A damning new report into the work practices at developer Silicon Knights has claimed that as few as five staff remain at the studio.
The extensive Kotaku report in which the claim is made investigates the turbulent development of X-Men: Destiny and makes a host of claims about the structure and management of boss Denis Dyack.
"I am certain that if you contacted former and current Silicon Knights employees and offered them anonymity, you would receive evidence of an appalling antipathy from management towards the employees, publishers, and the quality of their games," one insider claimed.
Another added: “One source described SK president Denis Dyack as a man who has repeatedly stated to the company that artists are ‘a dime a dozen' and can be replaced. The same source described Dyack as a man who proudly smiles in staff meetings and describes his role as a ‘benevolent dictatorship'. Dyack is SK; SK is Dyack. They are one and the same – a single unchanging entity."
The report goes on to claim that throughout the development of the X-Men title the studio was instead pushing resources into a concurrent project – a sequel to its biggest critical hit Eternal Darkness.
It claims that Dyack would order the deliberate missing of targets and milestones in a deliberate extend to increase funding and extend deadlines – a plan that backfired when X-Men: Destiny publisher Activision went live with a release date for the game in a trailer that prominently featured Silicon Knights branding.
"SK didn't take the development of XMD seriously the entire time I was there," one source claimed. "They were working on an Eternal Darkness 2 demo that they could take to publishers. While I was there, they were even siphoning off staff from my [XMD] team to work on it.
"By putting the SK logo on the project for the first time publicly, Activision forced SK to start taking it seriously. But by then, it was pretty much too late. Behind the scenes at Silicon Knights, things changed drastically after the trailer was released. Once Activision had made it clear that they would ship whatever the developer supplied them, on time, with SK's name on it, management reportedly put all hands on deck.
"The entire company was refocused to work on X-Men. At this point, they also started instituting a mandatory six-day-a-week, 10-hour-a-day minimum crunch. That lasted, and got worse, until they shipped."
Also in the report are accusations of huge staff turnover, with 25 resignations reported in a single six-month period. “For some former employees, it became ‘a bit of a sick game’ to come into work each Monday and see how many more people had resigned,” another whistle blower added.