CD Projekt has again apologized for the state of Cyberpunk 2077's launch, this time with a five-minute video from company co-founder Marcin Iwinski rather than another yellow postcard. Iwinski focuses on the painful last-gen console performance, but also addresses the PC version's bugs, and the studio's plans for the next year of DLC and updates.
Some of Iwinski's comments are straightforward and pretty easy to take at face value: Iwinski surely didn't want things to go this way, and there's no doubt that Cyberpunk 2077 is a huge and technically complex game that was never going to be easy to release on PC and across two generations of consoles. However, some of his answers raise more questions—for CD Projekt, the business of making games today, and for ourselves. You can watch the video above. Here's what we're thinking about:
Why was so much responsibility placed on the day-one patch?
A big source of trouble, according to Iwinski, was that Cyberpunk 2077 was designed first to look great on high-end PCs (thanks!) and was then adapted for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. "We had to constantly improve our in-game streaming system for old-gen consoles," he said, and though it was challenging, things seemed to be getting better as Cyberpunk 2077 approached release. "We really believed we'd deliver in the final day zero update."
The problems were not just to do with texture and geometry streaming, and I find it surprising that this much chaos was supposed to be fixed by one update. We're used to seeing a few technical fixes come with a launch patch, and open world games are always a bit buggy, but I watched Chris load a save where his guy was helplessly frozen in mid-air on a motorcycle, being riddled with bullets. We've seen AI-driven cars aimlessly smash into the scenery or clip into the pavement and explode, NPCs walking through walls and into the sky or getting wedged in the geometry, cameras getting stuck so you can walk around headless in third-person, and players being launched through the air for seemingly no reason. And regarding the last-gen consoles, it is surprising to me that their ability to run the game properly was scheduled to be checked off on the day the game launched, and not, say, as the first order of business.
Maybe that's impossible, and you just have to go big and then scale back in order to develop for multiple platforms these days, but I still wonder if this much reliance on a down-to-the-last-second patch is really typical of the industry. I suppose I could accept it if I also accepted that CD Projekt really didn't know about all these bugs, but as Chris says below, that's a bit hard to swallow. —Tyler Wilde
Did testing really not show the issues?
"Our testing did not show a big part of the issues," Iwinski says, and this is pretty difficult to believe. I've got about 50 hours in Cyberpunk 2077 (on PC) at this point, and this is no exaggeration—I don't think I've got a solid 10 minute stretch over those 50 hours without seeing some bug, glitch, AI misfire, or some other wonky problem. A lot of it is minor, but it's almost always distracting and glaringly obvious when something isn't working right. And we know the issues are far worse and even more obvious on console.
I just can't believe people testing the game didn't see these issues, which probably means (as I'm sure regularly happens) they simply weren't listened to. I'll bet problems were both seen and reported, but they certainly weren't solved, and this statement feels like CDPR is throwing testers under the bus after supposedly "owning up" to the troubled launch. It's a shitty move! If you hire people to test games, you need to listen to them and give your team the time to actually fix the issues. Sounds like neither of those things happened.—Chris Livingston
Are date-less roadmaps the future?
In 2019, Epic reorganized its Epic Store development roadmap. It stopped displaying estimates of how many months new features would take to develop, and started communicating only which features were done, which were coming next, and which were marked for "future development."
"We regularly delay feature releases due to shifting priorities and the need for further iteration," said Epic, explaining the change.
Likewise, the Cyberpunk 2077 DLC and patch roadmap debuted with this apology features no specific dates, and fills in most of 2021 with a big bar that represents "multiple updates and improvements." The graphic is not much more useful than just saying, 'hey, we're going to update the game throughout the year,' but prepare for it to be the new norm. Games and updates are delayed all the time, which seems to be a near-universal symptom of how games are developed today. That being a constant, announcing a specific release date for anything before it's already done means risking a delay announcement, or a possibly disastrous premature release. Less specificity when it comes to release and update schedules means more uncertainty for us, which isn't ideal, but there could be good effects, too—being surprised isn't the worst thing in the world (remember how Fallout 4 was announced the summer before it released?), and if it saves developers from crunching to meet pre-announced dates, that's certainly welcome. —Tyler Wilde
How much will performance patches and bug fixes Cyberpunk 2077 change our recommendation?
Let's step back and imagine the best case scenario for this proposed roadmap. At some point in 2021, Cyberpunk 2077 becomes a bug-free, well-optimized game. Is it suddenly a game I recommend without reservations? Nah. Not even close. Cyberpunk's problems are much bigger than the bugs—it's still a pretty shallow RPG with bland combat and stupefying design decisions.
The focus in this apology is on the console versions, but Cyberpunk 2077 was rushed out the door on PC too. We can't dress the way we want without stress, there's no barber in a fictional world where transhumanism is hip, and cops magically apparate wherever a crime is committed. Most neighborhoods are just scenery, lacking NPC interactions and quests that would make Night City feel like a real place. There's a nice main quest and some nice characters running through it, but a dearth of stuff to do afterwards. All this noise around the launch and plans for fixing the game only reinforce the fact it needed another year, minimum, in the oven. I'm still cautiously optimistic for the future of Cyberpunk 2077, but my personal timeline keeps growing. If it wasn't my job, I'd just check in two years from now. —James Davenport