Brendan McNamara, the former studio head of Team Bondi whose reputation was in tatters following a working practices scandal, has come clean on the issue in a candid interview with Eurogamer.
McNamara, who appeared to give direct answers to all questions put to him, defended Team Bondi’s reputation but did not make excuses for overworking staff.
“I’m not justifying crunch for video games,” he said.
“If there’s a smarter way of doing it we should all do it a smarter way. But the backlash to us compared to the backlash to other people was pretty remarkable, I thought.”
Team Bondi last month was liquidated, resulting in the loss of scores of jobs. McNamara said the studio’s failure to sign a new game contract was partly due to the media’s coverage of the scandal surrounding the company.
When LA Noire was in full production, it was alleged that McNamara and his executive team had allowed staff to work seven-day-weeks for prolonged periods, while average working shifts at the studio were 60 hours per week.
There were claims from some developers that their workloads had increased to 110 hours per week to meet production milestones.
McNamara, while not excusing the late hours his team was put under, suggests that the scandal was overblown.
Crunch work is highly common in the triple-A games industry – something which McNamara pointed out in his interview.
“I remember just before E3, there was a story in the LA Times about [Sony studio] Naughty Dog working there days straight, and they were walking around like drunks in the office and people were screaming at each other. When you’ve been up for three days you do that.
“Nobody stayed up for three days making L.A. Noire. I don’t even think there was an all-nighter on it. I’m not saying that stuff is good and people should do it anyway. But they were doing that, and they said it was going to be like that crunch until the end of the game. In America, people expect you to work hard to see results”.
Asked how he could justify 110-hour weeks during the production of LA Noire, McNamara responded:
“Yeah, 110 hour weeks are tough. But not many people worked 110 hour weeks making LA Noire, I can tell you that. And it wasn’t mandatory.
“Yeah, it was hard, and it was brutal, but I would say, most of those triple-A games, when you aren’t sure of what the technology is, and you aren’t sure what the process is, it’s going to be pretty difficult. Time’s a finite thing. You can’t extend it forever. We certainly had plenty of time.”
He also spoke openly about his unwanted reputation as an industry bully for the direct manner in which he talks to staff.
“When I read about Steve Jobs – I don’t know if you’re reading his authorised biography – I’ve never said anything like that to people. And I’m ‘the bully of the games business’,” he said.
“I don’t think I am a bully. I’ve got people who’ve worked with me for sixteen years.”
But, being a famously direct person, McNamara said what annoyed him the most throughout the whole crunch fiasco was the anonymity of his opponents.
“The way I look at it now is that people can say whatever they like, and they will. So I might as well just wear it. That’s where it’s at. The part that annoys me is people do it anonymously. I’d rather they just ring me up and tell me to fuck off, right? Or people want to print your company emails on the internet. I’m like, what is that about? That could happen to any company in the business.
“We had a TV show in Australia, which was showing people who used to work on LA Noire with their faces blacked out and their voices changed.
“I was sitting there thinking, hang on, this isn’t the IRA.
“They didn’t enjoy working at the place and they don’t like me as their boss. Okay, but we made a video game. I think we made a great video game. It was a difficult and terrible process, but nobody died making it. No-one’s career ended making it either. They’ll happily go on to do bigger and better things, and I’m totally fine with that.
“So I thought that was kind of…. where does this end, you know? What we did was make a video game, and you black out your face and change your voice? If you want to have your five minutes on TV and show your face, I’m cool about it. You can say whatever you like about me.
“It’s the nature of the internet, too. People are anonymous and they can just go on a forum. I remember reading on one of them that I was a murderer and a rapist. They’d read that thing, and then the next comment was, yeah, I know him, he’s a murderer and a rapist.
“You can look on the funny side of it, but it’s pretty over the top stuff for somebody who just makes games, right?”
The full interview with Eurogamer can be found here
[Image credit: Edge]