CD Projekt Red developers speak up on the realities of working on Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077

This is what it's really like to work at CDPR.

CDPR

The world of technology is volatile at best. The video game industry, like any other industry dependent on technology, is just as volatile because the industry is constantly progressing. There’s a sense of competition between studios and even between the developers at each studio, and there’s a good reason for that.

One video game’s success can take a studio from 40 employees to over 200 and many times there are growing pains associated with such growth. Some studios have learned to mitigate the growing pains that can find themselves on the shoulders of developers.

Sony, who is well past the growing phase, has learned that although they announce games too early, they have no qualms about delaying a game to better suit their employees. They mitigate pressures by allowing for more development time.

Last month, the developer behind The Witcher series and the in-development Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red (CDPR), commented on the slew of bad reviews found on their Glassdoor. CDPR responded by detailing how their studio has grown immensely since the release of Witcher 3, that game development isn’t easy, and that Cyberpunk 2077 is progressing.

After the statement was released, there was a general quiet around the subject. For some, however, the question remained as to whether or not the treatment of employees at CDPR was as bad as some former employee reviews stated.

YouTuber Madqueen Show set out to find out as much as she could on the matter and it sounds like it all depends on which employee you ask and from which department they worked at. Madqueen interviewed 43 developers and found that it was nearly a 50/50 split in opinion.

Currently, Cyberpunk 2077 is “on track” and progressing every week, “both in performance and visuals,” but the development process at CDPR has been detailed to be tough. It’s better for some than other places, but still tough.

Ultimately, most of the complaints on working at CDPR centered around middle management and their fickle desires, poor communication, and a competition between managers (as well as their associated teams) that built an unhealthy environment.

It wasn't all complaints though, there were just as many developers who stand by their employers and say that morale is "way better" now than it was during The Witcher 3's development. 

A senior developer at CDPR currently working on Cyberpunk 2077 summarized their experience at CDPR as the following:

"In my 10 years of career, I've been in companies that make you do overtime without pay, give you a month's notice to be fired before asking you to do more overtime. That pushed fresh students from school to suicide due to pressure and bullying from their boss. But, of course, you never heard of them, because they're insignificant. CD Projekt Red is in the high tier, my best company in 10 years in the industry in terms of working conditions."

On the flip side, a Witcher 3 developer stated:

"When in Bioware they said they had a 3 months' crunch. We laughed. during the Witcher 3, a lot of people crunched for over a year, some of them for 3 years.

"The Witcher 3 development kept getting worse by the month. The morale got very low and everyone ended up complaining during crunch supper. Some of us were still looking forward to being moved to Cyberpunk and having a fresh start with a 'new' project. when we finally started switching to Cyberpunk… things got even wilder, even more chaotic. At that time, almost everybody in my team wanted to leave."

Some developers noted that after the release of Witcher 3, CDPR compensated them with hefty bonuses. Other developers stated that the "impossible" deadlines caused them to burn out, while others called working at CDPR a dream job, and not because of the pay but because of the sheer passion behind creating games.

One developer took a very sober look at the testy subject:

CD Projekt is not an evil company. From a production and business standpoint, they might have fallen into the impression that this is how things should be done. And we crunch, not because we’re told to –it’s because we care. We had to do this to deliver something we could be proud of. It paid off. I want to stay at the company and keep doing what I do. This really is one of the last bastions of hope amongst the corporate greed and control we can see from the likes of EA or Activision. But it’s also a company that has to make money and meet the budget constraints. And now it’s getting even bigger, needing more money to sustain itself –it would be only natural for a company like this that fewer months spent developing equals quicker revenue gain if the game is just “good enough”. Don’t get that wrong either, CDPR is not like that. But the process of making a game here seems like pure chaos”.

Basically, it sounds like CDPR is going through some growing pains. To go from having a family of under 100 employees to well over that is no easy transition. The ultimate goal that consumers and media industry should have is not to pressure CDPR into making changes, but in supporting them to do what is best for their developers' well-being as the games they create cannot be made without them. 

If the game needs to be delayed for more workable deadlines, that's what should happen. It could very well be that CDPR suffered from a Sony moment, where they announced the game far too early.

Madqueen closed her video out with a message to CDPR, which I'll share below, as her hard work is was brought this all to light. 

Dear CD Projekt,

We trust you. Your commitment to delivering the best quality games is beyond question. We believe that you won't mess with us with pay-to-win bullshit. We trust you because you don’t treat us like brainless kids, and because we can see how much care you put into the products you deliver to us.

We're so excited to see Cyberpunk 2077, but we don’t want to pressure you into hurrying and making rushed decisions because you feel like you don’t have time to stop and think. We can wait. We are hyped for this game—hyped as fuck!—but we can wait.

We care about your developers, the people who put so much time and effort into creating the games we love. They don’t get enough praise for all the hard work they do. Sometimes, they may feel forgotten by the community, but it’s not true. We do think about them and care about them. We want every single one of them to feel respected for their talent, their expertise, their passion and the sacrifices they make for us.

We can wait. Please take good care of your developers, and stay being amazing!

You can find an image of this letter to CDPR on the following page, in case you wish to use it and share it. Madqueen urges the gaming community to share this with the hashtag #WeCanWait in hopes of sending a positive message to CDPR.