Team Bondi: Ex-Employees "Want To See Team Bondi Destroyed"

Dave Heironymus is the Lead Gameplay Programmer at Team Bondi and has written a blog over at Gamasutra addressing the concerns raised by IGN's story on mistreatment of workers at the Aussie studio. According to Heironymus "recent coverage on working conditions has been very one-sided" and he wants to clear some things up.

You can read the entire piece over at Gamasutra, but an excerpt from a letter, which was also sent to the International Game Developers Association, reads as follows.

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.

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.

It's an interesting situation. There has been a lot said about the harsh working conditions at Team Bondi, and it's very difficult to simply discount the collected information that 11 ex-staff members discussed in the original article - in addition, the piece featured an interview with Brendan McNamara himself, so it's probably unfair to claim that the article was one-sided.

That said, it's good to hear the opinion of someone involved in the development of the game from the beginning.

Team Bondi: My Side Of The Story [Gamasutra]


Comments

    This isn't exactly credible though. The weight of evidence is overwhelming, even rock start won't work with them again. Even McNamara's interview fits what was being said.

    I don't get all the fuss... They set the game in 1947... And used working conditions from 1947... Actors do the same thing. All about getting into the atmosphere of the title.

    With 14 hour days, 7 days a week, surely someone in upper management has got to realize it would be cheaper and easier to just hire extra staff.

      if you have workers on salary and dont need to pay the overtime entitlements its not cheaper to get new staff. its cheaper to threaten them with job insecurity and work them to the bone.

      from what i heard, they weren't paying anyone overtime

      That doesnt always work... I was a trainee manager a few years back and the companies philosphy was just use the people you have got before chucking more people at it.

      Team Bondi could have hired more people but that wouldnt have fixed their problem if they were behind on their schedule, wasnt the engine proprietary? they would have to learn tools (even though they might me fully qualified game developers)which would have probably made them more behind.

        not to mention that sometimes hiring more people doesn't help.

        depending on how the work is done it can be pointless to have 2 hands on one thing

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month#The_mythical_man-month

    Whether malicious, or through poor project planning, even 65 hours a week is a lot, especially if the 'end of the project' lasted several years, as the email chain indicates... and ESPECIALLY because overtime payments were at management discretion.

    Sorry - sounds like mealy mouthed "I can't say it didn't happen, but it sure didn't happen to me" bullshit.

    I think the telling part of this is that he addresses that ex-employees want to see the company destroyed, while claiming crunches and working conditions were generally acceptable, besides a few times.

    Why would multiple employees want a company destroyed when conditions were acceptable?

    Would stuff like what is claimed be in breech of Australian workplace laws?

    He justifies working weekends by being offered 4 weeks paid holiday once the title ships. So did the people that left before the title shipped get paid 4 weeks pay?
    Of course not.

    It's terrible management and borderline illegal. I straight up would have refused to work weekends, none of this "I'll pay you extra if you stay until the end of the project"

      I've been in the same situation before, within the Aussie games industry. Now, I can say the same thing 'no way I'd just tell them I'm not working on the weekends' but when you're there, in the thick of it, surrounded by colleagues that are doing it and relying on your input, it's very difficult to not do it.

    doesnt matter what industry your in. If your in high pressure job or its just one where your expected to do the job your paid for. Sometimes that reuqires a serious amount of unpaid overtime over the year. Im sure Mark can testify even in his job he is expected to produce content and breaking news no matter what time of the night it is, how many hours he had already worked or whether he can bothered. Its just thats what you do if thats what you enjoy. Some people realise thats not what they want and 9-5 is what suits them. Have no illusions if you want to work int he gaming design industry and you only want to work 9-5, think about another proffesion.

      There's a difference between that being an exception and the norm though. The employees would've been given working hours and a provision saying extra work may be applicable - this is acceptable. When the extra work becomes the normal workload though, that isn't acceptable.

      If you ask most in the Australian games industry if the Team Bondi example is normal, you would get a resounding no. Most would accept that those hours do happen - but not as the norm over the course of a number of years.

      The difference between what happens in the real world and what's happened at Team Bondi is that people aren't EXPECTED to work 65 hour weeks for months on end. Sure it will happen form time to time, I work in IT and I've done a few 100 hour weeks in my time, didn't get paid any extra for it, but it certainly wasn't expected of me to work at that pace for months on end, in fact after working those types of hours you're normally TOLD to take time off in-leu in order to recuperate.

      Those types of working conditions are unsustainable and are far from "the norm" in any industry. If you expect to work under those conditions good on you, but for everyone else they are unacceptable.

      The thing is games development isn't a "high pressure" job. well it doesn't need to be. I worked at team bondi and I found that we were pushed/pressured to work very hard for milestones that were inconsequential. We arn't talking about alpha or beta here, just a mid project milestone that was stupidly unreasonable and that we were never going to meet. Just an excuse to make us work hard.

      I wasn't there for long, I quit after a few months. But even during that time, I did a 19 day straight run to attempt to meet this stupid deadline.

      In regards to the comments of "don't like it, just quit", its not that easy, most people there were new to the industry, as team bondi liked to get juniors and burn them out. They didn't have the experience to get jobs elsewhere, and didn't know that there were greener pastures at other studios.

      I have been working at other studios since, and I currenlty work for EA and have only done 1 week of overtime in the last year. Others here have done more, but nothing like at team bondi.

      I agree that months on end 65+ a week is totally unacceptable. I dont agree with Team Bondi or their methods.

      My point is that sometimes you have to pay your due's if you want to succed. Unfortuantly there is way to many companies in many different idustries that will take advantage of that.

    This wouldn't surprise me at all unfortunatly 80% of Australian development companies treat their developers like third world work horses, trust me i've seen it many times guys and girls working 70+ hour weeks trying to meet a continues string of unrealistic deadlines that never seem to end, all the whilst getting paid peanuts (i've seen some wages as low as $28,000 per annum????)and these are large develpoment firms i'm talking about. it's a joke and things need to change but i guess as long as these developers keep their mouth's closed and don't pipe up nothing will

    Either way it is sad to see and Aussie Dev to go out of business :(

      They haven't gone out of business just yet, although all of this hurts them as far as a publisher ever signing a deal with them (and good luck getting a game self-published here in Australia)

    As cynical as this sounds, this is EXACTLY why you don't work in the games industry. I believe the workers. Everyone wants to work in the industry and you get paid in peanuts since they see you as an expendable resource.

    I took the safer option of working for a tech company designing enterprise software solutions. That doesn't stop me from having to do 60+ hour weeks from time to time, but I get paid enough to warrant the effort and I still have high job satisfaction.

    65 hours per week is 27 hours of overtime, relative to the Australian standard working week of 38 hours. A bit of overtime is normal. If you're in a crunch then maybe a month or so with those sorts of hours would be acceptable. Not as a general thing though.

      They worked 9-6 monday to thursday, 9-4 on friday. Which was then changed to 9-7 5 days a week.. Those extra hours were unpaid.This went on for over 1 year and 5 months roughly.

      If you did not do the hours, you were warned and faced possible termination because "You were letting down the team".

    Of course we will never know the full story but if people were complaining about a few cases of harsh overtime to finish the project on schedule I can't see the argument, everyone works long hours at some point on a big project.

    If long hours were a regular occurrence and expected by management (ie just not at crunch time), and the salaries didn't reflect that then there's probably a case for the company to answer to. Call in the workplace ombudsman.

    I work in the Entertainment Industry, the hours are shit and the pay is just as bad, when compared to similar roles in other industries.

    If I had advice for anyone thinking about it, don't. There are glimmers of it being fun but the burnout you suffer as a result are the memories that last.

    Check out the juicy comments over here =]

    http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/in65a/team_bondi_employee_tells_the_other_side_of_the/

    "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"

    Yes but it's just a little bit easier to work that extra hour or three when you're on 100k more salary isn't it?

    Poor Brendan working very long hours...on a project where he gets a direct proportional reward for its success.

      +1
      Amen to that! . . . . his salary would have been at least 3 times what huniors were paid.

    when you have employees complaining about mistreatment it IS MISTREATMENT no "it was very one sided" if the employees felt like crap it was the companies fault no excuses...

    As someone who worked as a game play programmer at Team Bondi for two years just prior to the game being released, I had no problems with the work environment.

    What a pile of crap, its like saying I was gang banged when I arrived in prison and I expect nothing less from new inmates.

      Exactly.

      Saying that things are the way they are is no excuse to better it.

      Sure, I understand that the games industry (and many other industries I might add) often end up in situations where they need to crunch. But all we ever do is complain or excuse the fact and never try to fix it. Your company just had a fuckup and needed to crunch pretty nasty? NEXT ON THE AGENDA: WHAT DO WE TO REDUCE/PREVENT IT NEXT TIME?

      I understand that most companies have limited funds to do anything that would compensate their workers for anything negative that occurs, but communication and information is free, start working towards a better future.

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