McNamara: Inexperience partly to blame for Team Bondi troubles
LA Noire's protracted development and the subsequent furore over working conditions at Team Bondi are partly down to the inexperience of the studio's staff, Brendan McNamara says, with the studio "literally [taking] people fresh out of school who had never made a game before."
Speaking to us yesterday at the Bradford Animation Festival 2011, the Team Bondi founder and writer and director of LA Noire (read the full interview here), said that he avoided poaching more experienced staff after making an agreement with other Australian developers.
"When we set up in Sydney we went and talked to the other people that were making games in Australia – and there were a lot more people doing it back then – and we agreed with them that we wouldn’t approach any of their people," he explains.
"So we literally took people fresh out of school who had never made a game before. And that’s one of the reasons why it took longer, it’s one of the reasons the process was more tortuous and one of the reasons we’re getting slaughtered for it now."
The now shuttered studio was at the centre of a controversy over excessive, unpaid overtime and a bullying management style during the game's final years of development.
As a result, publisher Rockstar washed its hands of the studio and the IGDA opened an investigation into working practices at the company.
"[Team Bondi's management] gets lambasted for this stuff, " McNamara protests. "But I read in the LA Times the week before E3 that everybody at Naughty Dog had been working for three days straight and were walking around like drunks and it was going to be like that until [Uncharted 3] was finished. There’s not a word said about that, but we get vilified for that kind of thing."
When asked whether his motion capture company Depth Analysis, which created the MotionScan technology behind LA Noire's uncanny facial animation, would work with Rockstar should a sequel to LA Noire ever be tabled, he was upbeat despite reports of his relationship with Rockstar having broken down.
"I wouldn’t say there's any bad blood," McNamara, who was formerly the director of development at Sony's Team Soho studio, argues. "Look, making these things is a pretty torturous process and they take a long time. LA Noire didn’t take as long as Duke Nukem, but it did take a long time. We had a way of working which was the way that we worked on the Getaway and Rockstar had their own way of working.
"So trying to kind of meld those two things together is a complex process and when you’re all tired and it’s hard there’s a lot of to-and-fro. But Sam [Houser] and I still talk, and [Rockstar has] got bigger fish to fry right now. So you never say never, but at the moment I don’t know if that sort of stuff's going to happen.
"It’s certainly hard, but I don’t have any hard feelings about it because I’m really happy with the game. And no matter what’s been said about me, people can’t take that away from me."
Going on to compare the collaborative model of game creation to the autocratic model of film direction, McNamara explains that he prefers the former, but that it can lead to disagreements.
"The people in the studio worked hard, and they’re entitled to their own opinion. But the other thing is, do I have to agree with them? And sometimes I don’t. And that’s unfortunate, but in the games model, which is a more collaborative model, that’s the process.
"I actually like the games model more because you get more things from more people. The programmer brings something interesting to it, the designer brings something interesting to it – and they do things that you had never thought about and couldn’t imagine."
Our full interview with McNamara, in which he discusses the future of motion capture technology and being labelled a "bully", will be published later today.
Tags: Brendan McNamara, Depth Analysis, Developers, Human resources, LA Noire, PC, PlayStation 3, Product management, Rockstar, Sydney, Team Bondi, Xbox 360