A CD Projekt Red dev has revealed that team morale took a "significant hit" following the difficult launch of sci-fi RPG Cyberpunk 2077.
Speaking with esports company Inven Global at the Inven Game Conference, Colin Walder, who currently works at CD Projekt Red as an Engineering Director for Management and Audio, addressed the tricky period in the studio's history.
"It was indeed a challenge," began Walder. "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."
Cyberpunk 2077's launch back in 2020 was notoriously buggy, so much so that it prompted our sister site Windows Central to put together a list of major glitches and workarounds - many of which verged on game-breaking. The bugs also affected TRG's review at the time, where we observed that there were "plenty of glitches to contend with."
Fortunately for Walder and his colleagues, in 2023, Cyberpunk 2077 has been enjoying something of a renaissance. The free patch 2.0 update was well received by fans and critics alike as was paid expansion Phantom Liberty. However, it's been a long road for the Polish studio.
Walder touched on the problem of "crunch" - where employees are pressured into working excessive hours in pursuit of unreasonably tight deadlines. When it comes to winning back the trust of employees after lapsing into such practices, "you've got to demonstrate commitment," he said.
"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."
Walder also stressed that CD Projekt Red has been inspired by the Cyberpunk 2077 launch debacle to take a different approach to Polaris, the studio's upcoming Witcher project. "We're already running our demos and internal reviews on the console from the very beginning," he remarked. "This is a step we only took later in Cyberpunk's development."
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.