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Team Bondi was an Australian independent third-party game developer. The company was founded by Brendan McNamara, who was the former Director of Development for Sony Computer Entertainment’s Team Soho Studio in London and writer and director of The Getaway.

HistoryEdit

Team Bondi was founded in 2003 by Brendan McNamara. The company is responsible for the development of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game L.A. Noire, which was published by Rockstar Games. An in-game trailer was released on 11 November 2010, which subsequently confirmed the release date as 17 May 2011. The company's website stated that it would be developing games for the current-generation consoles only.

On 9 August 2011, numerous outlets reported that Team Bondi's intellectual property and assets had been sold to Kennedy-Miller Mitchell, a Sydney-based multimedia production firm set up by Mad Max maker George Miller. However a transfer of ownership to KMM played out, it didn't include the L.A. Noire name, as that intellectual property is owned by Rockstar Games.

According to forms lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission the business was placed into administration on 30 August 2011.

In further documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 5 October 2011, it was revealed that following a meeting of creditors a decision had been made that Team Bondi be wound up. The liquidator handled the sale of Team Bondi's remaining assets and payment of outstanding debts.

On 7 October 2011, it was revealed by documents provided to the Australian Securities And Investments Commission that Team Bondi owed creditors £900k, with unpaid wages or bonuses accounted for over 75 percent of the L.A. Noire developer's debt. 33 staff credited for their work on L.A. Noire were owed a combined $1,074,283.28 (£678,459) in unpaid wages or bonuses. Among those, studio head Brendan McNamara claimed to be owed $102,495.16, general manager Vicky Lord $99,155.21 and gameplay lead David Heironymus $43,652. Depth Analysis, McNamara's Sydney-based firm that developed MotionScan, L.A. Noires facial animation technology, was also reported to be owed $145,795.83.

According to McNamara, Team Bondi closed down because they had not signed another project in the time they needed to. He says it happened because "we got a lot of bad press about what it was like to work with us and our conditions. That, obviously, didn't come at the right time. To do a deal for a major video game probably takes about a year. We didn't start running around doing that stuff until well after the game was finished. That's the problem when a game is all-consuming and you need to get out there and do whatever you need to do to get people to know it and interested. They would probably be the two main things, I'd say." After liquidation, Team Bondi's assets and most of its staff went to Kennedy-Miller Mitchell. Some of the former employees have gone to work in different Rockstar studios. Rockstar retained the L.A. Noire intellectual property. McNamara himself states that he is currently working on a video game about "one of the great untold stories of the 20th Century".

Speaking to Official PlayStation Magazine (UK), Brendan McNamara talked about the end days of the studio behind the game:

"It was a long, painful process, but making games is like making films in that it’s a marathon, not a sprint – and some people come into the process not knowing that. I’d love to spend more time at home with my family and kids. We run things differently now – we have flexi-hours, for example. But everybody has their view on who’s the worst boss in the world, and maybe that’s me. I’ve read some amazing things about Steve Jobs in his biography, and I’ve never seen him get as vilified any way as much as I have. Sam Peckinpah [’70s film director] fired [plenty of] people off one movie, and nobody said a thing. Werner Herzog pulled a gun on Klaus Kinski to get him to finish a movie! Obviously I don’t compare myself to any of those people…"

ControversyEdit

At the start of June 2011, a group of former Team Bondi employees launched a website called lanoirecredits.com, which contained 100 extra employee names that had not been in L.A. Noires credits list or that had been incorrectly listed in it. The majority of the names were employees that had either left Team Bondi or been made redundant as the game reached completion. The omission of the names "went against the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) framework for games crediting which aims for ethical representation of those who contribute to games of all sizes."

Just over a month after L.A. Noires release, an article was published on IGN Australia entitled "Why Did L.A. Noire Take Seven Years to Make?". The article contained quotes from 11 anonymous ex-Team Bondi employees, who discussed the managerial style of the studio, the studio's staff turnover rates and the working hours and conditions associated with L.A. Noire. The article also interviewed Team Bondi studio head Brendan McNamara, as well as Erin Hoffman, the author of the "EA Spouse" blog, which focused similar attention on the labour practices of Electronic Arts in 2004. Further internal emails, and comments from staff members were released in July 2011 on Gamesindustry.biz.

A week after the IGN article was published, the IGDA announced that it would investigate the claims over working conditions at Team Bondi; with IGDA chairman Brian Robbins saying “Certainly reports of 12-hour a day, lengthy crunch time, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and harmful to the individuals involved, the final product, and the industry as a whole".

In July 2011, two more former employees came forward and offered up internal e-mails which they claim is further evidence of these allegations; the e-mails highlight the contentious relationship between Bondi and Rockstar and indicate that the two companies are unlikely to work together again. Speaking about this situation, a source who worked with Team Bondi, and spoke to GamesIndustry.biz on condition of anonymity, stated that "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. 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." In the interview with GamesIndustry.biz, the same source also claimed that:

"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. 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. I have a few logs (see below) that show the relationship souring."
One of the logs, an email from Team Bondi boss Brendan McNamara to the rest of the studio, shows disagreement between McNamara and Rockstar over pulling out of 2010's E3. A second log is a bit more fiery and shows McNamara's reaction to a Rockstar redesign of the L.A Noire logo and the lack of a Team Bondi logo on the game announcement.

In a series of interviews with Eurogamer in November 2011, Brendan MacNamara commented on the success of L.A. Noire and the staff disputes. When asked if he had any regrets, MacNamara said "I have lots of regrets. The process was hard and difficult. Lots of people [at Team Bondi] were very upset about their experience and first time in video games. But it's a pretty hard and difficult business. It's a business that's on an 80-20 business model. If it isn't happening then you aren't going to get paid. That's the bottom line for it. You either push very hard or you don't and then you don't get anywhere anyway, and everybody's out of a job. Having said that, we're trying to do things differently this time around." Commenting on the allegations that Rockstar didn't want to work with him again, MacNamara said "We're all pretty volatile. We had our ups and downs in the making of it. But we're all big boys. We were all trying to make something that was financially risky. I've known Sam [Houser, co-founder and president of Rockstar Games] for maybe fifteen years. We go a long way. We still talk when we need to. Anything that was part of the process is all water under the bridge to me."

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