Ex-Red Dead Redemption Developer Speaks Out on Rockstar San Diego

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 29th, 2011 at 11:16 am,

former rockstar san diego employee complains

A former Red Dead Redemption developer recently spoke out about Rockstar San Diego and he wasn’t congratulating the company on their recent VGA Game of the Year Award.

The former Rockstar employee, ‘Zero Dean’ recently published a post on his blog titled “My Life at Rockstar Games.”

Back in 2007 the game artist started work at Rockstar San Diego on their latest old western title which would later be revealed as Red Dead Redemption. In his post on “The Zero Dean Experience,” Dean points out alleged flaws that he claims took place at Rockstar San Diego during the development of their hit summer blockbuster, Red Dead Redemption – problems which apparently started from the beginning and continued throughout his stay with the developer.

Here are a few highlights from Zero Dean’s post:

“When I asked about learning materials I was told that ‘maybe’ something could be done and there ‘might’ be something in the budget to buy some Gnomon instructional videos (my suggestion) – nothing ever came of this.

“It really wasn’t until after my first year at the company when people (higher-ups) started freaking out about how long the project had been in development, how much money was being wasted, and — and this is the big one — release dates.”

“And that’s when the increase in the deception and manipulation by management began — slowly at first — and then over time it got totally nuts (by my standards).”

There’s no doubt that these are heavy statements, not only about a certain area or section of development, but definitely put a spotlight on the whole San Diego company branch. Dean implies they have issues with opening to improvement, team organized, and have instances of deceitful management.

It’s not very often that someone who was a part of something so successful would speak negatively about a project or company of this magnitude – especially in the open. Dean certainly runs the risk of appearing unprofessional and untrustworthy. So what got this guy so fired up? But Zero Dean spoke out some more:

“The situation at Rockstar only got worse. Hours increased from 8 to 12 — and days increased for 5 to 6. Anyone on a salary was not compensated for the additional hours – as far as our paychecks were concerned, we were still only putting in 40 hours per week.”

“Morale continued to deteriorate as the lies increased,” … “And everyone was on edge. And we were being spoken to in meetings like incompetent 10 year olds.”

These last two statements are particularly interesting. It is against the California law (even for salaried employees – in most cases) to abstain from paying overtime for any work exceeding eight hours a day or forty a week. Dean seems to claim that not only were employees not receiving overtime pay, they may not have even been receiving compensation for working over 40 hours a week.

When employees confronted upper management, Dean claims employees were rebuffed – treatment that would definitely lower morale in the game development workplace (or any workplace for that matter).

Despite all the problems, Zero Dean remained at Rockstar San Diego, at least for a bit longer. He changed his mind when  he claims one boss in particular crossed the line:

But it wasn’t until my boss took credit for my work — and politely argued with me about who had actually created it (I had the original documents on my desktop) — that I went back to my desk and started “cleaning” it — and then I realized I wasn’t cleaning it. I was packing.”

“I was pretty upset with him over that for a while — but I realize now he deserves my thanks — he pushed me out of hell. And thank you Rockstar. You taught me exactly how I don’t want to run a business or treat employees (or human beings) ever.”

Zero Dean must have had quite the experience over at Rockstar San Diego. Bad press has been gravitating towards Rockstar San Diego Since as early as July, from the Rockstar wives incident, to layoffs made right after the immensely successful launch of Red Dead Redemption. There is a question begging to be answered, however: if what Zero says, and previous allegations made are true, then how did Red Dead Redemption turn out to be such a great game?

Zero Dean has since removed the post from his blog – because of certain outlets reposting without permission — and misstating claims he made in the post. Though, considering he spoke out against the creators of one of the best game of 2010, it’s hard to know what would happen.

Ranters, do you think Zero Dean is telling the truth, or not? Does it affect your opinion of Red Dead Redemption and the hugely successful DLC RDR: Undead Nightmare?

Sources: GameInformer, ZeroDeanExperience, CaliforniaOvertimeLaw, Gamasutra

TAGS: PS3, Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games

  • the Knoa

    During the development of Red Dead, I kept reading ‘inside’ reports about how badly the employees were treated. I read how the game was an absolute mess just a few months from release, and how it was going to be an absolute failure.

    Then the game comes out, it’s great, and everyone loves it. Do I think this guy is telling the truth? Sure, from his perspective. But every workplace has a few disgruntled employees. If you ask 100 different employees about the workplace conditions, you’re likely to get 100 different answers.

    With everything that’s come out about San Diego, it’s plausible they have some workplace issues. And these issues are likely to continue, especially if the machine can keep pushing out stellar games like Red Dead.

  • Quade Z.

    I never really did like Rock Star San Diego, and their other branches due to the fact that in the racing game “Midnight Club Dub Edtion Remix” they had several copyrighted cars, such as the Ferrari, Porsche, and one other vehicle. In the game they simply changed the names of the cars, I believe they called it “Gemini”? The Design of the cars were mirror images of the models produced from Ferrari and Porsche. Might I remind people that these cars that I am talking about are not like the heavily modified designed cars from the series “Grand Theft Auto” such as the Banshee.

  • jwalka

    wait wtf would he be asking for tutorials etc if he’s a ‘qualified’ game dev it doesn’t add up seeing as how the game allegedly took 5 years to make.
    you will always get people who find it hard to keep up with the others, that’s why they get little s*** jobs like texturing or animating, the things that most the others don’t have 100% time to work on.

    i’m really keen on finding out this guys position at RS:SD, it might turn out he’s an intern who just came out of uni (in which case he shouldn’t have been in there in the 1st place) or he might have even been a customer service staff (wanting to bget into game dev) 😉

  • Kyle

    I think he is telling the truth about some of it. But then other stuff he says, like the whole salary thing, i think is just exaggerated from being mistreated in the first place. Doesn’t sound like that is a fun place to work that’s for sure

    • jwalka

      tell me this, why would anyone hire someone who doesn’t have the required skill set to meet their high expectations and strict deadline ?

      the way i see it either A/ rockstar was desperate for staff and didn’t pay attention to portfolios or B/ some of the staff are newbies in the industry and either faked their portfolios or aren’t ready for such intense environments.

      sorry if i’m re-treading over my own steps but i cant get over the fact that this idiot wanted tutorial vid when he’s been allegedly working at rockstar for most of the 5 yrs the games been in production.

  • http://gamerant.com Andrew Dyce

    We’ve all worked at jobs that have turned us sour, and are likely glad that comments we made never made it into business circles. I don’t doubt that the workplace wasn’t a fun place to be at times, but there are two sides to every story, like we saw when a BioWare employee talked smack about TOR.

    I think we need a video game developer Norma Rae.

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  • truth

    It’s all true. Slave labor