Cyberpunk 2077 might still be a couple of years away, or it could be out later this year. Either way, with years of development behind it, the end is slowly but surely approaching and traditionally that means that crunch is, too—a months-long stretch of hellish work weeks that studios desperately power through as they try to finish a game on deadline.
CD Projekt Red faced complaints in 2017 from unhappy former employees, including criticism of the long hours they were forced to work as they wrapped up The Witcher 3. At the time, CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwiński and studio head Adam Badowski defended the practice, saying that its approach isn't for everyone but that it "creates innovation and makes it possible for us to say we've worked really hard on something, and we think it's worth your hard-earned cash."
Speaking in an interview with Kotaku (opens in new tab) this week, however, Iwiński said the studio wants to take a more "humane" approach to late-stage development by leaning more heavily into a "non-obligatory crunch policy."
"We’ve been working toward it for some time already," Iwiński said. "We’ve been communicating clearly to people that of course there are certain moments where we need to work harder—like I think the  E3 demo is a pretty good example—but we want to be more humane and treat people with respect. If they need to take time off, they can take time off. Nobody will be frowned upon if this will be requested."
CD Projekt isn't talking about eliminating crunch altogether, which would be a bigger commitment. And stating that employees will be able to take time off if they need it doesn't necessarily mean much—in a crunch-heavy environment, devs may well feel pressure to keep working to support their teammates or preserve their standing within the company.
But CD Projekt is at least determined to make itself more accountable. Iwiński told Kotaku that he wants the policy to be public so employees can hold management to it down the road.
"We’ve created a lot of force functions for us to improve," Iwiński said. "Making this commitment, I hope it shows that we are treating this matter very seriously."
Badowski also said, almost definitively, that Cyberpunk 2077's final stretch will not be as soul-crushing as that of the meme-inspiring Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. "I think we can promise that it’ll be better than The Witcher’s finishing period," he said.
CD Projekt is presumably getting ready for this year's E3, which runs June 11-13. The studio said in March that the 2019 event will be its "most important one ever."