Rockstar "will not publish Team Bondi's next game"

Grand Theft Auto creator frustrated with L.A. Noire development process, claims ex-staff

Rockstar Games will not work with LA Noire developer Team Bondi on any new projects soon, due to protracted development times, a lack of clear vision and mismanagement at a senior level.

That's the latest claim to hit the Australian developer, which has become embroiled in controversy following revelations about poor working practises, oppressive management by studio boss Brendan McNamara and a continuous crunch process over L.A. Noire's seven year development period.

Today, reveals internal emails from top brass at Team Bondi, highlighting the company's extreme policies to overtime, pay freezes and crunching - as well as co-founder Brendan McNamara's volatile reputation.

"I've heard a lot about Rockstar's disdain for Team Bondi, and it has been made quite clear that they will not publish Team Bondi's next game," said an ex member of staff at the Australian studio.

"Team Bondi are trying to find another publisher for their next title, but the relationship with Rockstar has been badly damaged - Brendan treats L.A. Noire like a success due to his vision but I think Rockstar are the ones who saved the project. They continued to sink money into LA Noire, and their marketing was fantastic. Without their continued support, Team Bondi would have gone under several years ago."

Rockstar used to be very keen on making Team Bondi something like 'Rockstar Sydney' - the more they worked with the management, the more they came to understand that this was a terrible idea

Rockstar stepped in to publish L.A. Noire in 2006, a year after Team Bondi had announced a publishing deal with Sony for a PlayStation 3 exclusive. The game was originally due for release in 2009, but only hit stores in May 2011.

LA Noire has been a hit with critics and sold well at retail, backed by a strong marketing campaign from Rockstar. The game has similarities to the mature-themed Grand Theft Auto titles, and it's claimed that Rockstar stepped in to ensure the title met its notoriously high production standards.

"Rockstar also made a huge contribution to the development; their producers were increasingly influential over the last two years of the game's development, and overruled many of the insane decisions made by Team Bondi management," said the source.

"At a lower level, Rockstar also pitched in with programmers, animators, artists, QA, etc. Part of the conflict between Team Bondi and Rockstar was due to Rockstar's frustration with Team Bondi's direction, and eventually Team Bondi's management in turn resented Rockstar for taking lots of creative control. 

"It's also worth pointing out that Rockstar used to be very keen on making Team Bondi something like 'Rockstar Sydney' - the more they worked with Team Bondi management, the more they came to understand that this was a terrible idea."

The resentment towards Rockstar from Team Bondi is highlighted by McNamara's angry reaction to a redesigned LA Noire logo, which allegedly left out Team Bondi branding and which McNamara took as a slight on his company.

"Every dog has its day and there's going to be hell to pay for this one," wrote McNamara in an email intended for one designer but accidently sent to the entire team. "I'll never forget being treated like an absolute **** by these people."

The full, in-depth exposé of Team Bondi's working practices can be read here.

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Latest comments (9)

Richard Gardner Artist, Crytek10 years ago
I feel sorry for the talented work force at Team Bondi getting caught up in this situation. I can only hope they land on their feet if things go south in the coming months. With such openly bad press across the last few weeks it will turn off a lot of publishers and investors, especially such open criticism from one of the leading publishers.

I just hope everything that has come to light over these weeks is honest and true, as their are peoples jobs on the other end.
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Gita say, the Aussies don't make it easy on themselves in an already challenging aaustralian games development Market. Just when you thought they had taken a turn for the better...
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Pete Thompson Editor 10 years ago
I agree with Richard, bad feelings towards ex-employers etc is one thing, but even the remote possibility of losing people their jobs is not good for anyone..
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Show all comments (9)
Trevor Johnson Environment Designer, Compulsion10 years ago
This seems a little like the pot calling the kettle black here, i dunno
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Ryszard Adam Heller Student, Qantm College10 years ago
I feel sorry for Team Bondi but at the same time the game sold well and was a critical success, also raising the bar in areas of presentation e.g. facial animation. Yes I can understand from a creative point of view, publisher intervention can prove detrimental but we haven't really heard both sides of story and either side is unlikely to admit fault.
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@ Tevor It could be a case of damage limitation Afterall, Rockstar is responsible and held accountable by parent group Take two, and with recent strong media bashing of DukeNukem, and previous Rockstar PR issues of similar note, it could be that there is a overall directive to distance oneself from such work practices and also provide damage limitations to protect the existing reputation
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Murray Lorden Game Designer & Developer, MUZBOZ10 years ago
I wish all the best to the team, I'm sure they're all extremely talented!

It is NOT acceptable to be expected to do any protracted crunch times. I've been there many years ago in early Bluetongue days, we all worked hard, and it felt good to complete the games at the end of the day, and crunch times got to be less over the years, as management improved their skills, and hired new people over the years. I don't regret my work experiences there. It was great.

But as a rule, if you're doing extended crunch times, you're doing something wrong at the top level. And the poor staff don't necessarily have the information available to them to make decisions based on 6 months or 12 months down the track (because they're being told, "we're shipping in four months" for example, where the game actually takes another 3 years. Not fair.

All the best, all involved, and I hope the next project comes to fruition, with proper working hours and management. Do it!
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany10 years ago
They won't publish their game?. I see, I was noit going to buy it anyway. I'll never support this kind of studios
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Adam Parker Academic Coordinator, Qantm College10 years ago
Hear, hear, Murray. As I have said to my design students here at Melbourne Qantm for some time now, crunch culture is symptomatic of project management issues and is not an unavoidable fact of life. Poor workplace cultures are not to be excused - they are to be eliminated. In the interaction design field, where I was a Creative Director, we regularly turned in projects on time and budget using 9 - 5 only. This was because we tuned our project management by working out our pipelines and feeding staff knowledge back in to the planning process.

A fundamental issue is that IT projects and companies, more than many other enterprises, rely on staff retention. This is because their products are inherently craft projects at a production level, as every piece of software is made by hand by a skilled practitioner who learns their technique by experience of making - Malcolm McCulloch's Abstracting Craft is a great read on this point.

Any organisation that drives talent away through poor workplace practices is breaking the internal knowledge networks that bind projects and builds corporate experience. Retention requires best practice workplace structures, as the best people can and will work where they want, and have capacity to start their own - so why work for a loud and obnoxious bully?

Can I recommend people in the industry who want to excel in dealing with creative people read Managing Change, Creativity and Innovation by Andriopoulos and Dawson - two business professors condensing the available knowledge on managing these kinds of processes in businesses. Sure, it's not sexy like Malcolm Florida's Creative Class books, but the real data never is. Just sayin'...
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