It seems there’s still a few more twists and turns in the Rockstar overtime saga, as an employee at Rockstar Lincoln, which is primarily focussed on QA and testing, posted on Reddit a detailed description of work, overtime and how Rockstar’s policies are changing.
Again, this has come from Rockstar loosening their policies on social media, now allowing employees to speak more openly about working conditions to help dispel some of the concerns surrounding 100 hour working weeks.
While a number of Rockstar employees quickly came forward from their various studios, many of them refuting excessive overtime and stating that they’d largely only worked 50 hour weeks, there were still a few outliers. Based of this Reddit post, unnamed sources confirming them to Kotaku and our own, crunch time at the Lincoln QA team has regularly pushed past 60 hours over the past year and hit 80 hours on one occasion – pay excludes breaks and lunch, so actual paid time is lower. Kotaku say that Lincoln has often been referred to them as the worst example of overtime and crunch within the company.
This employee breaks down the 47 weeks of his employment at Rockstar Lincoln:
1 x Week – 5/5 Weekday overtime, 2/2 Weekend overtime (8:30 finishes) = 70 hours paid, 81.5 hours actual
8 x Week – 5/5 Weekday overtime, 1/2 Weekend overtime (5:30 finish) = 57.5 hours paid, 65 hours actual
38 x Week – 3/5 Weekday overtime, 0.5/2 Weekend overtime (5:30 finish) = 48.75 hours paid, 56 hours actual
It’s important to understand that all of this time is called “crunch” by the team, with “standard crunch” what they call a week with three weekdays of overtime, while “true crunch” referring to a full five weekdays of overtime in addition to weekend overtime shifts. Anecdotally, he says that this is equivalent to what his colleagues have been working.
Rockstar spoke to Kotaku with their own version of working hours, saying that while testers had been asked to work 52.5 hour weeks from October 9th 2017 to August 6th 2018, the average Lincoln tester worked an average of 38.4 hours a week. This jumped to 45.4 from May to August and then up to 53.1 in August and September, when workload requests jumped to 57.5 hours, as the game in its final stretches of development.
There’s clearly a mismatch somewhere, possibly accounted for the tester on Reddit including times where he worked through lunch of his own volition, and only being familiar with the working hours of fellow contracted testers instead of longer term salaried staff.
Regardless of the hours, the employee on Reddit and others have said that all overtime has been expected and effectively mandatory. If an employee is not able to work overtime on one day they have to make it up on another occasion.
However, things have now changed:
To end this, overtime has changed for us now as of next week. We had a big meeting today where it was announced that all overtime going forward will be entirely optional, so if we want to work the extra hours and earn the extra money (As well as make yourself look better for progression) then we can do, but there is no longer a rule making us do it. This is huge for us here in Lincoln as many of us haven’t been able to take full weekends without paying for it in a long time and it’s a giant step forward in making crunch less of a hell to deal with.
Rockstar responded to Kotaku to put a different spin on things. Head of publishing Jenn Kolbe said “Through the conversations we’ve been having it is clear to us that the requested scheduled overtime felt like an obligation to some, if not many, of the team. We therefore spoke to them to make sure it is clear that the OT is not mandatory.”
With a company as large as Rockstar, crunch and overtime are going to affect employees differently across the studios and roles. QA is one of the areas most prone to crunch and overtime late into a game’s development, so it’s no surprise to see Lincoln pointed to as a particularly bad example. It is great to see that Rockstar are taking this issue seriously and, whether it truly was mandatory before or a perception thing (showing “passion” and accepting crunch go hand in hand), ensuring that employees know that overtime is optional is vital.