After controversy over Metroid Dread developer MercurySteam’s in-game staff lending policy, new allegations have emerged in the past few days that point to questionable management and treatment practices at the Spanish studio, creator of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. games, Metroid: Samus Returns and, of course, the latest Metroid game.
Spanish site Anahit Games posted additional information after speaking with several former employees about the time spent in the studio on Dread. The game’s programmers and artists talk about management and organizational issues and the negative stress culture at MercurySteam.
The article details various grievances throughout development. One area was “oversize,” which required reductions from Nintendo. The period from April to July 2020 was when Nintendo checked game progress and made various cuts to address an alleged bottleneck in the decoration pipeline. “There were about 120 videos, it was too many goes out of the frame“, – says one of the former programmers (via Google translator), who soon left the studio. Another significant reduction from the previous year is also mentioned.
Development on Metroid Dread is described as “quite chaotic. Many times, when giving me directions, my supervisor and game director contradicted each other, ”says another programmer. Another artist told Anahit about the studio’s management style:
They don’t trust the worker at all, and this is evident. You don’t feel appreciated. The unpleasant atmosphere is constant and generally very tense.
Punishments in the studio allegedly “range from isolating an employee or changing groups to the same sudden dismissal.”
Elsewhere, allegations are made of mistreatment of staff and contractors in relation to wage negotiations, as well as a negative assessment of the studio’s reaction to the pandemic. One programmer said that “the pandemic was not properly controlled. It was complete and utter chaos, ”and describes the unsafe COVID response in the workplace as employees were unable to work remotely on a project.
It cites inconsistencies in the responses of the HR department to employee complaints, one example details the right of employees to leave office to vote in the Madrid community elections that fell on a working day, and questioned the current state of development. while.
The article also touches on the debate about loans, with fear of speaking out publicly as a factor that has kept people silent so far:
I think they play a little with the fact that a lot of people hesitate to speak in public. I know two other people who have not received their due recognition, but I understand that they are afraid to complain because it seems that they are going to ruin your career.
Another worker clarifies:
Top leaders know a lot of people, and they can ruin your career if they have problems with you. They don’t mind talking bad about you and screwing up your career, and that’s why people don’t talk.
Metroid Dread launched on October 8th and received overwhelmingly positive reviews and strong sales. The loan controversy and these new allegations don’t seem to have affected the dynamics of the game – at least not yet – but it is certainly frustrating to hear stories like these, especially when they reflect similar statements regarding the management and culture of MercurySteam, made many years ago when Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was released.
We discussed the issue of credits in a Talking Point article on the topic, written before these new charges emerged. MercurySteam has provided a response to a previous credit problem, although no comment has yet been received on these latest allegations. We will update this article if a statement is posted.