Codemasters Claim They're Remedying The Situation
You remember Bodycount, right? Once headed up by Burnout and Black director, Stuart Black, the exciting shooter crumbled under the weight of his departure and an overall hierarchical meltdown within Codemasters. So dire was the financial situation that a certain former Bodycount programmer, Semi Essessi, reveals Codemasters owed him almost 400 hours of overtime pay, and then threatened him with bankruptcy proceedings when the funds were "mistakenly" paid to him. Codemasters, however, claims they're in talks with Essessi in hopes of remedying the situation.
Essessi took to his personal blog to reveal what it was like working on Bodycount towards the end of development. Having racked up almost 400 hours of overtime in an eight month period, Essessi claims this "exceeded my job description significantly", as requests for pay rises or promotions in recognition for his work were repeatedly denied.
Essessi was promised, at the very least, time off "in lieu" of his overtime work, but again his requests for such rewards were turned down. Having moved to Guildford to work on Bodycount at considerable financial risk, Essessi quickly clocked up unmanageable debt, not helped by the lack of overtime pay he was due. He reported to Codemasters human resources department, and was told this:
We appreciate that there was a focus across the whole studio to work extra hours, to get the game completed to the final deadline. However, it was made clear and communicated upfront to everyone that [for] those who did work, no TOIL or overtime pay would be made for those extra hours
When Essessi was finally paid, he was soon contacted by Codemasters, who explained an additional months pay had "mistakenly" been added to his fee. Even though he was still due overtime pay, Codemasters demanded he pay the money back in full within five days. "I had already spent the money," Essessi revealed, paying off debts accrued during his time in Guildford.
Understandably, Essessi could not return the "mistakenly paid" money, and after missing two deadlines, Codemasters contacted him and threatened to "take your failure to pay as evidence of your insolvency, in which circumstances it will be entitled to petition for your bankruptcy". Essessi blames the senior management at Codemasters for the financial state of the company, which he believes is the reason behind their "unlawful" treatment of their former staff.
Codemasters, however, claim they're still in an "open dialogue" with Essessi over the "reimbursement of funds paid into his account following an administrative error". They also deny Essessi's claims that they pursued legal action, but confirmed they're now "aware" of his blog post and will be contacting him through the "appropriate channels".
All in all, it's a sorry state of affairs, and I doubt Essessi is the only member of the now defunct Bodycount team who's suffering from severe financial misfortune as a result of Codemasters' financial slip-up. Bodycount wasn't a very good game, but when you consider how low the general mood in the studio must have been been - unpaid overtime can't be very motivating. We'll have more on this as it develops. [Eurogamer]