Since the release of LA Noire news has been spreading about its development process, and it sounds like the game was a difficult birth to say the least. Not long after the game’s launch reports started to swirl about poor working conditions during the seven years of development. Until today those stories mostly only involved former developers angry at Team Bondi studio head Brendan McNamara, but according to an unnamed source, McNamara has other enemies to worry about: his former bosses at Rockstar.
In a story from GameIndustry.biz, a source identified as a former staff member of Bondi said, “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.” The source continued, "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 L.A. Noire, and their marketing was fantastic. Without their continued support, Team Bondi would have gone under several years ago.”
What’s most interesting about this is how it compares to statements Brendan made in defense of people’s issues with his management style. McNamara characterized himself as a passionate boss, and he often underscored how Noire was his game. "I'm not in any way upset or disappointed by what I've done and what I've achieved," he told IGN, which seemed to undermine the work of the disgruntled employee. Apparently Rockstar also had problems with Brendan’s control of the project, as the source said, “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. 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.”
As this unhappy former co-worker puts it, Team Bondi management let down Rockstar to such a degree that instead of purchasing Bondi and adding it to Rockstar’s internal studios, the company now wants nothing to do with the dev, in spite of Noire already selling over a million copies. The source said, “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."
In a series of internal emails shared by the source, Brendan airs some of his grievances with Rockstar, from anger at LA Noire not appearing at E3 2010 to hating the Rockstar-designed logo for the game. After venting to the team his annoyance that the Team Bondi logo was left off a press release, McNamara wrote in one email, “Every dog has its day and there's going to be hell to pay for this one. I'll never forget being treated like an absolute **** by these people.” (That’s the source’s censorship, by the way.)
With that kind vitriol on display, it isn’t surprising Rockstar would pass on Bondi’s next title, but with Noire’s success, doubtlessly someone else will pick it up, and that could be the real test. If what the ex-employees say is true, Rockstar’s influence saved LA Noire from disaster and the company deserves at least some of the credit for the finished product’s triumph. Meanwhile, Team Bondi, and especially McNamara, could use a financial and critical hit made outside of Rockstar to prove their quality as a developer. Unfortunately, it’ll probably be years before we see the results of this experiment.
Jul 5, 2011