"I look around the office and all I see are the tired pale faces of the Keeper team," reads a rather chilling message found hidden within files for the MS-DOS version of 1997's Dungeon Keeper. "This project has destroyed the health and social lives of each member, so I hope you like the game."
The warning paints a grim picture of the working conditions that led to the creation of the classic dungeon management game, with its author claiming the dev team worked "16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for nearly 5 months". It was developed by Bullfrog Productions, which also made Populous and Theme Park, among other things.
You can read the full message below—click on the picture to expand it.
crunch was always and always will be a big part of #gamedev (sadly)this message is hidden inside dungeonkeeper.exe during the MS-DOS era, before you noobs were even born pic.twitter.com/Z3IKhP5j7pOctober 25, 2018
The message has been known about for a while, but I saw it pop up in my timeline today, and it feels particularly poignant given what's happened over the past few weeks, with multiple reports surfacing of the "death march" development of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Coder Christer Kaitila, who tweeted out the message this week, has since expressed regret for saying that crunch "always will be" a part of development—he later said he wanted to "kick himself" for his choice of words adding that change was "inevitable", and that he sees a "slow steady change in attitudes these days". The lone Dungeon Keeper developer's warning is, however, a sad reminder of how long crunch culture has persisted in the industry. Hopefully Kaitila and others that foresee a brighter future are proved correct.