This article was originally published on January 15, and was updated on January 16 to include a response from CD Projekt Red head of studio Adam Badowski. Click here to jump to the response.
Earlier this week, CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński once again apologized for the state of Cyberpunk 2077, which has been buggy on PC, and very buggy on last-gen consoles. In that apology, Iwiński suggested that the scope of Cyberpunk 2077's issues was not entirely known before release. We were skeptical of the claim, and in a new report from Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, employees at the studio reject it.
Schreier says he interviewed "more than 20 current and former CD Projekt staff" for the report, and while COVID-19 did cause difficulties with communication and production—developers couldn't work on console development kits in the office, for instance—the employees he spoke to say that external tests showed the problems, and the bugs were not the surprise Iwiński made them out to be when he said that testing didn't show "a big part" of Cyberpunk's problems.
"As the launch date drew closer, everyone at the studio knew the game was in rough shape and needed more time," writes Schreier, referring to Cyberpunk 2077's November 19 release date, which became December 10 after the final postponement. During that three-week delay, "exhausted programmers scrambled to fix as much as they could," he says, but a smooth launch would've been impossible at that point.
Schreier previously reported on crunch—mandatory overtime in the leadup to a game's release—at CD Projekt Red, and this report includes another story of overwork within the studio.
"There were times when I would crunch up to 13 hours a day—a little bit over that was my record probably—and I would do five days a week working like that," said Adrian Jakubiak, a former CD Projekt Red audio programmer. "I have some friends who lost their families because of these sort of shenanigans."
- One CDPR developer told their manager that they didn't want to work overtime, as their CEO had said would be OK. Fine, their manager said, but one of their other coworkers would just have to work extra hours to make up for them. Several other developers shared similar storiesJanuary 16, 2021
The report briefly describes troubles that began much earlier in Cyberpunk 2077's development, such as the challenge of building a new engine at the same time as the game being built on it, and the fallout from overhauls requested by game director Adam Badowski in late 2016, when development is said to have begun in earnest (despite the game having been announced in 2012). Former Witcher 3 developers apparently left the project due to clashes with Badowski's vision, which among other things changed the camera from third to first-person. Employees also say that CD Projekt Red struggled to manage a team of over 500, which was twice as large as The Witcher 3's development team.
There are more details in the full report, which you can read at Bloomberg. Schreier also tweeted a handful of details that were omitted from the report, saying, for instance, that the police system was "all done at the last minute."
CD Projekt's response
CD Projekt management did not offer a response to be published in Bloomberg's report, but Badowski commented after the fact in a tweet (embedded below). Badowski rejects Bloomberg's characterization of the E3 2018 demo as "fake," saying that it reflects the non-linear process of game development and was labeled as a work in progress. "Our final game looks and plays way better than what that demo ever was," he wrote.
I’ve read your piece and tweets, thank you for the read. I have some thoughts. https://t.co/T3qACdrnwM pic.twitter.com/wuzy5lXoqQJanuary 16, 2021
Badowski also challenges the idea that the majority of the staff felt the game wouldn't be ready to release in 2020, suggesting that the sample group of 20 employees is too small to make that claim. He also implies that the sources are unreliable because all but one is anonymous, but it is common to withhold the identities of sources in this sort of reporting, as their careers could be seriously harmed if they are named (that is to say, "anonymous" does not mean that they are anonymous to the reporter).
Finally, Badowski responds to the article's comment that some non-Polish staffers felt uncomfortable when others left them out of conversations by speaking Polish. He notes that, as the article states, use of English is mandated in all official company communication, but says that it's normal for people to default to their first language when speaking casually with others who share the language, something bound to happen in a company that employs people of 44 nationalities.
"If the question is if it's hard to move to another country, sometimes culture, and work and live there, then the answer is yes," writes Badowski. "But that's universal to every company all over the world, and we're doing what we can to ease that transition."
Now that the Cyberpunk 2077 launch dust has just about settled, CD Projekt says it's focused on patching the game. Because of that, the promised free DLC coming a little later in 2021 than anticipated.
There's also a standalone multiplayer component coming at some point, but there's just about no chance we'll see that this year. It was looking like 2022 for the multiplayer even before the launch problems.