This week has seen a number of developers share stories and allegations of personal trials in gaming, and the latest entity to face an allegation is Starbound creator Chucklefish. Various former contributors to the 2D space exploration game Starbound claim that Chucklefish exploited unpaid volunteers to create the game.
Nothing to chuckle aboutThe allegations about Chucklefish's exploitation started with a Twitter thread by Damon Reece, who is credited as a writer on Starbound and is the lead writer on Route 59 Games' Necrobarista. According to their thread, they worked "hundreds of hours" for no pay, even when Starbound sold 2.5 million copies in its first week. Others have substantiated these claims, one of which includes a 2016 Something Awful post from a former Chucklefish developer.
In a statement, Chucklefish said they were "aware and saddened" by the allegations. They continue:
During this time both the core crew and community contributors were collaborating via a chat room and dedicated their time for free. Community contributors were under no obligation to create content, work to deadlines or put in any particular number of hours. Everyone was credited or remunerated as per their agreement.Reece responded to the statement by acknowledging that they did sign a contract, as contributors were required to sign one to work on the game. The contract also came with the possibility of employment at Chucklefish. However, they did dispute the claim of no deadlines, saying that "deadlines were absolutely in place - if not formal, then definitely implied." Reece called Chucklefish founder Finn Brice as the primary source of the pressure volunteers faced. "Shame is a powerful motivator and Finn Brice is highly adept at using it to manipulate people," they said.
It's been almost a decade since Starbound's development first began, and from then Chucklefish has grown considerably into an indie studio that has a strong emphasis on good working practices, providing a welcoming environment for all employees and freelancers.
Our doors remain open to any related parties who wish to discuss their concerns with us directly.