Rockstar Games created some commotion today when a new interview with Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser revealed that employees at the Red Dead Redemption 2 developers were working 100-hour weeks several times throughout 2018. In a clarification, Houser says the quote was misunderstood and that only a few senior employees were working those kinds of hours.
In an interview with Vulture Rockstar Houser detailed some of the development goings-on at Rockstar in the leadup to Red Dead Redemption 2's release on October 26. The full quote not only includes details for how much animation and dialogue is in the game, but also the labor that goes into getting the results. "We were working 100-hour weeks," Dan says several times in 2018 in fact.
The quote received a lot of online attention, especially since this is not the first time Rockstar's development has come up in the ongoing industry conversations about crunch. However, Houser clarified the statement in an email to USgamer.
"There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview with 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."
Houser's mention of 100-hour work weeks, even if they were only for select senior staff, became part of an ongoing examination of crunch in the video game industry. Companies like Telltale Games engaged in excessive crunch and last month the company underwent an unceremonious majority layoff. And Rockstar's association with crunch isn't new either given the "Rockstar Spouse" incident first tied the major developer to excessive crunch way back during the development of the first Red Dead Redemption.
Developers have also responded to Houser's 100-hour work week comments on social media, which further highlights how widespread crunch is in the industry and its culture, but also how some are combatting it.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is coming out on PS4 and Xbox One on October 26. For more info visit our Red Dead Redemption 2 guide.