IGDA Investigating L.A. Noire Dev

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IGDA Investigating L.A. Noire Dev

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Recent accusations about terrible working conditions at Team Bondi aren't being taken lightly, and the IGDA is going to look into them.

It's kind of an accepted fact that working in the videogame industry means long hours, especially when a game is in crunch mode and deadlines are looming, but apparently things are really brutal over at Team Bondi (the developer behind L.A. Noire). How brutal, you ask? Brutal enough that the International Game Developers Association is investing reports of awful conditions at the studio.

Earlier this week, various outlets began reporting on a number of reports that had been surfacing from insiders at the studio. Accordingly, a huge number of damning reports were leveled against studio boss Brendan McNamara:

Brendan McNamara is accused by one of eleven anonymous insiders as "the angriest person I've ever met".

"It's one thing for him to be angry behind closed doors, but it was incredibly common for him to scream at whoever was pissing him off in the middle of the office," the person claimed.

Other accounts of life at the Sydney studio say McNamara was "required to sit isolated from everyone else" following a visit from a team-building company.

"But that just made it worse, since he would then pace back and forth all day, bothering people even more," said another anonymous studio source.

On top of this, it was also reported that lengthy crunch times involving incredibly long days (110-hour work weeks were apparently common) at the studio without overtime pay. Needless to say, the IGDA isn't happy to hear about any of this.

IGDA chair Brian Robbins, speaking to Develop, said that the organization is looking into the claims and would also like to hear from any studio employees who were affected by the conditions: "Certainly reports of 12-hour a day, lengthy crunch time, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and harmful to the individuals involved, the final product, and the industry as a whole."

McNamara himself reportedly offered no denial or apology when he was confronted with the laundry list of accusations against him and his studio, which doesn't make him look too good in the eyes of the public.

Meanwhile, anyone who was affected by the conditions at Team Bondi can contact the IGDA via email at [email protected].

Source: Develop

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LA Noire: Terrible working conditions = good game.

Duke Nukem Forever: Doing whatever the fuck they wanted for a decade = bad game.

And yet without those brutal 110 hour work weeks, we'd have been screaming for their heads on platters for not delivering the game on time. Ahhhh, injustice, what would we do without it?

*edit* To be clear, i'm not diminishing the awfulness of this situation. These people have certainly been abused. What i am doing is pointing out that as a culture, we're partly responsible for that abuse. We can't demand quality games delivered on time at a low price point and then complain that the work force was abused.

I love how managers being abusive bullies is repeated across all industries.

Jamboxdotcom:
And yet without those brutal 110 hour work weeks, we'd have been screaming for their heads on platters for not delivering the game on time. Ahhhh, injustice, what would we do without it?

This is kind of a different situation. Turning out a bad game is actually a preferable alternative really.
Besides, plenty of studios turn out brilliant games without having to force such brutal working conditions.

Crunch time is an accepted part of the life for alot of these developers, the issue here is when extreme crunchtime is taken that much further, to the point it physically harms the health of the employee.

If 110 hr weeks is accurate thats more then 12 hours a day 7 days a week. Infact it's nearly 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, or an utterly impossible 22 hr days 5 days a week.

16 hour days means you work, go home, sleep for 5-6ish hours,wake up, go back to work, with no time for interaction with your family or eating in the middle.

TimeLord:
LA Noire: Terrible working conditions = good game.

Duke Nukem Forever: Doing whatever the fuck they wanted for a decade = bad game.

Yeah, in between those two are: "people who go to work and do their jobs in good working conditions, and produce games far better than either of those."

Similarly, you getting a good game does not make up for what would essentially seem to be workplace bullying.

OT: If this proves to be true, this industry has a real issue. Shit working conditions (this is not the first studio to suffer these accusations), hideously misogynistic workplaces, payment based on a freaking metacritic score, etc.

Not that I've been there but everything I read about the game industry tells me it is run by squeezing the youthful enthusiasm our of fresh young devs. Then the burned out husks "retire" from gaming at 24-26 and get corporate or government jobs that pay better, are more stable, have better benefits, better hours, and better working conditions.

Jamboxdotcom:
And yet without those brutal 110 hour work weeks, we'd have been screaming for their heads on platters for not delivering the game on time. Ahhhh, injustice, what would we do without it?

Good management can avoid you any crunch time whatsoever, or make you do very very very lil of it.

Also hiring more than 50 FUCKING PEOPLE FOR A MOTION CAPTURED GAME THE SIZE OF NEBRASKA would hav helped. Seriously, 50 people to make this big of a game is irresponsible greed.

TimeLord:
LA Noire: Terrible working conditions = good game.

Duke Nukem Forever: Doing whatever the fuck they wanted for a decade = bad game.

I love anecdotal evidence.

Anyway, should have worked for BioWare.

This is out of the Metroid Prime wiki:

"During the last nine months of development Retro's staff worked 80 to 100-hour weeks to reach the deadline imposed by Nintendo."

By all means this is kind of normal stuff for the games industry.

Where I currently work we're trying to get a big patch out and we've been working 16-20 hour days since last Thursday. We're all paid salary so we just get compensation time that's put on the side.

Unless the place was an absolute shit hole the only problem seems to be the manager. Which by all means, they've been working on the game for 7 YEARS. I'm pretty sure none of us could imagine how that guy was feeling and what he was going through. He was just cracking at the seams.

Jamboxdotcom:
And yet without those brutal 110 hour work weeks, we'd have been screaming for their heads on platters for not delivering the game on time. Ahhhh, injustice, what would we do without it?

The thing is, though, from said report the direction was all over the place, not just insane work weeks. Read this as well, highlights many of the problems. Unfocused direction, constantly firing and hiring employees, long hours going into 16+ hour days, every day, including weekends, no vacation, the list is long. McNamara seems like a confident and dedicated guy, and to an extent I respect that, but he doesn't seem to realize how much of a dick he's been and his lack of true managerial expertise.

Really, the whole practice of constant crunch time and other deplorable working conditions is something that this industry really needs to get over. When you've got, say, a month or two deadline for an essential part of the game, sure, crunch time may be needed. But the whole development going into crunch time for 6 to 8 months at a time, just for general working, is just madness.

Mister Benoit:
This is out of the Metroid Prime wiki:

"During the last nine months of development Retro's staff worked 80 to 100-hour weeks to reach the deadline imposed by Nintendo."

By all means this is kind of normal stuff for the games industry.

Where I currently work we're trying to get a big patch out and we've been working 16-20 hour days since last Thursday. We're all paid salary so we just get compensation time that's put on the side.

Unless the place was an absolute shit hole the only problem seems to be the manager. Which by all means, they've been working on the game for 7 YEARS. I'm pretty sure none of us could imagine how that guy was feeling and what he was going through. He was just cracking at the seams.

And really, this should not be the case at all. Just because it's a widespread thing does not make it the right thing to do. The investigative article on the whole thing points out many more flaws in Noire's development, and it's not just the deplorable working conditions. A few weeks of crunch time to get a patch going, like you, sure. Months on end of nothing up 20+ hour work days is just ridiculous.

Like I said, this industry really needs to get over this whole "crunch time" thing. It is not as effective as they may believe, and it leads to so many problems like younger developers being burned out and having early retirement. Hell, we've still got 70+ year old actors, directors, and others working in the film industry, yet the retirement age for video games seem to be around mid-40s. There's something wrong here, and we need to fix it.

Corporate greed and heavy deadlines at its best?

bakan:
Corporate greed and heavy deadlines at its best?

Seems more like a case of incompetent management at it's best to me.

This "video game dev works people like dogs" thing keeps coming up, doesn't it?

And in every thread someone says that they're just whining.

Fronzel:
This "video game dev works people like dogs" thing keeps coming up, doesn't it?

And in every thread someone says that they're just whining.

Because many escapist readers wants to work in the industry and they don't want their imagination of how it is to be a developer ruined.

Damn, this was a real deal with Red Dead Redemption too wasn't it? The thing is, LA Noire and RDR are probably two of my favourite games. Makes me wonder if the conditions are in any way justified for the quality us gamers recieve.

The whole bit about working overtime and not getting overtime pay is a huge dick move, though.

One of my favorite things I heard about this is some guy who said he was yelled at for coming in at 9:15 AM which was 15 minutes late, despite the fact that he had only ended his last shift at 3:15 AM that same exact day.

And by favorite, I mean it absolutely disgusts me. Hopefully the IGDA will do something to make things better for those employees.

TimeLord:
LA Noire: Terrible working conditions = good game.

Duke Nukem Forever: Doing whatever the fuck they wanted for a decade = bad game.

Jamboxdotcom:
And yet without those brutal 110 hour work weeks, we'd have been screaming for their heads on platters for not delivering the game on time. Ahhhh, injustice, what would we do without it?

*edit* To be clear, i'm not diminishing the awfulness of this situation. These people have certainly been abused. What i am doing is pointing out that as a culture, we're partly responsible for that abuse. We can't demand quality games delivered on time at a low price point and then complain that the work force was abused.

Insomniac consistently makes quality games nearly every year, and has been for a long time now. They have often been voted as one of the top 10 small companies to work for. And yet this Brendan fellow delivers a game with several problems and 110 hour work weeks with no pay. I'm not saying anything against you two in particular, but I'm pointing out that worthwhile games are made with consistent timing and quality by good studios that work regular weeks and are good jobs.

No, this fucker deserves to get sued for every penny he's worth and they need to put a new guy in his place so that no one loses their job.

vansau:
IGDA Investigating L.A. Noire Dev

Nothing cranks out emergencies quite like poor planning.

Somewhere along the line, a few more "no ways" were necessary. "Can you do the job with this small a crew?" No way. "If your crew is this size, can you get it done by X date?" No way. "Are you really going to try a project like this without having a clearer, better paced schedule laid out?" No way.

Instead, it seems like the project (and its leader) were all velocity, no vector.

It sounds like they are saying = I decided to work overtime because I didn't want to get yelled at.

Cry me a river. If people were fired for deciding not to work overtime, and they have nothing in a contract clearly stating overtime pay/hours, then I could be sympathetic. But because you would be yelled at, or received an 'evil eye'!?

Grow up!!!!!

EDIT: I have an 'anonymous source' that says they sent in letters complain of working conditions that are untrue. Pure fabrications because they didn't like Brendan McNamara because of his constantly wearing silly hats, and now want to complain after the fact.

See how easy this is? Until I hear people saying they were fired for not working overtime, I won't believe it.

Besides, they were supposedly already fired!!! Why would they remain anonymous about it now?!?!

Fact: They failed at meeting deadlines. (That's reason enough to fire someone.)
But Thal, everyone fails to meet deadlines! Yep, that's why people work overtime without pay. You think someone who gets paid salary has to give money back if they have an easy month?! lol

Sober Thal:
It sounds like they are saying = I decided to work overtime because I didn't want to get yelled at.

Cry me a river. If people were fired for deciding not to work overtime, and they have nothing in a contract clearly stating overtime pay/hours, then I could be sympathetic. But because you would be yelled at, or received an 'evil eye'!?

Grow up!!!!!

Did you notice where it said they were not being paid overtime?

I do think there are conditions that are BAD, but if you warrant being shouted at because you're cocking around or not doing work, then the manager is there TO shout at you! He or she needs to ensure they get the best out of you so that all the OTHER employees still have a job. Each manager is in charge of their own section and if theirs fail, he or she may get fired and the people that work for him or her will also be at risk. It's not ALWAYS that they are heartless. Our manager shouts at us across the office but we take it on the chin because we mostly deserve it at the time. It's not like she shouts at random with no reason--- I don't think ANYONE shouts who doesnt have to!

Sober Thal:
It sounds like they are saying = I decided to work overtime because I didn't want to get yelled at.

Cry me a river. If people were fired for deciding not to work overtime, and they have nothing in a contract clearly stating overtime pay/hours, then I could be sympathetic. But because you would be yelled at, or received an 'evil eye'!?

Grow up!!!!!

Well hold up, this is people's jobs. Would you gamble your job by refusing to do overtime when a product is not hitting time targets? You'd risk losing that job, in a very competitive industry, no guarantee you'll get another games dev job.

Management never needs to say "if you don't do overtime, you're fired" for people to know that it's the case.

Saying that, my company regularly works 12 hour days 7 days a week when we near release date. Half my team is finishing up a 12 hour shift right this second. (I'm on a different project.)

Wait, why would people who no longer work at the company remain anonymous if there were massive issues like this? Are their legal reasons behind it? I'm not a fan of accepting information from someone who doesn't even back it up with their own name.

Actual:

Sober Thal:
It sounds like they are saying = I decided to work overtime because I didn't want to get yelled at.

Cry me a river. If people were fired for deciding not to work overtime, and they have nothing in a contract clearly stating overtime pay/hours, then I could be sympathetic. But because you would be yelled at, or received an 'evil eye'!?

Grow up!!!!!

Well hold up, this is people's jobs. Would you gamble your job by refusing to do overtime when a product is not hitting time targets? You'd risk losing that job, in a very competitive industry, no guarantee you'll get another games dev job.

Management never needs to say "if you don't do overtime, you're fired" for people to know that it's the case.

Saying that, my company regularly works 12 hour days 7 days a week when we near release date. Half my team is finishing up a 12 hour shift right this second. (I'm on a different project.)

With my current job it was made pretty clear early on that you would have to commit to working there and that the hours would be insane some weeks. In the past three days I've worked 39 hours, but I expected it because we have a Canada Day deadline for delivery this week. I doubt that this scenario is any different, working on such a high stakes project comes with it. Now, I have no doubt that there was some issues with management and misuse of time (I don't even need the anonymous sources for that, in my experience any manager who hasn't worked a lower position job is usually terrible at managing resources and understanding the time required) but there could be some serious hyperbole going on here, I will believe nothing until the actual investigation results.

I would say much of it was bitching until I read this one:

Complaint: FIRINGS AND FURTHER WALKOUTS:

"[In the space of three years], out of the 45 people that no longer worked at the studio, 11 were fired. Out of the 34 that actually decided to leave, 25 of those were coders, most of whom had no job to go to, since they decided that it was better to be unemployed than to be working there. I was one of those."
[Anonymous source]

Followed by:

Complaint:ONE PERSON, FOUR JOBS:

"[When one of my colleagues left], I inherited all their stuff to work with. And of course, once that happens, I'm quite unproductive for, like, a month, trying to figure out which way is up. That happened to me three or four times; I ended up inheriting four peoples' stuff."
A Rockstar executive producer was apparently shocked to discover a programmer was doing four people's jobs.
"But when I left, I handed all those four things on to somebody else, and they hired some new people, and just kept going. If they'd maintained their talent, they'd operate a lot more efficiently, and it wouldn't have taken them so long."
[Anonymous source]

When you would rather be unemployed than deal with the project manager, that's a sign of serious problems with the company.

The thing is, the IGDA never did anything good. They just make a few public statements here and there and that's it. They are, quite literally, a scam. Don't believe me? Well here's a fact that might make you reconsider: Tim Langdell (the guy that was a professional legal troll with the Edge trademark) was among the board of Directors for a long time. That association just gather the membershi money and do absolutely nothing with it, while the ESA does the job of defending the developers and the industry in courts. I resigned my membership when I realized how spineless they were.

I know that waiting for the IGDA to do something is delusive. So I chose to start my own studio because I seriously think I can make a difference. And I invite anyone else who think they can to do the same. I had to actually convince one of my programmers to NOT do overtime, because I don't want my team to think that way. We have to go to that length if we want to turn the wheel someday.

And for anyone here saying that crunch time is normal or that it's necessary to get a good product: you couldn't be more wrong. It might be a gross generalization, but I think that most game developers are stunted teenagers. Adults want a family and responsibilities that extend beyond making toys. When that kind of maturity kicks in, most of them leave this industry to get a life. If more mature adults were to stay in this industry, we'd get more products with meaning and artistic merit. As of now, most game developers retire from that field and never come back after 5 years in average. With a clear lack of experience, it's quite easy to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

This is common in the games industry however, especially when a deadline is looming for a game, gabe newell talked about it at valve and voicing some concern over the fact weither they are developer hard deadlines or in house softer deadlines, employees will be there more than 8 hours a day.

Heck i worked in advertising, where you got constant deadlines and usually 3 or 4 deadlines or more at the same time at a smaller companies especially, you will have people putting in 10 11 hour days to get something done that has to be done at a specific time, if you are falling behind or need to catch up because in advertising dead lines are absolute 80% of the time.

Heck i guess i should have been complaining fact i was salaried and putting in 9am to 6 to 9 pm on occasion and never got payed for my overtime at all.

Stuff happens when you get hard deadlines is the bottom line, employees often decide how long they work or if they want to work at all, i do not knon many bosses or companies that would order you to stay 10 11 hours a day, but i have put in over 10 hour shifts on occasion, not because i was payed to be there, or because i was told i had to, but i knew my work had to get done.

They really need to branch out if now things that are common in advertising and other professions, are suddenly bad management, or horrible work conditions for the games industry.

But on the bad side games that now take 4 to 5 years will take 6 to 8 years if they can only work 8 hours period. They could very well not impose any deadlines at all and then alot of the rush hurry to get everything done and checked and out to deadline goes away.

But on the other hand games are tons of money invested. I have worked on a few big accounts in the ad field, big ad budgets can run in the millions or 10s of millions, but games are like 30 mil to well look at tor 500 million on that game. The amount of money is staggering, now take all that take the deadline out games drag out longer to make cost more in resources.

There has to be a happy medium especially for artists and the like and lets face it there are a ton of artists in game development. Artists need a certain amount of direction, else they will get too ambitious for their own good, or spend too much time checking and double and triple checking, and tweaking this and that.

And lets not even mention duke nuke em forever, the game that was in some sort of development over the course of 15 years. I think a games industry without deadlines that lead to people working overtime, would be a disaster.

I think the only thing the igda should look at is people stayed because they wanted to and maybe were encouraged by management to do so, or if on the other hand their bosses were telling people you have to work 10 12 hours tonite because...

Then you can suggest that maybe games developers, do 3 8 hour shifts, people having to come in to work on a station that is occupied there is less people hanging around and your working around the clock that way wo people being on overtime or forced into any 10+ hour marathons.

Employees that worked "obsessive" hours, should get payed for their time.

BUt this is not a thing that is only about game developers.

Anyone else seeing a connection between this and early movie making.

There were claims of people working every waking second and even dying in Hollywood for several years before the medium started getting it's act together and realizing that abusing it's creators wasn't the healthiest way to create art.

Oh god how come all entertainment businesses seem to be isolated sections of hell in the real world.

This isn't sounding so much an issue for the IGDA as it is more for the State Labor Board if those above Mr. Yellalot do nothing.
Yelling at people repeatedly in the workplace among coworkers is harassment, and can be considered the same as sexual harassment when it creates an atmosphere of intimidation. Penalties can go up to the criminal level if they aren't dealt with soon enough.
Don't report to the IGDA as that will result in nothing. Call your state office and research your options.

This makes me sad. Not only because the development team deserve better, but it's the first Australian developer to hit it big with a triple A title (as far as I'm aware), and it was a really enjoyable game...

Even with "WorkChoices" in place in Australia stuff like this is seriously looked, so if I was this company I wouldn't be too worried about IGDA, I'd be more worried about what more local forces have to say.

tkioz:
Even with "WorkChoices" in place in Australia stuff like this is seriously looked, so if I was this company I wouldn't be too worried about IGDA, I'd be more worried about what more local forces have to say.

Could you explain this a bit more please? I don't know what you're saying. What kind of local forces? Do you mean labor unions? (Sorry I am not familiar with Australian employment law.)

OT: In my opinion, we as gamers, should do what we can to maybe not be slavering for the next big release, also if workers can somehow anonymously get word out, we can pull support from sweat shop games the same way we do (well some of us) from sweat shop products, and I don't care what game it is, I would. People are not slaves. Well at least people don't want to be constantly reminded that we're treated that way a lot.

Ok as a small business employer I have some insight into this hostile work environment, no my experience is with all hourly non salary employees who get OT if they break 40 but I myself have been a salary employee who had the eye opening revelation...if they arent paying you hourly then you have to fucking stay till the job is done...period.

Now I can understand why these employees are complaining, many I assume, did not realize what level of work beyond the 40 hour work week they would have to put in, but even I know that game developing is LOTS of long days and im not in the business (tho i visit gaming websites like this one often). You all have to realize if these people were not hourly (im assuming they were not because otherwise its a MASSIVE federal and state violation to not pay OT) and as such they signed a contract that is similar to every salary job ive ever had.

What im getting at is all these complainers must have known what they were getting in to before day 1. Granted some of the extremes in complaints that I saw are kind of crazy but thats just bad management and most of all, if these people were tolerating this kind of behavior they were either A. Unable to find a different job or B. Complacent in informing their bosses superiors of his behavior (yes that could have meant letting the publishing company know of all of the unstable management actions if need be).

Also I call BS on the programmer working 15 hour days for 3 weeks in a row, I know computer programmers and every one of them, even the good ones, do the half on half off work day where they take "coding breaks", oh to see that "hard working" employees browser history.

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