This article has been updated with a response from CDPR to the original Bloomberg piece, check that out below.
Cyberpunk 2077 is back in the headlines again this week, folks. The game had been worked on for nearly eight years, and it still came out looking like a mess. There were rumors floating around that things were messy, but we finally have some idea how bad it really was. The new rumor floating around is that thanks to unchecked ambition and confusion, development only really got going in the last four years. According to a new report from Bloomberg, that assumption is very much true, but it gets worse.
That new report takes a look at the testimony and stories of 20 current and former CDPR employees for a real look inside what the game was like during development. One infamous moment has now been crystallized in the memory of fans, when CD Projekt Red boss Marcin Iwiński told everyone that he wasn’t going to crunch developers. That turned out to be a lie. The company then reiterated the lies again and again.
“There were times when I would crunch up to 13 hours a day—a little bit over that was my record probably—and I would do five days a week working like that,” Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer at CD Projekt Red, told Bloomberg. “I have some friends who lost their families because of these sort of shenanigans.”
And what did that nightmarish crunch get us? A broken mess. The reviews and regular feedback from users, especially for console versions, was almost unanimously outraged. The game was littered with loading time issues and texture bugs. Level boundaries were broken, leading to players falling out the map. The physics behind collision detection ran into hilarious problems. The list goes on and on. This should definitely prove that crunch doesn’t work to produce a good result, especially when one considers the cost.
The launch was a nightmare for everyone involved. Sony and other console makers pulled the game from their stores in response to how broken it was. Microsoft offered an indefinite refund period for the game. Best Buy even began accepting returns of opened boxed copies. Through all of this, CDPR leadership toed the line of innocence and ignorance. So just how the heck did we get here? That report seems to suggest it was like this from the beginning.
“At E3 in June 2019, CD Projekt announced that the game would come out on April 16, 2020,” writes Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier. “Fans were elated, but internally, some members of the team could only scratch their heads, wondering how they could possibly finish the game by then. One person said they thought the date was a joke.” The article goes on to say that the game probably wouldn’t be ready until 2022, based on the testimony of one team member. Needless to say, but progress was slow, and the leadership seemed not to care. And all the hype just kept building, despite all the lies.
And now, this is where we are. There are millions of upset gamers, and the leadership continues to try and sidestep blame.
But that’s not all that we have to talk about, as the folks at CDPR have seemingly doubled down on this stuff all over again. CD Projekt leadership has stepped out of the shadows to talk about the game and what went wrong, while promising to make things better. But sadly, it pretty much backfired for them.
They admitted some fault on shipping the game, but then this apology did something that basically no one thought they would do, as the apology essentially blamed the QA department for the buggy console launch. This is one of the key criticisms of the launch, aside from a few other important notes. The company swept the state of the console port under the rug.
“Our testing did not show a big part of the issues you experienced,” the video said, hinting that the team somehow missed the constant bugs that were pretty much everywhere. There is no way the QA team didn’t know exactly what the console ports were like, as the issues are all over the place. Are we really going to believe this assertion that the team got through many test runs without any of the commonly reported issues?
The game’s entire development cycle was on the PS4 and Xbox One generation, so suggesting that there weren’t issues to be seen, like major texture pop-in and more, is absurd. In fact, it seems more and more likely that the leadership on the project covered these things up. One report on social media suggests that the management pointed to how well The Witcher 3 was received as a milestone to aim for, pushing teams to work harder to live up to that legacy. Trouble is, these teams didn’t have the tools they needed. There are allegations that the developers didn’t even have tools to check what assets were in the pipeline, so that they didn’t say, work on the same shader for two different tasks. These kinds of oversights are emblematic of a leadership team that cares more about ambition and reputation than actually delivering a good product. And judging by their response after launch, that rings pretty true.
And about that other important notes, it concerns the way the company handled giving out review codes. The versions given out for reviews were almost exclusively PC codes. That means that much of these positive reviews that CDPR touted were based entirely on the PC versions, and millions of gamers were effectively duped into expecting a much better game than what they got. OpenCritic even listed a warning on the game’s page telling users about this issue.
So what does that mean for the future? Well, most players have already moved on, as Cyberpunk 2077 has lost a huge chunk of its playerbase already. So even if the company is still making excuses, and they will be, at least they’re trying to make things right. And despite all of the excuses, the company will eventually patch the game. There have been rumors that cut content is being restored, but those are doubted by many.
To go along with that video, there was a written statement that echoed similar sentiments. The company doubled down on the idea of fixing bugs and making things better for fans. “The team is working to bring relevant fixes to the game without any obligatory overtime,” CD Projekt Red wrote. “Avoiding crunch on all of our future projects is one of our top priorities.”
CDPR Responds Again
Following the publication of the piece by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier before publication, they have now responded. A statement was issued by CDPR through studio head Adam Badowski. Adam Badowski rejects Bloomberg’s characterization of the game’s marketing, particularly focusing on the E3 2018 demo. “Our final game looks and plays way better than what that demo ever was,” he wrote.
The response also went further and said that “this demo evolved into something that got multiple 9/10s and 10/10s on PC from many [renowned] gaming outlets in the world.” Just never you mind the fact that many of these reviews handing out perfect scores had to overlook genuine issues with quality-of-life, repetition and UI usability to give out those scores, and that’s just the obvious issues beyond performance. Reviewers can be wrong or influenced by hype as can anyone else, it’s not an objective way to paper over criticism to say you got perfect scores. Also, ignore that this assertion glosses over the console mess entirely. A 10/10 game is objectively perfect, and that’s plainly not something you can say about Cyberpunk 2077. There’s a reason that many outlets have moved beyond handing out numbered scores. And a big part of it is the subjectivity of both the reviewer and the audience.
Schreier took the word of his sources, showing that the content in that demo was largely not representative of the final game. Sure, some final elements made it in, but there’s plenty missing. The demo was called “fake” as a result. CD Projekt’s response also included rebuttals of the idea that the dev team wasn’t ready to ship the game. It would seem that CDPR is convinced the game was ready to ship in 2020, and the frontline devs allegedly agreed. The response, to this response, from gamers and fans has not been charitable, to say the least.
Badowski also responds to other allegations in the report, namely that some staff felt ostracized by staff members speaking Polish when they did not. For context, CDPR is located in Poland, and has a company policy that all staff should be able to communicate in English. It’s a system designed to prevent the kind of insecurity highlighted by those same allegedly ostracized staff, wondering if they were being insulted in a language they didn’t understand. The CDPR position is to simply argue that the claim is invalid and that it’s not a big issue.
You can find the full statement below: