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Rockstar has been “working 100-hour weeks” on Red Dead Redemption 2

Studio co-founder Dan Houser details the effort put into the upcoming Wild West epic

One of the famous Houser brothers has offered insight into the making of Red Dead Redemption 2, and the work behind the title sounds intense.

The game has been in development for the best part of seven years, with Dan Houser talking to Rockstar San Diego about how a sequel to Red Dead Redemption might look as far back as early 2011, as revealed in an interview with Vulture.

A broad outline was completed the following summer, with rough scripts for the game's story and missions ready by autumn 2012. But it seems the workload has ramped up significantly this year as Red Dead Redemption 2 finally approaches release.

Dan Houser said that the team has been "working 100-hour weeks" several times in 2018, later adding that compared to previous Rockstar projects, "This was the hardest."

His brother Sam told the site earlier this year: "We've poured everything we have into [Red Dead Redemption 2]. We have really pushed ourselves as hard as we can."

The result is a game that Dan claims is 65 hours long (although five hours of content have actually been cut) and boast 300,000 animations, 500,000 lines of dialogue recorded by 700 voice actors, and even more lines of code.

The level of detail seen in the trailers, and the glowing previews, suggest this work has paid off but it brings to mind the Rockstar Spouse incident around the original Red Dead Redemption.

Back in 2010, just a few months before the game launched, an open letter allegedly written on behalf of the wives of Rockstar San Diego employees claimed the team was expected to work 60-hour weeks - 12-hour days, including Saturdays - or they would face disciplinary action.

Rockstar later attributed this to "people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact."

"We're saddened if any former members of any studio did not find their time here enjoyable or creatively fulfilling and wish them well with finding an environment more suitable to their temperaments and needs, but the vast majority of our company are focused solely on delivering cutting edge interactive entertainment," the studio said at the time.

"We've always cared passionately about the people working here, and have always tried to maintain a supportive creative environment. There is simply no way Rockstar could continue to produce such large scale, high quality games without this.

"That being said, making great games is very challenging, which is why we have and will continue to try to keep hold of some of the best talent in the industry and support them in every way we can."

Back in February, we asked Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Rockstar parent company Take-Two Interactive, what the company was doing to ensure that the sequel to Red Dead Redemption did not also produce a sequel to Rockstar Spouse. Zelnick responded that the company is "really proud" of its work practices.

"We have a hard-working company," Zelnick said at the time. "It's a privilege to work at our company and our labels. And I believe that our work practices are sound and appropriate. It is a very busy time, but it's a time that people are anxious to participate in. And I stand behind it."

The Vulture interview also reveals in addition to the 700 voice actors, there are an additional 500 motion-capture actors, making for a cast of 1,200 - all of which are represented by SAG-AFTRA (although there was no word on the impact the 2016 strike had on production).

"We're the biggest employers of actors in terms of numbers of anyone in New York, by miles," said Dan Houser.

Finally, the dispute between the Housers and long-time producer Leslie Benzies was briefly addressed. Benzies is suing Rockstar for $150 million over unpaid royalties, although suffered a setback in his case earlier this year when the courts deemed the royalties agreement too ambigious.

Houser noted that the open court case makes it inappropriate to discuss with the press, although added that: "The team has never worked better together than it's worked on this game."

Red Dead Redemption 2 was originally due for release in autumn 2017, but saw several delays. It is now on course for release on October 26th.

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James Batchelor


James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He has been a B2B journalist since 2006, and an author since he knew what one was