It’s no secret that Cyberpunk 2077 has had a redemption arc with update 2.0 and the Phantom Liberty expansion. The launch of the CD Projekt Red RPG was rough in 2020, with players facing a largely broken game and developers receiving the brunt of their criticism. This situation has now been commented on by a CDPR veteran, who’s talked about the internal changes since release and how development processes have changed since then too, especially for the upcoming The Witcher game project Polaris.
Cyberpunk 2077 engineering director Colin Walder has been at CD Projekt Red for eight years, and after giving a talk at Inven Game Conference, sat down with Inven Global for a chat about audio technology, the culture at RPG game maker CDPR, and what’s changing going into the next game, codenamed Polaris.
“This approach we had, the way we were working production-wise, creating demos, and moving towards an agile mindset and workflow – it’s about ensuring we’re on top of certain things from the start,” Walder explains.
“Take consoles, for example; we need to make sure they’re functioning from the get-go. For our next project, Polaris, we’re already running our demos and internal reviews on the console from the very beginning. This is a step we only took later in Cyberpunk’s development.”
Polaris is the first of three new games in The Witcher series from CD Projekt Red. It’s currently in the pre-production phase and will be the start of a new saga that will encompass a trilogy of games.
Walder continues with Inven Global: “Regarding other tools or strategies for maintaining morale post-release, especially after the difficulties we faced – it was indeed a challenge.
“The morale took a significant hit; that’s clear. The crucial thing was to acknowledge what happened. We had to admit that the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for and that we were determined to change things. But it’s one thing to say it; it has to be put into practice, you know? Actions speak louder than words.
“You’ve got to demonstrate commitment. For instance, when a deadline is looming, instead of reverting to crunch, we might say, ‘Let’s adjust the schedule,’ or, ‘Let’s approach this differently.’ Once this becomes a repeated behavior—once the team sees a genuine effort to prevent crunch – that’s when trust and morale start to rebuild. People need to see it to believe it.”
Back in 2019, CD Projekt Red promised less crunch on Cyberpunk 2077 than in The Witcher 3, but this didn’t stop a series of layoffs at the company in recent years. Mere months ago CDPR said it would be laying off around 100 staffers, or 9% of its workforce, into next year, and this was the catalyst for developers at the studio to form a union earlier this month.
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