Neocore Games, the team behind the upcoming action role-playing game Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor — Martyr, announced yesterday that it would miss its release date. Along with an apology to fans, producer Zoltán Pozsonyi also announced that the team would literally double their efforts, working more than 90 hours a week for the next three weeks.
But fans pushed back, in the game’s Steam forums and on social media. Many were aghast at the thought of people putting in that much time during a so-called “crunch” period to finish the game. Several hours later, Neocore retracted the statement, saying that they were only joking.
In the original post, Pozsonyi said, “We promise we’ll push this extra three weeks in 90+ hours per week so it’ll be very-very useful for Martyr.”
“Do you use a whip?” asked one fan on Steam who goes by the handle Tjuhl, linking to a study at Gamasutra that determined crunch makes games worse, not better.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” said Emo Duck, “but I don’t want a development team of human beings to suffer like that so I can get my entertainment a month or two sooner.”
“I get impatient and frustrated by delays sometimes,” said Athywren. “But pushing your staff that hard, for that long? [Fans] will survive the delay. Please don’t make your staff suffer through it.”
The developer’s update has since been edited, with Pozsonyi’s reference to a 90+ hour work week removed.
“We won’t do 90 hour weeks,” said community manager Csikós Mátyás on Twitter. “It was meant as a joke, and I have removed it from the original post already. The wording was off and misleading — we are treated more than well at Neocore Games.”
Now fans are actively pressing the company to learn more about the working conditions. Many are asking the game’s management team for simple facts about hours and wages.
As it turns out, Neocore has been crunching since at least December 2017. Overtime was a factor during the holiday season. That’s when producer Pozsonyi wrote that “we’ll release this patch even if the whole company has to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the office.” According to a post in from March, “many” members of the team were already working 80-hour weeks.
It’s not clear if the developers are salaried or hourly workers. Polygon has reached out to the developer to learn more about its experience with crunch and for details on its overtime policies.
Crunch can be detrimental to people’s physical and mental well-being. One developer, sharing his experience here at Polygon, said that it ruined his life by damaging relationships and physically wearing him down. Others claim to “worship” the practice, despite the toll it takes.
Unionization and workers rights is a hot topic in the game industry at the moment. During this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco emotions were high during a roundtable discussion, and one group passed out fliers actively engaged with developers, calling on them to join in their efforts to organize and demand fair treatment.
Update: A representative from Neocore responded to Polygon this afternoon saying that not only are employees given additional compensation for overtime work, some elect not to work any overtime — even during so-called crunch periods — and that’s alright with management.
Neocore has 60 employees, four producers and one publishing lead. In March, Neocore said, overtime amounted to approximately 750 additional hours of work, or a little over 11.5 hours per employee. They expect the same amount of overtime accrual for April.
“Overtime pay, vacation time for other periods or less work time on other days,” is offered to those who elect to work beyond the standard 40-hour week said a Neocore representative, a system that the team has had in place for over a decade.
“No one at Neocore was treated negatively for it so far,” Neocore said. “We have colleagues — including respected veterans — who don’t do any overtime at all since they want to spend time with their families.”