Lead gameplay programmer at Team Bondi offers his side of development story to IGDA; 65-hour work weeks were "average," can't say 100-hour weeks didn't happen.
Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire won positive reviews, sold 899,000 units in its first month, and has shipped some 4 million units to date. However, it hasn't been a total pleasure cruise for the publisher. The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is currently investigating developer Team Bondi for workers' rights complaints, calling reported working conditions at the Australian studio "absolutely unacceptable."
One Team Bondi employee, however, is not taking such a hard line against the developer. Studio lead gameplay programmer Dave Heironymus recently published the letter he wrote to the IGDA on industry site Gamasutra, explaining his side of the story.
Heironymus was one of the original five team members at the developer and admitted that he is part of the "management goon squad" at Team Bondi. He has been a part of the development team of L.A. Noire almost from its inception to its conclusion, a duration of more than half a decade.
Heironymus said that during the "early years" of L.A. Noire, the Team Bondi developers "generally" worked regular 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours. However, he claims that as time progressed and development milestones were not reached, "there was growing pressure to work longer hours." He said there were times when "it seemed too hard to keep going" and that during these moments staffers dropped off the project.
Working on the weekend came next. Heironymus said this move was "inevitable," but Team Bondi "put in place a scheme to (generously) reward employees for their weekend days spent at work." Further, Heironymus claims that in the final six months of the project, Team Bondi rewarded those who worked late on weeknights with an additional four weeks of vacation time following the completion of L.A. Noire.
Heironymus also wrote about just how much time he spent in the office during a typical week. He said that "around 65 hours" per week was an accurate average and that "at no time did I ever work 100 hours per week." However, Heironymus did concede that he "can't say no one ever worked 100 hours per week." Working this many hours, claims Heironymus, was "not encouraged."
Heironymus was quick to dispel the notion that management at Team Bondi had it easy while the rest of the developers worked hard.
"The management team at Team Bondi was not ensconced in an ivory tower working normal hours while everyone else crunched," he wrote.
Looking forward, Heironymus said that Team Bondi does not view crunch time as a "good way to work" and that the studio is "actively" working to learn from the mistakes it made working on L.A. Noire.
"Please think about that when you talk about boycotting L.A. Noire or about how heinous Team Bondi is," he wrote. "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."