CD Projekt Red Trying To Avoid Crunch Since Cyberpunk 2077 Launch Controversies

CD Projekt Red revamps development methods to avoid crunch following the controversial launch of Cyberpunk 2077.
Cyberpunk 2077 Man Walking To Shop
Image: CD Projekt Red

In response to the tumultuous release of Cyberpunk 2077, the game’s creator, CD Projekt Red, implemented substantial changes to its development approach. They wanted to prevent the prolonged stressful work periods that reportedly affected the game’s creation. In this way, they could avoid any more buggy launches. These long hours of overtime work are known to damage the developers’ morale and can result in burnout.

We know this thanks to a recent interview with Pawel Sasko, quest director for Cyberpunk 2077’s upcoming Phantom Liberty expansion and associate game director for the next Cyberpunk title with aftermath. The company acknowledged challenges from Cyberpunk 2077’s development. Delays and internal issues led to months of overtime despite prior promises from leadership. Sasko stressed the importance of sustainable development practices, aiming for project completion without relying on excessive overtime.

“Sustainability is incredibly important. To be able to, when you are finishing up a project, have a team in a state where they haven’t been doing crunch or overtime or anything, that they are able to go into the production of the next thing, which means delivering something earlier, which means having a product you can sell as a studio, which means having the money to sustain. That requires your production to be structured in a way where it does not require those spikes, those moments when suddenly there’s an all-hands-on-deck approach.”

Pawel Sasko

The focus on sustainability has resulted in a new production structure at CD Projekt Red. In the past, the studio used a more traditional approach, with overloaded leaders approving everyone’s work at a slow pace, causing bottlenecks and inefficiencies. To tackle this issue, the company introduced “content teams” or “pods” during the development of Phantom Liberty.

These pods assemble different experts to work on a specific piece of content. For instance, a quest pod could consist of a quest designer, cinematic designer, open-world designer, writer, QA tester, environment artist, VFX artist, and SFX artist. All 22 team members work together to develop the quest, guided by leads on genre, theme and intended emotional impact.

Done properly, the team could all be on the same page during development and still get approval. Importantly, the teams can make more decisions on their own. This helps them be more creative within the rules, so they don’t need as much direction from their leaders. Sasko believes this is a big reason why the production process runs smoothly and doesn’t get stuck.

The emphasis on clear communication also applies to working with real-world actors. Sasko talks about how the team worked with Idris Elba for his part in Phantom Liberty, modifying character animations to capture the actor’s unique facial expressions accurately.

With an enhanced development process, CD Projekt Red believes the next game will live up to the company’s reputation. After providing extensive post-launch support for Cyberpunk 2077, the studio is turning its attention to developing the next Witcher game and a new Cyberpunk title.

Jorge A. Aguilar

Jorge A. Aguilar

Jorge A. Aguilar, also known as Aggy, is the current Assigning Editor.

He started his career as an esports, influencer, and streaming writer for Sportskeeda. He then moved to GFinity Esports to cover streaming, games, guides, and news before moving to the Social team where he ended his time as the Lead of Social Content.

He also worked a writer and editor for both Pro Game Guides and Dot Esports, and as a writer for PC Invasion, Attack of the Fanboy, and Android Police. Aggy is the former Managing Editor and Operations Overseer of N4G Unlocked and a former Gaming editor for WePC.

Throughout his time in the industry, he's trained over 100 writers, written thousands of articles on multiple sites, written more reviews than he cares to count, and edited tens of thousands of articles. He has also written some games published by Tales, some books, and a comic sold to Telus International.

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