For about three years now I have been attempting, and succeeding, in posting regular weekly game reviews, and while I am somewhat proud of my ability to maintain a schedule like that, recent circumstances in my life have made doing so increasingly difficult. A mixture of work, grad school, and other real life obligations have limited my free time, and I simply cannot play through games quite as often as I used to. Furthermore, over the years there are a collection of lengthier titles that I have been neglecting due to my desire to maintain a schedule and, well, I want to get around to them sooner than later. I will still try to post reviews as often as I can, but as things are ramping up with school, and missing a week becomes more and more likely, I want to let you know that I may have periodic spurts where I only update bi-weekly. Either due to how I need to work on school projects, or I’m playing a 50 hour visual novel over multiple weeks.
Speaking of scheduling kerfuffles, this week started on an embarrassing, morose, and frankly disgusting announcement that Rockstar Games have been having its employees work 100-hour weeks throughout 2018 in order to finish production of Red Dead Redemption 2. This is information that Rockstar freely admitted, and follows up on a claim made by the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar’s parent company, who, speaking in regards to crunch and long work hours, claimed that they believe Rockstar’s work practices are “sound and appropriate”. A sentiment that horrifically clashes when quickly doing the math on what a 100-hour work week entails. That is 14 hours of work, 7 days a week, barely giving the employees enough time to eat and sleep, let alone mentally recover or partake in non-work practices, such as seeing their families. Even if the employees in question somehow willingly submitted themselves to this woefully unhealthy work schedule, there is no circumstance or situation where these hours should be deemed even somewhat acceptable for the creation of a bloody video game, especially when considering how mistakes and errors made in game development snowball at a rapid rate, which in turn encourages more crunch. Oh and despite some damage control, former employees have called this practice out as being real.
This is in spite of the fact that there exists a large body of evidence that states that crunch simply does not work, but certain people clearly do not believe in science and research, even in the tech industry. Some people have looked at this story as yet another reason why unionization needs to happen in the game industry, but with how global it is, how it is harder to establish a union in these modern times, and how much money there is in the industry, I just do not see that happening. Especially because the game industry could do just about anything shy of actively enslaving its workers and a plethora of plenty of the bright-eyed college graduates will still continue to filter into the AAA game industry with hopes of creating riveting and innovative experiences would be willing to work non-union jobs where they subject themselves to terrible working conditions. Because to many it is worth it if it means they can make video games…
When they cannot, as is the case for many people who left the industry, they will eventually take a job at some tech company, where they will be better treated, have better hours, and be able to see their friends and families more. It is a cycle that people want to break, but just because people want it and are making a fuss about it means very little, and it shall incrementally less and less as time goes on as people come to accept the situation as time continues to pass without change being enacted. Because that’s how modern society and corporate America work. A world where employees are effectively just leased equipment and while they are in possession of said equipment, it is advantageous to use it as much as possible.
Oh, and here is one story that I just love in how it establishes Rockstar as almost cartoonish in their mistreatment of workers. As told by former Team Bondi employee and L.A. Noire developer Jenn Sandercock, during the crunch intensive production of the aforementioned Rockstar published title, she chose to help brighten up the studio by baking a cake on a weekly basis. This proved to be an enriching experience that led to additional socialization, and almost assuredly led to developers making fewer mistakes, as they were given a 30 minute cake day break. Rockstar caught wind of this eventually, and demanded that either cake day be abolished, or it be moved to the less energetic lunch hour, as they believed this represented Team Bondi slacking off. Oh, and there not being enough mud smeared on Rockstar’s face, Red Dead Redemption 2 will only be made available via retail chains on its October 26th launch, and will not be made distributed to independent game shops until November. Thereby costing hundreds of small businesses thousands in sales each, and for no good reason.
So, apparently before remastering Shenmue 1 and 2 in preparation of the upcoming third title, Sega was originally planning a full-on remake of the Dreamcast classics. In a video recently put out by Digital Foundry, footage from this unfinished development build was compared to the recently released remastering, showing great improvements regarding the textures, polygons, lighting, and general detail. They theorize many potential reasons for the end of this remake’s development, namely time, money, and clashing cultures between developer D3T and Sega, but all we really know for certain is that it existed, and it is neat to look at this and wonder what could have been… Through, that same sentiment could be applied to the entire Shenmue series
A while back I went on a tirade about how confusing the Corpse Party series is, upon seeing the announcement of Corpse Party 2. For those who forgot, the release order goes something like this: Things begin with Corpse Party, which was later refined as Corpse Party: Blood Covered… Repeated Fear for PSP, and later refined further as just Corpse Party for the 3DS. The sequel to that is Corpse Party: Book of Memories, followed by Corpse Party: Blood Drive, and then proceeded with Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient.
I bring this up because XSEED recently announced that they are bringing a trio of Corpse Party titles to PC. Including Corpse Party: Book of Memories, Corpse Party: Blood Drive, and the romantic comedy spin-off, Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash, in addition to the formerly announced Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient. This news actually does renew my interest in checking this series out, though I am still a bit peeved about the current state of the original Corpse Party on PC. It has loads of missing content next to the PSP and 3DS version, but it also has the best sprite art of any of the three versions out there. I tried emulating both of them, and they both looked notably worse due to how the sprites are processed. Anyways, Book of Memories is launching on October 29th, and the other 3 PC bound titles will be released throughout the winter. Which, knowing XSEED, means they should all be out by June.