Rockstar will not publish Team Bondi's next game, according to a former member of staff at the Sydney-based LA Noire developer.
The source, in emails seen by GI.biz, claims that Rockstar's dissatisfaction with the management style of Team Bondi co-founder Brendan McNamara and the amount of money it sunk into the project has left the Sydney studio looking for a different publisher for its next title.
"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 claims. "Team Bondi is trying to find another publisher for its next title but their relationship with Rockstar has been badly damaged. Brendan treats LA 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 LA Noire, and their marketing was fantastic. Without their continued support, Team Bondi would have gone under several years ago."
Rockstar announced it would be publishing LA Noire in 2006, when it was already two years into development and a year after it had been announced as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Originally set for release in 2008, it soon slipped to 2009 and eventually saw release in May of this year. According to the source, Rockstar's input went far beyond that expected of a typical publisher as it worked to ensure the game met its normal lofty standards.
"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," the source explains.
"At a lower level, Rockstar also pitched in with programmers, 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 which 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."
The latest revelations continue the fallout from Team Bondi's omission of over 100 developers from LA Noire's credits. In a series of interviews with IGN, former staff lamented the harsh working practices in place at the studio, with particular ire directed towards McNamara's abrasive management style.
That is borne out by McNamara's reaction to Rockstar's redesign of the LA Noire logo, which included publisher branding but left out that of the developer. McNamara said in an 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."
The Independent Game Developers Association said last week that it would be investigating claims made by former staff, saying reports of working conditions were "absolutely unacceptable and harmful to the individuals involved, the final product, and the industry as a whole." It is calling for testimony from Team Bondi employees.
Despite its protracted development, LA Noire was broadly well received both critically and commercially, setting a new UK sales record for a new IP. It is headed to PC later this year, developed by Rockstar Leeds, and McNamara has claimed a rush of interest in the game's MotionScan technology from outside the game industry.