Marcin Iwinski, co-founder of CD Projekt Red, put out a video yesterday providing an apology and some insight into what happened inside the studio to lead to the highly-publicised issues around Cyberpunk 2077’s launch.
The key issue that Iwinski tackles is that of performance on last-gen consoles. We thought this was the initial target hardware for the game, as initial release dates for Cyberpunk before the new console’s launch.
However, Iwinski notes that PC was the focus, with adjustments then considered to make it work on PS4 and Xbox One. “We wanted it to look epic on PCs and then adjusting it to console, especially old gens.” Which seems, if it was that simple, somewhat short-sighted given the huge numbers of pre-orders for those devices.
Speaking of that process Iwinski said: “Things did not look super difficult at first, we knew the hardware gap, but time has proven that we underestimated the task.” Adding that the core issue was the density of Night City, and streaming in data at a sufficient speed on the old consoles, “it constantly challenged us.” He notes that the city was far more taxing than a more expansive, countryside-based open world – such as found in The Witcher 3
As they got closer to final release they saw “significant improvements each and every day” and “we really believed that we would deliver in the final Day zero update”. With improvements being made the team decided to send out console review codes on the 8th of December.
That tallies with our belief about what happened. The team set a date for release, and with improvements being made, they convinced themselves (and Sony and Xbox) that they would make up the ground in time for the day one patch. Of course they were wrong, progress must have stalled, maybe their were no more incremental improvements left to make, and the game simply didn’t make up the final yards needed.
Iwinski does note, very reasonably, that the current pandemic played its part. Making it hard for the team to function as normal and make the best decisions: “This all happened while working at home during the COVID restrictions. A lot of the dynamics we normally take for granted got lost over video calls or email.”
It must have been a contributing factor. But the whole release should make both developers and platforms highly sceptical about the improvements that can be made in the final few weeks of development. If a game isn’t at a basically playable state on all platforms, then the launch shouldn’t be committed to in a way that cannot be changed.
Yes, this happens all the time, yes I’m sure you all have many examples where it was the right call in retrospect. But it’s a big warning shot to the industry as a whole that such methods are playing with fire, and you can get burnt.
Iwinski apologises for what happened and promises that things will improve.
“I and the entire leadership team are deeply sorry for this. Please don’t fault any of our teams for what happened. It was our call to release the game, though we never, ever intended anything like this to happen. I assure you we will do our best to regain your trust.”