Studio condemns onslaught of 'ridiculous' accusations, but admits some claims are accurate

Crytek hits back at allegations of ‘crunch, layoffs and lawsuits’

A detailed and malicious assessment of working conditions at Crytek has been disputed, condemned and in some cases disproved by the company’s co-founder.

The German independent studio has been subjected to onslaught of accusations from what appears to be a single individual, likely a former employee, who has anonymously published a hate-filled blog post now in circulation.

The article, which Develop has declined to point to, features an extraordinary mixture of erroneous accusations, inexact claims as well as accurate information.

One of the report’s allegations – that the company’s relocation to a new Frankfurt studio would result in the redundancy of some 70 people – was described as “bullshit” by Crytek managing director Avni Yerli.

“The new Frankfurt office is larger and has more desks than the old Frankfurt office,” Yerli (pictured) said in an interview with Develop.

“Our new office is laid out for growth and not for reduction.”

Another suggestion – that there had been “several successful” lawsuits from staff who had been “unlawfully fired” – was also strongly challenged.

Yerli confirmed that his company had been thrown into two legal disputes with former staff over their redundancies, but said the courts had ruled in Crytek’s favour on both occasions. He said it was judged that the company had not issued layoffs unlawfully, nor had it offered illegally meagre redundancy packages.

“I don’t want to make glory out of this. We are not proud of ‘winning’,” he said.

“This is something sad that happened between us and people we used to work with. We haven’t been found to have unlawfully fired these people, but we don’t want to go to court with our co-workers either. Respecting our staff is crucial at Crytek.”

Asked why he thought Crytek had faced lawsuits from former staff, Yerli said “if you release someone, sometimes they get bad legal advice and basically think they can make unreasonable requests like huge severance packages.

“What we offered them they clearly didn’t like but it was more than legally required. So they go to court and ask for much more, but in the end they end up getting less or what we offered in the first place, and just go through the pain [of the whole legal process],” he added.

‘No mass exodus’

At the centre of the potentially libellous attack on Crytek was a list of studio positions that have been vacated, either through “resignation or unlawful firing”.

Yerli explained that the list of vacated positions was, in essence, accurate.

Since 2010, he confirmed, the people who have left the company included its global talent manager, its lead games designer, concept Artists, a producer, an executive producer, a senior level designer, an environment artist and level designer.

But of all these positions, nine of them had left on their own accord, Yerli claimed.

“Another was a contractor, and four were released. Two of those ended in the court cases. So never have we lost a case in accordance to labour cause.

“The current number of employees in the new Frankfurt office is equal to the peak number of employees we had during the production of Crysis 2. That’s the thing; in the normal way that projects work, people will leave during a long production or during the end of it. People have families, have job offers, are offered interesting projects, or just want to move to a different country,” he said.

“So of course people have left Crytek, but people have joined as well, and most people have left on their own actions.

“I mean, this is the nature of the business, you have 300 people in Frankfurt, in multiple teams across multiple offices. I wish some of the people who left would have stayed, but that’s life. There’s nothing we can do if, say, one of our staff falls in love with someone who lives in a different country. We don’t want people to feel bad for not staying.”

Develop requested an interview with Yerli after the anonymous blogger reposted his accusations on Develop Online’s comments section. The message has now been removed.

In an uncommonly candid move, Yerli agreed to answer all of Develop’s questions on the matter, in an interview found here. None of the discussion has been edited or cut.

The anonymous blogger, whose IP address is linked close to Frankfurt, did not respond to requests to have his claims cross-examined.

“I think the blog is unfair to the people who are working here at Crytek,” Yerli added.

“It harms the great work they’ve done. It is very distressing for us to think that an individual thinks we have been treating them unfairly. It’s very disappointing.”

Crunch confession

But for all Yerli’s contempt shown towards the blog post, he admitted that one of the article’s claims was correct, if exaggerated.

He said the blogger’s suggestion of six months’ crunch work on Crysis 2 was “ridiculous”, but admitted the studio had entered a phase of high workloads and longer hours.

Intense workload policies remain a matter of heated debate within the game industry. The ramifications of a studio enforcing crunch policies range from mass walkouts (Rockstar San Diego) to international condemnation (Kaos) to the collapse of a studio’s reputation (Team Bondi).

Yerli was keen to express that the Crysis 2 team’s workload policy, even at the busiest period in the game’s production, compares favourably to other studios.

“Like any game Crysis 2 had phases of crunch,” he said, “but we had not enforced weekend work – during crunch people were given the choice to work one weekend day, but only if they chose to.”

He said the period began in November last year and lasted “three months, maximum”. He claimed the overtime staff were offered “huge compensation”.

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