State of Decay 3 Development Reportedly Hampered By Toxic Work Environment and Studio Mismanagement

State of Decay 3 Development Reportedly Hampered By Toxic Work Environment and Studio Mismanagement

Richard Walker

It appears that State of Decay 3 is the subject of a troubled development at studio Undead Labs, with a report alleging that the latest entry in the series (following on from 2018's State of Decay 2) is apparently stalled, due to a toxic work environment and mismanagement from the higher-ups.

According to the report by Kotaku (via VideoGamer), no less than a dozen current and former employees spoke anonymously to the site, painting an unappealing picture of life at developer Undead Labs. Said employees state that the way in which the studio has been run has resulted in State of Decay 3 becoming stuck in pre-production, almost two years on since the game was first unveiled in July 2020.

While some aspects of life at the studio are apparently quite positive, Microsoft's decision to be hands-off (since acquiring Undead Labs in 2018) have reportedly had an adverse effect, but the deal proved necessary for work on State of Decay 3 to get the greenlight. “It was clear in 2018 that Undead Labs was going to focus on the State of Decay IP, and the expectations—and initial budget—for SoD3 were way higher than anything we’d done before,” ex-studio head Jeff Strain wrote on Medium.

Alleged “patterns of discrimination” against minority employees, according to nine of the twelve anonymous employees, as well as once source claiming that “women’s opinions would be outright rejected, even for extremely basic code or games knowledge,” are among the issues at Undead Labs. “No one would listen to them, even women in director-level positions were outright ignored, talked over, and blamed for problems.”

New studio head Phillip Holt has also been accused of nepotism and of fast-tracking hiring of friends to positions at the developer. “There is a rigorous and standardised hiring process in place at Undead Labs for all potential hires, with visibility and review from multiple studio members,” Microsoft said in response to these claims, while Holt himself issued his own statement to Kotaku.

“Since our acquisition by Microsoft in 2018, Undead Labs has been focused elevating the quality and ambition of State of Decay and increasing the diversity and inclusivity of our studio culture,” Holt's statement reads. “Building an inclusive and supporting environment is central to our vision of our culture, how we enable our teams to do their best work, and how we build the best games. I recognise that some of our employees, current and former, have shared that their experiences at the Lab weren’t always positive.”

His statement continues: “Our past culture does not exemplify who we are now, nor who we want to become. We have seen a lot of change in the last few years: we have an entirely new leadership team, including new HR Director and department in 2021; hired about 75 employees since the beginning of the pandemic; and have transformed the demographic make-up of our team. We’ve 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 in front of us, positioned to learn from this experience, and committed to doing better every day.”

Where all of this alleged discord at Undead Labs leaves the fate of State of Decay 3 is currently unknown, but it doesn't sound particularly encouraging.

  • April Fool's!....oh, maybe not...
  • So Microsoft's decision to not be a looming giant over them is a bad thing for them??? That sucks I guess some studios need it and others don't
  • Office drama can be so very toxic. Wish people would choose to just be better.
  • Give me a break. You've got a generation of participation trophy, over sensitive crybabies in the work force now. All of whom cry " toxic work environment!" at the slightest hint of stress or they don't get their way. Guess what, the world isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes its rough. There are gonna be winners and there are gonna be losers. Bad days and good days. So grow up, get a thicker skin and stop whining.
  • "Toxic work environment" is usually leftist newspeak for "someone said something that hurt my feefees".
  • @NEO they won’t because of comments like the people below yours that think it’s fake and people should just put up with whatever abuse is occurring. Employees aren’t slaves, and have the right to speak up, speak out, and/or leave.
  • Feel so sad for employees who have to go through this crap and for people who think things can't be better. So glad I have a job where the employer actually cares about me, gives me paid days off for wellbeing (on top of my standard holiday days), makes you take your breaks, and has a management team who actually cares about their workers.
  • @wounded82 Except a lot of it IS fake and overblown. Usually when someone stirs up bullshit, it's usually over jokes and items that don't really matter. I mean, god forbid people banter back and forth in the work place. Stop trying to make a non issue an actual issue, because when actual issues (like Activision / Blizzard for example), a lot of people will mock and laugh at it and not give it much attention.
  • It's a dangerous stance to remain neutral between the victim blameing and the matter of fact way of accepting bad standards of employment because you've see a few people overreact and cry wolf.

    Like we're saying the Nazis were bad and all you can say is "there are always bad people everywhere." No shit, but it's depressing people would rather live with the abuse or continue to support the abusive work environment than just stand up for the right thing no matter where the conflict is.

    Bad things are happening. You can look the other way in support of the baddies or offer support to the victims. If you truly know better than speak up and provide sources. Otherwise you need to be told that playing devils advocate on these issues makes you look like an asshole.
  • Can't help but to agree with marvelouslie. I come from a time when people joked at work and got shit done without all of this. Things are just different these days. It feels like people are looking for a reason to be offended just so they can get on their high horse. I don't know, it's just the way it all seems when you're looking in from the outside.
  • @dirty130 You have to remember that the "participation trophy" generation is now entering the workforce, so everything that's potentially offensive IS offensive to these kids because they've been force fed this shit their entire lives, and ONE little problem is potentially a really big issue to them when it's really not. Coddling these kids and allowing them to run ruckshot over a business is not a good way to ... you know.. actually do business and make money.
  • Unless it's a major issue, I feel most teams should be able to work around it without someone being fired. If it's not a team issue and an individual issue, I think you're best to take a good look at yourself before pointing the finger and if it is a major issue, sure, take it up with the appropriate person in an attempt to better the situation. I guess the problem then lies in what is a minor, medium or major issue. Sexual harassment is obviously a major issue but if you present an idea and it's dismissed, that's not abuse. Your idea probably just wasn't as great as you thought it was..
  • Curious about which part of the alleged patterns of discrimination against minority groups, claims of nepotism and repeated examples of misogyny are acceptable and indicative of people just being too sensitive?

    Poor employment practices and elements of negative workplace culture should absolutely be called out. The vast majority of these things aren't new, they're just becoming less acceptable now as people's attitude toward employment, gender equality and other forms of discrimination change. They were never really okay, but people are being empowered to publicly call them out.

    Comments about how this is all just people being thin skinned and overly sensitive come across as incredibly reductionist and tone deaf. Especially when, I would wager, most of the commenters are not members of the group's finally feeling empowered to call these practices out.
  • "and have transformed the demographic make-up of our team."
    I also wouldn't wanna work for a company, that thinks the demographic makeup of their workforce matters.
    I can kind of imagine the woke shitshow going on at UL.
    The problem with complaints like these is that its hard to seperate legitimate complaints from crying about normal circumstances of running a business and human interactions (crude, sometimes offcolour jokes, banter, strict hierarchy, stress, time constraints, ...)

    I get the feeling here, that there are some recent graduates, that started working at UL and they applied their critical race and gender theories their professors told them about and management was having none of that, so they created a public shitfest and now management caves in and fulfills their demands.

    The relevant part for us gamers here is that SoD3 will be dogshit.
  • @Fanta Yeah, I get that same feeling too. Once these kids start applying race and gender theory to shit and companies wanting nothing to do with it, they pitch a bitch fit over it and stir up enough stink they actually force companies to backpedal and cave. The quicker that companies can stop this shit from happening, the quicker we can go back to having good games again.
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