The co-founder of Rockstar, Dan Houser, has raised quite a lot of controversy when he told Vulture that Rockstar had 100-hour work weeks while developing Red Dead Redemption 2. Obviously, 100-hour work weeks are completely ridiculous so this statement did not go over well. Now Dan Houser has tried to talk his way out of the hole he dug himself in while criticism towards Rockstar’s awful work ethics is not slowing down at all.
Here is part of the original article that sparked the controversy.
“We were working 100-hour weeks” several times in 2018, Dan says. The finished game includes 300,000 animations, 500,000 lines of dialogue, and many more lines of code. Even for each RDR2 trailer and TV commercial, “we probably made 70 versions, but the editors may make several hundred.
Grueling hours are nothing new in the gaming industry. However, a 100-hour work week is something else. That means that you would have to work more than 14 hours a day each week, without a weekend. This is way beyond overtime at this point and has most likely been a bit of an exaggeration by Dan, however, since neither Dan or Vulture clarified on the 100-hour work week the controversy was sparked. Dan had the following to say to Kotaku about the statement that he made to Vulture and what he had actually meant by it.
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.
According to the statement, it was only Dan, the other members of the senior writing team, and other motivated members of the staff that worked those ridiculous hours. It was also only for the last 3 weeks while wrapping up the project and not something that is expected of the other staff members working in the office.
However, this extreme work culture is something that Rockstar is notorious for and after this controversy, multiple former employees have called out the company stating that 12 to 14 hour work weeks are definitely the norm within the company and not something that only the senior staff is doing. One even goes as far as saying that the staff had to choose which day of the weekend they would come in and which day they would be free. Also, don’t forget that when the first Red Dead Redemption was released, the wives of multiple Rockstar employees wrote an open letter calling out the company for its ridiculous work hours.
Probably 12-14 hours days, 6 days a week. Sometimes we were given the choice of which weekend day we wanted off. Probably lasted for a year, as the crunch hours go on way past release to cater for post releases/DLC etc.
— Dylan (@christs_chins) October 15, 2018
Although Dan Houser claims that staff is treated fairly within the company and that most employees are not expected to put in long hours at work, the evidence seems stacked against him. He has really gotten himself and the company in trouble with his claims when Rockstar’s grinding work hours are already so notorious.