Like driving a train “while the tracks are being laid in front of you”
Chris De Hoog |
Jan 18, 2021
Over a month after its launch, details on the tumultuous creation of Cyberpunk 2077 continue to trickle out. A new report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier adds to the evidence that CD Projekt Red knew they were releasing an incomplete product.
These new accounts from staffers suggest that the game was essentially reset halfway through its supposed 8-year development time. When the game was first announced in 2012, most of the team was still hard at work on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. After its launch, those staffers were brought on to Cyberpunk 2077 and CDPR “essentially hit the reset button.”
This, in itself, is not uncommon; Final Fantasy VII Remake and Metroid Prime 4 have both thrown out years of early development in the past decade, to name a few. But without the same transparency shown by Square Enix and Nintendo respectively, the infamous length of Cyberpunk 2077 only amplified its expectations and the ensuing backlash.
Two years into its real development, CD Projekt Red showed off its long-awaited title to great acclaim, but in reality the gameplay reveal demo shown was “almost entirely fake,” according to Schreier’s sources. “CD Projekt hadn’t yet finalized and coded the underlying gameplay systems,” he wrote, “which is why so many features, such as car ambushes, were missing from the final product. Developers said they felt like the demo was a waste of months that should have gone toward making the game.”
Former audio programmer Adrian Jakubiak told Schreier the company’s plan was to “figure it out along the way,” despite the dramatic increase in complexity from The Witcher 3 to Cyberpunk 2077. This led to the intense levels of overtime reported months before the game’s eventual release last month. Jakubiak reported working up to 13 hours a day, five days a week. Another source compared the effort to “trying to drive a train while the tracks are being laid in front of you at the same time.”
Despite all the extra time, the product was not shaping up in time—so much so, that many on the development team were surprised when the original release date of April 16, 2020. CD Projekt Red was slow to listen to their concerns and delayed the game multiple times, with stubbornly optimistic goals. Even when the game “went gold,” bugs were still being found, leading to another embarrassing eleventh-hour delay. Being forced to work from home, away from the office’s console development kits, only compounded difficulties, and ultimately the retail version had not been tested properly for non-PC players.
The goal, according to Schreier’s sources, was to get the game out before the new generation of consoles. This way they could encourage players to “double dip” when they later released a version designed for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
CD Projekt Red’s Studio Head Adam Badowski responded to Schreier’s article on Twitter, despite the company’s refusal to speak prior to the article’s publication. Badowski defended the final product, claiming “our final game look and plays way better than what [the E3 2018] demo ever was. […] The vision we presented in this demo evolved into something that got multiple 9/10s and 10/10 on PC from many renown gaming outlets in the world [sic].”
He added that the current generation consoles are “another case, but we’ve owned up to that and are working super hard to eliminated bugs (on PC, too—we know that’s not a perfect version either) and we are proud of Cyberpunk 2077 as a game and artistic vision. This all is not what I’d call disastrous.”