A new report has shed fresh light on Cyberpunk 2077’s troubled development.
According to Bloomberg‘s development sources (paywall), Cyberpunk 2077 suffered from a raft of technical problems and unrealistic deadlines set by CD Projekt management.
Cyberpunk 2077’s disastrous December 2020 launch, which revealed serious technical issues with the game on consoles, and glitches, bugs and cut content across all platforms, resulted in its removal from the PlayStation Store and a warning label on the Microsoft Store about the performance of the game on Xbox One.
This week, CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński addressed the events leading up to the botched launch of Cyberpunk 2077 in an attempt to explain how the game’s widely lambasted Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions were released in such a poor state.
According to Iwiński, problems with the console release stemmed from Cyperpunk’s “huge” scope – specifically the “multitude of custom objects, interacting systems, and mechanics” all condensed into a single big city and “in a relatively loading-free environment”.
Despite the significant hardware gap, the studio believed “things did not look super difficult at first”, but Iwiński conceded “time has proven that we’ve underestimated the task”.
That proof, of course, came on launch day, when considerable criticism was immediately levied at Cyberpunk’s prominent bugs and awful performance, particularly on base consoles. However, Iwiński insisted the studio’s testing “did not show a big part of the issues you experienced”, and that the developer saw “significant improvements each and every day” as it got closer to release and “really believed we’d deliver in the final day zero update”.
However, according to Bloomberg, CD Projekt’s own developers said many common problems were discovered, but the staff didn’t have time to fix them before launch. According to Bloomberg’s sources, CD Projekt’s management dismissed concerns raised by engineers that Cyberpunk 2077 was too complex to run well on the ageing last-gen consoles.
The report also revealed that while Cyberpunk 2077 was announced in 2012, full development began in 2016 when studio head Adam Badowski took over as director and overhauled the game, including shifting it from third-person to first-person.
Bloomberg reports Cyberpunk 2077’s eye-catching E3 2018 demo “was almost entirely fake”. “CD Projekt hadn’t yet finalised and coded the underlying gameplay systems, which is why so many features, such as car ambushes, were missing from the final product,” Bloomberg said. “Developers said they felt like the demo was a waste of months that should have gone toward making the game.”
Jason Schreier, author of the report, took to Twitter to reveal more, saying features originally planned for Cyberpunk 2077, such as wall-running, flying cars and ambushes were all cut during the process of development.
CD Projekt addressed the removal of the wall-running feature – shown off in gameplay demos prior to launch – in a July 2020 interview. Speaking to GameReactor, level designer Max Pears said wall-running was removed “due to design reasons”.
Previous gameplay had shown player-character V using Mantis Blades to perch in hard-to-reach spots before leaping down to assassinate enemies. This never made it into the final version of the game.
Schreier also tweeted to comment on Cyberpunk 2077’s disappointing police system, which “was all done at the last minute”.
“As is evident by the final product, it was unclear to some of the team why they were trying to make both an RPG and a GTA with a fraction of Rockstar’s staff,” Schreier said.
– And if you’re wondering why the police system in Cyberpunk 2077 is so janky: well, it was all done at the last minute. As is evident by the final product, it was unclear to some of the team why they were trying to make both an RPG and a GTA with a fraction of Rockstar’s staff
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 16, 2021
CD Projekt’s approach to crunch has come under fire in recent years. In September 2020, CD Projekt told employees it would require them to work six-day weeks until the game’s November launch (it was subsequently delayed to December), breaking a previous promise not to force compulsory overtime to finish the project.
This new, compulsory overtime was paid, as is required by Polish law, but came after many employees were reportedly working long hours already.
At the time, Badowski tweeted to say: “This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in. And, like in recent years, 10 per cent of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team.”
When CD Projekt delayed Cyberpunk a final time to December, it said it was struggling to ship the large number of different versions of the game it needed to have ready this year – including current and next-gen consoles, PC and Google Stadia.
Bloomberg reveals the extent of the crunch that occurred at the studio over the years, with some staff saying they felt pressured to put in extra hours by their managers or coworkers.
– A few non-Polish staffers shared stories about coworkers using Polish in front of them, which violated company rules. Made them feel ostracized, they said… were their coworkers talking shit about them? Combined with crunch and low salaries, this led quite a few expats to quit
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 16, 2021
Thoughts now turn to CD Projekt’s ongoing attempt to turn Cyberpunk 2077 around. The studio plans to release variably sized patches – intended to fix bugs and improve the experience across all platforms – “on a regular basis”. The first of these is due next week, with another more significant patch to follow in the coming weeks.
But will Cyberpunk 2077 patches be enough to restore CD Projekt’s reputation in the eyes of fans and investors?