Lord of the Rings: Gollum will be remembered as a terrible game, but as usual, there was more to it than mismanagement. German outlet Game Two documented “an atmosphere of fear” at Daedalic Entertainment during the game’s chaotic development. It claims the studio forced unpaid overtime, tried to pay below minimum wage, and created a toxic workplace.
Game Two, a 40-minute video called Why Gollum Had to Fail (thanks, Knoebel), explains what went wrong for Daedalic, best known for point-and-click adventure games like Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth and State of Mind. IGN’s developer sources and 32 former and current employees supported the report.
It showed that Gollum cost €15 million, or $15.9 million. Most studio employees had little experience making 3D action games, let alone AAA ones, which cost many times that much. The studio’s small budget prevented it from hiring skilled talent and raising funds.
From its 2007 founding, the studio has allegedly required staff to crunch. Employees said interns and junior staff were pressured because they were less likely to “assess the level of stress as critical or unusual”. CEO Carsten Fichtelmann and COO Stephan Harms sparked this corporate climate. Some employees “only spoke in whispers” after Fichtelmann shouted at them. Daedelic told Game Two that the company has a “friendly working atmosphere” and denied these allegations.
Remember that apology letter after launch when publisher Nacon misspelled the game’s title, giving us The Lord of the Rings: Gollum? According to Game Two, Nacon wrote the thing using ChatGPT, which is great, and it was published without Daedelic’s consent, which is not.
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