Footage of upcoming role-playing games Cyberpunk 2077 so far has destroyed fans, but coupled with the hype is the burning question: Are workers on CD Projekt Red, the Polish studio behind the game, destroying their lives to make it?
The best known developer The witch the series has fostered a reputation for crisis – asking its employees to work nights and weekends for weeks or months at a time – but studio management now tells My city they want to improve their work life balance, even if they continue to feel that crisis is a must.
"We are known – let me be humble for a moment here – we are known to treat gamers with respect," said Marcin Iwiński, co-founder of the company, in an interview with My city this week. "This is what we are trying hard. And actually I will do it [like] for us it is also known for treating developers with respect. "
One of the ways the company plans to do that, said Iwi ,ski, is through "crisis policy is not mandatory" which is not brand new but CD Projekt Red based in Warsaw plans to push harder. He wants to clarify it Cyberpunk 2077Developers who even when studio asking they work on nights and weekends, it's not "mandatory".
"We've been trying for that for some time," Iwiński said.
"We have communicated clearly to people who of course there are certain times where we have to work harder – like I think the E3 demo is a pretty good example – but we want to be more human and treat people with respect. If they need to take time off, they can take time off. No one will be liked if this will be requested. "
Of course, anyone who works anywhere know that a request from the boss does not need to be "mandatory" for it to be something you have to do.
When investigated, Iwiński will not promise to limit the crisis to a certain period or offer certain numbers, besides saying that he hopes to make this public statement will help CD Projekt Red employees feel more comfortable notifying their managers when they don't want to put in extra hours.
"I think this is a commitment that we are ready for today, and we will listen to people," he said. "We clearly open a lot of dialogue here, and we want to start with that."
I have booked an E3 appointment for Cyberpunk 2077 when a representative for CD Projekt Red offered to connect me with Iwiński and Adam Badowski, head of the studio and director Cyberpunk, to talk about working conditions in their company.
They said that they had followed the conversation that took place today in the video game industry and read the latest investigation by My city and other outlets into labor practices in companies such as Rockstar and BioWare.
Crunch is everywhere in the video game industry, and CD Projekt Red wants to take at least some kind of attitude on it. They say they want to show that they listen, improve, and work to ensure that Cyberpunk 2077Development will be more painful than that The Witcher 3, Which forced most companies to spend a lot of time.
Maybe they also want to overtake potential stories. After our publication National anthem Last month's investigation, which documented turbulent developments marked by mismanagement, crisis, and anxiety, four former CD Projekt Red employees reached out to tell me they had seen a similar problem in Warsaw.
"I feel that there are hundreds of similarities that can be drawn between rocky development stories National anthem and rocky and even more rocky developmental stories to become Cyberpunk 2077, "Said a former CDPR employee in an email.
"Sometimes, I feel I can only change the studio name and game title, and everything will look very similar, almost identical."
There were rumors of financial problems circling CD Projekt Red following last year's disappointing performance Road violators campaign for virtual studio card games Gwent. Iwiński and Badowski denied the rumor. "We have big war chests," Iwiński said.
There are also signs of that development Cyberpunk 2077 maybe it won't run smoothly.
For example, as said employee who contacted me, this year the company has notified staff to work during Polish holidays, and that there will be a mandate period for holidays. Instead of taking off whenever they want, CD Projekt Red developers must limit their vacation at certain times in 2019. One period will be this winter, right after E3, while the others will be in the summer.
The manager confirms as much as I ask. "We are trying to organize holidays better, and streamline efforts," said Adam Badowski. "This is a general rule for studios, but if there is a special event, we will obviously look after such people. And this is our decision this year.
"And we will see – maybe it's good, maybe it's wrong. We'll do a survey after that and take care of people … When production takes five years, for four years it's very normal, and then it's the last year, and we have some special rules only for this period. "
"I have felt that there are hundreds of similarities that can be drawn between the story of the development of a rocky national anthem and a rocky development story that is increasingly rocky to Cyberpunk 2077." – Former Red Projekt CD Developer
Although the CD Projekt Red was first announced Cyberpunk 2077 in 2013, game development did not really begin until 2015, after the launch The Witcher 3. Then follow a difficult period of preproduction (including at least one main direction change), and the studio made a very common mistake: moving their entire development team Cyberpunk before the project can support many people.
Add a major technological overhaul and you have a recipe for disaster. "It's always the same story throughout the industry," Badowski said. "If you change the technology and at the same time you produce games, that is a nightmare for most companies."
This causes a difficult period for the company, which is characterized by changes and unclear directions. "Transition from The Witcher 3 for Cyberpunk, at first it was the most difficult part, because many of these things must be defined, "Iwiński said. "We have a demo that sort of crystallizes the vision, to prove that it's there."
The demo, diving in 45 minutes is beautiful to the slums and striking battles Cyberpunk 2077, stealing attention at E3 2018. It also feels, for those of us who have heard countless stories from developers who work too hard, like the product of a great crisis.
The hypothesis was confirmed by several people working on the game, some of whom had reached out after Rockstar reported last year to tell me that Projekt Red CD also embraced a "culture of crunch" in which employees feel the pressure to work overtime.
Maybe it depends on the department. In conversation with My city, some people who work or have worked Cyberpunk 2077 said they hadn't worked overtime yet. One person told me this week that this was the best period they had ever had in the company.
Others say the opposite. The story shows that some departments, such as QA (testing), audio and technology teams, must spend hours before important achievements such as two E3 game demos.
Unlike many other game studios, which avoid paying overtime to employees for annual salaries, CD Projekt Red pays all of its staff for overtime – 150 percent for the night and 200 percent for weekends.
For many people, that is not enough to make up for lost family time and other mental and physical problems that can be caused by too much work. (This is also not profitable on a large scale; the cost of living is lower in Poland, so salaries can range lower than in Western Europe or the United States.)
This is a problem recognized by CD Projekt Red, although at the same time, studio management continues to argue that crunch is an important part of making games such as The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 as good as possible. (The Witcher 3 widely considered one of the biggest RPGs of the decade.)
"From a broader perspective, we must remember that all production takes, say, four years, sometimes five years, and most of the time, like three years, there is no crisis," Badowski said.
"There are no extra hours. Sometimes before E3 [we crunch], but most of the production time is super normal. We talked about the last round before the release. And it's always difficult to manage, but you know that there are some complications. It's very difficult not to use all the strength at the end.
"Plus there are other factors – sometimes we have unique specialties, very unique people, and you can't clone them. We need them to do very specific things. And we need to ask them to spend more time on something very specific because there is no other way to do it. Mostly R & D requests are very specialized, such as tools. "
Iwiński and Badowski said they included buffer periods into their schedules to take into account unknown variables that could arise during development. When I asked if they planned to overtime in their schedule for games like Cyberpunk 2077, they refused.
"We tried not to plan it," Iwiński said. "However, sometimes the results are like that, yes, so we need additional time. Internal planning in the game is very difficult. "
They are also not tied to the idea of a trade union. "This is very specific for the country, we don't have a clear answer about it," Iwiński said when I asked how he reacted if the CD Projekt Red employee decided to organize. "We don't know; we haven't thought about it yet. If that happens, we will consider it. "
CD Projekt Red approached me because they wanted to make a public commitment to the health of their employees. That is the promise that they say they want to be public so employees can maintain it. If the developer wants to get out of the crisis or take time off, and their manager refuses, maybe they can say that they are reading on My city that it's alright. Maybe that will work. Or maybe not.
"We have made a lot of style functions to improve," Iwiński said. "Making this commitment, I hope this shows that we treat this problem very seriously."
"We have a personal life too," Badowski said. "We are getting older, and most of the people responsible for the crisis, they have families, small children, and they feel the exact same thing."
When pressed, the only special promise they make is that Cyberpunk 2077The last hours won't be too crisp from the last game. "I think we can promise that it will be better than The witch"The period is over," Badowski said.
CD Projekt Red hasn't said when Cyberpunk 2077 will come out, but 2020 is a safe guess, which means that next year will be important not only for the quality of the game but for the quality of life of employees.
It was clear that not everything went smoothly, based on the testimony I had heard from former employees and the new CD Projekt Red leave policy. We will see later. At this time next year, we will have a better idea of how seriously Iwiński and Badowski want to be known for treating their developers humanely.