In late 2017, development studio TT Games began work on Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga at a time when dozens inside the company were at odds with management. Citing frustration over tight development schedules, the company’s crunch culture, and outdated development tools, more than 20 current and former TT Games employees tell Polygon that calls for change over the years had largely been ignored.
Multiple people who worked at the studio remember breaking down outside of work hours because of the workload and some of the stresses they were under.
“It was a very soft-spoken blackmail,” one former employee says. “‘If people don’t start doing overtime, there’s going to be problems,’” although the problems were never specified.
Some former staff even came up with a term to describe their experiences at the studio, referring to them as “PTTSD.”
With The Skywalker Saga — an adaptation of all nine main films in the Star Wars series — management promised employees a longer development timeline and a new engine. Unfortunately, this did little to improve the situation, according to employees. Multiple staffers say that management ignored warnings about switching to NTT, a new engine being developed internally, and say that the longer time frame was unsuccessful in alleviating crunch.
Over the past few months, Polygon has spoken to more than 30 current and former TT Games employees, all of whom spoke anonymously due to nondisclosure agreements and a desire to avoid negative repercussions. They opened up about the studio’s challenging work culture over the last decade and a half and The Skywalker Saga’s difficult development cycle. Two years have passed since TT Games and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced The Skywalker Saga, and the game has been through three delays. Meanwhile, TT Games, which employs hundreds, has seen high staff turnover and has undergone a change in management since development on The Skywalker Saga began.
A Lego empire
The company’s challenges started well before The Skywalker Saga. According to staff, the culture of crunch at TT Games goes back to the company’s formation in 2005. That was when, following the success of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, British game studio Traveller’s Tales acquired publisher Giant Interactive, forming what we know today as TT Games.
Over the years, TT Games has found tremendous success with its line of Lego games, producing well-reviewed titles that have sold millions of copies and won awards. These days, they are commonly referred to as some of the most family-friendly games available, due to their simple and approachable gameplay. But former employees say that the company’s decision to release new Lego games annually resulted in a culture of crunch.
Six former employees who worked under Jon Burton, co-founder and creative director at TT Games, say he would often yell at staff to return to their desks if they tried to leave work on time, and that he regularly