Over the course of the last few weeks there’s been reports that key leads in the development of L.A Noire mismanaged and even ignored poor working conditions in the name of extortion. Tough work environments are not uncommon in the gaming industry, especially during the end of the development cycle when the team is applying the finishing touches on the product; however this is only part of the story.
This story essentially started when 130+ developers created a site dedicated to preserving their role in the development of L.A Noire. According to them, both Team Bondi and Rockstar omitted them from the final credits. Some of the 130 former developers admit that they were told that they wouldn’t be credited unless they stayed at the company until the game shipped, however they maintain that this practice is highly unethical in the first place. Considering the industry’s footprint in Australia is small, not being included in the credits can be destructive for former employees trying to find work.
In a report with the Sydney Morning Herald, several developers described contributing large amounts of time and effort to the game’s development, however they were still not credited.
Another developer described the poor working conditions, going on to describe it as: “an inflexible and virtually praise-free environment,” and noted the 10-12 hour working days, including weekends.
Later in the article he says despite how great this is for the Australia gaming industry, it has come at a terrible price.
This isn’t the only report of mistreatment by Rockstar and Team Bondi.
In a recent article by IGN, several former developers came forward to describe their experiences at the Australian-based studio.
This developer who preferred to remain anonymous described the early days as, “”quite tough, but good. There didn’t seem to be much direction, either technical, artistic, or overall. We had a CTO [chief technology officer], but he wouldn’t really talk to people, or give directions. We were mainly left to our own devices with very high-level tasks and weekly reviews. We grew from there, relatively quickly, to about 30 people over the first year”.
He goes on to say, “They soon moved to a larger office in Ultimo to accommodate the company’s expansion. “In that first year we shipped a couple of milestones to Sony, but they weren’t that good. When the pressure started mounting to deliver stuff, and [management started] seeing how we weren’t delivering – mainly due to technical problems – things started getting worse and worse.”
After the team failed to perform, ironically due to poor management, the studios work environment quickly deteriorated.
All of the developers accounts seem to indicate that the studio was run under an informal hierarchy in which, if writer/director Brendan McNamara wanted it changed; he’d just let them know. This type of system essentially made the leads of the project completely ineffective.
In the same interview with IGN, a former programmer had this to say: “Often the leads weren’t involved, If you’d talk to your lead and say, ‘Hey, Brendan’s making this unreasonable demand,’ they’d be understanding, but they’re ultimately powerless. They can’t go and tell Brendan that it’s not feasible, just as much as I couldn’t tell him. He just won’t listen to reason.”
Another huge point of contention is the hiring practices of Team Bondi. According to these former employees Team Bondi’s mindset was to hire junior employees and work them “longer and faster”.
According to one of the sources: “I was told that I was taking the piss by saying that I couldn’t give every single one of my weekends away. We were looked at as a disposable resource, basically. If you weren’t in the ‘inner circle’” – an exclusive group which seems to have consisted of the former Team Soho employees – “you were just a resource to be burned through.”
This resulted in several people being fired or quitting. Unfortunately for those still at the studio, the results were even worse. Often times, Team Bondi’s employees would be called upon to pick up the pieces, by taking on the work left by the recently departed. One former employee had this to say: “I inherited all their stuff to work with. And of course, once that happens, I’m quite unproductive for, like, a month, trying to figure out which way’s up. That happened to me three or four times; I ended up inheriting four peoples’ stuff.”
These are only some of the issues raised by former employees. Other alleged issues include, no-paid overtime, unreasonable work hours, and ineffective team-building sessions. While we can’t prove these claims, and perhaps never will be able too, it’s important for inspiring developers, or those looking for work to know who to look out for. Given the sheer amount of complaints, it’s certainly something to look out for.
Team Bondi should include a patch crediting former employees based on IGDA Standards. You can view more about IGDA Crediting Standards here.