It’s a tale as old as time. A tale of an overly-ambitious studio head guided by hubris, a toxic workplace environment with a strong emphasis on crunch, and an atmosphere of deception and shady business practices. And now, that tale is finally being told in full.
The development team behind 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077, in their second apology of the month, have issued a public statement.
In the video apology, Marcin Iwiński, CEO of CD Projekt SA, acknowledges the failings of the team responsible for Cyberpunk’s failure. Specifically, Iwiński takes direct responsibility as the team’s head decision-maker, absolving the overworked developers of any guilt or wrongdoing.
An exposé into the now-infamous development of the game in question recently went live, written by Bloomberg contributor Jason Schreier. In the article, Schreier dives deep into exactly what elements were at play during the development of one of the most anticipated games of the 21st Century, elements that ultimately resulted in a disaster scenario not unfamiliar to fans of science-fiction RPGs. Consumers may remember similar stories coming to light after the release of highly-anticipated titles such as Bethesda’s Fallout 76, or, more infamously, Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky.
Indeed, Schreier draws a line of comparison between the latter and Cyberpunk 2077, as CD Projekt’s immediate plans for 2021 seem to revolve around turning the title into an underdog story along the lines of 2010’s Final Fantasy XIV or 2014’s Destiny, with the team rolling out updates and revisions in the coming months to ultimately deliver on the promises made during the game’s development, including an impressive showcase at E3 2018, which, as it turns out, was almost entirely faked.
Much of Schreier’s exposé focuses on the working conditions of the laborers behind Cyberpunk’s development. As reported by Bloomberg:
“Another indication of how CD Projekt stretched things too far was that it tried to develop the engine technology behind Cyberpunk 2077, most of which was brand new, simultaneously with the game, which slowed down production. One member of the team compared the process to trying to drive a train while the tracks are being laid in front of you at the same time. It might have gone more smoothly if the track-layers had a few months head start.”
CD Projekt Red, known for playing fast and loose with its ambitious approach to game development, seems to have overplayed their hand in regards to Cyberpunk’s development. In addition to the myriad technical obstacles faced by the developers, the studio has also been accused of false advertising. Aside from the base promise of their game being playable on current-generation consoles, Redditors have compiled a list of features advertised by CD Projekt for Cyberpunk that are nowhere to be found in the final game.
Upon release, the PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 was met with critical acclaim for its approach to storytelling, expansive world design, and engaging combat, with much attention drawn to the game’s sense of progression and attention to detail. It’s approach to inclusivity, however, has received a mixed response.
The version of the game released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, however, has been met with much less fanfare, with some gamers comparing the title’s disastrous launch to the spectacular failure of Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival in 2017.
Whereas the PC version was lauded for its storytelling, with only occasional bugs interrupting the flow of gameplay, the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game were regarded upon release as buggy, broken messes. One week after their initial review, where they gave the PC version of the game a 9/10, IGN published an updated review specifically covering the console versions. In it, they described the game as “[failing] to hit even the lowest bar of technical quality one should expect even when playing on lower-end hardware.”
“It performs so poorly that it makes combat, driving, and what is otherwise a master craft of storytelling legitimately difficult to look at. It is not an exaggeration to say that I’ve felt nauseated after playing because of the terrible frame rate. It really is that bad…”
Indeed, many players have reported frequent crashes and a deluge of performance issues and missing content plaguing their gameplay experience.
Perhaps CD Projekt Red should have taken a page out of 343 Industries’ book. The studio, a subsidiary of Microsoft, announced in August an almost year-long delay for their upcoming title, Halo Infinite. After a swathe of bad press over their less-than-stellar gameplay showcase at E3 2020, 343 made the decision to delay the title until Fall 2021, a full year away from the game’s initial November 2020 release date. The decision was made after fans of the series responded overwhelmingly negatively to the graphical hiccups experienced during the presentation, including a now-memified low-resolution image of a Brute chieftain, known affectionately around the internet as “Craig”.
343’s decision was received with support from the fanbase, who praised the company for giving its product the time and attention it deserves without forcing its employees to commit to hundreds of hours of crunch, an all-too-common practice in the video game industry and one CD Projekt Red is certainly no stranger to.
Players who purchased the PlayStation 4 version of Cyberpunk 2077 were, in an unprecedented move, offered free refunds by Sony. The game was also promptly pulled from PlayStation’s online store, whereas Microsoft has opted to outfit online copies of the game with a warning of technical issues regarding the game’s performance on the Xbox One. CD Projekt Red has since pledged to dedicate 2021 to improvements towards the game’s performance on both consoles and PC, with the first major update set to go live in late January, with another, more significant update set to follow in the coming weeks.
Cyberpunk 2077 is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.