Open Roads splits from Fullbright in wake of ‘toxic’ company allegations

Open Roads development continued onward after Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor stepped down as the game’s creative direction following complaints of “mistreatment” from employees. Now, Open Roads is moving forward without the Fullbright name; the development team is now simply called “The Open Roads Team.”

Gaynor announced his total departure from Open Roads development in a newsletter published Friday. “But after a great deal of consideration, it’s just no longer Fullbright’s place to represent Open Roads publicly going forward,” Gaynor wrote. “It will be credited to ‘The Open Roads Team’ at launch.”

Open Roads was originally announced in 2020 as a big-name indie published by Annapurna Interactive and starring Keri Russell (The Americans) and Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart). Problems in development —and Gaynor’s leadership style — began early on, with 15 employees having left the company since 2019, the majority of whom were women. In our report from August 2021, several employees said he created a “toxic” and “unhealthy” environment for the team.

Gaynor was removed from active development in March 2021 due to a “pattern of women leaving” the company, a Fullbright representative told Polygon. “Steve stepped down in March 2021 after it became clear that the steps that were already being taken to improve his interactions with the team were only yielding temporary results,” the representative said at the time. “More drastic action was needed for the health of the team.”

News of the departure went public months later in August alongside Polygon’s report on the studio’s problems with Gaynor. Six workers remained at that time to continue development on Open Roads; it’s unclear how many are working on Open Roads now as The Open Roads Team.

Gaynor had not commented publicly on Open Roads or his actions since the 2021 story; the newsletter published Friday is the first open notice since then. He’s now working on a game independently, as a solo developer, saying that his “own strengths do not lie with attempting to manage a large project or direct the work of others.”

Polygon has reached out to The Open Roads Team, Annapurna Interactive, and Gaynor for comment. The Open Roads Steam page lists the game as “coming soon,” but an exact date is not listed. A Game Informer interview with current Open Roads developers from 2021 suggested that the game shifted from something “really plot focused” to “something much more character-focused,” a closer look at the relationship between mother and daughter — a relationship that’s not been explored much in games.