Rockstar's Cult of Crunch and Fear - How Red Dead Redemption 2 and other hits beyond beautiful trailers and news were created (Topic)

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Rockstar's Cult of Crunch and Fear - How Red Dead Redemption 2 and other hits beyond beautiful trailers and news were created


RDR 2 is finally out. Despite the high expectations of the fans and the high bar set by the developers, the game came out as a masterpiece. Hundreds of positive reviews, ratings, news and money poured into Rockstar. On the eve of its release, many sites, and ours is no exception, wrote enough information and found facts about RDR 2 as an upcoming hit.

However, a few days before its release, Kotaku published a large investigation by Jason Schreyer, the creator of the book about the gaming industry, Blood Sweat and Pixels, about major overhauls among game developers (in other words, crunches). In it, he tried to find out what the working conditions are in the famous company. Here's a selection of the most interesting from Kotaku's investigation.

How did it all start?

The precedent was the statement of the head of Rockstar Games, Dan Hauser, in an interview, where he, with a touch of pride and boasting, stated that his employees sometimes work on a game 100 hours a week. By the way, this is illegal and contrary to the labor code. Hauser, in turn, then corrected himself by saying that I had only myself and his team of scriptwriters to introduce.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Game

However, the studio already had similar problems in the past, and the words of its head prompted Schreyer to conduct an investigation in which he spoke with 34 current employees of the company, and 43 former ones, and also interviewed Jennifer Kolb, the boss by Rockstar Publishing.

Almost all respondents asked to remain anonymous in order not to be fired. And some who have expressed positive reviews about the studio decided that then readers would think that the studio was hiding a lot.

Don't reveal the plot, gameplay details, and that you work 60 hours

According to data provided by Rockstar Kotaku, the average workweek during the creation of RDR 2 ranged from 42-45 hours. However, it was about the entire Rockstar, and not just the team working on the western. So, maybe those who support GTA Online do, and by this they, on average, cover the high rates of those who worked on the western.

In the studio, the working day is tracked by the employees' assurance using the BugStar application, created to track and fix bugs, where they register its beginning and end. And if your weekly work rate was less than 40-45 hours, you may be called for an unpleasant conversation with your superiors.

GTA V poster

So, during the creation of GTA V, all those who had a working day less than 60 hours a week were marked in the registry with the word "Under" - that is, a flaw. And he works because of the policy of secrecy, so that the facts about the new project do not leak to the Internet, you always need to be in the office. Work from home is only allowed for medical reasons for health problems.

It been a hard day's night and I been working like a dog ....

Rockstars report that sometimes overtime is justified by the fact that employees receive a large monetary compensation for it. Well this is true, but with a catch, because it all depends on the financial success of the game. So, after the release of the first RDR, employees who had crunches received five-figure additional payments. But after the release of Max Payne 3, which did not pay for itself, the employees did not receive anything at all for their crunches.

In the studio, workers are divided into those who receive a flat rate and those who receive an hourly rate. There is a big gap between the salaries of these workers. So for a junior employee to receive the equivalent of a fixed salary, he must work 70-80 hours a week. But, fixed-rate employees who are officially recognized as more valuable don't get paid for crunches at Rockstar ...


Although absolutely all of Schreier's interlocutors refuted the boastful statement about "100 hours a week", some argue that there were cases of an 80-hour work week - that's 11 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Crunch cult and fear in Rockstar

Many employees say that the cult of fear really reigns in the studio. So, they fear that if during the visit of Sam or Dan Hauser to the office they are not at their workplace, then they will be removed from all the bonus that they have collected. Therefore, even if they have already done all the work, they aimlessly sit in the office at the computers, and pretend to be working in anticipation of the arrival of their bosses (as we all know in the CIS countries).

The developers themselves are another matter. Many Rockstar employees believe that a good job is judged by how long you've been in the office, especially if you're in a senior position. That is, if you leave before people who recycle out of principle, then you catch sidelong glances and gossip that you are not worthy of your place and you should be fired. Some interlocutors of Kotaku are sure that many of the studio's employees have developed Stockholm Syndrome, when for the sake of work you find yourself from your daily life, hobbies and hobbies, and put pressure on everyone who disagrees with you.


"The ideal exists and these are our games" - brothers Hauser

In many ways, crunch at Rockstar is associated with the high bar of games and the desire of the Hauser brothers for the ideal. Let's face it, the studio's games have really been bloody hits over the past few years. However, this is the drive to what we described came out, or for example, here are some more facts about rework in Rockstar:

  • During the work on the RDR, due to the 70 hour work week, the company had its own in-house washing service, as many did not have time to look after themselves.
  • RDR2 has been in the making for 8 years and has often been reworked from scratch when, for example, Den Hauser said the game was not fun. Or when it turned out that in Mafia 3 there is a city with the same name as in RDR2 - New Bordeaux. By order of the authorities, it was completely renamed with redrawing of textures and re-sounding of the already finished material.
  • The period of creation of Max Payne 3 in the studio is tacitly called the "death march", because almost everyone worked 6 days from 9 to 23 every day. One of Kotaku's interviewers admitted that he did not remember the details of his life during the creation of this game.

To be fair ...

For the sake of fairness, we note that despite the crunch at Rockstar, absolutely all employees love RDR2 and urge you not to boycott the game. Almost all employees love their job and call the creation of a new Western one pleasure, and the management understands their mistakes and tries to correct them little by little. For example, RDR2 was easier to create, since absolutely all departments of the studio worked on the game, distributing the load. All respondents talk about policy changes.

Red Dead Redemption 2

As the author of the material himself concluded, the situation with the studio is ambiguous and it is impossible to call Rockstar's management demons, but this will not negate the fact of crunches. Perhaps, as a CD Project red spokesman said in an interview, crunch is a sacrifice for the art of making a cult video game. Decide for yourself whether it is or not.

Read more about RDR2: 7 Pre-Play Tips and 5 Top Problems in Red Dead Redemption 2.

The Topic of Article: Rockstar's Cult of Crunch and Fear - How Red Dead Redemption 2 and other hits beyond beautiful trailers and news were created.
Author: Jake Pinkman