With a game as large and ambitious as Red Dead Redemption 2, it is fair to assume that the project entailed a massive, gargantuan effort from the developers at Rockstar Studios. Co-founder of the studio Dan Houser recently quantified the effort, saying in an interview that during development, Rockstar worked “100-hour weeks” several times in 2018.
For those of you without a simple calculator handy, that’s roughly 14 hours a day—and that’s assuming a work week includes Saturday and Sunday. What resulted from that work is around 60 hours of content for Red Dead Redemption 2, a game with a massive file size that includes “300,000 animations, 500,000 lines of dialogue, and many more lines of code,” according to Houser. Still, this sound bite does recall a saga involving the development of the previous Red Dead game.
Back in 2010, an anonymous user who was simply known as “Rockstar Spouse” wrote a blog post claiming that Rockstar employees were working 12-hour work days, six days a week. As a result, the blog post said, the development of Red Dead Redemption had a major toll on mental health and morale for workers; the blog post continued on to claim that benefits were also cut for employees during development. Rockstar responded by pushing back on the claim, saying that it was a case of “people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact.”
This is only the word from someone at the top of Rockstar, and we haven’t heard from any of Houser’s employees about the work conditions of this particular game. Still, the 100-hour figure may be troubling for those who have followed news about the game industry’s labor practices, in a console generation where “crunch” in game development is a hot-button topic.
Red Dead Redemption 2, which we played and previewed, is coming out on October 26 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
UPDATE: Rockstar Games has responded with a statement from Dan Houser to Kotaku:
There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview with [Vulture’s] 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.