CD Projekt Red outlines plan to develop multiple AAA titles simultaneously

BradT

Posts: 15   +6
Indeed and they'll want to know that CD Projekt aren't putting all of their eggs into one basket. One of the many problems with Cyberpunk 2077, during the last 5 years of its developments, was that the management just threw people at the project to ensure the hype train could still choo-choo down the line. It started around Witcher 3 size (about 250 or so) and towards the end, it was double that size internally, and almost 6 times as large globally.

Pinning all of that associated cost on one title is an enormous gamble and while it paid off with CP2077, I should imagine the numerous issues and overall reception it received has made it necessary to provide public reassurances that should a future project look increasingly problematic, they've something else they can turn to.

The largest development teams often have multiple projects on the go, so this isn't unusual nor automatically worrisome. Triple A titles don't all have to be another Witcher 3 in size and scope, after all. I'd be more concerned about how CD Projekt manages its ambitions and projects.

Except their shareholders never wanted anything to do with diversifying or moving away from The Witcher franchise. They were extremely upset when told about Cyberpunk 2077. And while the company has made billions, they've only paid out dividends to those same shareholders twice: in 2016 and again in 2018 and that's it.
 

BradT

Posts: 15   +6
Indeed and they'll want to know that CD Projekt aren't putting all of their eggs into one basket. One of the many problems with Cyberpunk 2077, during the last 5 years of its developments, was that the management just threw people at the project to ensure the hype train could still choo-choo down the line. It started around Witcher 3 size (about 250 or so) and towards the end, it was double that size internally, and almost 6 times as large globally.

Pinning all of that associated cost on one title is an enormous gamble and while it paid off with CP2077, I should imagine the numerous issues and overall reception it received has made it necessary to provide public reassurances that should a future project look increasingly problematic, they've something else they can turn to.

The largest development teams often have multiple projects on the go, so this isn't unusual nor automatically worrisome. Triple A titles don't all have to be another Witcher 3 in size and scope, after all. I'd be more concerned about how CD Projekt manages its ambitions and projects.

Cyberpunk has had less than 4 years development. That's the problem. It needed at least another 3 or 4 more years. By the time 2016 rolled around and they were anxious to get out that last paid expansion, Blood and Wine (and they rushed that to hell as well), their crew was already beginning to leave the company. Nearly all of the original team that worked on all three Witcher games did not stick around to work on Cyberpunk. In 2016, the CDPR head of studio appointed himself as game director to work on CP 2077. The previous director had left to go work for Bethesda. Problem was this new guy had zero experience working on games or as a developer.

He came on and hated everything that had been done, even in outline or pre-production for the game and tossed it all out: story, artwork, everything. Even the game engine had been retooled and reworked several times until they finally decided they needed a new one built from scratch. All of that brought things to a standstill while they regrouped and began hiring hundreds of new devs to work on the game.

Then in 2018, that now infamous demo from E3 was made public after a hand-picked group of "journalists" got a private viewing and then went off to write glowing praise-filled reviews of the damn thing. An employee at GoG got himself in some hot water with someone on Twitter regarding some stupid comment which wouldn't die despite apologies and the world was invited to a five and a half hour publicity stunt in which that same demo was shown publicly to scorn and ridicule. CDPR even had to admit months later that it was a very early pre-alpha of the game and not representative of the final product. They even acknowledged that it got a very mixed reception from fans.

Still, CDPR had hoped to release the game as early as 2019, despite having tossed out it's entire story in favor of a new one that focused more on Johnny Silverhand thanks to Keanu Reeves' involvement and adolescent enjoyment. It's such a damn pity they couldn't find a way to harness his enthusiasm for the mo-cap and direct it more into his voice acting which made the game an ordeal to get through. Didn't do much for the damn story either.

Devs finally had to go public and state the game was nowhere near ready to be released in 2019 and suggested it might fare better with a 2021 release. By the way, 2021 was something CDPR had been telling their shareholders for years during annual reports. Why the hell they suddenly were so determined to get it out by 2020 is still a mystery. But they lied their way through it all, promising a great game that just needed a little polish here and there.

Then came word that major components were being cut from the game so close to its release date. More lies regarding players presumed complaints that they don't lie long games and never finish them. Hell, most players never finish a damn thing. They buy games because their friends have them or recommend them or they do so in order to brag about having the game to those who don't have them. But they aren't interested in actually playing the damn things. They seek out trainers and cheats so they can skip through things, kill bosses with one-hit and see the ending before really even playing through most of the game.

The cuts are very evident but mostly what's glaring is how unfinished the entire thing was on release. AI was tossed out in such a skeletal state, it's a wonder it even tries to pretend to work. Combat and vehicle mechanics are horrible. Yes, most of this can be addressed by tweaking and some modders have already done wonders but... it's not their job to finish and polish a $60 game. They do so because they love tinkering with stuff. But the game is a mess. Not the kind that prevents anyone from finishing it. But rather the kind that leaves you shaking your head and wondering just what the hell were they thinking when they coded this crap and just how did they expect to get away with passing this off as a AAA game?
 

BradT

Posts: 15   +6
You might be on to something but maybe for a bit of a different reason: Yes they made a lot of money with the game, but their stock took quite a beating.

This puts the shareholders in a unique position: They made a lot of money but they're basically stuck with their stocks for a while.

This is, as we're seeing from this news article, a recipe for disaster: The shareholders now want their money reinvested to get their stock values back up and above pre-2077 release levels so they're going to be forcing the company to make business decision, not artistic ones: Do more of the things that ruined our stock values, only do em better this time.

This will end up either bankrupting the company or turning into the Polish EA. Both are just terrible outcomes at this point.

Even with the rather large dip in their stock, they were still worth billions. At its peak, it was around 8.6b. After the drop, it was around 6.2b. The thing though is the top brass at CDPR own about 40+%. The rest of the investors haven't been paid a dividend since 2018. The only other time they got dividend payments was in 2016.

This won't bankrupt them. They were close to bankruptcy before, some time between Witcher 1 and 2. That's why they even tried to sue some pirates who were illegally downloading Witcher 2 when it first came out. Oh the irony. To go from pirating other companies software and games and selling it as their own to trying to sue pirates from stealing their own game. It's just too precious.

But they couldn't even do that right. They hired a German law firm, sent out 800 letters to identified pirates with illegal copies of the game and told them to buy the game or get sued. Seriously, that's what the letters said. Of course, CDPR denied it all. Swore they hadn't hire any lawyers or sent out any letters ... until one of them was posted publicly. Then they owned up to it but swore it was to protect their property. But... many of the 800 hadn't in fact stolen anything and could prove they owned legit copies of the game. CDPR swore their software was 100% foolproof in identifying pirated copies of the game. Except it wasn't. More proof appeared online in the form of receipts and CDPR had to pull the plug on the whole thing.

They continue to act like little children who aren't really good at much of anything. They weren't really good at hacking which is why they tried to go legit by licensing localized versions of Western games to Eastern Europe. Then they tried to create a gaming company only they didn't have a clue how to make video games so they bluffed their way into a meeting with Sapkowski to try and secure the rights to The Witcher books. Only he knew about them and laughed in their face. He sold the rights to them though for about $6k because he's not the sharpest tool in the box either. But Witcher 1 was a disaster financially and a really bad game too.

They still think and act like big timers despite not knowing what the hell they're doing. They hire good people but then badly manage them. They expect the best from them but then make it utterly impossible for them to do anything that they have the skills to do.
 

BradT

Posts: 15   +6
Excessive crunch time + multiple delays + obviously cut content + nowhere near enough QA testing is an open admission their development team size for CP2077 was already too small just for that one game. CDPR's future lies in doing one thing at a time right rather than making two more half *ssed attempts wrong.


Well it works for EA & Ubisoft... ;-)

Exactly the wrong sort of things they or any company should be emulating.
 

BradT

Posts: 15   +6
In addition to what m4a4 said, developers aren't interchangeable. You can't just tell someone who never touched the graphics pipeline to fix a visual bug in the engine and expect them to get it done any time soon.

It's worse than that. Online, there's a blog from one dev who worked on Witcher 3. He chronicled some of the time he worked for the company and stated that he was asked more than once to work on something for which he'd had absolutely no training and was expected to deliver results despite his objections. Whenever he'd try to voice a concern, he'd be shut down or they'd just begin speaking in Polish in front of him and ignoring him. In fact, they even assigned him to lead a team of other devs who similarly had no experience for the task that had been assigned to them.

That's no way to run a company, let alone a game's development, but that's CDPR in a nutshell. Need a crazy idea fulfilled? No problem. Hire someone and then tell him to do it. Never mind that he doesn't know how to do it. He knows more than you do and if he wants that promised raise in six months, he'd better deliver.

That's a great way to get buggy content that has lots of issues and don't expect it to get fixed in a hurry because the game code is sloppy as hell with tons of references to materials and assets which were either never created in the first place or have long since been removed but their references remain in the code because no one wants to bother taking the time to clean things up in order to avoid possible problems down the line during testing or on release.

You set up multiple teams to work on various assets and that's fine. That's the norm. But there's has to be some coordination, some oversight, some leadership that ensures things follow a specific path and follow certain protocol so that it will all work together in the end. It's so damn clear with all of CDPR's games, particularly Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, that this was definitely not the case.

When you can so easily bork a quest or mission by simply missing or skipping one tiny event, that's a red flag that it was hastily thrown together and not tested properly nor was the code checked at any point for errant directions which might lead to issues down the line. If any student had handed in work as sloppy as these games, or any tiny portion or segment of them, they would have received flunking grades.

I don't mean to harp on the devs. They're a talented bunch who deserved far better than to work for CDPR on any project but this reflects worst on them than on management because while management makes the ill-fated decisions to ignore concerns and issues, they will always end up putting the blame back on QA and the devs themselves. "We asked them to deliver a game and this is what they gave us." CDPR did that in spades. They bragged about how great the game was and how well it ran. Just needs a little polish. A 5 year old could have seen how broken and incomplete the game was. And CDPR's founders, despite being nothing more than hackers themselves, certainly knew enough to see the truth yet they continued to lie publicly and expected their staff to pull off some sort of miracle.

They're either completely delusional or the biggest morons on the face of the planet. CDPR, that is. Not the devs. They did what they could. They certainly could have done it much better but then when a maniac ignores you and tells you to just deliver, you end up just delivering and you pretty much know it'll be a flaming disaster but that seems to be what management wanted so who are we to complain?
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,617   +693
So why just have one disaster when you can have multiple ones? They are ambitious

All pun intended.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,140   +1,269
TechSpot Elite
The problem with CDPR goes deeper than that. They treat their devs like garbage. They often assign them tasks for which they've had zero experience or training. They don't offer that training either. They just expect results. And they often place those same devs in leadership positions on teams where it's the blind leading the blind. That's why their games have so many of the same bugs and glitches.

But management is the worst because they don't know how to create video games and really believe if you through enough money at something, you'll get what you want. They delivered a broken game and knew it but lied about it because they figured they could just snow everyone over just like they did with The Witcher 3, which was also quite broken but at least the damn thing was finished, which was not the case with Cyberpunk. I was truly amazed that no one even bothered to question most of those "awards" that Witcher 3 got before it was even released. Many were from tiny web sites in Germany, Hungary and Poland that no one had ever heard of. But hey, "over 200 awards" sounds impressive, doesn't it? Who cares if someone's uncle or cousin was actually behind it, right?

Most of the very early reviews too were suspicious. It was clear that many of the writers hadn't even bothered finishing the game before posting their reviews. But 10/10 and Game of the Year kept popping up everywhere. So what if it would take the devs another full year after launch to address some of the issues. Early forum threads were filled with some extremely angry gamers but most of those threads were deleted once CDPR put up their new forum following a security breach and hack which they failed to inform anyone about until a month later. But suddenly their forums were filled with glowing praise and love thanks to free DLCs and all of the bonus materials given to pre-order customers. Nice to see how easily and cheaply most people were bought off with.
I believe you, but that doesn't make them atypical because that's exactly how a lot of modern corporations are administered. CEOs are seemingly in a revolving-door system of failure and severance packages like coaches in the NHL. They're not even the real problem. The real problem is the crazy level of unrealistic expectations that shareholders are demanding. No CEO could accomplish what they want and these CEOs know it. So, they don't bother learning the individual industries (unless they already had expertise like Lisa Su and Jensen Huang) because they know that they'll be in a different industry in less than five years.

This is because recent (=<100 years old) corporations don't have the same philosophy that have long been held by the corporations that have stood the test of time. If you were to ask a Blancpain executive what business Blancpain was in, he'd most likely say (and quite proudly) "Blancpain is, and always will be, in the horology business". If you were to ask a Wal-Mart executive what business Wal-Mart was in, he'd most likely say "Wal-Mart is in the business of making money." with no pride whatsoever. That right there is why things are falling apart. These corporations are in the business of making money and what they do is simply how they accomplish that goal.

As a result, there's no emotional connection to the industry in which they (currently) reside the way that there is with corporations that have been around for centuries. They don't care about the industry at all. So there's no motivation for CEOs to be anything other than generic bean-counters that nickel and dime these corporations to death, stripping them of everything that made them successful in the first place. All of that money saved doesn't go into improving the corporation though, it's given to the shareholders by way of stock price increases and increased dividends.

Meanwhile, the corporations' employees are expected to still perform despite having every tool that they need either broken or taken away. This isn't just in the gaming industry, it's everywhere in capitalist economies. The economies with less regulation get much worse much faster which is why wages in the USA haven't gone up in 40-odd years despite the fact that employees are far more productive now than they've ever been. The profits get sucked out by the greedy shareholders like vampires that don't know when to stop sucking.

As for the awards, well, Witcher III is one of the greatest games ever made. If it got awards before release, that doesn't surprise me. I don't understand what's going on with Cyberpunk but I haven't purchased it yet and probably won't for awhile. I've just pre-ordered Rome: Total War Remastered, I still have my free copy of Assassin's Creed III to play (it came with Odyssey) and Far Cry 6 is coming out next month (MAJOR PRIORITY FOR ME). I might even get God of War before I get Cyberpunk so it could be 2022 before I play it.

Cyberpunk didn't look all that interesting to me to be honest. The only reason that I was considering getting it was how much I loved The Witcher II and III and how much praise the game was getting. I figured that the praise wasn't completely honest and objective but since it came from the same studio that Geralt did, how bad could it be? Buggy doesn't necessarily mean bad, it just means new which I interpret as "wait". :laughing:

(Political Science was my major in university. That's why my explanation of the economic issues is so damn wordy.)
 
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