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Team Bondi: Another Side Of The Story
by Charles Lefebvre on 07/14/11 07:17:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I have been working for more than 4 years at Team Bondi, and I also wanted to post the letter I sent to IGDA. ( Note that I have never been told to send an email to the IGDA, I just realised I could do it when I read Dave's email ).

"To whom it may concern:

( Disclaimer: I am French so my English might not be perfect, but I am working on it ).

I have been working at Team Bondi for more than 4 years now, as a senior gameplay programmer. So I'd like to express my personal opinion about the recent comments on working conditions.

- Yes, we have been crunching at the end of the project, working sometimes late, working during the week end. But I think that I have never worked more than 55 hours in a week, and during my first 3 years, except at the end of a milestone or for a demo, I wasn't working more than 45 hours. I have always been able to leave some days at 5 to go and pick up my kids at the childcare. When we were asked to work during the week end, if I had plans then I was just notifying my lead that I couldn't come, and that was it.

- I was in the office earlier than the rest of the team. I think that by 9 AM, only one third of the team was here. And only one third of the leads. So I have never seen anyone being blame for arriving late. To be honest, Vicky sent once a mail asking people ( including her ) to arrive at 9, but that was way before crunch time.

- When we have been asked to work from 9 to 7, I told my lead that I would do 8:30 to 6:30 ( despite Vicky's email ) to spend some time with my kids, and nobody ever complained about that.

- I had two kids during the project, Team Bondi offered me each time one extra week off ( on top of the required week ).

- I have never heard of anybody not having his weekend paid even if he has left the company before the end of the project. We have actually been paid of some of them before the end of the project. And I had 4 weeks off at the end of the project.

- I have recommended friends from oversea to come and work for Team Bondi. I have seen other people doing it. I have also seen former employees coming back to help finishing the game. Most of the people who left the company thanked Brendan during their farewell speech. And at the wrap party, there were a lot of former artists. So I don't think that Team Bondi is hell.

Of course, I wish we hadn't crunch. Of course, I wish I had spent all my weekends with my family. But that was our first project. We were starting with nothing, and we were not starting on a small project to allow us to build our engine and our tools. That was a challenge, but now we all have more experience, we have done so many mistakes that we can only improve ourselves.


Charles Lefebvre "

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Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Thanks for sharing this Charles.

"I have never heard of anybody not having his weekend paid even if he has left the company before the end of the project."

So this means that employees were paid overtime for their overtime work? I think that's excellent, and an excellent example to set.

I am still concerned a bit about the 100+ ex-employees left out of the credits (, in case you haven't heard). Do you know why this was the case? Not all of them quit of their own will as I understand it, and some of them put in years of work. You probably know more details than I do, but this is a topic of public concern, so it would be very refreshing to hear from the other side's perspective.

Also, what are your thoughts about McNamara's attitude about the game being "his" and his anger issues at the office? These are topics that have come up in the press. Do you think these are exaggerated to the public, or untrue?

Groove Stomp
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I agree, being compensated for overtime is fantastic - even if it is only compensation for "weekend overtime."

Charles Lefebvre
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- We had to check in and check out during the week end. So we were paid per hour. But not during the evening, but we had a few weeks off ( yes only the ones who stayed ), and a free diner.

- For the credits, I really don't know who made the rules, Team Bondi or Rockstar. Some people who left Team Bondi last year were credited. I know most of the people who are not credited, so I would have been happier if everybody was credited. But since it was hard to finish the game I can understand that it was a reward for those who stayed. Not sure if it makes such a big difference, since you can easily prove that you have been working at Team Bondi. Except maybe for your friends and family. Anyway, the website is here so at the end everybody is credited ( yes I know that it is a reaction and not an action ). And honestly most of the people I know who aren't credited don't care, and were not assuming to be credited.

- For Brendan, I can only give you my vision, and you can get 200 different others. I think that he is a character, you either like him or hate him. I have seen him angry maybe 10 times in 4 years. We had once a minor "discussion". But he has always been nice with me, talking about France, Rugby, Kids... But I think that if you don't like him it might be hard to work at Team Bondi.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Thanks for the insight. I think there are a lot of problems in this industry in general that have shown up at Team Bondi, but I also believe that if we all admit they are problems and try to fix them then we are on a good path.

But "on a good path" does not mean "in a good place". There is still work to do. I wonder if we need a self-regulating body for crediting and overtime management (no, the IGDA doesn't count since they really only give "suggestions"), similar to what the ESRB does for ratings, or if government intervention is necessary. I'm sure people would like a neutral, not-for-profit self regulating body more than a union, but unionization is another option if it comes to it.

Oh, I just thought of another question -- what was the pay divide like at Team Bondi? Since everyone was working very hard, presumably everyone got more than just a Salary if the game did well, correct (such as bonuses)? And McNamara didn't get a much larger bonus than everyone else did he? What about the people who worked just as hard and wanted to see things through to the end but couldn't because they were let go? Do they still get prorated bonuses if the game does well?

Charles Lefebvre
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That's impossible ( for the self-regulating body ), since studios aren't all in the same country.

I can't ( and don't want to ) speak for everybody here. Personally, I didn't get any financial bonus at the end of the game.

Dave Long
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The way you describe Brendan does not make him sound like a good manager. A good, professional manager can work with all their staff, not just the ones that like him.

Jakub Majewski
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Gee, that sure puts people like Stanley Kubrick or George Lucas in a losing position, right? ;)

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"That's impossible ( for the self-regulating body ), since studios aren't all in the same country. "

Well, ESRB and PEGI are self-regulating bodies that work (PEGI covers over 30 countries). Also, the IGDA is an international group that could prove useful if it could find a way to do more than just "suggest". Basic human rights (the right to a healthy and stable worklife) and common courtesy (the right to get credited for your work, the right to make money proportional to your efforts as opposed to money always being confiscated to the top of the hierarchy to bloat executives' already lavish life styles) are nation-agnostic, and these are concerns that extend past national borders. In fact, the self-regulating nature of it is what will make it work on the international stage (as opposed to trying to get governments to agree with each other).

"Gee, that sure puts people like Stanley Kubrick or George Lucas in a losing position, right? ;)"

Sorry, I don't follow you :X

Alan Jack
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Just gonna throw this out there - letting some (but not all) of your employees do overtime could create a culture in which the ones who don't are "working less" than the ones that do, and then you might as well have made the overtime mandatory anyway, because you're crushing the morale and team bonding of those who aren't/can't do the overtime.

I'd also like to ask everyone if they're sure, when talking about getting free meals and time off, of the line between compensation and encouragement.

I think there's more to this debate than what we commonly discuss.