LA Noire dev responds to controversy

Boss McNamara faces talk of exploitation.

Brendan McNamara, boss of L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi, has responded to accusations of exploitative working practices at the Sydney, Australia-based studio.

It's been reported that 130 people who worked on the project were omitted from the game's credits. Former employees blame uncompensated and astronomic overtime, as well as a destructive and thankless working climate.

McNamara didn't pour water on these allegations when speaking to IGN.

"I'm not in any way upset or disappointed by what I've done and what I've achieved," he told IGN, reflecting on the L.A. Noire project, which took seven years.

"I'm not even remotely defensive about it. If people want to do what I've done – to come here and do that – then good luck to them. If people who've left the company want to go out there and have some success, then good luck to them. If they don't want to do that with me, that's fine, too.

"It's like musical differences in a rock and roll band, right? People say they do want to do it; some don't."

"The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself," added McNamara. "Well, you can't, whether it's in London or New York or wherever; you're competing against the best people in the world at what they do, and you just have to be prepared to do what you have to do to compete against those people."

IGN heard from 11 former Team Bondi employees. They reported working 60-hour weeks up to 80 and 110-hour weeks around monthly milestones. Those numbers boil down to 12 hours a day for 60 hours a week, 16 hours a day for 80 hours a week and 22 hours a day for 110 hours a week.

"We all work the same hours," McNamara explained. "People don't work any longer hours than I do. I don't turn up at 9am and go home at 5pm, and go to the beach. I'm here at the same hours as everybody else is.

"We're making stuff that's never been made before. We're making a type of game that's never been made before. We're making it with new people, and new technology. People who're committed to put in whatever hours they think they need to."

"If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you'd be in another business," he said.

Another former employee described Brendan McNamara as "the angriest person" they'd ever met. Apparently it wasn't uncommon for the Team Bondi boss to "scream" at someone in the middle of the office.

"Am I passionate about making the game?" countered McNamara. "Absolutely. Do you think that I'm going to voice my opinion? Absolutely. But I don't think that's verbal abuse."

L.A. Noire began in 2004 with the formation of Team Bondi, which was built with key staff from Sony's Team Soho - the studio responsible for The Getaway. In 2007, following reports of unfair working practices, a team-building company called Leading Teams was called in.

Leading Teams made McNamara move his desk away from the bulk of the staff force so he was in isolation. But McNamara's pacing up and apparently down proved just as disruptive.

Another Leading Teams exercise involved Team Bondi being given the chance to tell McNamara, en masse, what they thought of him. McNamara couldn't remember the content of people's comments. "Some people said good things and some people said bad things," he said.

Did he take on their feedback? "I don't know, it was 2007."

McNamara maintained that there was "a bonus scheme" in place for overtime work, even though one former employee reported not having seen any in three years and three months. It's there, McNamara said - but his studio didn't have to do it. "I've done 20 years of not getting paid for doing that kind of stuff," he said. "I don't begrudge it. I get the opportunity to make these things."

L.A. Noire ended up taking seven years to make - a process stilted by a high turnover and inexperienced staff having to get to grips with a hodge-podge of other people's work before progress could be made. The result? Eurogamer's L.A. Noire review awarded 8/10 to a fascinating detective game with a great setting and unprecedented facial motion-capture.

The new Electroplating DLC for L.A. Noire.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer  |  Clert

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.


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