Red Dead Redemption was a big hit, both creatively and commercially, but less than a year before launch, one of the game's lead producers acknowledged it had significant problems. The story about the challenging, multi-year development of the game recently came to light as part of former Rockstar North president Leslie Benzie's $150 million lawsuit against Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two Interactive.
In the lawsuit, Benzies' legal team is trying to establish how vital he was to Rockstar's operations. One example provided was how Benzies stepped in to help finish Red Dead Redemption, despite having no official position on the game. The game was in development at Rockstar San Diego under the direction of Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser.
"As Sam Houser himself recognized, the Houser brothers were incapable of completing large and complex games without Mr. Benzies' oversight, management, and skill in taking unwieldy designs and making an understandable, cohesive, and enjoyable game," reads a line from the lawsuit.
In October 2009, with a deadline coming up, Sam Houser became anxious about Red Dead Redemption not being in good enough shape. He wrote an email to Benzies that month, saying, "The ups and downs are VERY extreme. We have to fix this. Quickly. Help! I'm freaking!'"
The very next day, Sam Houser sent another email to Benzies further elaborating on the game's problems at the time and how he wanted Benzies to assist.
"This [RDR] is a (recurring) nightmare," Sam Houser said. "But one i/we need to get out of. I have problems with the camera all over the place. So much so, that I can't be rational or specific about it. The darkness!!!"
"PLEASE help me/us get rdr [Read Dead Redemption] into shape. I am a jabbering wreck right now," he added. "I need The Benz!'"
The lawsuit goes on to claim that after Benzies stepped in to help, Rockstar San Diego completed work on the game "within a few months," getting it ready to show to partners such as Sony and Microsoft.
Red Dead Redemption went on to become a huge hit when it arrived in May 2010, receiving rave reviews and selling 13 million copies. Though a sequel has not been announced, it's been strongly hinted at.
Benzies and Rockstar officially parted ways in January 2015, following Benzies' 17-month sabbatical. Benzies claims he tried to return to work in April 2015 but was kicked out of the building. He's now suing Take-Two for $150 million in unpaid royalties, while Take-Two has fired back with a counter-suit.