According to the lead creator, Rockstar is working “100 hour weeks” to get the title ready. While he’s redacted his statement, it speaks of the permeating culture of the gaming industry.
When it comes to the minutiae surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s becoming entirely impossible to temper one’s expectations. While we’re still waiting for it to clip-clop over the horizon and disrupt the stable nature of our lives on October 26, we’ve got a measure on how much it will take from us.
According to a Vulture interview with creator Dan Houser, the story alone is set to be a mind-boggling 60 hours long. Which is a staggering figure, considering that the previous burner of our time, Fallout 4 took around 15-20 hours to complete, providing you didn’t dick around in the wasteland. Rockstar’s other free-form orgy of soundtracked violence, GTA V came in at around 30 hours.
Surprisingly, it was meant to be longer, but Houser announced that they clipped a love interest and a train robbery from the main story, stating that they both felt “superfluous”, therefore reducing the runtime to an even sixty. Factor in the time spent online and/or tying miscreants to train tracks, there’s a chance that we might never regain control of our lives.
However, the very obvious effort that has gone into making the title is rather obvious, and according to numerous sources (including Rockstar itself), has spoken of 100 hour work weeks to ensure that the title made good on their promises.
According to a statement sent to Kotaku, Dan Houser said:
The polishing, rewrites, and reedits Rockstar does are immense. “We were working 100-hour weeks” several times in 2018, Dan says. The finished game includes 300,000 animations, 500,000 lines of dialogue, and many more lines of code. Even for each RDR2 trailer and TV commercial, “we probably made 70 versions, but the editors may make several hundred. Sam and I will both make both make lots of suggestions, as will other members of the team.”
When asked to elaborate by the publication, Houser replied:
The point I was trying to make in the article was related to how the narrative and dialogue in the game was crafted, which was mostly what we talked about, not about the different processes of the wider team.
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. We have all worked together for at least 12 years now, and feel we need this to get everything finished. After so many years of getting things organised and ready on this project, we needed this to check and finalise everything.
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. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard. I believe we go to great lengths to run a business that cares about its people, and to make the company a great place for them to work.
In video game dev circles, the “crunch” has long been a reality, where excessive overtime in the weeks leading up to release is commonplace. While some have taken measures to reduce it, the permeating culture of top development houses is that the only way to secure a worthy title is working those extra crunch hours.
Byways of an example, back in 2010, when in preparation for the original Red Dead Redemption, the family members of Rockstar devs, wrote an open letter decrying work conditions at the studio. The letter spoke of an average of twelve-hour workdays, mandatory Saturdays and the uniform reduction of benefits.
As a consumer, I realise that I’m the problem, as well as the developer. Yes, Rockstar has made many promises that they now have to back up, lest we brick their houses. The margins are thin and the potential cost is great. But as it stands, I’ll be happy with whatever they come up with…as long as the multiplayer works, everything that is in the trailer is in the game and Jose Gonzalez vibrantly soundtracks my wild west thuggery.