The head of studio of Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red has disputed claims that an E3 demo for the game was faked.
Adam Badowski posted insight into the making of the game via Twitter following an in-depth report by Bloomberg which, among other things, claimed the E3 2018 demo was “almost entirely fake” according to anonymous members of the development team.
The site’s sources claimed the underlying gameplay systems had not been coded or even finalised by the time Cyberpunk 2077 was shown behind closed doors to press and other industry professionals in June 2018, which is why it included features missing from the final game.
The developers said it was a “waste of months that should have gone toward making the game.”
Badowski tweeted a statement addressing three claims from the article, starting with the accusation that the demos were faked.
“It’s hard for a trade show game demo not to be a test of vision or vertical slice two years before the game ships, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake,” he wote.
“Games are not made in a linear fashion and start looking like the final product only a few months before launch. If you look at that demo now, it’s different yes, but that’s what the ‘work in progress’ watermark is for. Our final game looks and plays way better than what that demo ever was.”
He adds that ‘missing’ features are “part of the creation process,” with some dropped based on whether they work well as part of the final product.
Badowski also disputed that Cyberpunk 2077’s launch was “disastrous,” as the article suggests, pointing to the critical acclaim it achieved on PC.
“As for the old-gen consoles, yes that is another case, but we’ve owned up to that and are working super hard to eliminate bugs (on PC, too — we know that’s not a perfect version either) and we are proud of Cyberpunk 2077 as a game and artistic vision.”
Bloomberg notes that CD Projekt Red declined to comment or participate in the feature before publication.
Cyberpunk 2077 did indeed launch to critical acclaim but soon faced a backlash after reports emerged that the console versions were so beset by technical problems that it was said to be unplayable.
Complaints over the game even prompted Sony to delist the game from the PlayStation Store, and Microsoft to offer full refunds. The studio is also facing a class-action lawsuit for misrepresenting the state of the game to investors.
CD Projekt Red has repeatedly said it is working on fixes, with two large patches due in the next couple of months, and co-founder Marcin Iwiński last week issued another apology via video.
In the video, Iwiński claims testing did not show the big issues during development. Bloomberg reports that major bugs still being discovered when Cyberpunk went gold in October.
Engineers also apparently warned management that game was too complex for Xbox One and PS4, due in part to visions of a busy sci-fi metropolis. But these warnings were dismissed, with management pointing to what was achieved with Witcher 3 on Microsoft and Sony’s devices.
The pandemic also played a role in the console edition’s woes; with the development team working remotely and testing the game on their home computers, they were unable to access console development kits in the office and fully gauge how it ran on Xbox and PlayStation.
Bloomberg’s article — built from interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt employees — claims there were many signs that the game would struggle to meet a 2020 release.
Sources said development didn’t begin in earnest until late 2016 — despite the game’s announcement in 2012 — when CDP “essentially hit the reset button” and began changing many fundamental parts of the project.
When the company announced a release date of April 16, 2020 during E3 2019, some members of the team believed this to be overambitious given progress on the game at the time. 2022 was deemed to be more likely.
However, in his statement, Badowski assets that the feelings of 20-plus sources on this matter is not indicative of the full team of over 500 people.
There were also stories of language barriers, with CD Projekt mandating that all meetings must be held in English after the Polish studio hired several ex-pats from the US and Western Europe.
Bloomberg claims this was not consistently followed, but Badowski again disputes this, adding that with 44 nationalities at the studio, there will have been situations where people speak to each other in their native language when there is no one else around.
“Everyone here speaks English during meetings, every company-wide email and announcement is in English — all that is mandatory,” he wrote. “Rule of thumb is to switch to English when there’s a person not speaking a given language in a casual conversation.”
The report’s author Jason Schreier noted on Twitter that Badowski does not directly address claims of an unrealistic timeline or “brutal crunch” in his statement.
In the article, former audio programmer Adrian Jakubiak claimed to have crunch for up to 13 hours a day, five days a week.
There have been multiple reports of crunch on Cyberpunk 2077. Joint-CEO Adam Kiciński confirmed in January 2020 that members of staff had already been required to work overtime “to some degree.”
Then in September, it was reported the studio was making overtime mandatory — despite previous claims of a “non-obligatory crunch policy” — in order to get the game ready for a November launch. The game still slipped by three weeks to December 10.
Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed three times last year, but Bloomberg’s sources claim that management said delays were not an option prior to 2020. Despite the timeline looking unrealistic, the studio was keen to release before Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 launched or were even announced so it could “double dip” with next-gen versions at a later date.
CD Projekt’s share price dropped 30% over the course of December, due in part to the backlash, but Bloomberg reports they rose 6% after after Iwiński’s apology.
Despite the controversy, Cyberpunk 2077 sold more than 13 million copies worldwide in the first ten days