The Dark Side of Game Development and the Lessons Learned
In the dimly lit corners of the gaming industry, a harsh truth is emerging. The relentless, crunch-heavy work culture that has been the norm is being scrutinized, and some developers are taking measures to protect against it. Among them is Colin Walder, a seasoned Engineering Director at CD Projekt Red, renowned for his extensive experience in AAA audio programming.
Addressing Crunch Culture at Inven Game Conference
Walder recently spoke at the Inven Game Conference in South Korea, shedding light on the subject of leadership in the game industry. He didn't hold back, highlighting how the company behind the celebrated Witcher series has altered its approach, now eschewing crunch. This shift is seen as a crucial lesson learned from the arduous development of Cyberpunk 2077.
The Impact of Crunch on Cyberpunk 2077
Despite the common belief that crunch can salvage projects against looming deadlines, Cyberpunk 2077's launch suggests otherwise. The role-playing game was widely criticized as fundamentally flawed following its 2020 release. It was only in September, with the release of the Phantom Liberty expansion, that the game managed to address longstanding issues. Until then, CDPR found itself stuck in an unending cycle of crunch.
CDPR's Past Crunch Practices
Walder reminisced about the intensity of the crunch period, explaining that delivering any aspect of the game was a Herculean task. Before Cyberpunk's launch, the company mandated six-day work weeks, even though they knew crunch was not the solution. The decision was made in an attempt to navigate an increasingly difficult situation.
CDPR's Current Stance on Crunch
However, things have changed. Walder shared that the company had no choice but to revise its work culture. He admitted that the morale among the team took a considerable hit during Cyberpunk's development. The key was to acknowledge the mistakes, accept the flawed outcome, and commit to making necessary changes. But verbal promises were not enough; they had to put their words into action.
CDPR's Future Projects and Approach
For CDPR's upcoming projects, such as the highly anticipated spy-thriller Phantom Liberty and the follow-up to The Witcher 3, Walder revealed that the company has decided to abandon crunch. This change in approach signifies a promising shift in the industry and could pave the way for a healthier work culture in game development.
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