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Uncredited  LA Noire  Staff Allege 'Praise-Free' Working Conditions
Uncredited LA Noire Staff Allege 'Praise-Free' Working Conditions
June 21, 2011 | By Mike Rose




Developers who worked on Team Bondi's LA Noire and were subsequently left without credit have been describing how they were asked to work 10-12 hours a day, every day, including weekends.

Earlier this month, over 100 contributing developers who were not included in the final credits roll for Team Bondi and Rockstar's LA Noire were highlighted on a special LA Noire Credits site.

Talking to the Sydney Morning Herald, a number of unnamed developers explained how, despite contributing large amounts of time and effort to the game's development, they were still not credited.

According to one former employee, Team Bondi told staff that they would not be credited on the game until they stayed with the company until the game was shipped.

Another developer who worked on the game for three years explained that he was forced to leave the company as, "I felt as though my sanity depended on it."

He described working at the company as "an inflexible and virtually praise-free environment," and noted the 10-12 hour working days, including weekends.

"After my wife had been pushing me to quit for more than a year, I did," he said.

"There has been a lot of press saying how incredible this is for the Australian gaming industry, since it is the biggest (and most successful) game made in Australia to date."

"But that has come at the price, as most of the people that worked on it will never have proof of having worked there (unless they want to pull out a paycheck)," he explained.

The unnamed developer noted that he had dedicated "25 percent of my professional life" to the game, yet was not credited.

Gamasutra has contacted Team Bondi for a response.


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Comments


Jeff Murray
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Team Bondi... please refer to the IGDA Credit Standards. If you need help, you can contact the IGDA Credit Standards Committee and they will be happy to point you in the right direction:



http://www.igda.org/credit-standards



Also, please refer to the IGDA Quality of Life pages:



http://www.igda.org/quality-life



Thank you.

Charles Doty
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Almost sounds like abuse of the catch-22 crunch rule.

Jeff Hanna
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That's great advice Jeff, except that the IGDA is toothless in this regard. Remember that about three years ago, after it came out that Mythic had not credited all developers on Warhammer Online, the IGDA issued a statement supporting the developers and taking Mythic to task for what they had done. The studio offered a compromise, printed credits would always only contain the names of the developers who were at the studio the day the game was finalized and there would be a website with a database of all developers who worked on the project, even if they left before a project was finished. The IGDA accepted this and dropped the matter. Mythic never fulfilled the promise of the website. The IGDA never bothered to try to get Mythic to follow through.

Sean Danielson
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Sooner or later, there will be government oversight on this kind of issue, because the United States is a right-to-work country.



Any act that degrades our right to work, is seen as an insult.

Maurício Gomes
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Except LA Noire was made in Australia

Sean Danielson
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Australia and the U.S.



Rockstar is an American developer and publisher.

Christopher Enderle
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@Sean

"Right-to-work" just basically means you can be fired immediately at any moment for no reason. Ratings are more likely to be enforced by law long before crediting issues are.

Mark Harris
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It also means you can quit and go somewhere else any time you want. And the US is not a "right to work country", it is up to each individual state to determine right-to-work laws.



Two way street, unless you sign a contract stating otherwise.

Martain Chandler
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Cue story about developers that _don't_ want anyone to know they worked on Duke Nuke'm Forever in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Jeff Murray
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I didn't know that, Jeff. That's frustrating and saddening, tbh.



Game companies are going to keep getting away with it as long as they are allowed to, since it is in their interest to protect their IP and their talent. On top of that, keeping games uncredited helps them to control their staff and to avoid having to pay higher wages for what could be upcoming members of the industry (without credited work, you may as well be Baron Munchhausen).



So what's the answer? Unions? I just don't know, but given the conditions that a lot of game developers have to work within I can't help but think that unionization may be the only way to get a fair, healthy and safe working environment for workers in the games industry.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I'm ready to unionize. I am not joking, nor am I saying this in passing. How do we do it?



Is there a better place (IGDA forums for example) to discuss this? Gamasutra comment sections are quite transient.



I'm getting tired of talking about unionizing, let's do it. We can discuss the things that worry people about unions and leave those out if we are in agreement. Maybe a "guild" is better than a "union", assuming those are not just fancy synonyms for the same thing. I don't know, I have a lot to learn, but I'm getting tired of pushing this off.



Seriously, let's do it.

Maurício Gomes
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Naaaah.



Unions are what led Greece to be where they are now (among other things).



Unions are great until they fix the problem, but after they fix it, they start to create problems to attempt to fix, becoming quickly more problematic than the original problem.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"Unions are great until they fix the problem, but after they fix it, they start to create problems to attempt to fix, becoming quickly more problematic than the original problem."



Why is this unavoidable?

Christopher Enderle
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@Mauricio

Ya know, Germany has unions too, and they seem to be doing just fine. The real problem might just be (among other things).

Harlan Sumgui
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Greece's govt was corrupt to the core, that was the problem. When an industry abuses its employers, collectivization is the only answer. An individual has very little bargaining power, groups have more. There are many unions in entertainment, and they benefit their members. The same could be done for game devs if they want it. I mean the horror stories I hear in game dev circles make me cringe. No job should jeopardize marriages or make employees 'question their sanity'.



Of course, corporate propaganda has given unions a bad name, so it should probably call it a guild or something.

Sean Danielson
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A guild is something that has its own standards and puts them forward to the industry. Not too different from the Writers' Guild.



Basically, it's something that gives people collective bargaining power over key aspects of the workplace, such as quality-of-life standards.



In other words, let's say you're EA. I'm the Game Industry Guild (GIG. Get it? :P). We're at loggerheads over proper crediting standards. You refuse to budge from your policy.



What does GIG do? We refuse to work. This would impact both EA and other game companies. In effect, one game company's actions will hurt or help the industry as a whole, as a result.



The problem is that the industry WILL push back hard against something like this. They'll start blackballing people. It'll be like the original unionization push during the Industrial Revolution where workers were literally ostracized from society for even talking about unionizing.



The solution? It's right in front of us. Social media. Make these issues painfully visible for the world to see. Right now, the games industry is in a slowly shrinking bubble which is going to burst in the next ten years. The executives want to stave that off for as long as they can.



Also, another hurdle is that colleges are churning out fresh "manufactured talent" for the games industry who don't know any better - they're easy meat for the game companies to get their talons into when it comes to replacing trade-union workers.



We're in a bubble, and the industry knows it. Game sales are down. This is going to make a lot of pressure for the development companies to continue to deliver the numbers their parent companies want to see.



So unions are going to be viciously attacked if it starts to materialize.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"What does GIG do? We refuse to work. This would impact both EA and other game companies. In effect, one game company's actions will hurt or help the industry as a whole, as a result."



I view strikes as the last resort. A better use of GIG's power would be to try to get legislation passed mandating proper crediting (similar to what the IGDA is doing, except with teeth) and once such legislation is passed to help (with guidance and financially) those who are not being credited properly to set up a lawsuit. There would be a warchest of some amount of money from member dues that help even the littlest people stand up against large companies who until now have had the luxury of legal bullying to defend them where the law wouldn't.



"The problem is that the industry WILL push back hard against something like this. They'll start blackballing people. It'll be like the original unionization push during the Industrial Revolution where workers were literally ostracized from society for even talking about unionizing."



Ok, I'm sticking my neck out there. Fuck it, I've lost one job standing up for my team mates to corruption, I'm not scared of bullying tactics. Someone else joins me, and we're twice as powerful. Maybe a few more join after that. If you don't believe in unions/guilds, that's one thing, but please don't avoid something you believe in out of fear - you will live the rest of your life in fear.



One thing that can mitigate this for both sides is to not view unionization as a combative tactic against "evil" corporations, but as a tool to help balance power and bring happiness, rest, and pride to the members of this industry, which can only help everyone in the long run (happier devs == better games == more profit).



"The solution? It's right in front of us. Social media. Make these issues painfully visible for the world to see. Right now, the games industry is in a slowly shrinking bubble which is going to burst in the next ten years. The executives want to stave that off for as long as they can."



Yes, definitely, I do this all the time :). I am tweeting about the LA Noire crediting issue and blogging about the ills of this industry and even directly encouraging developer wannabes in forums to go indie or hobbyist instead of entering the slaughterhouse.



"Also, another hurdle is that colleges are churning out fresh "manufactured talent" for the games industry who don't know any better - they're easy meat for the game companies to get their talons into when it comes to replacing trade-union workers."



This is not ideal for companies, and they know it. It's not like there is a 1:1 value trade between a veteran who knows your code base/dev tools and a fresh grad whose largest project was done with three other people. It is a hurdle, sure, but I think a bigger hurdle is the fear-effect of this hurdle.

Rey Samonte
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This is very unfortunate but it happens. For about a year and a half, I worked at R* SD on RDR as a designer but left a year before the game shipped. I found myself in a similar situation where I felt like my work wasn't valued and working the extended hours for such a long time really took a toll on my life and affected my family. Now, granted that I was getting paid overtime for those hours, in the end, I didn't feel it was worth the sacrifice.



When RDR shipped, I found out from a friend that I was not included in the credits. I was a little surprised as I thought I'd at least be included in the special thanks section of the game. However, I didn't let that bother me too much. I did make some good friends there and I learned quite a bit so I wasn't going away empty handed.



I'm not sure what their criteria was for selecting individuals to be included in their credits, but I would hate to think they left me out because I left before the game shipped.

E Zachary Knight
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Based on prior R* history, it was because you weren't working there when the game went gold. They had that same issue with Manhunt 2. They moved development from one house to another and only the people working at the second house were credited.

Lo Pan
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Wondering if Rockstar/Team Bondi borrowed their team management policies from Activision.

Kim Pittman
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Is it sad that I expect this? When I have worked at studios before, and looked at credits myself, I generally assume that the only people listed are either still working there, or listed in the special thanks if the company is feeling especially kind.



Nothing can take away the experiences you have or hide the fact that you worked at that company during that time.

James Youngman
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Crediting policy is important for evaluating potential employers. For example, in this interview: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4157/fountain_of_scribbles_
5th_cells_.php?page=5 Jeremiah erroneously states that there was one person working on levels on Drawn to Life. Because the game credits list two level designers, you don't have to take my word on it, and the false statement can be corrected rather than allowed to stand unchallenged. You can see for yourself what the truth is, and infer what that says about whether developers are respected or not at 5th Cell.

Dana Hanna
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The ultimate arbiters for credits issues may end up being aggregator sites like IMDB. I have no idea how they and others get their listings. They're almost always incomplete and/or incorrect. But they put the responsibility of maintaining listings on the individual claiming credit and have different standards for qualification. Speaking of which, I should really tell them that Dana Hanna, the actress living in LA, did not produce my last title.

Vin St John
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This seems like the perfect place for Tim Carter to jump in about the importance of transforming our 'work for a company' attitude, particularly because this is somewhere where film has the games industry beat.



"Rockstar" credits "Rockstar employees." If the people doing the credits weren't "Rockstar" but rather "The LA Noire Team" then they would credit everyone involved, because they'd have no reason not to.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeff Hanna
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Dave,



Time will increasingly make it hard to get verification. For instance, since I left Mythic (I am one of the uncredited WAR devs) the company was purchased by EA, one of the studio principals left (one left soon before I did, also), and the company has been through many rounds of layoffs. I would not reasonably expect any remaining employee in DC or a random EA HR person in CA to spend much time tracking down my employment history and comparing that against both the WAR development time frame and the employee lists of both projects in production at that time to prove that I did indeed contribute to the project.

James Youngman
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See the link I posted in a comment above. An executive at a company I worked at implicitly denies the involvement of a team member in an interview published here at Gamasutra. Thankfully the credits have a more accurate listing than the interview.

Jeff Murray
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At the end of the day, the IGDA are the ones actively standing up for issues like this (just as they were the ones standing up to Mythic and speaking for the developers) .. regardless of the outcome (and we don't know for sure whether Mythic honored their promise or not) - the point is that someone was there to represent developers and speak out.



I'm all for working WITH the IGDA, rather than hoping for an intervention from outside the industry or for union action. As Sean wrote, we need to make these issues painfully visible for the world to see - having the power of the IGDA beside us in standing up to these companies will go a long way to push the issues much further into the public eye and in reaching the right people in the industry than perhaps a few devs could do alone.



http://www.igda.org/credit-standards

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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In my mod, Elements of War, I list my name, alias, E-MaiL, and have a photo of my face. More developers should do that. But I understand if they don't want their face, e-mail, etc listed. Some people want to remain anon.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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This level of scrutiny is hardly ever up to the actual developers in the industry. Heck they don't even get to decide _if_ they appear in the credits, which is exactly the issue at stake.

supalouise chen
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I love this game, but please respect the hard works these people did!

Mike Dickheiser
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I agree and empathize with the angst expressed here. But, ultimately nobody can stop you from crediting yourself. If you worked on a game, put it on your resume, speak to your accomplishments when you interview, and provide references who will back you up.

Dex Smither
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It is unfortunate that nothing has been done to stop the industry from utilizing these excessive crunch periods. The news of these practices have been common for about a decade, and the only changes are that the crunches are getting worse.



IGDA best practices is a wonderful plan, but very rarely used. It seems companies are convinced that as long as their competition is crunching, they must crunch too. This will continue until legislation occurs to stop this unhealthy work environments.

Andrew Grapsas
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Or developers stop flocking to these insidious studios. But, as you and I both know, Dex, it's hard to evaluate what a studio will or won't do until it happens.



With R*'s track record of treating employees poorly and leaving people off credits, I'm still shocked anyone would openly work for them, especially programmers.



We, as developers, need to become more responsible and either stand up to poor work conditions or leave. If only it were so easily done :)

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Mark Harris
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Weird, I've never been listed in the "credits" of any piece of commercial software on which I've worked... especially since the "credits" section doesn't exist. I don't see traditional software developers clamoring for unionization.



Perhaps the problem is not getting credited, but that companies in the video game industry rely on those credits when evaluating you for hire. Instead it might be better for them to look at your abilities and knowledge base, and test that in the interview. Ya know, like nearly every other industry on the planet.

Andrew Grapsas
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So, as someone who's never been on an industry interview you're providing your expert opinion?



In games, we don't evaluate an individual solely on their titles released -- in fact, we almost never care as long as they have one or two shipped titles. Every game studio I've worked for has provided rigorous interviews and I have rejected countless "traditional software developer" candidates who couldn't even pass the most fundamental programming examinations.



Why do we want credit? Because we work very hard and for a very long time on our projects and we appreciate the nod of the head.



You'll also note that Adobe lists credits when their software is loading and many pieces of software have lists of contributors, etc. in the help sections.



This is all part of the cycle of motivation as defined by psychology. Recognition is the final, key aspect -- and credits provide this.

Mark Harris
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Andrew, you disappoint me. I've seen you comment plenty of times over the years here on Gama and you are normally both reasonable and respectful. Your condescension is surprising.



I did express my opinion, formed from the evidence at hand. Namely, the responses to this thread and other similar threads. The picture painted by purported industry professionals is that one major consequence to the missing credits is the profound negative career impact. That it can make it harder for one to find a job, keep a job, move to a new job, etc within the industry. So from my perspective, I drew a conclusion.



As I mentioned, it is rare for one-of-many to be credited in other industries; software, manufacturing, etc. There are exceptions, as you noted, but by and large a piece of software developed by a company does not include credits for individual contributors, and almost never for "minor" contributors. I put that in quotes because the nature of a contribution is relative, and sometimes has nothing to do with either the length or depth of contribution. It could very well be defined by the ego of the project leaders.



From what I could gather from responses on this INDUSTRY site the lack of credit can make or break not only a job, but a career. I remarked upon such, and I stand by my remark. If that is, in fact, the case then there are larger problems within the gaming industry than proper crediting. If it is not the case, then then many of the arguments damning the credit problem are moot.



We can argue the specifics of psychological motivation all day, but recognition is not solely derived from public credits. Putting excessive emphasis on that single part of the whole is pushing toward narcissism; which I honestly feel is not especially commonplace in the game industry, with you, or with most people on this site.



In the end, perhaps my curiosity didn't come across accurately. My question remains. While many people in many industries work very hard through very long hours and receive no public credit, I rarely see such vociferous call for "unionization" (quoted to encompass various terms). What is so different about the video game industry that lack of public credit is seen as a major driving factor for organization in contrast to most other corporate endeavors?

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"What is so different about the video game industry that lack of public credit is seen as a major driving factor for organization in contrast to most other corporate endeavors?"



I think a large part of it is that many people do get credited in this industry. If you're going to credit some people who worked on a project why not credit others, just because they were forced by management layoff decisions to leave early? Is it really that hard to remember someone who worked on the game for three or four years just because they didn't work on it the last couple of months?



To reframe the questions: why are you not getting credited to the consumers for your work in your field, Mark, and why are you okay with this? Would you rather people be googling "Company Mark works at" or would you rather they be googling "Mark Harris"? To me, it comes down to the respect of recognizing individual contribution instead of corporate branding. The more we allow corporate branding while pretending that individuals that contribute to the product (video games, software, toilet paper, whatever) are just faceless cogs, the more corporations will be allowed to reign over us like dictators, dismissing us when they are through with our services because money is tight even though the higher ups "somehow" manage to continuously bring in 6 or 7 digit salaries. It's a game of power, and we're losing through our own timidity. Contrast the game industry to hollywood, where the creatives are recognized by the public and thus have a __much__ better negotiating position than we do. I don't feel like my work is worth significantly less than the work of, say, Tom Cruise, but for _some_ _reason_ I make a fraction of what he does and get laid off after crunching on projects :/.



So, yeah, it's not as simple as "can I get a job after this", it's more like "how much are those people that laid me off profiting off of my work by gaining public good will in a way that I am not seeing". If we were credited like hollywood actors and paraded on late night talk shows, we wouldn't even have to worry about finding another job -- they'd be coming to us. But do we in the game industry deserve being credited for our work? Do those in Hollywood? Do other software engineers? Do toilet paper manufacturers? I don't know. Any question that involves the word "deserve" is almost senseless to try and answer as it is purely subjective. Do I want it? Am I going to fight for recognition of my work? You'd better believe it, after working my ass off for two layoffs, I'm going to do whatever I need to to rebalance the power in this god-forsaken industry. Cry "entitlement complex" all you want, but I would suggest trying to do the same for yourself. And if your industry doesn't crunch you and then lay you off in two year cycles, now you see the difference. And if you have it just as bad but aren't willing to fight against it, oh well -- not my problem.

Mike Dickheiser
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Having worked many years in games and several more in general software development I've observed a distinct difference in how people on both sides view the product of their labor. As with any other industry, passionate employees take pride in their contributions, both as personal accomplishment and in playing their part to bring success to the company. This seems to be enough outside of game development.



Game dev is somehow different. The product of one's sweat and blood is often held up to be displayed, reviewed, critiqued, marveled over, and made into legend as a work of art in the public eye. (I'm neither defending nor rejecting this notion, just making an observation.) Artists are generally credited for and closely associated with their work and have an expectation that they can make a name for themselves through the product; it speaks for itself, and for them. The machinery of our industry creates names for people in large part according to the audience that witnesses the product and what perceived impact it has made on the evolution of the art form.



Between the sentiment of games qua art, and the now long-established path for building one's reputation, a certain pang of injustice is felt when a developer gets "left out". The acuity of this is enhanced when one feels that this industry was born and built of the creative, passionate mind, and has since been ravaged and consumed by the corporate mind, often regarded as cold, ruthless and devoid of appreciation for the immense creative energy that serves as the feeding hand.

John DiGiacomo
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Disclaimer: I am an intellectual property attorney in the US, not in Australia. Australian copyright law provides individual creators with so-called "moral rights," which include the right to correct attribution and the right to ensure that their work is not treated in a derogatory way. Presuming there wasn't a waiver of moral rights in their employment contracts (there probably was), these developers may have a cause of action against Team Bondi.

John Hahn
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I'm not defending anybody, but I think part of the reason why game companies don't like to credit people unless they were there when the game shipped is because there's a certain metric this industry uses to determine the quality of job applicants. The metric is called "shipped titles". The more "shipped titles" you have, the better, basically. When you see someone's name in a game's credits, it's basically a clue that that person can call that game a "shipped title" on their resume. If somebody worked on 5 games and left every game in the 11th hour of the development cycle, then that says something about that person's lack of being able to follow through on a project. Making the last 20% of a game is often the hardest part, and so the industry frowns on people who would rather bail than tough it out and see the project through. The problem is that this policy doesn't account for people who are removed from the project unwillingly. Regardless, if you aren't there at the end, you shouldn't be able to call the game a "shipped title" on your resume because you didn't ship it.



Should they have a "Special Thanks" section of the credit, to list people who left early (regardless of whether it was voluntary)? Yes, I'd say so. However, there needs to be a distinction between the people who have a "shipped title" and those who don't because it's important for potential employers to know who has actually worked on a title and seen the development all the way through to the end.


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