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Team Bondi enters administration

Thu 01 Sep 2011 8:42am GMT / 4:42am EDT / 1:42am PDT
LegalDevelopment

Insolvency looms for LA Noire developer following Rockstar split

LA Noire developer Team Bondi has entered administration, as the Australian studio battles against insolvency following an acrimonious split with publisher Rockstar.

Administrators aim to raise cash for the studio's creditors by either selling off assets, significantly reducing costs or even finding a buyer for the beleaguered studio.

Despite critical and commercial success for LA Noire, a bitter public conflict between Bondi and Rockstar regarding working conditions, management style and uncredited staff led to the GTA firm parting ways with the developer.

Now, documents filed at the Australian Securities & Investments Commission reveal Bondi is under external administration.

While a last-minute saviour is not impossible - unconfirmed rumours have circulated for some time that another Australian developer, KMM Studios, might acquire Team Bondi - the threat of closure has now grown significantly.

50 Comments

Colin McBride
Studying MA in 3D Design for Virtual Worlds

36 6 0.2
It's a real shame but perhaps will serve as a wake-up call that the industry has to stop riding roughshod over their workers...

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Ritchie Duncan
Studying Game Design and Production Management

4 0 0.0
The hours are notoriously long in the industry, especially at crunch. Its not a secret that Rockstar work their guys hard. It's business and the developer has to meet targets that the publisher sets.

Long hours and tired people are an unfortunate but necessary part of the industry

Posted:2 years ago

#2

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

314 38 0.1
In most studios and publishers you know you will have to pull extra hours and do weekends and so on for the run up to release.
For the most part its part of the job but what happened in Bondi was beyond resonable and acceptable.

Just on a side note, the game industry is not the only place you have crunch, long hours, demands and high pressure, it comes with alot of software/IT jobs and you have to take the good with the bad.

I wish the bondi staff the best of luck.. Well most of you anyway.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
Erm, Ritchie - did you follow the Team Bondi's staff working conditions stories? Crunch - right or wrong as it may be - is accepted as a part of the industry, but what allegedly took place at Team Bondi was far beyond the norm, and if true probably the worst instance of prolonged crunch, taking advantage of your staff and poor management ever exposed in videogame development.

As it stands, if Team Bondi are not being absorbed into KMM then I feel bad for the staff but hope this is karma giving the managers and directors a hard time.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Debi Taylor

1 0 0.0
@Ritchie Rockstar working their guys hard has nothing to do with Team Bondi entering administration. They are two totally unrelated things. Perhaps before giving your two cents worth next time you might like to do some research and get the facts straight. You are so far off base regarding this particular instance.
Oh, and long hours are unfortunate, but they are certainly not a necessary part of the industry.

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Richard Westmoreland
Game Desginer

140 90 0.6
@Ritchie Duncan I'm surprised to hear this from a student. Long hours and tired workers are mostly a result of poor project management and production. Crunch isn't necessary at all and will be detrimental in the long run to the motivation and productivity of your staff.

I'm not saying working extra hours in evenings and weekends wont come up during a project, but you should never be made to think that you sign away your free time and employee rights as soon as you enter this industry.

Posted:2 years ago

#6
Having just closed my studio I wish them all the luck they need because this isn't funny.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Chris Elwyn
Animator

6 0 0.0
Oh it's in no way funny, certainly, and for the guys that did stick the ridiculously long crunch times (2 years of crunch is ludicrous and smacks of bad project management) and horrific working conditions (it is never ok to scream at someone in the middle of the office) it's just tragic.

The only good thing is hopefully this will serve as a lesson to Brendan McNamara, who would seem to be a typical workplace bully now claiming success that others worked hard to achieve - and ignoring his own failings. Sadly, I doubt it.

Posted:2 years ago

#8
unfortunately, there are more Cowboy management like outfits out there, and as long as they are in the game biz, these kind of crisis may still come to light.

Posted:2 years ago

#9

Andrew Ihegbu
Studying Bsc Commercial Music

416 111 0.3
The problem with this is if you have a great team, but a poor manager, and the team are able to produce a great product nevertheless, the manager still gets the credit. Then when his bad practices drive the business into the the ground, and his unsustainable treatment creates a feud between the workforce and the investors that results this way, he is still able to walk off with his resume saying he managed and oversaw the creation of LA Noire, a AAA critically acclaimed title.

Ultimately that means he will find it easiest to get another job and carry on treating employees badly.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

542 528 1.0
@Ritchie

"Long hours and tired people are an unfortunate but necessary part of the industry"

I notice you are studying production management. I seriously hope that you will never end up as a producer on a project i work if you already have the notion of extensive and partially abusive crunch being a necessary part of the industry. Long hours and tired people make for bad games.

I strongly recommend you read this:

http://www.igda.org/why-crunch-modes-doe...

Posted:2 years ago

#11

James Ingrams
Writer

208 72 0.3
It's easy to glibly say titles like L.A. Noire was a commercial success. But the fact is. It wasn't!

Posted:2 years ago

#12

Chris Aikman
Freelancer

7 0 0.0
@James - What are you basing that on? In terms of cost vs profit it wasn't but in terms of overall sales it did extremely well so it depends on your criteria.
As for the debate as a whole. If the reports about the conditions are even half true then they went well beyond what can reasonably be expected in terms of crunch time and hours. I know someone who worked on GTA IV and said the crunch work was hard but what they described pales in comparison to what went on at Team Bondi and it was their industry job and they've since admitted Rockstar aren't even that bad in terms of crunch work compared to others.

Posted:2 years ago

#13

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
James - "It's easy to glibly say titles like L.A. Noire was a commercial success. But the fact is. It wasn't!"

Do you have anything to back that up though? It sold nearly a million units in its debut month, and apparently was tracking RDR's sales by about two-thirds, so perhaps it wasn't a runaway success like many R* releases but clearly it sold impressively. I can't comment on longer-term sales to date, as I can't access VGChartz from work (for what it's worth) and can't find any reliable sales data through Google.

Posted:2 years ago

#14

Rick Underhill
Level Artist

5 1 0.2
Ritchie Duncan
Studying Game Design and Production Management at University of Abertay Dundee

I hope this a troll account because holy shit you are a prick.

Posted:2 years ago

#15

gi biz
;,pgc.eu

341 51 0.1
It's because there's people still believing that anyone working 16 hours per day will produce twice as much that those things still happen. It's been since Modern Times that common sense is against this, and Ritchie, I suggest you watch that movie. When I don't get enough sleep for three days in a row I can't concentrate, I say silly things and I can't relate to the others. It means I produce bad code that I have to change later, I look dumb to other co-workers and have a headache; if this is enforced by my company, I start to hate them and I leave. Eventually, I take my revenge by doing anything bad in my power.
EA has been punished for their behavour, Team Bondi is suffering the same, Milestone and other less known companies are facing high turnover rates and a stale in growth. That said, I'd love to hear your point on how a company benefits from imposing extra hours regularly, and possibly your experiences.

Posted:2 years ago

#16

Scott Berfield
Executive Producer

11 0 0.0
The working conditions question aside, the studio took 7 years to deliver the product and no one really knows how seriously out of bounds the budget went. Ultimately, I would esxpect that the bad management that led to such abysmal performance is what killed the relationship. That management also showed in the treatment of workers -- unhappy, exhausted and stressed workers lead to a super high turnover rate and sloppy production. When you are taking tens of millions of dollars of other people's money, you need to be running a professional shop.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Scott Berfield on 1st September 2011 4:55pm

Posted:2 years ago

#17

Peter Shea
Contract Game Designer

18 14 0.8
@ Ritchie

Students going into the industry with the misconception that crunch and long hours are the norm are actually part of the problem.

There are a few badly managed devcos who work this way- some of them quite high profile- the really good ones, however, just don't. We have good project managers who understand how to manage risk and maximise productivity.

But the many bad developers that do enforce crunch, including TB allegedly, rely on getting naive students through the door who are willing to work 80+ hour weeks. This lack of experience in turn leads to the team being less productive and having to crunch more. Willingness to crunch breeds crunch.

Passion, dedication, voluntary overtime, going the extra mile at the end of a project- all of these things are highly valued in any industry not least games development but exploitation through mandatory crunch is always a sign of poor project management plain and simple.



Posted:2 years ago

#18

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

314 38 0.1
Do you guys not feel that some projects are worth putting in the extra hours to hit milestones or release dates?

I have worked on badly managed projects that slipped and slipped and ended up causing nothing but huge fustration and problems.
One project was not really badly managed but it pushed the team to the limit and almost broke them in doing it.
Another project the cause of the problems was outside the control of the publisher or development team but the rested with the IP owner when they deciced to pull in the dates and we had to adjust the shedule to meet it meaning we had all pull extra hours and crush to get it out.
Finally.. The first parties can be to blame for the crush. Changing requirements on the run up to a hardware launch or a lack of them in some cases can have you junping through hoops to ensure you can be on the shelves day one as well.

As my examples have shown its not always about bad managmenet or people thinking you have to have a crunch.
Its not black and white here.

Posted:2 years ago

#20

Kim Blake
Senior Events & Education Co-ordinator

22 0 0.0
@ John Donnelly - I agree overtime is sometimes necessary and sometimes prolonged, and often for the reasons you mention: but planned crunch is a horror and should never be tolerated.

As for making a profit, given the length of time the game was in development and the sort of numbers a AAA title has to sell these days to break even, I'd be VERY surprised if it made any money.

Posted:2 years ago

#21

Sam Maxted
Journalist / Community / Support

153 62 0.4
I feel sorry for (most of) the people working there - they themselves didn't deserve this to happen, especially after what they've been through. The company, on the other hand, would be a different story.

However, the biggest loser here could turn out to be the Australian games industry. There are few enough high-profile games developers over there and the collapse of Team Bondi won't only break up a talented group of people, but I'm sure has already driven a number of them out of the industry altogether.

Posted:2 years ago

#22

Seth Blakely
Studying Game Art and Design

2 0 0.0
I was also going to drop a few comments @ Ritchie but he's been run through the ringer pretty handily already. I will say that I'm a student as well and while I know there's crunch times and other sacrifices to be made (which I don't mind making reasonable ones at all mind you), I don't think students like us should take our theoretical and second hand knowledge and apply them to arrogant comments. I know what I'm worth and what I'm willing to do for this industry that I'm coming to love; beyond that I think I'll keep my mind open and deal with situations as they present themselves.

I think it might also be wise to understand that everyone has a different threshold; the trick is to maximize the potential of each individual efficiently and without crossing it.

Posted:2 years ago

#23

Tameem Antoniades
Creative Director & Co-founder

197 164 0.8
Ritchie, do us all a favour and don't enter the games industry with that attitude.

Posted:2 years ago

#24
@Chris Aikman : I don't know what they consider a commercial success in terms of numbers however it's definitely based on cost vs profit and not total sales.

7 years is a long time to be paying people wages, I would estimate that the development cost is probably well over 100m and the numbers sold probably close to 2m so at 40 quid and retail taking half I think it might have been a huge flop commercially.

That said what about the overtime pay and bonuses for the staff. Unfortunately I went through a very similar experience but only for 9 months and when the company folded after the game came out we weren't paid anything.

Posted:2 years ago

#25

Peter Shea
Contract Game Designer

18 14 0.8
@ John Donnelly

All of the things you mention can at least be partially dealt with by good risk management- which is a critical part of good project management.

That said- yes sometimes with the best will in the world you have no choice but to ask people to work overtime to keep projects alive or to hit the quality level the team is capable of. A few weeks of extra effort at the end of a project can also make a big difference and if your team hasn't been asked to crunch for months, they'll usually be happy to make that effort.

This is a million miles away from the prolonged periods of crunch we're talking about which always reduce productivity. Lower productivity means lower quality or slippage. Both of which are evident in LA Noire.



Posted:2 years ago

#26
It really worries me when people learning production don't understand that games are created by real PEOPLE with lives and families and are not Robots. Unfortunately with the best will in the world, sometimes crunch is necessary BUT a game should be designed, planned and developed NOT to require any crunch. Knackered people make more mistakes, poorer games and morale drops like a stone. I'd love to say we never do crunch but that would be a lie but we don't take projects on that need crunch from day one, certainly not without the PRIOR agreement of the team. A good manager looks after the team and does not ask excessive things of them. After all what is a development company but a collection of talented people and that takes years to build and weeks to destroy with enforced crunch. If we could permanently eradicate crunch then I cannot see anyone who would be upset, except perhaps those people that forget people make games. Crunch and crap have the same two first letters for a reason.

Posted:2 years ago

#27

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

314 38 0.1
@Peter Shea, I was meaning a burst of extra effort not months of enforced 10+ hour days 6/7 days a week.

I found my managers tried to offset some of the extra hours and weekend by trying to either offset our hours to have us arrive as the builds are ready meaning we dont sit for 2 hours waiting to start testing so the amount of time spent testing was going to be the same anyway.
That or rotating the team so part come in early and other in later so you and have more overlap with the dev teams in another time zone or just gives the team a chance to get more sleep or personal time.

There are ways to deal with problems, slipps and other issues that come up in development.

I honestly would walk back in to any role in the game industry again. I took a QA role in a non-game company and think that the industry is still fantastic to work in even after all of the long weeks, late nights, pressure and stress along with the bad OT food that fules you to release.

Posted:2 years ago

#28
Of course, we can also anecdotally look at Games which took a very long time to make eg. Tabula Rasa, whereby you could ask, how does a game like Tabula Rasa take 7 years to produce; slippage, one day at a time...

Posted:2 years ago

#29

Tom Plunket

8 1 0.1
I wonder how many games of the caliber of Halo or Gears of War are shipped without overtime?

To be sure, death marching does not yield the benefits that those calling for the death march think it will bring. To say that overtime is always a negative, however, is similarly misinformed. It's just a tool like any other, which can be overused and misused. Used "correctly," it is very powerful.

Overtime isn't a "fact of life" at all studios, but if you want to make something amazing you're not going to do it by refusing to push yourself from time to time. (Not everyone truly wants to make something amazing, and that's fine. If minimizing working hours is more important, there are still plenty of jobs to be had. Expecting to minimize working hours while being part of something incredible though is not reasonable.)

Posted:2 years ago

#30

Lewis Brown
Snr Sourcer/Recruiter

194 41 0.2
Personally I just hope the obviously talented team that made the game get a new owner and continue to produce innovative titles. 7 years is way to long and always puts pressure on the ability for the game to be a commercial success for obvious reasons.

Maybe with a lot of the tech,design, structure etc...in place a sequel or similar title could be made with far lower costs so a relatively mild 2-3m shipped units would still make it a commercial and profitable success. Only time will tell and we are purely speculating about units sold versus costs incurred.

Posted:2 years ago

#31

Daniel Roy
Studying Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment

4 0 0.0
All these studio closures makes me wonder whether I picked the right industry or not...anyone need a plumber?

Posted:2 years ago

#32

Jeremy Robinson
Quality Assurance

7 1 0.1
Probably said by many before me but this culture in games needs to end now. I have seen way too many great industry workers leave because they become jaded and bitter and the ones that continue to persevere start to have a 'can't do' attitude and basically phone it in. Anyone starting up a new venture, make it a policy now not to overwork your staff. Don't publicly list yourself to become slaves to the share price and investers looking for constant increases in profit. Finally, be realistic in your goals. Maybe I am being idealistic but unless attitudes change this industry will become a sweatshop

Posted:2 years ago

#33
To all: on the behalf of Abertay University, and myself - a graduate in such a fine institution. The idea that crunch time and long hours are expected as mandatory in every job, is not a notion shared or taught within the university. Richie Duncan does not speak with reflection on what we are taught in the university itself.

Granted we do read and get shown of examples of crunch time (to give us the most realistic view on when things can go bad), but most importantly the lecturers in our department teach us the importance of proper development methods, resource & time management to avoid such a dreaded state a studio can get itself into.

In regards to the hard workers of Team Bondi, a tip of the hat to you all. What an achievement, and it saddens me that even such a commercially successful product brings further more hardship on a talented team. My thoughts go out to you all.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Khaled Al-Hurby on 2nd September 2011 2:10am

Posted:2 years ago

#34

Murray Lorden
Game Designer & Developer

199 71 0.4
"Ritchie ran away, and never came back.
Ritchie ran away 'cause he don't know jack."

Posted:2 years ago

#35

Dennis Wan
Game Designer

18 0 0.0
This crunch thing probably started a long time ago when the developers actually WANTED to work overtime (at their own expense) to complete their labour of love. Somewhere along the way management noticed that game devs that crunched produced better work (in general) over those that didn't, and voila, mandatory crunch was born. Bad news.

Posted:2 years ago

#36

Titania Suryadilaga
User Interface Artist/Designer

1 0 0.0
@Dennis Wan:

This industry started and is very much fueled by people passionate about making games. Sadly that gets exploited more often than not. The phrase making its way around about a year ago was: "You wanna be in games, suck it up. There are plenty of replacement if you quit so we don't care."

We need to educate graduates more about standing their ground as well (or just not to be bootlickers)

Posted:2 years ago

#37

Alfonso Sexto
Lead Tester

714 496 0.7
Long hours and overtime is one thing; your boss/company being an absolute A** is a completely different story and we, workers of the industry, should NEVER EVER accept that.

In this case I'm both sad and happy: Sad because seeing a talented studio fall is never something good. Happy because this could be a message about how a s**** boss can destroy a complete studio, and how in this particular industry the lowest worker is the one that can hurt you the most (A tester could easily sneak a unreleased built outside the office and leak it to the net, we saw it happen before).

The solution?, decent work conditions and treat people with respect and even doing overtime becomes a lot less painful.

Posted:2 years ago

#38

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

317 174 0.5
In my own personal opinion........

If you're doing this thing called "crunch", you probably had no idea about what you were planning to make in the first place, and how you were going to do it. Its probably changed so many times along the way and you are now at the point where you are trying to get something on a shelf, with an ever shrinking budget. Trust me, you will get found out for this disorganisation and lack of understanding in the long run. The best business's put staff first, and customers second (controversial to small minds). That way everyone invests their time willingly in the company and products.

Good luck to the guys at Team Bondi who may or may not want to remain in the industry.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 2nd September 2011 9:16am

Posted:2 years ago

#39

Julian Cram
Project Manager

49 27 0.6
Unfortunately Brendan McNamara won't have learned from this project.

With his motion capture technology income and the new R&D tax breaks the Australian Government are offering, Brendan can go start a new studio and be a huge prick once more, hiring juniors and having huge staff turnover, whilst the workers from Team Bondi who don't want to work with him any more will struggle finding jobs in an ever shrinking and incredibly competitive labour market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Julian Cram on 2nd September 2011 9:38am

Posted:2 years ago

#40

Dan Fletcher
Production Manager

6 3 0.5
Wow. Ritchie Duncan is taking a fairly large amount of abuse in this thread for a comment that, as a student, I can only presume he's been taught at some point.

Do I agree with his point of view? Absolutely not. But I do think we should lay off the personal attacks.

@ Ritchie - I cannot stress to you how naive the "Crunch is a part of the industry" line is. It may have been in the past (and at some places probably still is in the present), but as you can see from the 38 comments other than yours; nobody else here agrees that it should be.

The fundamental skill of a Producer is project management. Sure, it's nice if you can understand a coder when they talk technical to you and it's great if you can critique an artists work but fundamentally everyone looks to you to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to high quality. Crunch may let you deliver a single project on time (though that's not always the case either) but I can guarantee you that if you start every project planning in crunch you'll have no team, no projects and no business in a very short period of time.

Proper planning includes scoping the amount of work you have to do to the time and resources you have available and if that means that you, as Producer, have to be the person who people think of as the one who says "no" to cool new features because it might put the schedule at risk then so be it.

In a project that runs for a year problems will crop up and you may have to do a little bit of crunch to meet milestones (though a good PM will also have planned some float into their schedule to allow for things going wrong) but this should be the exception rather than the norm.

Pete Shea makes a great point (yes I'm biased as I work in the same company but I also agree with him) that Risk management is critical to staying on schedule and you use past experiences to start your risk register for the next project. Anything that puts your project in jeopardy should be on that risk register with a mitigating activity for if it becomes an issue to ensure that you stay on track (hint - the mitigating activity is never "Make staff work 3 times as many hours for 2 months!)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all you have to keep learning. When one of my projects hits a period of crunch I ask myself why, and in the future I'll do my very best to make sure I don't repeat those same mistakes again. In my opinion the single biggest issue at Team Bondi was that Brendan McNamara was unashamedly bullish about the crunch the team did and sounded like it'd be the exact same place to work next project. If there was even a little bit of contrition in his tone and a message of "well do better next time" a lot of his sins would have been forgiven.

Ritchie - I'm based in Scotland so if you ever want to make the trip down to grab a coffee and talk through proper Production management I'm more than happy - hopefully I'll be able to change your mind on crunch otherwise you're going to struggle to find work with a team that values you as a Producer - drop me a mail through GI.biz if you do want to hear a different point of view from someone who's 'In industry'

Posted:2 years ago

#41
1. I think it might be best for the talented workers of Bondi that the company goes under. Then they can start their own studio and be successful. As they clearly are talented and motivated.

2. Crunch is a direct result of bad management. Either management have calculated the project schedule wrong or death march is their plan from day one (because they think it boosts production). In either case, bad management. Not to mention it's stupid as well.

First thing can be found on that excellent article some previous posters linked to: too long work days rapidly destroy any benefits obtained from putting in extra hours. Second, assuming employer pays for overtime, it's more expensive than normal production. If overtime is compensated as free time, then crunch does not increase the total output in long term. Yes, your people are doing 80 hours a week but then they are on overtime leave for one week.

Anyone saying crunch is part of the business doesn't have a clue. I would never ever hire for example producer who'd agree with what Richie D blurted out.

Posted:2 years ago

#42
And we seriously need like-buttons here :-)

Posted:2 years ago

#43

Tamir Ibrahim
Programmer

74 54 0.7
There are already so many good comments on this page about crunch Id only be repeating what has already been said (the igda link, in particular, is a must read).

I only wish to add that it is also down to us, as industry employees, to not accept long periods of crunch. For those in the UK who wish to know about the legality of such practise you can read up on it [link url=http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/WorkingHoursAndTimeOff/DG_10029426
]http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/E...[/link]
It's a UK page but it's actually EU law so, I believe, it carries across.

In short you "cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours a week on average - this is normally averaged over 17 weeks"

Posted:2 years ago

#44

Ritchie Duncan
Studying Game Design and Production Management

4 0 0.0
I cannot agree with most of your comments. Crunch should never be planned. But , the games companies I have worked for have entered a crunch period. Whether they planned it or not.

To release your game on time and to standard may require a certain amount of overtime / crunch. Even well managed projects can encounter problems which need time to resolve, requiring more time and effort from the team.

The hours that were endured by the Bondi Team were over the top, but then again, what would have happened if they never did them? Would Rockstar have pulled the plug on the studio earlier?

Nobody wants or likes it, but as I said before, sometimes it's a necessary evil.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ritchie Duncan on 2nd September 2011 2:07pm

Posted:2 years ago

#45

Colin McBride
Studying MA in 3D Design for Virtual Worlds

36 6 0.2
Ritchie,

No one is saying that crunch is always avoidable. Sure, overtime will happen and people will usually be more than happy to play along if they are in any way committed to the project. I'm also a student at the moment but prior to that I was a journalist, which had more than a bit of its own 'crunch' equivalent. It's inevitable that it's going to happen in any business that's operating to deadlines. But it's how you manage it that is the crucial thing.

The situation at Team Bondi seems to have been a million miles from this. It seemed to be a constant feature of life at TB, not the occasional unavoidable instance. Prolonged and/or planned crunch is exploitation pure and simple. It's a failure of production management (surely you, bearing in mind your course of study should see that) and a manager who allows such a situation to continue is as guilty of being incapable of doing his job as a coder who can't code or an artist who can't draw. In short, he shouldn't be there.

Crunch, overtime, whatever you want to call it is fine, probably inevitable sometimes but it should never be taken as read and should absolutely not be planned into the production process. It basically boils down to a question of respect. If management respect their workforce and are willing to go the extra mile for their staff when appropriate, then the workforce will equally respect them and do likewise.

Posted:2 years ago

#46

Ross Mansfield
Freelance Artist

2 0 0.0
Crunch is rarely planned, but in my opinion it is just as bad to take the possibility of it happening lightly, as 'one of those things that just happens sometimes' and to have no contingency for it in terms of remuneration. There is very little incentive for the management of games studios to make decisions that minimise overtime, because so often they get those overtime hours at effectively no extra cost to the company. In fact, many studios have clauses in their employees contracts specifically requiring staff to work whatever extra hours, whenever the studio deems necessary.

Games Industry salaries are already pretty low for most staff, when you start adding just a couple of extra hours a day or coming in at weekends, your hourly or daily rate starts looking pretty poor compared to people doing similar jobs in other industries.

I think one of the things driving a lot of the people leaving the AAA industry into iOS or similar is that people are realising that they are no longer willing to put in those extra hours producing something that will only profit others. Royalties are extremely rare in games, bonuses are often dependant on many things other than the performance of a particular game at retail and overtime is almost unheard of. Handing over your life to a studio for the 'prestige' of having worked on CoD12 doesn't seem that attractive any more. Much better to put your effort into something that stands to reward you for that effort directly.

Posted:2 years ago

#47

Seth Blakely
Studying Game Art and Design

2 0 0.0
@ Ritchie

Team Bondi is a bit of an extreme I think in regards to the crunch time conversation and I can appreciate your point, but 80 hour weeks for 1.5 years is inexcusable; no matter how necessary it might be. There comes a point that goes beyond necessary evil and becomes just taking advantage of your people. That coupled with all the other things that allegedly happened and this just turns into a heart breaking story.

I understand what you're saying Ritchie but this story is more of a lesson in what can happen when you just accept what is happening rather than fighting to make it better.

Posted:2 years ago

#48

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

542 528 1.0
What Ross is saying.

@Ritchie: it's attitudes like yours that actually cause crunch. If developers, publishers and project management would not accept crunch as a reality and a potential, if unfortunate, solution to bring out a project on time and on budget, then there would not be a need for crunch.

Nobody says anything about working a bit extra to get your work done. But instead of enforcing crunch, studios should foster an environment where people take responsibility for their own work and make sure they deliver on time whatever they need to deliver.

Tell people from the start that they are responsible to hold to milestones. Encourage them to make sure they deliver on time. That might mean the odd extra hours here and there, but in the long run it will avoid crunch.

Project management also needs to include realistic milestones and contingencies. Few projects i worked on in the past did. There were arbitrary milestones and a random release date, with no thought as to the realistic chances of hitting either. The reason for that is simple: project managment still considers crunch an option. Because everyone knows its a "necessary evil".

The other thing to look at is that crunch often results because of a bad managment or game direction decission. Either game design, direction or content is not locked down early enough, or changed too late in the development process. Most of the time there is no chance to adjust release schedule and so crunch becomes invitable. But why should the people not responsible for these bad decissions slave away and give up spare time, family time and well earned rest time?

Crunch happens when studios don't bother with concepting, prototyping and proper planning and costing.

The result is usually staff, having nothing to do with these issues, working hundreds of extra hours, often for no compensation at all. And you seriously think that is acceptable? On a specific project i know people pushing 100+ hours a week. No time in lieu, no overtime payment. That is ok with you? And it's not that the result was a 85+ metacritic game with no bugs.

There are studios out there who manage quite well, deliving quality product, without crunch. So where is your necessary evil there? obviously its not so necessary after all.

Posted:2 years ago

#49

John Byrd
Principal

10 17 1.7
While I do not agree with @Ritchie's opinion, I am sure that he is taking a lot of inappropriate abuse on this thread. In fact, for each the anti-crunch rants going on in this thread, there are still a dozen managers in the industry who are NOT reading this thread, and regularly and easily rely on enforced crunches to get products out the door.

The first step in solving crunch is recognizing, publicly and openly, how endemic it is. I don't think that, as an industry, we are "getting over" crunch. Crunch is unfortunately still the norm. It has been for the past ten years. And I have read thousands of Internet rants in those ten years about how unacceptable crunch is. Internet rants do nothing to solve the problem.

Crunch will continue to exist as long as the financial incentives to crunch still exist. The industry promotes and reinforces managers who are seen to be long-hour types who will do whatever is necessary to get a quality product out on time. For that reason there is a huge financial incentive for managers to exhort employees to unpaid overtime, e.g. free work.

Every other media-related industry except ours has responded with group-negotiated agreements for working conditions and pay related to time.

If you think that unpaid overtime is wrong, and you are willing to stand up for your opinions, then do not work for any employer or company that does not pay overtime. Likewise, if you are a manager, specify in your employment contracts that work over 40 hours per week is to be compensated accordingly. You do not need to be a lawyer or a genius to negotiate these agreements.

I do not agree that crunch is inevitable. But good intentions and anonymous anger are not enough to fix the problem for the industry as a whole. The only true, long-term solution is a financial one. I do hope the industry (hint: IGDA) has the sense to codify basic employment and contract agreements with this realization in mind.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Byrd on 8th September 2011 11:52pm

Posted:2 years ago

#50

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