L.A. Noire dev: Studio will learn from mistakes - Report

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."

Heironymus can't say 100-hour work weeks didn't happen.

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."

L.A. Noire had a troubled development.

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."

For more on L.A. Noire--which is heading to the PC later this year--check out GameSpot's review.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and is a big UCONN athletics fan.

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Discussion

115 comments
fend_oblivion
fend_oblivion

Just saw this article today and I must say, this is some treatment to give to people :| Nasty piece of work Team Bondi. Very nasty indeed. You'd think your employees have lives of their own to attend to but no, it's just about the game right? Treat your employees with respect. It's a good thing to have an idea but it takes great minds to take that idea and make it possible.

jporter313
jporter313

Man, once again, I see a lot of comments here saying things like "Boo-hoo, I have to work 140 hours a week at 3 separate jobs, stop whining" My question to all the people saying this is, is it right? Should It be that way? Do you care about having a life? The more you justify it, the more acceptable it becomes. Don't stand for being exploited like that.

blasterchief
blasterchief

@cachinscythe I don't quite agree. You can make a great game without it being state-of-the-art. Prime example: Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront 2. Pandemic was heading in the right direction until EA scuttled them. Unfortunately, most Australian devs are content to making crappy Star Wars: Clone Wars hack-and-slashers for the Wii. That sort of thing isn't going to get us anywhere.

rarson
rarson

@Kastigador That's exactly my point: comparing a job that you are voluntarily doing to slavery is idiocy. You have the option to leave. If all programmers refused to work 65-hour weeks, then there wouldn't be any employees left to work those hours. The fact of the matter is that OBVIOUSLY some of these people ARE willing to work ridiculous hours because, duh, they're doing it. I also find it further absurd that people are calling 65-hour desk jobs "slavery", considering a coworker of mine has two jobs, both manual labor, that he works about 70 hours a week, and that's only if he doesn't end up working on the weekends, too. Yeah, I know programming can be a tough and stressful job, but comparing it to 65+ hours of actual backbreaking labor is, again, idiocy. If you don't like it, then quit.

asd090
asd090

what is da the realese date of this game

brendanhunt1
brendanhunt1

I want to hear rockstars side of the story

wyan_
wyan_

I know their pain. I worked a recorded 178 hours for my last two weeks of work. That doesn't include up to 20 minutes or more I give away at the beginning or end of each day, or consider the fact that I only take 5 to 10 minutes for lunch with zero breaks. It's because I love my career 99% as much as they do theirs, but it does make it difficult no matter how you cut it. I can understand how taxing it is for these guys. It is too much. You take so many shortcuts in your life just so you can be more rested or prepared for work the next day. They deserve any break they can get.

OurSin-360
OurSin-360

These hours don't seem all that far fetched for an ambitious game like this, my guess is they had members on the team that didn't really fit and didn't believe in the project so they weren't willing to work those hours. Typically it seems the developers believe in the project and are passionate about it so crunch time for them is more of a labor of love. Sounds to me like members of the team weren't treated properly in the first place.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

rann89
rann89

I don't see what the issue is. This is commonplace in the game development world. Hell, this is commonplace in anything with milestones measured by months or years and not by days. People say "Oh, this doesn't need to be completed for another 2 months" so they leave as soon as they're allowed to instead of putting an extra hour that they'd otherwise spend watching TV or sitting on the computer (ironically). So instead of committing that 1 hour a day, you end up committing 4 hours a day at the end because you couldn't keep up.

Yams1980
Yams1980

making games seems rough, poor little guys

isshiah
isshiah

some people would love to work as a game dev, no matter how long the working week was. not that 100 hours should be considered normal in any job.

Kastigador
Kastigador

Cracking the whip in the game development world and the entermainment industry at large is second nature and has become the norm. It's really bad when you get called out by a game development labor rights organization on going too far. What people don't realize is that just because it's a white collar job in seemingly glamorous industry, doesn't mean the rank and file employees are living the life and should just suck it up or "go find another job". It's that attitude that breaks people and makes greedy execs think it's okay to run people into the dirt. Team Bondai should be ashamed of themselves.

Kastigador
Kastigador

@rarson 65-hour week average ... that's a rough week and the fact that management admits that... odds are it was actually worse. 100-hour weeks? That's nearly all your waking hours spent crunching hard core. I've pulled a 100 hour week before for a consulting company in the midst of typical 70-80 hour work weeks. It's absolutely awful, burned me out, I eventually left the company after a few months when I realized there was no end in sight and I was gaining no additional compensation. It took me almost a year at another job before I fully recovered with hardly anything to show for it. They let me walk out the door, only to dump it on a guy below me and make his life through hell. All because of greedy, miserable, workaholic upper management. It's abuse when these extraordinary hours are rewarded with 160 hours of vacay after the game has been a huge hit netting the company a huge windfall... you know how much of their life the employees probably sacrificed to this game? Way more than 160 hours. And I'm sure upper management was pulling the same hours too... difference is they're the ones with serious financial compensation and incentives to deliver, and quite frankly, they ought to be working those hours for the money they're making.

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

@NeilCardiff hahahaha damn if it was to get out that i never went to school, id be out of business, keep that to yourself please Taffy hahaha

rarson
rarson

Newsflash: if programmers weren't willing to work such long hours, there wouldn't be any laborers to crunch. No one is forcing them to stay at any of these companies. I'm not condoning such practices, I'm simply saying that comparing 65-hour work weeks to slavery is asinine.

BlackSquare
BlackSquare

The workers are idiots. You don't make money off the game sales. There is a contract for a reason. I would refuse to work that many hours. Clearly they have been paid for the hours. But I simply would refuse to burn the midnight oil over a video game. The workers have no one to blame other than themselves.

MuffintopX
MuffintopX

Hello Syyydneyyyy game programmer, let me thank you for your time. You work a 100 week for living, just to send it on down the line.

Entropy730
Entropy730

This kinda reminds me of the state of affairs my country is in right now. Those that think these guys are whiners get a lot of negative votes, but the ones that believe they had the right to complain are only voting and not speaking up in the comments. This is a macrocosm of what the US is right now. A bunch of idiots who think that feeling safe from 50 guys in a cave is more important than having their unalienable rights. Even though these baffoons seem to be in the minority, they're the only ones that speak up. And the people that understand they're being bent over by their government to take more and more - rather than speak up and organize and protest, they wait until elections come (voting up and down other's comments). Guess what? Most of the candidates, no matter what party, are a continuation of the status quo, and are bought and paid for by the elite. Both sides of this argument are rather flawed or hypocritical... One favors fascism and justifies corruption and injustice with more "safety from the curently propagandized boogeymen" or capitalism, and the good people that want a better world or favor workers' rights don't have the courage to speak up for what's right and good and what made this country beautiful; they use only their votes. Welllpp... that's just sad.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

The real problem with being exploited is the idiots like those on here who think it's fine to be treated like slaves. With fools like you willing to bend over and take whatever crap employers feel like dishing out it's no wonder they get away with it. Just because you're prepared to work like dogs doesn't mean we all should.

manutdsupporter
manutdsupporter

I guess as always it is a huge waste of time trying to make people see the other side of things on the internet. Yes, working 100 hours a week sucks. I know, because as I said before, when I was an analyst at an ibank, those are the hours I worked. Guess what though? People who are driven to succeed power through that. Obviously, I was mistaken in equating the drive and hunger that exists in ibankers and medical students to that in video game designers. Regardless, hearing people whine because they have to work hard really doesn't pull at my heartstrings. The fact is, we live in a capitalist society, and if these losers thought they were being worked too hard, they could have quit and gone on with their lives. Instead they stuck around, because in reality they have sweet jobs getting paid to design bloody video games. So... boo hoo, you had to work some tough hours.

charlyk88
charlyk88

Just get to work, in my country the normal work time is between 8 and 12 hours minimum from monday to friday (or saturday), without extras. They just don't know what is work.

Jaga_Telesin
Jaga_Telesin

Extra vacation time following the game's release to compensate for overtime? Are they nuts?! Typically most of the development team gets laid off right after producing a game, and would have no need of vacation then. Dumb dumb dumb. Sounds like someone trying to put a positive spin on a bad move from Bondi's management.

GnomeGrown
GnomeGrown

I wonder if Rockstar had anything to do with this insane work schedule? They had the same kind of stuff happen while working on RDR. I have a feeling Rockstar was pushing Team Bondi pretty hard.

ZoTrAcK
ZoTrAcK

By the way Rockstar, make the dlc codes work for all region of the world. Not only japan...

GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

Can't judge without knowing both sides of the story I say. If what this guy said is true, then it isn't so bad as I thought, but I don't know, I sense half-truths in his declaration.

s4dn3s5
s4dn3s5

There's a reason if Rockstar dropped 'em.

Poidad
Poidad

I'd work 100 hours a week as long as there was a slab of VB in the work fridge for me every night and the footy on the TV on the weekends.... LA Noire might have turned out a bit different tho...

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

GarGx1
GarGx1

work to live don't live to work working long hours regardless of the job is hard, I've been on plenty of sites where we've had to run 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for up to 8 weeks to get the job done, but i my line of work companies can go under if the job isn't completed as fast as possible

endorbr
endorbr

A big part of the reason this game was in development so long was designing the new face capture technology. With that hurdle over they should be able to produce future products with this tech in a much more time efficient manner. Also if they recognize that having the creative influence behind the project also working as the HR manager isn't really working out and create a level of personnel management outside the design team they should be fine going forward as a company.

tobbe4321
tobbe4321

Rockstar was right if you cant produce a near completed game in 5 years Rockstar had to step in.

cbb1018
cbb1018

@cfj187x Thanks for getting that straight for me. I'm kinda glad it's just Team Bondi that's getting in trouble because i would hate to see anything bad happen to R*. they are one of my favorite publishers.

kvan33
kvan33

I also wonder how a game so linear and rigid could have taken so long to develop. I mean geez, L.A. Noire is basically a movie with multiple choice tests in between the action.

kvan33
kvan33

Long work weeks and tons of overtime are just part of the deal of being a software developer. Projects almost always take longer than management anticipates. Plus then once the project is over, you have a good chance of being let go. It's just a fact of the business, and that's why they are paid well.

coop36
coop36

Seems to be a growing issue in the game development business.. if it hasnt always been one? Rockstar had similar issues when developing Red Dead Redemption I remember. Maybe more, but I doubt many would speak out in fear of losing their job or getting a bad reputation.. Odds are these companies are just crunching as much as they can out of less workers to save money. Not fair at all to the poor workers who probably have no life because of it. But I guess thats just the way business works sometimes.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

@LeoLex_ - You obviously have no idea what you're talking about, so stop embarassing yourself.

cjf187x
cjf187x

@cbb1018 It was Team Bondi. R* was planning on breaking relations w/ them due to the, allegedly, poor treatment of employees.

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

@Slalom4 "Oh! by the way what do you think most workers in the gaming industry do all day? They sit behind a screen on a f***ing desk." now i didnt know they had to sit on desks for a hundred hours a week, this is an outrage somthing must be done!!!!!! guys is there anything we can do, do we have time???

cbb1018
cbb1018

Wait I'm confused was Team Bondi making there own employees work longer or was it R* cause there is no R* mention in this article. Could someone tell me please??

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

vivalatour
vivalatour

I am an old kid and expect the/any games to be almost flaw free ! kids just get excited telling their buddies they got a certain game which the money came from "Big Daddy" , the statement is true that you can fool some of the people some of the time , the world seems to be built around that statement ! that $59.95 is a lot of gas money ! I won't give the people that produced L A Noire a pat on the back , I expect at least that quality in a game ! I sure don't want to spoil anyones fun . take care your friend vivalatour

Slalom4
Slalom4

@LeoLex_ Your comparisons are flawed and you throw judgements like if you know eveything. If you like having no loved oned, no kids, no friends, no hobbies than fine, work your crazy amout of hours. Though if you put so much value in work I think you're missing something. Especially when you're working your ass for companies and bosses that will never hesitate to give you the boot and leave you in the ditch. Oh! by the way what do you think most workers in the gaming industry do all day? They sit behind a screen on a f***ing desk.

luneth77
luneth77

Just shows how much work making video games really is.

Dreammosaic
Dreammosaic

I worked 80+ hour weeks when I was younger, in a much less stressful job (convenience store clerk). Can't imagine doing 100+ and keeping sane. I understand a bit of overtime when a deadline is approaching but they should have pushed the release back more if people were basically living at the office. Wonder how many other game companies make people work that much and it isn't mentioned.

swiftsilk
swiftsilk

@LeoLex_ I would absolutely love to work in the industry, but 100 hour weeks are absurd, if you were actually working those hours you wouldn't be so enthusiastic, i take it you have no kids? i would never choose spending more time at work than home

LeoLex_
LeoLex_

@method115 to be working at the top of the gaming industry with a company like, lets say 'Rockstar' you are not going to be on minimum wage being paid peanuts, and you aren't going to be there because you saw the job offered at the local job centre. These are highly talented guys in their field just like, lets say chefs, and soldiers for instance who have to work in 100 time more strenuous conditions for a lot less money. I would be pinching myself everyday if i could work over 100 hours a week in the gaming world. Maybe we see things differently, maybe you sit behind a f***ing desk all day.....

method115
method115

@oopomop From my understand it's not just the amount of hours they were working. Like I said though I haven't read the whole story. Plus some people were working 100+ hours there is no way you can justify that.