Leaked Team Bondi emails reveal more on company crunch policy

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Gamesindustry.biz has published a follow-up to last month's Team Bondi workplace expose with another article by freelance journalist, Andrew McMillen, which highlights more of the company's extended crunch policy and shaky development through internal, company-wide emails.

Emails to employees from management and Team Bondi boss, Brendan McNamara, reveal that staff were continually pushed for overtime and weekends to complete L.A Noire with the promise that it was just 'six months from completion'. The anonymous ex-employees remarked that this was a reacurring theme at the studio and was used to justify the long hours for this 'final' stretch of development.

When Team Bondi staff expressed concerns over the revisions made to the contracts they had initially signed up for, a FAQ from management was posted out in response to exmplain why new employment contracts did not need to be created, why work between 6pm and 7pm cannot be paid, and why staff need to commit to the new schedules as opposed to the flexible working hours that they had preferred.

Anonymous employees also responded to McNamara's previous comments on staff being compensated for working evenings and weekends, as well as being rewarded with time-off. From Gameindustry.biz...

There was no overtime for people working late on Monday to Friday, it was only the weekends, so that contradicts what Brendan said. This isn't a small amount of work either - there were still plenty of people around at 9 PM every single day. The Team Bondi leads would even schedule review meetings to begin at 7 PM during the week, the meetings would often take more than an hour, so it's not like this work was optional.

Our contracts were also revised so that the hours were 9 AM - 7 PM mandatory every week day, an increase of seven hours a week with no increase to our salary. I should point out that after the game was released and was successful, management picked several people (about 30 I think) who they felt had worked particularly hard over the project and gave them some bonus time off, so I think that's what Brendan is referring to when he says 'bonus scheme for working evenings'.

The sources also discussed the deteriorating relationship between Team Bondi and publisher, Rockstar Games, over the development of L.A Noire. They described how, initally, Rockstar were warm to the idea of having Team Bondi as a Sydney-based satellite studio of Rockstar, but as development progressed, the two companies soured over the decisions made by Team Bondi management on L.A Noire's direction, and the resentment of Team Bondi management over Rockstar taking over creative control...

I've heard a lot about Rockstar's disdain for Team Bondi, and it has been made quite clear that they will not publish Team Bondi's next game. Team Bondi are trying to find another publisher for their next title, but the relationship with Rockstar has been badly damaged

Many ex-Team Bondi exmployees have expressed their gratitude that the word was finally getting out on the brutal crunch time policies at Team Bondi, and the follow-up article describes the motivation of some of the ex-employees for revealing all this to the public eye...

I might not want to be involved in [game development] anymore, but for the sake of my peers, I'd like to see change. It wasn't that they were working this way accidentally. It was a choice they made; this is their business model, to purposely have low-wage, unexperienced artists that you can pretty much work to death. They'll leave, and you'll replace them. They didn't have much interest in retaining the talent, which is one of the hugest mistakes you can make. A studio is nothing more than a collection of computers in a room. It's the talent that makes the difference.

The leaked company emails are published at Gameindustry.biz, so head on over there (log in required) to read them in their entirety..

Comments

Anonymous's picture

You know, I suspect that even with all this controversy, that Team Bondi probably still haven't learnt their lesson(s). Getting LA Noire out the door and it being measurably successful, is most likely just going to justify the game taking 7-8 years and burning out and turning away so many from the industry.

It also doesn't surprise me about Rockstar not being keen to work with them anymore.

When you look at the credits, it's clear that Rockstar's engine (RAGE) was used. Team Bondi ditched their own and only focused on adding their Motion Scan technology; which Rockstar already have some kind of agreement in place to use for future Rockstar games. Based on previous information, it's clear that Rockstar had a strong hand in both the creative direction of the interrogation / adventure gameplay and action gameplay of LA Noire -- without it, the game probably wouldn't have been released or at least to the quality level it was; another publisher would have forced it out the door a year ago and written it off. And I also can't help but feel, that if it weren't for the "goodwill" of the Rockstar brand with gamers in way of expectations and quality, the game wouldn't have been rated as high or sold as well.

With all that, you have to wonder whether Rockstar would even need Team Bondi to make an LA Noire 2 instead of doing it all internally. You'd probably could get it out the door sooner, make it for less, and achieve a higher level of quality by them doing so.

I guess it all depends upon what was and wasn't signed away in order to get further funding from Rockstar in order to get LA Noire finished, and, just how bad the relationship may have spoiled. This controversy mustn't have helped in that regard, and I also wonder, what it has done for their prospects in finding other publishers willing to fund one of their games.

But then again, maybe they're betting that "Motion Scan" will fund their future games development, however, technology can be a rather shaky foundation to gamble your future upon as competitors can appear over night.

It also can have a rather long wait on return on investment...

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Anonymous's picture

The only future I see for TB is in licensing the motion scan technology to other developers, since nobody would want to work for them on another AAA title.