Troubling allegations swirl L.A. Noire


blog When blockbuster cross-platform video game L.A. Noire was released last month, many Australians got a wee bit patriotic and teary as we realised the game was substantially put together by Australian development house Team Bondi, as the nation’s biggest ever and most successful video game project.

However, since that time, a series of troubling allegations have emerged. A number of former developers have put together what they have described as a “complete” credits list detailing over 100 developers who worked on the game but were not given kudos in its actual credits — due to the fact that they left Team Bondi, either by choice, or through being fired or made redundant. And late last week, a new bombshell arrived: A detailed, tell-all, old-fashioned investigative journalism piece on IGN chronicling the history of L.A. Noire’s development.

Perhaps one of the harshest paragraphs from the story:

“Another source who left the company in 2008 called his experience at Team Bondi the biggest disappointment of his life. “I left because of stress and working conditions, mainly. But the trigger was this: I received a reprimand for ‘conduct and punctuality’ for being 15 minutes late to work. I arrived at 9:15am – despite the fact I had only left work around 3:15am the same day, and paid for my own taxi home! I never would have thought you could put a sweat shop in the Sydney CBD.”

Freelance journalist Andrew McMillen, who is based in Brisbane, put together the article and has posted some background on his personal blog.

Now, there are obviously two sides to every story, and we’re not going to pretend that the sort of troubled development history that Team Bondi looks to have gone through with L.A. Noire is unusual in the fast-moving video games industry. One need only mention the name ‘Duke Nukem Forever’ to realise what we’re discussing here … an industry with constantly developing technology, artists confined within tough corporate strictures, moving development targets and so on. It’s a tough gig, and there’s no doubt about it.

However, if the story is to be believed, it does seem that Team Bondi could have done more to look after its staff, as well as putting more governance controls around what is, after all, a massive, lengthy and expensive endeavour. In all large technology development efforts, good governance and professionalism are always core … and the key is to keep ego on the sidelines.

Image credit: Rockstar Games/L.A. Noire


  1. I can’t believe that stuff like this still goes down after the whole “EA Spouse” debacle several years back. I struggle to name another (Western) industry in which workers are treated worse and have less implicit rights.

    I’ll be very interested to read what comes of this and whether or not the allegations have merit.

    • The thing that concerns me is when isolated examples (which you hear pretty constant stories about) become institutionalised, as appears to have happened in the Team Bondi case. Sure, you gotta work long hours when deadlines are close. But … all the time?

      • Years ago I used to dream of becoming a video game dev, and even started learning the relevant technologies to make the dream a reality, but after hearing many stories like this I gave up on that dream long ago. From what I’ve heard from first-hand sources it’s more likely to be a nightmare than a dream, and ridiculously long working hours combined with high stress levels are pretty much the norm.

        Screw that. Business software development might be boring but at least I still have all my hair!

  2. Matthew, it happens in every industry which has a glamorous/appealing look to it from the outside. I’m not saying that developers, the hideous beasts that we are, are glamorous, nor that the industry from the inside is at all. Just that, it has a sort of appeal to it, such that when you say you’re working for a game company, people are instantly interested.

    So this sort of treatment happens in the Movies/TV, Sports, Fashion, and Music industries. However, it also happens in the Airline, Technology, Gaming, and Automotive industries. Though, of course, it happens at more appealing companies (Google) than less appealing companies (Telstra).

    It’s likely due to high pressure, the overall feeling that people will be seeing this and judging you, and because they can push these people very far. They know these people really want to work there, so they will put up with a lot of shit treatment, and given the chance, a million other people would take their job in a second.

    It’s the bane of attractive/appealing jobs.

    • It’s precisely the same thing in media/journalism. It’s glamorous and high profile, but ultimately what it boils down to is you sitting in front of a computer, day in, day out, doing grinding, back-breaking work and sacrificing your artistic integrity. It’s no wonder people quit sometimes ;)

  3. From what I’ve read on this the agreement was that you got your name in the credits if you were working on the project at the time of completion.

    Not saying I agree or disagree with this or the long hours these people were working, but that is what they are agreed to. It’s a bit far fetched to come back after the fact and say “hey this game is a great success, I want my name on it now because it will look good on my resume”.

  4. One of my mates worked for a game dev company. When it came to crunch time, they’d be there at all hours, even sleeping at the office to get the game/part done by dead lines.

  5. I’ve wanted to make games most of my life, but having followed the scene for so many years I’ve ended up at the conclusion that there are only two choices that will allow me to do so in a manner I’d be happy doing: 1) Work for Valve; 2) Start my own game development company.

    The current plan is to try #2 for a few years, and if the company finds a suitable exit (good or bad), take it and then apply to Valve. If accepted, join the 98.5% of their employees that stay for life. If not, repeat option #2.

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