"I know, I know. I'll be labelled as 'Brendan McNamara's sock puppet' or worse," begins Dave Heironymous' post on GamaSutra today, "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."
Heironymous is one of Team Bondi's original employees, having joined the company straight out of University as a junior programmer, and eventually worked his way up to a position of team management. He spent the last four years working as L.A. Noire's lead gameplay programmer, and self-identifies as one of the "management goon squad" referred to by the ex-employees of the studio who have decried the working conditions at the studio in recent weeks. Heironymous had much to say on the subject of Team Bondi's working practices, and his own experiences with the alleged crunch hours that have drawn so much ire.
In Heironymous' mind, longer working hours were an inevitability of the development process. Indeed, most developers will tell you that crunching is simply a fact of making a game, but the issue many have taken the studio to task for regards falsified claims of crunch hour needs, pertaining to perpetually missed release dates and milestones. However, Heironymous says that no one at the studio worked any harder than management themselves did, and that compensation for additional hours was routinely given.
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 L.A. 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 grueling the DA and motion capture shoot in LA was.
In regards to the accusing parties who have repeatedly commented (albeit anonymously) on the dire working conditions at the studio, Heironymous challenged their motivation for coming after the company.== TEASER ==
If the motivation were to see improvement in the working conditions at Team Bondi, then I'm all for it. I have a wife and friends who didn't see very much of me during the latter stages of L.A. Noire, and I'm lucky my wife was so understanding. 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.
At no point in Heironymous' missive does he lay down any theories as to why former employees would be banding together to ruin the studios' reputation, nor does he address the crediting issues that left a hundred former employees without published credit for their work on L.A. Noire (most recently covered by our own Patrick Klepek here). However, Heironymous does concede that over the course of the game's lengthy development cycle, some mistakes were likely made, and simply asks for the chance to improve on things for the future.
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.
Please think about that when you talk about boycotting L.A. Noire or about how heinous Team Bondi is. 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.