Some former members of The Callisto Protocol development team weren’t given credit for their time on the game.
An estimated 20 people, including some former senior employees and other key individuals, were not properly credited for their work on The Callisto Protocol, as reported by GameIndustry.biz.
The sci-fi, survival horror game released on Dec. 2, 2022 for the PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC. The names of those estimated 20 people weren’t included in the game’s ending credits for their contributions to the first title from Striking Distance Studios. Those individuals were reportedly from various departments that had left the company before The Callisto Protocol released.
Those not credited reportedly included important people and developers on the project, some who had even been with Striking Distance Studios for over a year. Some of them were described by a former employee as, “really core people who built the studio up.”
Striking Distance Studios formed in June 2019. The company was started by Glen Schofield after he left Sledgehammer Games, another studio that he co-created in 2009 that primarily worked on the Call of Duty series for Activision. The Callisto Protocol was supposed to be a spiritual successor to Dead Space, as Schofield was a co-creator of that franchise and worked on the first game that released in 2008 as its executive producer. Striking Distance also includes many developers from the former Dead Space team at Visceral Games that closed in 2017.
The official Striking Distance website currently lists the company having around 182 staff members. The developer is based in San Ramon, California. Krafton published the game, a South Korean company known for PUBG: Battlegrounds. The Callisto Protocol received mixed reviews. Krafton’s stock fell 8.41% the day of the game’s release.
There was reportedly no official company policy at Striking Distance about people not receiving credit if they left the studio before the game shipped, according to those employees. Several people not credited were surprised by the omissions. The names of those who were included in the credits also reportedly appeared inconsistent. Some other former developers were given credit by being grouped together under “miscellaneous” or “additional” help sections while some people weren’t included at all. Some former employees thought there were favorites being played with who received credits after their departures.
Anyone who works on a game for at least 30 days (including contractors) should be credited for their contributions, according to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
A former employee told GameIndustry.biz that they felt people were intentionally removed from receiving any credits for leaving the studio before the game finished. “Somebody wanted to send a message, and the message was, ‘Next time have a bit more loyalty to us.'”
Some of those not credited properly still did have a good experience working at Striking Distance and with its management, except for their departure. “The only time there was some friction was on exit, and I think devs who left were punished with credit omissions,” said one former employee.
The company’s website lists “People First” under the beginning of its values section, describing the core belief as, “Everything starts with the people who make our games and the fans we make them for. Within our studio and community, we strive for an environment of mutual respect and trust, diversity, and creative courage.”
Schofield had tweeted last year on Sept. 3 about the team working long hours to finish the game. “We r working 6-7 days a week, nobody’s forcing us. Exhaustion, tired, Covid but we’re working. Bugs, glitches, perf fixes. 1 last pass thru audio. 12-15 hr days. This is gaming. Hard work. Lunch, dinner, working. U do it cause ya luv it.” Schofield received backlash for the comments because it came across as promoting forced overtime and crunch culture for his company, especially as its CEO. He apologized to the team internally at Striking Distance Studios for those comments. He also publicly apologized, saying, “We value passion and creativity, not long hours.”
Employees at Striking Distance did crunch and work many overtime hours on the game. While there was no official mandatory overtime policy, many on the team reportedly ended up crunching anyway since the studio didn’t make adjustments for the work that still needed to be done. The working conditions during parts of The Callisto Protocol’s development reportedly included some employees like designers involved in meetings for 10 hours a day then having to still do their regular work on top of that.
In an interview with Inverse, Schofield acknowledged that towards the end of development the team at Striking Distance worked longer hours than they should have. He stated, “I’m going to make sure that’s not a thing that happens in our next project or any future project. This one was on me.”
Schofield has been in a leadership position in various roles within the game industry, going back to his time at Crystal Dynamics in the ’90s. He was the company’s vice president for several years and a director on titles like Gex: Enter the Gecko in 1998 and The Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2 in 2002. In addition to creating Dead Space and being its executive producer, he was the vice president and general manager of Visceral Games after joining Electronic Arts in 2002. Schofield was also a co-producer on three Call of Duty titles for Activision (Modern Warfare 3, Advanced Warfare and WWII) while being the CEO at Sledgehammer Games.
Mixed messaging was given to the team regarding the studio’s work schedule, with the company stating that it would address the issues with long hours and then giving recognition to those employees who did do overtime. “There was always this misalignment, where on the surface they say one thing, and then almost always moments later say something to contradict that,” said one former employee.
The story highlights the game industry’s ongoing problem with crunch culture, overtime, employee retention and development cycles. Working this kind of overtime or not could potentially be tied to an employee’s salary, bonuses, promotions and other opportunities. Proper crediting is still a problem for video games, with workers on other recent titles facing similar issues like the former employees at Striking Distance.
One former employee told GameIndustry.biz that they personally took part in overtime and that crunch was part of how Striking Distance operates. “It’s a pretty intense culture of delivering and putting in those crunch hours, which is fine. Game dev can be intense, especially delivering a product of this magnitude, you don’t always strike the best work-life balance. My issue is those of us who took part in that culture, who put in that time, and worked intensely to help craft this product, were punished with a credit omission for not going the extra mile…to stay until it shipped.”
New, free content for all players of The Callisto Protocol will release on Feb. 7, which includes new game plus and a hardcore mode. The game has also received several post-launch patches for updates and performance improvements across all platforms.
The Callisto Protocol has a Season Pass for upcoming content this year that costs an additional $29.99 and is supposed to last through this summer. The Season Pass is also included with the Digital Deluxe Edition of the game, which costs $89.99 for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Starting on Feb. 7, the Outer Way Skin Collection of cosmetic items releases. In March the Contagion Bundle releases that includes a permadeath mode with scarce resources, 13 death animations for the main character Jacob and the Watchtower Skin Collection. Later this spring the Riot Bundle will release, which includes a new wave-based game mode, 12 enemy death animations and the Engineer Skin Collection. The Season Pass will also include a new story expansion, which is the last piece of advertised content that will release in the summer.
The Season Pass wasn’t part of the shipped game’s development and will be new content created by the team this year, according to Schofield.
On current generation consoles the base game costs $69.99, a $10 increase from the PS4 and Xbox One versions.
Originally The Callisto Protocol was to be set in the world of PUBG as a much different type of game but that changed over the course of its development. The Dead Space remake of the first game from Motive Studio and Electronic Arts is scheduled to release on Jan. 27.
Watch The Callisto Protocol launch trailer: