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Facepalm: Rockstar was trying to erase some bad PR over the weekend. The trouble started last week when Harold Goldberg of Vulture interviewed the company's co-founder Dan Houser.
Houser, who is also the head writer for Red Dead Redemption 2, mentioned in the lengthy conversation that the finalizing of the story was particularly arduous. The polishing and editing had the team working up to 100 hours per week in 2018 to get it done. Considering the game has half a million lines of dialog, and the launch date was fast approaching, it is perhaps no surprise the team was burning the midnight oil to get it complete.
The admission did not sit well with fans who assumed Rockstar required too much of its employees. Houser clarified his comment in a statement to Kotaku saying that the studio does not demand employees work overtime.
"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. 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."
However, it seems that some employees were under the impression that it was mandatory.
Variety notes that Rockstar held an employee meeting on Friday to discuss and clarify its overtime policies. It was explained that while extra work hours are not required, they are sometimes requested and scheduled.
"Some people have said that they felt it was effectively mandatory because it was expected of them. In light of the discussion around this issue, we got the team together today to make sure it is clear to them that OT work is not mandatory," said Rockstar's Jennifer Kolbe. "We are also pushing to make any OT worked more flexible in terms of schedule (i.e. 'work when makes sense for you')."
Whether it is game development or any other industry, deadlines bring crunch times. It's just the nature of doing business. While nobody wants to be forced to work extra, it is important to keep in mind that overtime pays more (sometimes even double) and that although it may not be required, there is significant pressure in any job to look good and be a team player.
Now that Rockstar has cleared the air, employees will probably just go back to working overtime when needed like they always have comforted with the thought that they don't have to if they so choose.