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L.A. Noire Team Bondi Dev Tells His Side Of The Story

by Matthew Kato on Jul 14, 2011 at 04:40 AM

Recently L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi in Syndey, Australia has come under fire due to allegations of extraordinary work hours, as well as for the public airing of supposed dirty laundry between it and publisher Rockstar Games. Now one of its core developers who has been with the project since the beginning is detailing his experience at working at the studio, the hours, and the studio's relationship with Rockstar.

Lead gameplay programmer at Team Bondi, Dave Heironymus wrote a blog for Gamasutra explaining his view of the charges of brutal work hours at the developer. The post includes the full text of a letter he sent to industry non-profit developers group the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) that is investigating the work hour claims. Heironymus doesn't deny that there were times when people had to work above and beyond their normal work hours, but he states: "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."

In general, Heironymus says that work hours on the game basically started out at 9 to 6, but as the project went on and release dates were missed, etc., longer hours became necessary. "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."

Reacting to the longer hours, Heironymus says that Team Bondi put in a compensation program whereby employees were rewarded for working weekends (he doesn't specify what the reward was), and, in the last six months of the game's development, an additional program to makeup for working late on weeknights. Heironymus states that this later compensation scheme resulted in Heironymus and "most of" his team getting four weeks of leave at the end of the project, as well as the original weekend working payment.

"Towards the end of the project I was probably working (on average) around 65 hours per week," he says. "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." Heironymus goes on to say that the management team he was a part of at the studio "was not ensconced in an Ivory Tower working normal hours while everyone else crunched." He continued, "Brendan [Team Bondi founder Brendan McNamara] himself worked very long hours and few of us here in the studio are aware of how grueling the DA and motion capture shoot in LA was."

Heironymus goes on to say that while the development of L.A. Noire wasn't without its pains, the studio is looking into ways to improve the environment for future games. "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." After praising publisher Rockstar (stating that having the company as a publisher was a "blessing,") he ends with: "There is a team of dedicated game developers here in Sydney that look forward to learning from their mistakes, improving on their successes and taking on the world again next time around."

For Heironymus' full letter, please go to Gamasutra.