Starbound developer Chucklefish allegedly did not pay around a dozen of its workers (UPDATE)

Update: Chucklefish has responded to the unpaid Starbound developer’s allegations. In a statement to Screen Rant, Chucklefish said the following:

“We’re aware and saddened by the current allegations against Chucklefish regarding Starbound’s early development.

During this time both the core crew and community contributors were collaborating via a chat room and dedicated their time for free. Community contributors were under no obligation to create content, work to deadlines or put in any particular number of hours. Everyone was credited or remunerated as per their agreement.

It’s been almost a decade since Starbound’s development first began, and from then Chucklefish has grown considerably into an indie studio that has a strong emphasis on good working practices, providing a welcoming environment for all employees and freelancers.

Our doors remain open to any related parties who wish to discuss their concerns with us directly.”

Original Story: Ex-Starbound dev Damon Reece allegedly worked on Starbound for hundreds of hours without seeing any kind of monetary compensation. Reece, also known as demanrisu, is currently Route 59 Games’ lead writer on the upcoming cinematic visual novel Necrobarista.

Reece shared this on Twitter, stating that this happened when they were 16 years old. They were starting their career in game development and worked on Starbound for almost two years. The sandbox adventure game was critically and commercially acclaimed, turning British developer Chucklefish into a household name.

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Reece’s tweet mentioned that they were not the only Starbound dev not to see a single cent for their work. The tweet reads that “I worked hundreds of hours and wasn’t paid a single cent for it while the company made unbelievable amounts of money off of my labour, and that of around a dozen other unpaid workers.”

They added that a couple of those unpaid workers ended up being hired by Chucklefish, but “it doesn’t mean they weren’t exploited too.”

Reece was afraid to talk about this for fear of destroying their career, but is now able to do it since they are in a “stable and safe” position. They are not asking for money and when confronted with questions regarding their possible actions at the time, the response is simple: “abusive power dynamics.”

Reece stressed that no one should work for free, because the only thing that “young people and students angling for a foot at the door” will get from doing free work is “a permanent bad taste in your mouth once you realize you’ve been had.”

Founder of Igloosoft Games, Rho Watson, or Rhopunzel, who had previously worked on Starbound and Rimworld, corroborated Reece’s story and added several tweets with alleged controversial actions from Chucklefish’s staff and management.

“Management’s attitude was “if you care so much, pay them out of your share”, despite the fact that 1) they were earning 5x as much as me and 2) I’d been told at every turn that I wasn’t part of the company and had no say in it,” tweeted Watson.

Another tweet from Watson said that she knows of another story of abusers in the gaming industry, but “it isn’t her place to tell because it’s not [Watson’s] story.”