This is the year of Cyberpunk 2077’s about-face. Between the game’s wide-ranging 2.0 update and its slick Phantom Liberty expansion pack, most onlookers now agree that the game is—if not the awe-inspiring masterwork it was hyped up to be prior to release—pretty good. But over at CD Projekt, the game’s disastrous launch still looms large in devs’ memories, and they’re keen to avoid a repeat performance.
So says Colin Walder, CD Projekt Red engineering director, in a chat with InvenGlobal. Walder told the outlet that morale at CDPR “took a significant hit” following Cyberpunk 2077’s unhappy release. “Maintaining morale post-release,” said Walder, recalling the widespread disappointment of fans when they finally got their hands on the game in its early days, “was indeed a challenge”. But hey, he says the studio’s learned its lessons, and you—and CDP’s devs—can expect a better launch for the next Witcher game, currently codenamed Polaris.
Walder says CDP now makes sure it’s “on top of certain things from the start,” pointing specifically at the studio’s development for consoles. “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.” That’s something the studio only started paying attention to “later in Cyberpunk’s development,” said Walder, which probably contributed to the game’s terrible performance on console and its wholesale removal from the PlayStation store.
That might not sound enormously relevant to you and me here on PC Gamer dot com, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and a more robust development pipeline for CDP’s future games should—at least in theory—work out better for all of us when those games finally come out.
Of course, something that’s also a little pertinent to team morale is the crunch that Cyberpunk devs had to endure in order to get that game out of the door in any state at all. Walder addressed that too, saying that the company had to “demonstrate commitment” after admitting that Cyberpunk’s launch was a disappointment and that it was “determined to change things”.
“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’,” said Walder. “Once this becomes a repeated behaviour—once the team sees a genuine effort to prevent crunch—that’s when trust and morale start to rebuild.”
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that CDP made promises about crunch ahead of Cyberpunk’s launch too. Specifically, that it would be committed to the strange prospect of “non-obligatory crunch” that devs could take or leave. That went out the window when push came to shove, and crunch was eventually made mandatory. Only time will tell if this new commitment is any more durable than the previous one, but at least devs have the recently established Polish Gamedev Workers Union to back them up this time round. Let’s hope it’s enough.