Team Bondi dev challenges crunch accusations

Team Bondi dev challenges crunch accusations

By Rob Crossley

July 13th 2011 at 4:34PM

News coverage 'very one-sided', but studio insider says the group will learn from mistakes

Team Bondi’s management is “actively working to learn from mistakes”, one dev at the company has said, weeks after it was revealed a controversial crunch culture had swept through the studio.

David Heironymus, a programmer at the Australian indie studio, claimed however that allegations against Team Bondi have been exaggerated and “one-sided”.

“At no point did the journalist who wrote the original IGN piece ask me for my side of the story,” he said.

The original IGN report had put each of its accusation to Team Bondi boss Brendan McNamara before publication.

In a Gamasutra blog post entitled “Team Bondi: My Side Of The Story”, Heironymus said Team Bondi staff “generally worked 9 to 6” at the beginning of the project.

“Occasionally we'd do some late nights towards the end of a milestone, but by and large it was pretty smooth sailing,” he added.

Heironymus’s claims contradict allegations made by a string of anonymous developers, some of which said they had to work more than 100 hours to hit project milestones.

“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,” he said.

Heironymus could not assure that no-one else had not worked 100 hours per week.

“But those sorts of hours were not encouraged," he said.

POST-MORTEM

It was suggested that the reason for the excessive workloads was poor management.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

However, accusations of unpaid work were flatly denied.

“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,” Heironymus said.

“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 L.A. Noire, on top of the weekend working payment.”

The dispute regarding compensation appears to be between people who left the studio and those who didn’t before the LA Noire project was completed.

“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,” Heironymus added.

“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,” he said.

GREATER-GOOD

In the full blog post – which Develop has verified with the IGDA as genuine – Heironymus made clear his pride in the LA Noire project.

“While we were making the game, we've seen the game development community in Australia dwindle with the likes of Pandemic, Krome, Ratbag and Transmission closing their doors during our tenure,” he said.

“We could have gone the same way, and I'm sure we came close to being cancelled several times.”

Heironymus said having Rockstar as the publisher “was a blessing”, due to what he believes was their focus on developing high quality games.

“Rockstar kept faith with LA Noire and Team Bondi throughout the hard times because they could see the game LA Noire would eventually become,” he added.

It is not known if Team Bondi still owns the LA Noire IP. The studio has not publicly responded to news suggesting that Rockstar is now in control of the brand.

Heironymus concluded: “I'm proud we managed to pull LA Noire away from the brink and get it shipped, because it's a great game and it's a rare new IP in a sea of sequels.”