After Cyberpunk 2077’s much anticipated release in 2020 failed to live up to expectations, the team’s morale took a “significant hit”.
That’s according to Colin Walder, an engineering director at CD Projekt Red with over 15 years of experience in the games industry, who previously worked on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Rockstar titles Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto 5. Walder recently spoke to invenglobal at the Inven Game Conference in South Korea, where he discussed lessons learned from Cyberpunk 2077.
“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 said. “Take consoles, for example; we need to make sure they’re functioning from the get-go. For our next project, Polaris [part of a new trilogy of games in CDPR’s Witcher series
Walder admitted: “This is a step we only took later in Cyberpunk’s development.”
The developer went on to discuss the team’s morale in a post-Cyberpunk 2077 world, stating that it took a “significant hit” after the game’s launch.
“Regarding other tools or strategies for maintaining morale post-release, especially after the difficulties we faced – it was indeed a challenge,” he said. “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.”
Walder said the team now needs to “demonstrate commitment” to this change, saying “actions speak louder than words”.
“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 behaviour – once the team sees a genuine effort to prevent crunch – that’s when trust and morale start to rebuild.”
Walder noted: “People need to see it to believe it.”
Despite its incredibly rocky launch, Cyberpunk 2077 has seen a huge transformation in recent times. Along with its bumper 2.0 patch, the studio also released its Phantom Liberty expansion to much praise. In fact, the company recently announced it has now shifted 25m copies of Cyberpunk 2077, while Phantom Liberty sold 3m copies in its first week of launch.
This really does feel like a new era for the once-beleaguered series, with a sequel in development and a live-action project also in the pipeline. Let’s just hope CDPR stays good on what Walder has said, and it will avoid crunching for its future releases.