Neocore Games announced yesterday that their upcoming action RPG Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr would be missing its release date of May and rescheduling for a June release instead. But when producer Zoltán Pozsonyi announced that the team would be pulling “90+ hours per week” fans fired back with criticism.
Aghast at the thought that Neocore employees might be putting in an inhumane amount of crunch time to finish the game, they pushed back on Steam forums and on social media. Hours later, Neocore community manager Csikós Mátyás retracted the statement, clarifying that it was only a joke and that “the wording was off and misleading.”
“We are treated more than well at Neocore Games,” Mátyás said and the developer’s update has since been edited, with Pozsonyi’s reference to a 90+ hour work week removed. 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 Steam user Tjuhl, with a link to a study at Gamasutra that says crunch makes games worse, not better. “I’m looking forward to the game,” wrote 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.” User Athywren said “[Fans] will survive the delay. Please don’t make your staff suffer through it.”
According to Polygon’s Charlie Hall, the company has been pressured to disclose working conditions. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisiton – Martyr has been availabe in Early Access since September, but posts show that development has been on overtime since at least December, when Pozsonyi wrote that they would release a patch “even if the whole company has to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the office.”
Crunch has always been a hot button topic in larger conversations about the game development industry, and research has shown that it can be detrimental to physical and mental well-being. One former Lionhead employee said that it ruined his life by damaging relationships and physically wearing him down. Others like former 2K creative Walt Williams claim to “worship” the practice, despite the personal toll it takes.
At this year’s Game Developers Conference, unionization and worker rights were a hot topic and calls were made to organize and demand fair treatment from employers at both the studio and publisher level. For their part, a representative from Neocore said that overtime pay and vacation time is offered to those who elect to work beyond the standard 40-hour work week.
“No one at Neocore was treated negatively for [overtime] 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.”