Studio CTO Stieglitz taken off project amidst controversy

Crunch allegations surround Dungeon Defenders development

The man said to be responsible for an office culture allegedly dominated by fear, constant “crunch time” hours, and sexism, is no longer overseeing the Dungeon Defenders 2 project.

According to a report from Kotaku, the studio’s employees lived in fear of company President and CTO Jeremy Stieglitz – formerly president of Artificial Studios – who they blamed for many of the problems.

Workers complained of excessive overtime as the studio rolled out a near constant stream of DLC for Dungeon Defenders, and that executives pushed the hiring of women because they could pay them less.

"Artists have been hired (and very quickly left the studio) on the motto of, ‘Hire a woman – we can pay women less than we can men,’" said one Trendy employee.

The full investigative report was quite damning, painting the studio as an organisation rife with many of the practices industry trade bodies and watchdogs have been fighting for years.

Develop spoke with Stieglitz, who was only understood to be the CTO, last year about his company’s digital strategy.

The conversation didn’t raise any suspicions of the sort of ethical violations he is now accused of, but the executive didn’t shy away from saying he pushed his team to develop DLC quickly.

“We worked the team really really hard, and we did that because we wanted to give the players something to keep them interested once they’d beaten the original game,” he said.

“That isn’t always the case. Maybe it is for huge teams, but for small teams, we’re nimble, we’re agile, and so the DLC has just been the result of very intensive, very good work, and rapid iteration.”

Develop has attempted to contact Stieglitz for comment on the current allegations without result.

Now Kotaku has heard that Stieglitz has been removed from his position overseeing the development of Dungeon Defenders 2, though it is not clear whether the move was voluntary or forced.

He is said to remain at Trendy, and might be working on a separate project.

The IGDA was upset enough by the allegations that they issued a statement about the dangers of such practices at any game studio.

“While we have no direct knowledge of the situation, if the media reports on the working conditions at Trendy Entertainment are accurate, the IGDA’s stance on this is very clear,” read the statement.

“We know, as has been well documented, that extensive overtime is not only ineffective from the point of view of productivity, but it is also destructive to employee morale. Studios engaging in excessive overtime injure the reputation of the entire game industry, preventing top talent from entering and remaining in game development, and harming the goodwill of other studios that work rigorously to ensure quality of life for their developers.

“Further we believe that gender discrimination of any type has no place in the workplace and is completely unacceptable. As with excessive overtime, creating an environment that is hostile or discriminatory against anyone whether via race, gender, sexual orientation or other means only further reduces morale and creates an atmosphere that can hinder the successful retention of talent and creation of games that appeal to a wide variety of players.”

While the story is certainly a blow to the public image of Trendy, one person claiming to be a worker at the studio commented on the Kotaku story, saying that people shouldn’t dismiss the whole team and their work.

"Things are currently changing since the release of this article and for the first time, I sat at work yesterday and did not feel the usual hopelessness," read the comment.

"I would ask that the community try to not judge all of us on the actions of a few and to not completely abandon our game before it has been released. There are people with families here and people who really want to make a great game and it is looking like we may have a chance to do so now."

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