Former Team Bondi employees have revealed what one former staffer described as "sweat shop" working conditions during the seven year development of LA Noire.
A source who parted ways with Team Bondi in 2008 told IGN: "I left because of stress and working conditions, mainly. But the trigger was this: I received a reprimand for 'conduct and punctuality' for being 15 minutes late to work. I arrived at 9:15am - despite the fact I had only left work around 3:15am the same day, and paid for my own taxi home! I never would have thought you could put a sweat shop in the Sydney CBD."
This disgruntled former employee isn't alone in feeling hard done by.
"When I joined the team, there was no indication that it was anything other than a 9-5, five-day-a-week job," said an artist who spent two years at the studio. "It was never outwardly said that you had to be working more [hours], but it was just the vibe of the place. If you weren't [working overtime], you couldn't progress any further."
"If you left at 7.30pm, you'd get evil eyes," another artist explained. "The crunch was ongoing. It just kept on shifting; an ominous crunch that just keeps moving, and moving. Management would say, 'Oh, it'll finish once we meet this deadline,' but the deadline kept moving. That went on for a good year."
This artists spent three years at Team Bondi, working an average of 60 hours per week, but crunch time periods saw hours reach 80 to 110 hours per week for a period of one or two weeks at a time.
However, Team Bondi boss Brendan McNamara believes he worked the same hours as his staff.
"We all work the same hours," he told IGN. "People don't work any longer hours than I do. I don't turn up at 9am and go home at 5pm, and go to the beach. I'm here at the same hours as everybody else is.
"We're making stuff that's never been made before," he explained. "We're making a type of game that's never been made before. We're making it with new people, and new technology. People who're committed to put in whatever hours they think they need to."
McNamara added: "If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you'd be in another business."
To make matters worse, it's reported that no overtime was officially paid.
"No overtime was officially paid in the three years and three months that I worked at Team Bondi," an unnamed artist told IGN. This was down to staff contracts which were worded in a manner which ensured that overtime would only be paid three months after project completion. Those who left the company before this time lost overtime payments owed.
McNamara's response to these claims: "There was a bonus scheme for working evenings, and people got a month off for that. And people who worked weekends got paid for it. We brought in a weekend working scheme for that. But contractually, we don't have to do that.
"Part of the thing is that we pay over the odds, and it says in their contract that if they need to do extra time. I've done 20 years of not getting paid for doing that kind of stuff. I don't begrudge it. I get the opportunity to make these things."
LA Noire finally hit stores in May, and was met with a resounding 10/10 score from VideoGamer.com in its LA Noire review.