CD Projekt RED has once again decided it apt to apologize to players for all the unpleasant surprises they've served us at the release of Cyberpunk 2077. This time, it's done it via co-founder and CEO Marcin Iwinski, who took quite a few minutes to own up the misfired launch in the name of the entire board, also pleading not to blame the developers themselves, which is arguably the most decent part of that video. Truly kosher, dear Board, truly laudable. Unfortunately, while apologizing, the CEO also decided to explain what made the release of Cyberpunk 2077 such a beautiful disaster. And this is where things get a lot less laudable.
Before I go into a detailed analysis/rant of Iwinski's statement, it's worth clarifying one thing. I myself am lead to believe that in case of this type of official apologies, it's never a great idea to try and explain yourself. I think the phrase "Excuses are like farts: everyone has them and they mostly stink" holds a profound, unsavoury truth. Regardless of what led to the abundance of bugs and glitches in Cyberpunk 2077 and who's to blame for it: no matter what sort of excuses you have, they won't cut it now. CD Projekt seems to be getting away with it, and I feel a little perplexed, but apparently players give them bigger a credit than I'd expected. But the information provided in the discussed clip is completely unverifiable; these might as well be a cheap excuse.
Now, to the controversial part: the only real explanation should go along the lines of "We decided to rush the release. We did not miscalculate; we made a conscious decision in full awareness of the risks, and for fear of financial and image damage we'd take with yet another delay." And that's something that a studio either has to own up directly, or not talk about it at all. The less significant, technical decisions taken along the way may be discussed later, when things hush down.
Instead, CDP decided to offer an explanation, and it was quite peculiar. In the very first part, we hear that "Despite good revies, the console versions of (the game) did not meet the quality standard we'd wanted it to meed." CDPR has been taking this line of defense since day one, but I just can't buy it. What does it meen "It didn't meet the quality standard"? Were they kept in separate rooms in CDP HQs? Cyberpunk 2077 certainly does run better on PC than on consoles and was patched sooner on that platform, but anyone who tried to run it on a recommended system config right after release, knows that it was certainly not a comfortable experience. This reminds me of a red herring strategy, giving players a false trail to follow, making them forget the big picture. Do PC players also need an apology?
Next, the president of CD Projekt talks about how the sheer scale of the project and exorbitant ambitions of the core team exceeded the capabilities of the developers. This is a perfect example of "stinking excuses." Except, what he says is certainly true. Playing Cyberpunk 2077, we see at every turn what this game could have been if its developers had enough time. This sure is the only way to explain the delays and cutting content. But deciding that your game goes gold when it barely holds together only because it's almost Christmas doesn't have anything to do with the scale of the project. It will always be a bad decision, period.
The really unfortunate moment, however, comes later, with the following passage:
"[...] as it turned out, our testing did not show a big part of the issues you experienced while playing the game."
It's possible that Iwinski meant no harm. It's possible that this is just an unfortunate choice of words. After all, he takes the blame (in the name of the entire board). Maybe he feels responsible for not eliminating all the bugs before the release, too. However, many perceived the statement as putting the blame on the QA department – I mean, if it "turns out that testing doesn't show a big part of the issues," then something's utterly wrong about that testing process.
It was also perplexing to hear that the disk speeds of old-gen consoles "is what it is." OK, I get it, we're doing away with HDDs. But the bandwidth of old-gen consoles has been exactly that for the past decade. I can understand that the developers' ambitions grew as they went further into the development process, and I am completely willing to believe their aim was to deliver as graphically compelling a game as possible. But you can't eat the cake and still have the cake, dear Board. This is another ugly excuse. Cyberpunk 2077 was announced as a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and the only "harbinger of your destruction" was perhaps the news that everyone will get a free upgrade to next-gen. But what percentage of PS4 and XOne users is going to switch to next-get within the next 12 months? For instance, by the end of 2013, about 15% of PS3 users had upgraded. Not to mention the fact that most consumers simply don't care. What happens to their game after they launch it is what matters. So it's another thing that I wouldn't really mention in an apology.
And while playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a decent rig, I was mostly pissed. I wasn’t pissed about all the things that seemed broken, or were barely working. I wasn’t mad about the glitches and poor performance. I can understand it; almost every game released could use another few weeks of development, but there’s a point where you have to stop. But that didn’t make me mad. What made me mad was the realization of how great a game this could have been. What made me truly sobbing inside, was watching all this untapped potential.
Let me emphasize again. An apology, a promise of improvement, and keeping us up-to-date with the roadmap is a very good decision on CD Projekt's part. The Board taking responsibility and owning their mistakes (even if via a proxy) is also good. But there was a lack of cold blood. I think Marcin Iwinski should have acted more like a coach. One who, even despite being aware of the problems of his team, never mentions them in public.
Michael Chwistek | Gamepressure.com