The studio behind Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red, has already outlined a timeline for fixing the game over the coming year and apologized for its unfinished feel. But a new in-depth report from Bloomberg, based on interviews with more than 20 current and former staff, suggests that the state of the game on release was anything but a surprise.
While the game was originally announced in 2012 — a year ahead of the PS4 and Xbox One’s release, and three years before The Witcher 3’s debut — the company wouldn’t begin working on it properly until “late 2016.” At that point, the report’s sources say CD Projekt Red “essentially hit the reset button” changing the game from third to first person perspective amongst other things.
It also didn’t help that the company was apparently trying to build the engine and game simultaneously — something akin to “trying to drive a train while the tracks are being laid in front of you at the same time,” according to one team member.
The E3 trailer which wowed the world in 2018 was “almost entirely fake,” the report adds, which is why features like car ambushes were in the demo but absent in the final product.
The report is full of interesting details, but overall it paints a picture of an overambitious and overworked studio working with faith that things would be okay due to the success of The Witcher 3. While the problems were undoubtedly exacerbated by the pandemic and the need to work remotely (access to console dev kits were limited, meaning the horrendous performance issues on last-gen consoles weren’t as obvious as they would be otherwise), it sounds like this was only one piece of a larger dysfunctional puzzle.
When the game’s initial release date of April 16, 2020 was announced, Bloomberg’s sources claim that they knew it was only a matter of time before it was delayed, some creating memes and making bets on when the inevitable would happen.
Since publication, game director Adam Badowski has responded to some of the elements of the report on Twitter.
I’ve read your piece and tweets, thank you for the read. I have some thoughts. https://t.co/T3qACdrnwM pic.twitter.com/wuzy5lXoqQJanuary 16, 2021
In particular, he takes issue with the idea that the E3 demo was “fake,” arguing that it’s merely a reflection of the non-linear way that games are developed, while also suggesting that a sample of 20 employees (some of them ex employees, and mostly anonymous) doesn’t necessarily reflect the feelings of the team as a whole. That’s possibly true, though to be clear, unnamed sources are unlikely to be an issue: speaking on the condition of anonymity is often the only way that sources will be candid, given the potential risk to their career otherwise.
In any case, Cyberpunk 2077’s journey remains unfinished, and the team has committed to two more large patches, multiple smaller updates and improvements, free DLC and free next-gen console updates before the year is out. Hopefully over time, the game everyone hoped to see will emerge from the controversy as a classic to stand the test of time.