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Ex-staff want to 'destroy Team Bondi' - LA Noire dev

Lead programmer says Australian studio will learn from its mistakes

Team Bondi lead programmer Dave Heironymus has claimed that ex-staff member are on a mission to 'destroy' the LA Noire studio by ruining its reputation.

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Late last month, ex-Team Bondi employees spoke out about allegedly ruthless working practices at the studio, with some developers claiming a regular working week could mean more than 100 hours at the office.

However, in a blog post on Gamasutra, Heironymus disputed some of the claims, and suggested that press coverage of the affair has been one-sided.

"I know, I know. I'll be labelled as [studio manager] 'Brendan McNamara's sock puppet' or worse," he said. "You'll just have to take my word that I'm doing this because I enjoy working at Team Bondi and don't want to see it destroyed by anonymous ex-employees.

"What is the motivation behind these attacks on Team Bondi? If the motivation were to see improvement in the working conditions at Team Bondi, then I'm all for it... All of the management and staff at Team Bondi want to improve our processes so we can make even better games in a decent timeframe, without burning people out along the way.

"However, some of these comments in recent stories seem to go beyond that. Some ex-employees who left the company years ago want to see Team Bondi destroyed. They want to see 35 game developers out of a job. That seems to me to be a less laudable motivation."

Heironymus, who says he was one of the first five local employees at Team Bondi, went on to publish the contents of a letter he sent to the International Game Developers Association, which announced it was to investigate claims of unfair working practices at the studio. Here's a beefy extract:

During the early years of L.A. Noire, we generally worked 9 to 6. Occasionally we'd do some late nights towards the end of a milestone, but by and large it was pretty smooth sailing. Unfortunately as time went on we failed to make as much progress as we'd have liked and there was growing pressure to work longer hours.

There were times when it seemed too hard to keep on going. Work kept piling up, potential release dates slipped by, and frustration grew. At these times we lost people, who legitimately decided that they weren't willing to keep on pushing.

Recognising that working on the weekend was inevitable, Team Bondi put in place a scheme to (generously) reward employees for their weekend days spent at work. Additionally, in the last 6 months of the project a scheme was put in place to reward employees for staying back late on weeknights, and this resulted in myself and most of my team getting an additional 4 weeks of leave upon completion of LA Noire, on top of the weekend working payment.

Towards the end of the project I was probably working (on average) around 65 hours per week. Apart from a few isolated cases (various demo builds) this was the highest my regular hours ever got to, and at no time did I ever work 100 hours per week. If you think about it, that's 14 hours per day, 7 days per week, which is huge. I can't say that no-one ever worked 100 hours per week, but those sorts of hours were not encouraged. In fact, if someone on my team was working that hard I would have done my best to stop them.

I never (and in my experience, neither did any of the other managers) expected anything from my team that I didn't expect of myself. The management team at Team Bondi was not ensconced in an Ivory Tower working normal hours while everyone else crunched. Brendan himself worked very long hours and few of us here in the studio are aware of how gruelling the DA and motion capture shoot in LA was.

Saying all of this, no-one at Team Bondi is under the illusion that crunching is a good way to work and we're actively working to learn from our mistakes for our next project. The people at Team Bondi are great to work with and I'm confident that we can make Team Bondi a leading game studio on the international stage.

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