A dozen current and former Undead Labs workers speak of failures in the Undead Labs organization and accusations of sexism towards women.
Just over two weeks after problems with the development of the new Perfect Dark and its studio, The Initiative, came to light, a Kotaku investigation shared by Eurogamer reveals that another game set on the Xbox Game Studios roadmap is having problems both in its development and in the work culture of the responsible study. We are talking about State of Decay 3 and Undead Labs.
The aforementioned header has spoken with twelve workers and former employees of the company with headquarters in Seattle and New Orleans (where they also function as an academy ). They speak of a directionless development that has undergone several reorganizations of the team and that, according to some of them, continues without a clear vision. In addition, they comment that there is a toxic work culture, since they mention sexist situations and failures in the human resources department .
When it was shown in 2020 there were no clear plans for the game
The developers say that when the game was revealed for Xbox Series and PC with a sneak peek trailer in 2020 , the team “didn’t even know what” State of Decay 3 was at the time. The project began pre- production in late 2018 , months after the Xbox One release of State of Decay 2 , but the team has since been reshuffled several times due to management lapses.
Female Undead Labs employees are routinely ignored and berated during meetings , according to these developers, and are subjected to sexual comments by other workers. The human resources department has not been able to placate these circumstances, although it has taken measures such as imposing a series of rules during the meetings.
Workers who have spoken to Kotaku complain that Microsoft could have done more for the studio when it bought them in 2018: “We were afraid they might come in and change our culture, but the collapse came from within and we would have appreciated their help.” They add that the departure of founder Jeff Strain and his replacement by Philip Holt from ArenaNet ( Guild Wars ) caused further friction.
Anne Schlosser, then the company’s head of human resources, left Undead Labs in September 2021, after Microsoft became more involved in the summer following public testimonies of poor working conditions. The work environment caused an unspecified number of developers to leave the studio , and many others did so due to the constant planning changes regarding internal demos.
Some of the employees say that things have changed and that the project is beginning to take shape , while others are more pessimistic and predict more marches from Undead Labs. Philip Holt acknowledges in a statement that some employees have spoken of “experiences in the Lab that they have not always been positive”, and adds that they have made many changes: last year they changed the human resources department and its management, they have hired around 75 employees since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and they have “transformed the demographic composition” of the team .
“Our past culture doesn’t exemplify who we are now, or who we want to be ,” says Holt. “We have already seen that our ongoing cultural transformation is creating a better workplace for the team, which leads to better games for our community. I am proud of the work we have done , humbled by the task ahead, willing to learning from this experience and committed to doing better every day”.
State of Decay 3 is planned for Xbox Series and PC . It has no release date.