News: Rockstar San Diego and Metro 2033
Posted by deckard47 on January 9, 2010
Let’s get the easy (but less depressing) stuff out of the way first. Metro 2033 is a game that a lot of people (including me, until the most recent Edge arrived on my doorstep) probably thing of as “a STALKER game that isn’t be the STALKER people.” It is not that. It sounds like a much more driven, linear experience (from the recent Edge article, it really sounds like their Half Life, if I may be reductive) as evidenced in the above video. It looks quite impressive, from a world-building and graphical perspective. The game itself is apparently still a little iffy control and balance-wise, but I’d love to see a different take on the post-apocalyptic that wasn’t direct from STALKER and Fallout land.
Now that other thing I wanted to talk about: Rockstar San Diego. There’s a letter, apparently written or overseen by the wives of people who work for Rockstar San Diego, detailing Rockstar San Diego’s reprehensible treatment of their employees (it’s a similar situation to the old “EA Spouse” letter from years ago, it’s just a bit less detailed). Still, it’s pretty damning, as shown in this bit of the letter:
Little is there to motivate continuation as they also have lost a free vacation week between Christmas and New Year. Without time to recuperate and no efforts made to alleviate the stress of such conditions would procure on an employee after a period time, serious health concerns. Yet, now the health concern becomes another financial concern as the stripping of medical benefits surfaces to realization. It becomes rather worse rather than better as employees gain experience and become “senior”. Instead of appreciation, numerous non-exempt designers and artists have had their overtime pay cut as a result for being “too senior”. Looking to upper management provides no comfort rather the contrary. With unsuitable behavior from a newly promoted studio manager that vulgarly speaks the F word in most sentences and those who refuse to look at the workers’ faces as they pass in the hall, it is clear their attempt to ignore the injustice they have implemented on their once valued and appreciated employees. Perhaps it should be them who explain to our children and loved ones the absence of their increasingly frustrated fathers.
As pointed out in the comments, the letter is in need of an editor, but the point it makes (and the points made in the comments by people who are, apparently, either present or former Rockstar San Diego employees) is an unpleasant and immediate one. I’ll re-post one especially interesting bit of commenting:
And don’t believe for a second that it’s just the management at Rockstar San Diego. It goes straight back to the boys in New York. Their lack of understanding of the development process has led to this whole mess. When you let a team create a game for 2+ years, building technology with little or no feedback, then jump in months before the project is to be shipped and *DEMAND* sweeping changes, you’re going to have deadlines slip, unstable fixes, and unhappy workers.
Now, given that (as I am honor-bound to note) we have no idea how much of any of this is true, I’m still curious to read that little snippet up there. If that person is telling the truth, then the people who made Redemption may have been completely screwed in several ways while they were trying to make this game (more so than normal, considering this is the video games industry).
Of course, video game developer employees getting screwed is not only unsurprising, it’s almost expected, in a quiet, shameful way (especially at big companies like EA, Rockstar, Activision, and others). If even a fraction of the stuff the people in those forums (and the people who wrote that letter) are saying is true, the I hope that A) Redemption is awesome, and they’re recognized for their work, and B) Rockstar owns up to their mistakes and tries to make amends.
I’m willing to bet that last part won’t happen, especially if people don’t dig deeper and figure out what’s what, and how things can be made better for the teams affected by bad management policies and unfair work conditions. Of course, I’m not contributing anything concrete to the conversation with this post, but if ever there was a time for some actual investigative video games journalism, this is the fucking time. It’s not like we all don’t know that many of the companies that make are games act like this and treat their employees like this (even though there are plenty of companies who are great to work for). Let’s see what happens.