The most wishlisted game on Steam, The Day Before, is being developed entirely by volunteers according to its developer’s website. Fntastic say they accept full-time and part-time volunteers to work on their games. Watch a video about volunteering that’s featured on the company’s website below.
“Whatever you do in life, you do it willingly or unwillingly. If you do it willingly it becomes a heaven. If you do it unwillingly it becomes a hell.”
The company website for Fntastic now has a ‘volunteer’ section, which says: “Fntastic’s culture is based on the idea of volunteering. This means that every Fntastic member is a volunteer.” Full-time volunteers are salaried, but those offering their services part-time are given “cool rewards, participation certificates, and free codes”. Describing what they’re looking for in part-time volunteers, Fntastic say:
“Part-time volunteering at Fntastic includes various activities ranging from translating to community moderating. Part-time volunteers also can offer their unique skills to improve our projects or create new special features.”
You can read what Fntastic have to say about it all here. I’ve reached out to ask about the voluntary nature of their organisation, and what pay the various people working on The Day Before receive. The mention of improving projects and creating new features does suggest the work goes beyond standard volunteer work, but it’s pretty vague. Remember Ubisoft’s adventures into fan labour for no guaranteed pay for Watch Dogs Legion and Beyond Good And Evil 2?
As QA testers and other games industry professionals begin to unionise to bargain for better working conditions and pay, it’s discomfiting to see companies working on high-profile games actively recruiting what appear to be unpaid volunteers. This isn’t the first time that groups have built games on the unpaid work of volunteers, but they’re often collaborative fan projects such as the Skywind mod. Other times, it turns out to be something more uncomfortable like Starbound.
The Day Before is due out on March 1st 2023. It’s certainly been wishlisted by a lot of people on Steam. We’ll update you if there’s any comment from Fntastic.