Anonymous Developer Details Rockstar Games Crunch

An anonymous Rockstar Lincoln QA tester has written in-depth about the development crunch at their studio. Rockstar Games crunch culture, or lack thereof, has dominated the conversation around Red Dead Redemption 2 since an interview with co-founder Dan Houser last week. The anonymous verified QA tester detailed Rockstar Games crunch culture in a lengthy post on Reddit.

After last week’s Houser interview, Rockstar has allowed its developers to detail their work experiences. The developer hoped to assuage worries that its developers were overworked and unfairly compensated during Red Dead Redemption 2‘s development. Rockstar Lincoln, one of the nine studios working under the Rockstar Studios banner, is dedicated to QA and localization. The United Kingdom-based studio, according to the Reddit post, has been in “crunch” mode since October 2017 and mandatory overtime for over a year.

The QA tester’s post emphasized that “overtime is NOT optional, it is expected” of the testers at the studio. According the post, the majority of the QA team also works on an hourly basis and their overtime hours are paid with the exception of salaried staff. Standard work days at Rockstar Lincoln are described as 7.5 hours paid, and an hour-long, unpaid lunch break. Overtime days are 10 paid hours, and 1.5 hours unpaid.

According to the tester, Rockstar Lincoln had two different “crunch” expectations. The first, referred to as “true” crunch required employees to work overtime every weekday and four weekend overtime shifts in a month. The second was “standard” crunch which cut weekday overtime to three days a week, and two weekend overtime shifts in a month. The testers’ time with the company has been in “standard” crunch time—56 hours a week—for 38 weeks. Rockstar Lincoln has had at least eight weeks of “true” crunch at 65 hour a week in the time the post’s author has been with them.

The Rockstar Lincoln employee went on to say that overtime is “entirely optional” as of next week, after Red Dead Redemption 2 launches. They said, “this is huge for us here in Lincoln as many of us haven’t been able to take full weekends without paying for it in a long time.”

Rockstar Games crunch culture has come under fire before, especially in 2010. Spouses of Red Dead Redemption developers wrote a letter that was released publicly months before the game released. The letter detailed the strain intense crunch at Rockstar San Diego has had on employees, and their families. Rockstar has said it has tried to make crunch less common at its studios, with many current developers saying as much.