Dan Houser is Rockstar Games’ co-founder and the studios’ Vice President of Creativity. Houser recently spoke with Vulture while promoting the publisher’s upcoming game, Red Dead Redemption 2. In the interview, Houser declared that “We were working 100-hour weeks” while developing the game at times. The internet then soon began to buzz regarding Rockstar’s possibly insane work environment.
Here is Houser’s direct quote as written by Vulture:
“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. Sam and I will both make lots of suggestions, as will other members of the team.”
The “working 100-hour weeks” quote was then a focal point amongst the industry. David Heinemeier Hansson, author and creator of Ruby on Rails and founder of Basecamp, tweeted out “Imagine bragging about pushing your workers to 100h+ weeks while also claiming to be proud of how sensible your work practices are. Especially on a sequel to an original game that brought the families of workers to plead with management for leniency.”
Mike Bithell, developer of Thomas Was Alone and Subsurface Circular, published a few tweets on the topic. Most poignant of them was a statement saying “If I ever boast about my team having to do overtime because I can’t manage them properly, and actually use that as a selling point, please screencap this tweet and send it to me hundreds of times until I depart this godforsaken website in shame.”
Dylan Wildman was a Rockstar employee in 2012 during “crunch” on Grand Theft Auto V. Wildman said the experience was “hell” and called himself a “survivor of GTAV crunch”.
After all the backlash emerged from the quote on Red Dead Redemption 2, Houser released a statement saying things weren’t as bad as they sounded:
“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.”
Once Red Dead Redemption 2 ships, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from many Rockstar employees regarding how harrowing development was on the title. The game launches on October 26th for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.