October 22, 2021

CD Projekt Insiders: Over Ambition and Haste Plagued Cyberpunk Development

CD Projekt Red knew about the many bugs and performance issues in Cyberpunk 2077 at the time of release, but the company simply did not give itself the time to fix them. A pattern of over-ambition and too much haste stems from a series of employee interviews conducted by Bloomberg.

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Bloomberg game journalist Jason Schreier spoke with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt employees, many of them on condition of anonymity. One of the first points he brings up is that CD Projekt CEO Marcin Iwiński states in a recent apology video that the game “did not show much of its technical problems in the testing phase.” The interviewees contradict this and state that many problems were known, but that there simply was not the time to fix them. There was also generally a lot of pride in the upper tiers of the studio due to it having to its credit The Witcher 3, a widely loved and very large-scale game.

Wanting to achieve ambitious goals quickly

The piece also paints a picture of a development process that was very rushed for several reasons. One of those reasons was the release of the next generation Xbox and PlayStation: CD Projekt would have liked to make a double impression by first releasing the game on the older generation consoles and then back in the spotlight with its versions specifically for the Xbox. Series S / X and PlayStation 5.

Furthermore, the studio would have struggled to simultaneously develop the new engine for the game and the content of the game itself. An employee describes it as ‘running a train while you are still laying the track right in front of it’. He or she argues that it would have been much easier if the track layers had a lead of a few months, but they didn’t.

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The studio’s ambition also led to a lot of crunch , working often and a lot of overtime. Officially this was not required from the studio, but employees did not feel free to leave the building at healthy times. At such times, it was stated, for example, that ‘other colleagues should work more hours’ so that one could go home on time. Bloomberg also published a piece about this in December .

New director in 2016, development process ‘reset’

The switch to first-person perspective would also have been a challenge for the studio. That would have required new personnel, technology and techniques. This move was part of a major change of course that the development had to make in 2016, under the new direction of Adam Badowski, who was previously studio head. At that point, ‘essentially reset was pressed’. The story and gameplay also had to be overhauled. Disagreements about this change of course would also have left several studio veterans who worked on The Witcher 3.

Another pain point would be the 48-minute demo from 2018. It would have been ‘largely fake’, because the underlying gameplay systems were simply not finished. Those images could not really be described as gameplay, but more as a cut scene . The employees say that ‘months’ could have been saved if they didn’t have to make that demo.

In order to realize both the ambitions and the desired speed, CD Projekt hired many new staff. The interviewees, however, speak of language barriers between Polish and international workers and of a general sense of disorganization due to the rapid growth. Ultimately, 500 names are in the credits of the game, but that is still little compared to the thousands who worked on Grand Theft Auto V, for example, says Schreier. Finally, because of the corona pandemic, working from home did not contribute to effective mutual communication. As a result, the console dev kits that were at the studio were used less, while they reflected the technical state of the game, unlike builds that run on a PC at home developers.

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CD Projekt requires patience, is working on bug fixes, yet responds to publication

CDPR is currently planning to release another new patch for the game this month. In the weeks that follow, another update is to come. New content for the RPG is also being delayed to prioritize improving the technical state of the game, which is struggling across all platforms. This was announced by CD Projekt of the week in its second apology video . As an indication of the game’s current state, he has not yet returned from his absence from the PS Store.

Although CD Projekt officially did not participate in Schreier’s play, Adam Badowski, director since 2016, has nevertheless responded after the publication . He defends the 2018 48-minute demo by saying that’s what the work in progress watermark is for. He does not talk about the relationship between scripted scenes and functioning gameplay. He also thinks it is exaggerated to make statements about what 500 employees thought and felt during the development process while he spoke to twenty.

Schreier, in turn, thanks Badowski for the response, reminding him that the studio did not want to participate in the play, but stated that they are always welcome to come back to it to give more of their perspective.