Marcin Iwiński, CEO of CD Projekt SA, made a public statement this week about the disastrous launch of the Cyberpunk 2077 video game in December. He took personal responsibility and asked fans not to blame the team.
In a gloomy Five minute video The title and accompanying blog post, Iwiński acknowledged that the game “did not meet the quality standards we wanted to meet. Me and the entire leadership team are deeply sorry for this”.
Iwiński’s apology, the second in a month, was an attempt to restore the Polish company’s reputation with dozens of fans – and investors – who waited eight years for the game, only to find out that it was Full of bugs And performance issues when it was finally released. The hype around the failed debut caused a 30% drop in CD Projekt shares from December 10 through mid-January.
Interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt employees, most of whom requested anonymity in order not to risk their careers, depict a development process tinged with unchecked ambition, poor planning and technical shortcomings. The employees, who first discussed creating the game, described a company that focused on marketing at the expense of development, and an unrealistic schedule that prompted some to work long overtime. Long before the last installment. CD Projekt declined to comment on the process or provide interviews for this story.
The Polish company will spend the next few months working on the Cyberpunk 2077 fixes rather than planning expansions for the game or starting the next release of its popular franchise, The Witcher. Iwinski said the first new update would be released near the end of January and the second “in the following weeks.”
This wasn’t the way the development team envisioned it from 2021. Now, instead of celebrating a successful release, they’ll aim to turn Cyberpunk 2077 into a redemption story. It will be an uphill battle. Unlike competitors like Electronic Arts Inc. And Ubisoft Entertainment SA, CD Projekt only releases one major game every few years, so the company has been counting on Cyberpunk 2077 for a huge hit.
Cyberpunk 2077, the role-playing game set in the bitter sci-fi world, has a lot to do with it. Warsaw-based CD Projekt was already known for its groundbreaking title earlier, The Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk capitalized on a massive advertising campaign and the lead role of the actor Keanu Reeves. Thanks to the pre-launch hype, the game sold 13 million copies at $ 60 apiece in the first ten days after its release. CD Projekt was, for a while, the most valuable company in Poland.
Early reviews were generally good, but once players had the game in their hands, they realized that it had problems on computers and was almost in playable on consoles. It performed so poorly that Sony Corp removed the game from the PlayStation Store and View refundsIt is an unprecedented move, while Microsoft has flagged customers that “they may encounter performance issues on Xbox One until the game gets updated.” CD Projekt is facing a lawsuit against an investor over allegations that have been misleading.
In his letter, Iwinski He admits that the company has “underestimated the mission.” He said that since Game City was “so congested and the disk bandwidth for older generation consoles was the same, it was a constant challenge for us.” While the company tested extensively prior to the game’s release, Iwiński said it didn’t show many of the issues players faced. The developers who worked in the game argued otherwise, saying that several common issues had been discovered. Staff didn’t have time to fix it.
Cyberpunk 2077 was an ambitious project by all accounts. CD Projekt’s previous success, The Witcher, is set in a medieval fictional world full of swords and spells. But everything in Cyberpunk was a departure from this framework. Cyberpunk was science fiction, not fiction. Instead of a third-person camera in which the player character appeared on screen, Cyberpunk used a first-person view. Making a Cyberpunk CD Projekt requires investing in new technology, new employees, and new technologies that they have never discovered before.
Another indication of how CD Projekt is expanding things so far is that it tried to develop the engine technology behind Cyberpunk 2077, most of which was brand new, in conjunction with the game, slowing production. A team member compared the operation to trying to drive a train while simultaneously laying the tracks ahead of you. It would probably be smoother if the track layers had a few months in the beginning.
Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer at CD Projekt, said one of his colleagues asked during a meeting how the company thinks it will be able to implement a more technically challenging project in the same timeframe as The Witcher. He said, “One of them answered, ‘We’ll find it along the way.’
For years, CD Projekt has thrived on that mindset. This time, however, the company was unable to achieve success. “I knew it wasn’t going well,” Jacobec said. “I just didn’t know how disastrous it would be.”
Part of the fans’ disappointment was proportional to the amount of time they spent waiting for the match. Staff said that although Cyberpunk was announced in 2012, the company was still primarily focused on its latest title and didn’t begin full development until late 2016. That was when CD Projekt basically pressed the reset button, according to people familiar with the matter. On the project.
Adam Badowsky, head of the studio, took over the director’s position, demanding an overhaul of Cyberpunk’s gameplay and story. In the following year, everything was changing, including basic elements like gameplay perspective. The senior staff who worked on The Witcher 3 had strong opinions about how Cyberpunk was made, which clashed with Badowski and eventually led to the departure of many of the top developers.
Much of CD Projekt’s focus, according to many people who have worked on Cyberpunk 2077, has been on impressing the outside world. Part of the gameplay was shown at E3, the industry’s premier commercial event, in 2018. The main character is shown embarking on a mission, giving players a big tour of the crime-ridden Night City.
Fans and journalists have dazzled Cyberpunk 2077’s ambition and scale. What they didn’t know was that the demo was almost completely fake. CD Projekt has not yet finalized the basic gameplay and codecs, which is why not many features, such as car traps, are out of the end product. The developers said they felt the demo was a waste of months that should have gone towards making the game.
Employees worked long hours, although Iwiński told employees that overtime would not be mandatory in Cyberpunk 2077. More than a dozen workers said they felt pressured to put in extra hours by their managers or co-workers anyway.
“There were times when I was spending up to 13 hours a day – maybe that record was a little over – and I was doing five days a week that way,” said Jakubiak, a former audio programmer, adding that he quit the company after getting married. “I have some friends who lost their families because of this kind of scam.”
The extra time did not make game development faster. At E3 in June 2019, CD Projekt announced that the game would be released on April 16, 2020. Fans were elated, but internally, some of the team members were only able to bog their heads, wondering how they could finish the game by then. Someone said he thought the date was a joke. Based on the team’s progress, they expected the game to be ready in 2022. The developers have created notes about the game’s lag, and are betting on when it will happen.
The developers said removing features and downsizing Cyberpunk City helped, but the team’s growth hindered some departments.
While The Witcher 3 was created by roughly 240 in-house employees, according to the company, Cyberpunk’s credits show the game boasts more than 500 in-house developers. But since CD Projekt wasn’t used to such a size, people who worked in the game said their teams often felt isolated and disorganized.
Meanwhile, CD Projekt remained understaffed. Games like Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption II, often presented as examples of the quality the company wanted to support, were made by dozens of offices and thousands of people.
There were also cultural barriers that resulted from the employment of expats from the United States and Western Europe. The studio mandated everyone to speak English during meetings with non-Polish speakers, but not everyone followed the rules.
Even as the timeline seemed increasingly unrealistic, management said delay was not an option. Their goal was to launch Cyberpunk 2077 before announcing new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, expected in the fall of 2020. That way, the company could launch the game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the existing PC, and then “double downhill” by releasing releases. On the road to next generation consoles. People who purchased old console versions will get free upgrades when new versions become available. Some engineers realized that Cyberpunk was a game too complex to play well on its seven-year-old consoles, as its city was filled with bustling crowds and huge buildings. They said the management dismissed their concerns, however, citing their success in pulling The Witcher 3 out.
But by the end of 2019, the management has finally acknowledged that Cyberpunk needs to be delayed. Last January, the company postponed the release of the game to September. In March, when an epidemic started sweeping the world and forcing people to stay indoors, CD Projekt employees had to complete the game from their homes. Without access to office console development kits, most developers were playing game designs on home computers, so it wasn’t clear to everyone how Cyberpunk could play on PS4 and Xbox One. However, external tests showed clear performance issues.
Iwi alsoski also said that communication issues caused by work teams at home amid the Covid-19 restrictions mean that “a lot of the dynamics we usually take for granted” were lost via video calls or emails. The start of the game slipped again, until November.
With the launch date approaching, everyone in the studio realized the game was in rough condition and needed more time, according to several people familiar with the development. Pieces of the dialogue were missing. Some of the procedures did not work properly. When the administration announced in October that the game was “golden” – and that it was ready to be squeezed onto tablets – major bugs were still being discovered. The match was delayed another three weeks as the weary programmers scrambled to fix as best they could.
When Cyberpunk 2077 finally launched on December 10, the reaction was swift and furious. Players shared videos of screens full of tiny trees or characters wandering around without panties, compiled Features lists That was promised but was not in the final product.
The developers say many bugs and graphic issues can be fixed, although it’s not clear what it takes to regain a place in the PlayStation Store. Gaining fans might be difficult, but there is a precedent in the world of video games. Games like No Man’s Sky, the space simulator; Final Fantasy XIV, Online Role-playing game; And Destiny, a multiplayer shooting game, has recovered from its difficult launches and garnered critical acclaim by gradually improving post-launch. The market appears to be optimistic. CD Projekt shares rose 6%, the highest in six weeks, after Iwiński’s letter.