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As Cyberpunk 2077 develops, CD Projekt Cherven promises to be "more humane" to its workers

Snapshots of the upcoming role-playing game Киберпанд 2077 fans have blown up yet, but coupled with this over-bizarre question is whether the workers at CD Projekt Red, the Polish studio behind the game, ruin their lives to do so?

The most famous developer The Witch series has cultivated a reputation for crisis – wants its employees to work nights and weekends for weeks or months at a time – but the management of the studio now tells Kotaku they want to improve their work-life balance, even if they still feel that the crisis is a necessity.

"We are known – let me be humble for a moment here – we are known for treating gamers with respect," said Marcin Ivinsky, co-founder of the company, in an interview Kotaku this week. "That's where we work hard. And I will actually do it [like] to be known for our attitude to developers. "

One of the ways in which the company plans to do so, said Ivaninski, is through an "optional crisis policy," which is not entirely new, but that CD Projekt Red, based in Warsaw, plans to push harder. He wants to be clear Киберпанд 2077Developers who even when the studio asks to work at night and on weekends is not "mandatory".

"We've been working on it for a while," Ivinsky said.

"We have clearly communicated to people that there are, of course, some points in which we have to work harder – as I think the E3 demo is a good example – but we want to be more humane and respectful of people. If they have to take a break, they can take time. No one will be gloomy if requested. "

Of course, everyone who works everywhere knows that the boss's request should not be "mandatory" to be something you need to do.

When tested, Ivinsky will not promise to limit the crisis to specific periods or to offer specific numbers except to say that he hopes to make this public statement to help CD Projekt Red employees feel more comfortable about telling managers when they do not want in extra hours.

"I think this is the commitment we are ready to do today and we will listen to people," he said. "Here we definitely open many lines of dialogue and we would like to start with this."

I booked an appointment for E3 Киберпанд 2077 when a representative of CD Projekt Red offered me to contact Iwiński and Adam Badowski, studio director and director of Cyberpunk, to talk about the working conditions in their company.

They said they followed the talks that took place today in the video game industry and read the latest research by Kotaku and other exits for work practices in companies such as Rockstar and BioWare.

Crunch is ubiquitous in the video game industry, and CD Projekt Red wanted to take some position. They said they wanted to show that they listened, improved, and worked to ensure this Киберпанд 2077It's less painful than that The Witch 3Which has forced most of the company to work in long hours.

Perhaps they also wanted to avoid a potential story. After publishing our anthem an investigation last month that documented the turbulent development marked by maladministration, crisis and anxiety, four former CD Projekt Red employees told me they had seen similar problems in Warsaw.

"I felt there were hundreds of parallels that could be made between the history of rock development anthem and the history of the rocky and even more rocky development of the Киберпанд 2077– said a former CDPR employee in an email.

"Sometimes I felt I could just replace the name of the studio and the title of the game, and everything would look so similar, almost identical."

There were rumors about financial problems that are turning into CD Projekt Red after the disappointing performance of last year Thronebreaker the virtual cartoon campaign in the studio Gwent, Ivanski and Badovski denied rumors. "We have a big fighting clash," said Ivinsky.

There are signs that the development of Киберпанд 2077 may not go smoothly.

For example, because the staff who came to me told me that this year the company told staff to work during the holidays in Poland and that there would be lengthy rest periods. Developers of CD Projekt Red have to limit their holidays to certain hours in 2019. Instead of flying off, they have to limit their vacations to a certain time in 2019. One period will be this winter, right after E3, and another will be in the summer.

Managers confirmed so much when asked. "We are trying to organize holidays better and rationalize efforts," Adam Badovski said. "This is a general rule for the studio, but if there are special cases, we will obviously take care of these people. And that's our concern for this year.

"And we'll see – maybe it's okay, maybe it's wrong. Then we will study and take care of the people … When the proceedings take five years for four years, it is super normal and then it is the last year and we have some special rules only for that period. "

"I felt there were hundreds of parallels that could be made between the history of the rock's evolution and the history of the rock and even more rocky development of the Cyberpunk 2077." – Former CD Projekt Red Developer

Although CD Projekt Red first announced Киберпанд 2077 in 2013 the development of the game really did not start until 2015, after the launch of the The Witch 3Then followed a difficult period of preparation (including at least one big change of direction) and the studio made the very common mistake of moving its entire development team Cyberpunk before the project supports many people.

Add major technological repairs and have a recipe for disaster. "It's always the same story in the whole industry," Badovski says. "If you change the technology and create the game at the same time, it's a nightmare for most companies."

This led to a tough period for the company, which was marked by turnover and uncertain direction. – The transition from The Witch 3 to CyberpunkOriginally, this was the most difficult part, because many of these things need to be defined, "said Ivinsky. "We have a demonstration that crystallizes the vision to prove it is there.

The demo, a magnificent 45-minute deep immersion in the dirty streets and a shiny fight Киберпанд 2077, stole the show on E3 2018. It's also felt for those of us who have heard countless stories of overwhelmed developers as a product of an intense crisis.

This hypothesis has been confirmed by several people who have worked on the game, some of whom have come after our Rockstar report last year to tell me that CD Projekt Red has also adopted a "culture of crisis" in which employees have experienced pressure to work extraordinary.

Maybe it depends on the department. In conversations with Kotaku, some people who work or worked Киберпанд 2077 said they did not work very much yet. One week she told me it was the best time they ever had in the company.

Others say the opposite. Stories show that some departments, such as QA (testing), audio and technology teams, had to put particularly long hours at the start of important stages, such as the two E3 demonstrations of the game.

Unlike many other gambling studios that avoid paying overtime for employees on annual wages, CD Projekt Red pays overtime workers – 150 per cent for overnight stays and 200 per cent for weekends.

For many, this is not enough to compensate for lost family time and other mental and physical problems that may result from overloading. (It is also not very lucrative, the cost of living in Poland is lower, so wages may vary lower than in Western Europe or the United States).

This is a matter that CD Projekt Red recognizes, although at the same time studio management continues to claim that the crisis is a necessary part of making games like The Witch 3 and Киберпанд 2077 the best possible. (The Witch 3 widely regarded as one of the largest role-playing games of the decade.)

"From a broader perspective, we need to remember that all production takes, say, four years, sometimes five years, and most of the time, like three years, there is no crisis," Badovski says.

– No extra hours. Sometimes before E3 [we crunch], but most of the time production is super normal. We are talking about the final round of release. And it's always hard to manage, but you know there are some complications. It is indeed difficult not to use all the forces at the very end.

"There is another factor, and sometimes we have unique specialties, very unique people, and you can not clone them. We need them to work on very specific things. And we have to ask them to spend more time on something very specific because there is no other way to do so. These are mostly R & D or very special requests as instruments. "

Iwiński and Badowski said they put buffer periods in their schedules to explain the unknown variables that may occur during development. When I asked if they planned overtime in their gaming schedules Киберпанд 2077, they abstained.

"We are trying not to plan it," Ivinsky said. "But sometimes it leads to that, yes, so we need extra time. Internal planning in the games is very difficult.

They are also not bound by the idea of ​​syndication. "This is country-specific, we have no clear answer to that," Ivinsky said when I asked how he would respond if the CD Projekt Red employees decided to organize themselves. "We do not know; we have not thought about it. If this happens, we'll look at it.

CD Projekt Red turned to me because she wanted to publicly engage with the health of her staff. The pledge is that they say they want to be public, so employees can keep them in front of them. If a developer wants to give up an interruption or take time, and their manager is sustainable, maybe they can say they read Kotaku that is ok. Perhaps it will work. Or maybe it will not.

"We have created many powerful features to improve," said Ivinsky. "By making this commitment, I hope that this shows that we are dealing with this issue very seriously."

"We have a personal life," Badovski said. "We are aging and most of the people who are responsible for crunching, have families, young children, and feel the same."

When pressed, this is one particular promise they will make Киберпанд 2077The last hours will be less crunchy than the last ones. "I think we can promise that it will be better than that The Witch", Said Badovski.

CD Projekt Red has not yet said when Киберпанд 2077 we will go out, but 2020 is a certain assumption, which means next year will be decisive not only for the quality of the game but also for the quality of the employees' lives.

It is clear that not everything has gone smoothly, based on the testimonies I heard from former employees and the new policy of the holidays on CD Projekt Red. We will see. At this time next year we will have a better idea of ​​how serious Ivinsky and Badovski are, who want to be known for treating their developers in a humane way.

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