I do take 10am-10pm off for gaming though.

Avatar image for mpl911
mpl911

@mattcake: ...plus all that porn's not gonna watch itself!!

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Only the writing staff worked 100 hour weeks. The other devs got to slack off and only work 92 hours a week.

Avatar image for DantheMan9856
DantheMan9856

has anyone surmised that perhaps they love what they do and are dedicated?

Avatar image for Mogan
Mogan

@DantheMan9856: No, but at some point I start to wonder if THAT level of crunch couldn't have been avoided, and if this is considered normal, is the "dedication" and "passion" of these developers being taken advantage of? Also, shouldn't management have the responsibility to their employees to take steps to ensure these people aren't (and don't feel obligated) to sacrifice their health and well being for the job?

I wouldn't really wonder about this stuff if there hadn't been complaints made against R* about it in the past.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

B-b-b-backpedal!!!!

Avatar image for James_xeno
James_xeno

We really needed all this focus and nonsense over some comments? Really?!

Avatar image for death_burnout
death_burnout

@James_xeno: Yes, we must all declare our outrage. Every last living soul must have a platform and an appropriate excuse to be upset. It is the way of things!

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Avatar image for James_xeno
James_xeno

@death_burnout:

Sad but true..

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

Making overtime at that level mandatory is bordering on slavery even if it is paid, 100 hours equating to 7 days per week at 14 hours and 17 minutes each day. Surely it would make more sense to hire other people to take up the slack and keep the full time staff fresh and invigorated in order to keep development on track. Employment law really needs to change to prevent this kind of behaviour from employers. People's families suffer as well, not just those employees

Avatar image for TacticaI
TacticaI

@gotrekfabian: I've done it. You go back and forth between feeling like a slave and a whore depending how close you are to payday.

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

@TacticaI: I just couldn't. Despite it being against employment law on which I would stand my ground, I physically couldn't do it now. My body needs relaxation and some good sleep these days. I have been there though, in my younger years we had a lot of business when I worked as a warehouse order picker during the summer months. We would start at 17:00 and not finish until 06:00 - 08:00 the following morning. I would only just have enough time to eat something when I got home, hit the sack and then a very quick shower atter getting up before cycling the 4 miles back to the grind again. Different days back then though as I'm talking some 20+ years ago now.

Avatar image for phoenix1289
phoenix1289

@gotrekfabian: You didn't read the article did you. It isn't mandatory. He directly states it isn't mandatory.

""More importantly, we obviously don't expect anyone else to work this way," he said. "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."

Avatar image for gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

@phoenix1289: Of course I read the article, this information was even duplicated in another topic if you go and look. Presumption is the mother of all...

As Thanatos states below, it was said that should employees choose that the overtime then they wish them all the best in finding new endeavours. In so many words he suggested that if overtime was not done then the staff would be replaced. Try reading into what people mean and perhaps following how the game industry actually works. And it isn't just the gaming industry, employers are being absolutely unscrupulous on what they are asking staff do thanks to the global economy crisis of the last 10 years+. Mandatory overtime, zero hour contracts, making staff do other jobs which are not even mentioned when contracted etc I have seen many things and, having only just stopped working for the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK, I can tell you that what is being done right now has to change.

EDIT: I guess I shouldn't have used the word 'mandatory' but the implication is in the statement if you read between the lines.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@phoenix1289: Ask anyone who has worked for a video game dev. It's not mandatory - you just get fired if you refuse to work it. And they make it very clear during the hiring process that you are expected to.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

@phoenix1289: And you believed him?

Avatar image for geminij13
GeminiJ13

There are only 168 hours in a full week. That leaves 56 hours of that week for sleeping, eating, and personal hygiene. If you got 8 hours per night (doubtful seeing as you are not going back home during that crunch week) of sleep, that leaves you 1.7 hours a day for "other" activities. Hope that there were showers on hand later in that week!

This might be "uncomfortable" to do this, but I don't see a problem on doing this for a week or two at the most near the end of your development cycle to wrap up loose ends and check to make sure you crossed all your T's and dotted all your I's. And the team that did this probably wanted to do this because of the love of the work. And I suspect that there was no peer pressure involved as they were all equally committed to putting their best efforts into delivering us the quality product they want us to experience.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bfc8187829ef

100 hour work weekly for making battle royal red dead online. making a sp game even big one doesnot require that amount of time and for a game that its last version came years ago. look at the games massive ones like witcher 3 or AC games (new ones like origin or odyeesy. they are working on multi since 2016 I bet that is the reason they are working 100 hour even after 10 years.

Avatar image for Prats1993
Prats1993

So kids, you want to be a game developer when you grow up? 😂😂😂.

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

"More importantly, we obviously don't expect anyone else to work this way," ... but if you don't, we'll make sure you're not on RDR 3.

Avatar image for phoenix1289
phoenix1289

@chakan2: They aren't going to fire every developer who doesn't work extreme overtime. Especially not if the dev consistently did good work. If they managed things like that they'd end up spending a fortune trying to hire new people all the time and do basic training for all of them.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@phoenix1289: They don't need to. Just the first couple. The rest quickly fall in line.

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

@phoenix1289: No, you don't fire anyone, you shame them or give them god awful jobs until they quit. The army of grunts for game development for a high profile studio is endless.

Avatar image for phoenix1289
phoenix1289

@chakan2: And again if they did that it would cost them a fortune constantly having to hire and train new people. So I repeat they aren't going to fire (or shame people into quitting) just because they don't work extreme overtime, particularly if that dev is doing good work. It's counter productive to do so.

And yes Rockstar is high profile which means they likely aren't hiring just anyone. Most of the people they hire would logically need to be of a certain experience level to keep with the quality of game a company like them needs to maintain meaning the list of people to hire is a lot shorter than you seem to think. They aren't going to just let in any random joe looking to be a game dev join one of the most prestigious game companies in the world.

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

@phoenix1289: You clearly don't know how the industry works. After EA took shit for this, it's very taboo to talk about the real working conditions when it comes to development.

But no, you only need a few key positions to have real talent to keep a studio going...80% of your work is grindy, mo caps, clean up, testing, tooling, etc... It's also cannon fodder. If you're not "invested" enough, it's a quick trip to Rockstar Alaska and a dead end position. There are 50 very talented people drooling over that position.

Avatar image for Mogan
Mogan

@chakan2: "There are 50 very talented people drooling over that position."

Why? If that position requires hundred hour weeks to keep and move up from, why are there so many people looking to fill it?

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Mogan: Because there are countless naive college students fresh out needing a job to pay off their loans, and they'd LOVE to work on video games. Video games! So cool! They don't yet realize how much more work it is, and how poorly paid it is compared to development positions at any other software company, and that they're not actually going to have any input on the direction of the game.

This is why the average video game dev only lasts 3-5 years in the industry before they quit and do something else. That's the length of one or two games, by the way. So obviously a fresh influx of naive young sods is always there to refill the tanks.

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

@Mogan:Because entry level is entry level, and kids are stupid (you'd be amazed at how long a single 22 year old will work, in awful gut wrenching conditions, and work for peanuts).

It gets your name in the credits for a high profile release. That gives you an in for more lucrative positions elsewhere. It's a vicious cycle, but that's how the industry goes.

Avatar image for Mogan
Mogan

@chakan2: Sounds like the industry has a problem. : \

Avatar image for chakan2
chakan2

@Mogan: Yes. It does...but I think that's just how it rolls with any creative role. My point in this whole thread is it's laughable for them to imply that crunch time is a choice made by a chosen few in the studio. That's just now how it works at all.