The idea that overtime was simultaneously mandatory but also left unsaid was common among many of the developers we spoke with. They loved to be ambiguous and not actually give a set number of hours to start, as well; just leaving it up to people to do themselves. Developers at two studios described weekly hours reports that management would use to either shame those not putting in as many hours or hold up those putting in the most hours as examples to follow.
We were also told about management fostering competition between studios and teams by showing them "leaderboards" of how many more hours other groups were putting them in and challenging them to top those numbers. During my time there, no one refused the extended hours, I think through fear of being fired. In fact, two different developers from two other Rockstar studios told the same story of a Rockstar New England developer who tried to avoid overtime during Grand Theft Auto V's crunch and was fired over it. Though it may be apocryphal, having such a tale transmitted through the studio system speaks to factors that reinforce the company culture.
You wanted to be seen by Sam or Dan [Houser] working at your desk until late at night, and they wanted to see people in their seats working until late at night. They would walk the floors just to see who was at their desks. Not every studio could have the regular threat of a Houser walkthrough to keep developers working, but the company had other ways to encourage longer hours.
A former Rockstar Toronto developer told us the studio provided meals for employees during crunch, but with a catch that you had to have logged 10 hours that day in order to have any. Former employees said pressure to work long hours came from co-workers as well as management. You didn't want to be the one person packing up to leave while the entire rest of your team was hanging around," a former Rockstar NYC developer said.
Rockstar's broken work ethics
When you have to work with this team for 12 hours plus every day for months at a time, you also just plain didn't want to piss anyone off, either. The same person said it was not uncommon for anyone complaining about the hours to have a more senior colleague respond with, "Be thankful you even have a job. That peer pressure also contributed to what multiple ex-Rockstar employees described as a culture of fear.
Employees were regularly reminded in meetings and emails that they were forbidden to discuss non-work matters while at the studio, and would be regularly reminded of the studio's strict social media policy which Rockstar recently lifted to allow current employees to defend its work practices in public. The developer said employees were always watched at work, with cameras throughout the studio and instant messages and PCs actively monitored. That sense of being under constant surveillance was heightened by a number of "Merryweather Security" signs posted throughout the office.
Merryweather is a fictional paramilitary and private security group in Grand Theft Auto V and one of the game's antagonist factions. Each of the signs had a slogan, some of them reinforcing certain elements of the company culture. For example, one in the kitchen said "No Social Media - Violators will be shunned.
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While some of the incentives to work long hours were no doubt of the "stick" variety, there was also at least one in the "carrot" category: bonuses. A number of the people we spoke with recalled the promise of periodic large cash injections for all their hard work. One former Rockstar developer admitted "we'd do OK out of bonuses," while another spoke of a yacht that a lead from one of the company's hit games was able to buy thanks to a bonus.
Rockstar Lincoln QA tester: "Overtime is NOT optional, it is expected"
Again, possibly an apocryphal story, but one that serves Rockstar's interests to have floating through the company. The possibility of large bonuses was one way Rockstar kept employees at their desks working long hours. While there never appeared to be a precise or transparent formula for any developer to figure out what kind of bonus they could expect, multiple people we spoke to saw them as tied to how much overtime was put in. In the cases of Rockstar Toronto, Rockstar Lincoln, and Rockstar NYC, where we were told some salaried developers did not receive additional pay for overtime, bonuses were particularly important for justifying the long hours.
However, a former Rockstar Toronto developer called it a rhetorical slight of hand, saying they did the math on one of their bonuses and found that it fell far short of what they would have made for their overtime at a standard time-and-a-half rate. If anything, it got worse every time". After a particularly grueling period of crunch, a large bonus and shipping a hit game could no doubt entice some developers to stick with the company for a while longer.
So could a pledge to the employees that the studio knew there was a problem with its working culture and was trying to fix it. If management pays lip service to the idea of less crunch, that at least indicates some awareness that there is a problem. Unfortunately, not all of the people we spoke to even saw that much from the company higher-ups. They want to believe that these people truly want to be there and that's why they stay; rather than acknowledging the reality of the situation. And even among former employees willing to talk to us for an article like this, there was an understanding that many Rockstar employees absolutely do want to be there.
One developer noted that beyond the possibility of lucrative bonuses, Rockstar doesn't engage in the sort of mass layoffs and office closures that seem common elsewhere in AAA Rockstar Vienna was not mentioned , and can give employees significant time off between projects to recharge their batteries. Perhaps just as important, Rockstar developers tend to make games that meet with critical and commercial success.
Shift of the Dead II: Overtime
They added that loyalty is a point of emphasis for Rockstar management, saying other ex-Rockstars they've spoken to have described the studio culture as tinted by Stockholm syndrome, in which a person held hostage begins to side with their captors after a time. The Rockstar Lincoln QA tester provides a dramatically different account. In their detailed post , they say that while they can only speak for the Lincoln studio noting that among recent current employee accounts, Lincoln developers had been fairly quiet , their experience has been that "overtime is NOT optional, it is expected.
The tester goes on to explain the way such hours are counted, saying that though they and their colleagues are at work for lunch and dinner breaks, those hours are not factored into their paid time. The employee describes the way they are required to "opt in" to different amounts of overtime depending on whether the studio is in what they refer to as "standard" crunch hours with three weekday overtime shifts per week and two weekend overtime shifts per month or "'true' crunch hours" five weekday overtime shifts per week, four weekend overtime shifts per month.
They say the studio has been in "crunch" though they do not specify which of the two above types since October 9, In the past year, the poster's typical work week has been just shy of 50 paid hours, but has gone as high as Finally, they note that while up to this point, such overtime has been mandatory, the recent controversy has had an effect on the company's policy going forward. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions.
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Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. It's been 45 days since the unthinkable happened. The recently deceased began returning from the grave and they were ravenous for human flesh. They had to learn how to fight the rotters, how to find food and water, and how to fend off boredom. They had learned how to survive in the undead worl It's been 45 days since the unthinkable happened.
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