Even though Rockstar's HR department allowed and encouraged its employees to freely discuss working conditions on social media, we're hearing conflicting information when it comes to Red Dead Redemption 2's crunch, even with official stats.
Rockstar actually sent Kotaku their 2018 summary of average reported work hours across its studios, which claim that the company's average week consisted of 42.4 hours from January to March. From April to June, this rose to 45.5 hours, and further up to 45.8 hours from July to September.
Unfortunately, stats can be misleading at times and this seems to be one of those times because not all Rockstar employees were equally caught by the dreaded crunch. Dan Houser corrected his initial statement since, claiming that the 100 hour weeks were only for the writing team, which already shows that average stats don't tell the whole story. Add to that some wildly varying employee testimonies and we're on the same page.
Some Rockstar's employees are adamant that working on Red Dead Redemption 2 was a breeze, with barely any crunch time involved. In the same wave of public testimonies though, we've heard others testify to working 70 hour weeks, so it's a bit difficult to gauge the situation properly.
Add to that the fact that Rockstar spans a bunch of studios across the globe and any attempt at an analysis quickly takes a turn into unwise generalisation territory. Nevertheless, Kotaku's conversations with England, San Diego and New York offices of Rockstar yielded some interesting testimonies.
A former employee of Rockstar San Diego says that leaving early on weekdays or weekends would get you dirty looks. "There was this culture of, if you don't put in the hours, you're not working there", he said. Another employee mentioned that the company at one point offered laundry service, which was interpreted as a universal sign of not getting enough time off to do it yourself.
The company's head of publishing, Jennifer Kolbe, agreed that the situation with Red Dead Redemption development was a dire one but insists that the studio learned from it and improved the situation significantly for Red Dead Redemption 2. However, while it is true that many people worked really long hours, many of them inflate their actual hours based on how it felt at the time, Kolbe argued.
"We care deeply about the games. I think that can sometimes result in a little bit of...you can become obsessive about certain things", she concluded.
You can find Kotaku's full report here.