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Why is Cyberpunk 2077 taking so long? An interview with CD Projekt Red's co-founder

By Julio Franco · 13 replies
Jun 20, 2018
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  1. Marcin Iwiński, co-founder and co-CEO of CD Projekt Red, sat down with me in Los Angeles last week for an interview about Cyberpunk 2077's development, that spectacular E3 demo, and when we’ll see the game again. We also talked about crunch, unionization, and whether Cyberpunk will feel as Polish as the company’s last game, The Witcher 3.

    You can listen here or read an excerpt below. You can also grab the MP3.

    Jason: So in 2013, you guys teased this game. It’s safe to say that the entire company was on The Witcher 3 for a while, and that game shipped. Then there were some rumors that there were reboots, that you guys changed direction of Cyberpunk. Is that true?

    Iwinski: Yeah... But first of all, what does it mean to change direction, reboots? It is a creative process which is based on iteration. And if internally people at the studio are not happy with something they’ve been working on, and it takes three months or six months, being an independent developer and a—I really don’t like the word publisher, but we are self-publishing—we have 100% of the fate in our hands. If we don’t like something, we have no problem saying, ‘OK, we have to redo this part.’ It can mean we are throwing away six months of work, and there were bits and pieces happening like that.

    If you look at it from a developer perspective, if someone’s working on a certain level and he spends six months and thinks it’s great, and then there’s a decision to maybe change the direction, as I mentioned, people are unhappy. So there were different things visible on the outside. But that’s just a part. At the end of the day, the days of real trial are these E3s, or Gamescoms, or the first time you reveal something because that’s when we see hey, does it work, or maybe it doesn’t work.

    At the very end the only thing that’s important is the quality. So if the quality’s there and we need to iterate three years, we are lucky enough to be able to afford it first of all, so we have this capability and possibility... Sometimes if you hear something outside it might sound scary but I hope there are no fears anymore.

    Jason: I’ve heard enough about game development to know that a reboot is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Iwinski: Really what was happening, I wouldn’t call it a reboot but we were changing directions, and actually we were looking for the substance of the game. It is super difficult when you’re establishing a new IP, because you can do whatever you want to do but at the same time you’re always questioning yourself. The process of this internal dialogue, or sometimes even like a monologue happening in people’s heads, it is very difficult and hard because you don’t know, is it going to be cool or not? Then you come back and say, ‘No, I thought it’d be cool but it’s not anymore so we have to change the direction,’ then you have to explain it to people. Then the team is larger, there are new people who might not understand how it works.

    What is crucial, is actually: E3 has several functions. First of all it’s a certain milestone, so it forces everyone to be on time, because you cannot miss E3. What is equally important to showing it to the outside world and getting their opinion is showing it to the team that they can do it, because the game has a shape and form. You can say with The Witcher 3, before that we had Witcher 2, so the world is defined. OK, it’s open-world, it’s a different thing, but hey it’s The Witcher we know what we’re doing. It’s hard to tell people, ‘OK this is going to be the best game in the world and by the way we have nothing.’ Not many reasons to believe. So this is a very solid both external and internal reason to believe.

    Jason: So even though you guys teased it in 2013, it seems like the real development didn’t start until after The Witcher 3?

    Iwinski: I can tell you about how it really worked out. When we did that, we thought we’d be able to run two projects at the same time.

    Jason: A lot of people think that, and it almost never works out.

    Iwinski: It sometimes does... look at Ubisoft.

    Jason: Ten studios, thousands and thousands of people.

    Iwinski: We would love to have this knowledge, maybe over time... I think it’s also our testament to quality, because theoretically we could have, but then Witcher 3 wouldn’t have been what it was. And again, we thought with expansions, all hands on board, Blood and Wine being 40-50 hours. That’s all thanks to the fact that there was a smaller group working on Cyberpunk. Our initial intention, or bravery, or naivety was, ‘Yeah we’ll pull it off, but hey it’s not working out.’

    This time was not wasted because we had a very solid preproduction so we were not rushing things. There was a lot of thinking about the world and the concepts and whatnot. So this helped them accelerate much faster once we had the teams free after The Witcher 3.

    For much more, listen to the full interview. You can subscribe SplitScreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens.

    Permalink to story.

  2. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 566   +1,104

    Take your time, CDPR and don't give in to media impatience. I'd rather it be done right than booted out unfinished in a horrendously buggy state. (We've got EA & Ubisoft for that...)
    stewi0001, Arris, Jamlad and 2 others like this.
  3. Nocturne

    Nocturne TS Addict Posts: 118   +63

    Honestly after 3 amazing fantastic games, I'm not going to doubt the integrity of the studio/publisher unless they give me a cause to do so with a very bad game, EA and Bioware burned me a few times so they get no chances till they can prove otherwise, of course everything sucks from them after ME2, maybe Anthem can be different who knows, but until I see it everything is straight wait and see, Blizzard burned me with Diablo 3 and that hot garbage of a concept ruining the father of arpgs, turning it into Goldenaxe with a Diablo skin and a terrible perdictable story with atrocious voice acting.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
    stewi0001, H3llion, Pap1er and 2 others like this.
  4. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 304   +167

    I certainly wouldn't mind CDP gaining mass amounts of cash, opening 10 high quality studios with thousands and thousands of people to make quality games like they have been.
  5. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,413   +2,690

    I wouldn't be surprised if they expand again if Cyberpunk is a success. Their game engine is pretty awesome and they have a passion for gaming.
  6. Pap1er

    Pap1er TS Enthusiast

    GoldenAxe with Diablo skin xD xD xD man you made my day :D :D :D
    Nocturne likes this.
  7. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,635   +404

    Diablo 3 wasn't all that bad. Had great fun, decent story that should have been a little longer. It had its faults but it was worth its price and time invested. But agree to disagree, not everyones cuppa'
    GreenNova343 likes this.
  8. alabama man

    alabama man TS Guru Posts: 563   +355

    nononono nooooooo, they don't need to take over the whole industry, keep it "small" (smaller than EA and ubisoft). Getting big only ruins companies and no one needs all the money in the world. It doesn't matter where your based, managing dozens of teams doing different projects will always be worse than really focusing on couple that you can actually manage. When they can do it and they really believe it sure, but I hope they wont let money affect their judgement. I like that they focus on quality and we have enough crappy AAA companies that publish dozens of shitty products a year.
    H3llion likes this.
  9. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,060   +1,457

    Yup, more bureaucracy, more problems.
    H3llion likes this.
  10. Nocturne

    Nocturne TS Addict Posts: 118   +63

    Well I will be honest with you, for just a coop brawler it would have been fine if the game had any other name attached to it. The fact it held the Diablo franchise name carried weight and the game miserably had the follow though it needed, it's like I said to my friends their is a reason why Jay Wilson no longer works at Blizzard.

    Personally Path of Exile is a much better game it's only real downfall is the engine isn't optimized as well as it should be, but those devs with the amount of work they put in every 6 months deserve some respect the seasonal change add-on mechanics are wonderful, Blizzard just keeps ripping off mechanics from those guys trying to emulate the success they have.
  11. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,635   +404

    I was meaning to try out Path of Exile, is it still worth it? Community active?


    I don't really know about Jay Wilson, was this a good move as he caused the problems with D3 or wanted to get moved over? I wonder what the "undisclosed" project is/was...
  12. JedixJarf

    JedixJarf TS Rookie

    *Weeps for Mass Effect
  13. Nocturne

    Nocturne TS Addict Posts: 118   +63

    Yes, Poe is still active with alot of players Incusion League is a huge hit, players are loving it. Honestly there are more people playing Poe than D3 these daysd not that it dented the numbers ofopeople still playing D2. Bestiary league was more like Pokemon and didn't really go all that well with players.

    Honestly they did alot of work and ironed out alot of stuff making the game better by large margins.

    As for Jay Wilson, he used to be the go to guy for RTS games, but D3 was a massive failure to the point he was making fun of fans with legit fears the game was going in the wrong direction, he had his hands in WoW during it's decline, and originally Titan project which was so bad they had to fully scrap the game entirely, afterwards a team turned it into Overwatch under Kaplan. Even the current director of D3 during the release of RoS apologized saying he tried with the game to return Diablo to it's original heritage but couldn't without scrapping the entire game and creating a complete new one which Blizz/Activision managment wouldn't allow the work to go to waste, so hence why Diablo 4 is most likely in development.

    Don't get me wrong like I said, D3 was a really good coop brawler, but that isn't Diablo at it's core, I would expect D4 to be amazing because they have a lot to prove with this one, hopefully they go back to the dark gritty non cartoon look and mood, there are also wild rumors Brevik might be involved. I mean it's kind of sad when the console version was more fun than the PC version.
  14. Skjorn

    Skjorn TS Maniac Posts: 304   +167

    You don't think there other talented people out there that they could hire for expansion? You wouldn't want a few studios giving a good CDPR quality game every 5 or so years? Would definitely push the rest of the industry towards better products..

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