In the weeks leading up to the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2, then-Rockstar chief Dan Houser mentioned that senior developers had been working weeks well over 100 hours. That led to an industry-wide discussion of crunch, and substantial investigative reports into Rockstar’s expectations of its employees. The scrutiny seems to have worked – many Rockstar devs are speaking positively of the company’s changes, and it seems the studio is changing how it makes games going forward.
“One plan that management has laid out for the next game,” Kotaku says in its report, “a new entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, is to start out with a moderately sized release (which, by Rockstar’s standards, would still be a large game) that is then expanded with regular updates over time, which may help mitigate stress and crunch.”
It remains to be seen how, exactly those plans will go – Grand Theft Auto 6 is “still early in development”, so any broad plans about how its production will go are subject to change. Periods of crunch tend to be most intense in the months leading up to a game’s launch, and the Grand Theft Auto 6 release date, while inevitable, is still a long, long way away.
The report indicates that employees are cautiously optimistic about the changes Rockstar has made and is continuing to make. “It does seem like a healthier culture overall,” one anonymous employee says. “We’ll see in a year or two if I’m pulling my hair out, but it does seem like we’re moving in the right direction for being a company the size we are.”
Rockstar is also reportedly making efforts to fix things beyond its workaholism, including a “frat-house-like culture”. Bad directors and managers are being removed from the company, and while the process has been slow, employees interviewed with the report suggest that the changes have been notable.