Kraków-based branch of CD Projekt Red, established in 2013 and best known for The Witcher series, is about to expand significantly. This news has been revealed by John Mamais, the future head of CD Projekt Red’s Kraków studio, in a Q&A session put through by the studio itself. As claimed by Mamais, to truly make use of the potential of a project as ambitious as Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red will soon increase the number of employees to 500, and Kraków-based branch, now consisting of about 30 developers, will expand to about 100. The company is going to put this plan through within the next twelve months. The studio has big expectations for the Kraków-based team: Mamais has revealed that it will play a significant part during the development of Cyberpunk 2077, and after that it will start to produce their own AAA titles. He also said that the Kraków-based branch of the studio has already worked on both expansions to the hugely popular The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and helped with upgrading the studio's proprietary REDengine.
Due to these plans, CD Projekt Red is actively searching for developers willing to work for them. Mamais himself will move to Kraków this fall to become the head of the studio, and the lead game designer of the first Witcher will follow. The company is looking for employees for leading positions – leaders, directors and seniors – as well as interns and juniors. If you're interested, head to the studio's official website, where you can find current job offers, or contact CD Projekt Red via e-mail at [email protected]
Below you can find the official Q&A session with John Mamais, put through by CD Projekt Red.
Q: Hi John, can you please tell us a little bit more about your background and how did you come to work in CD PROJEKT RED?
A: Grew up playing lots of D&D and watching and reading fantasy and scifi, but never really worked directly on fantasy RPGs until I got the job at Atari in France, in 2007, to take over on as Senior External Producer on The Witcher right around Alpha. Atari knew they had something special from CD PROJEKT, but didn’t really have anyone to help them close the game from the publishing side.
So I jumped in and spent a lot of time in Warsaw in those closing months working with the internal producers at CDPR to help solve some of the organizational issues on the project before we wrapped the game. I made some good friends in that period and we continued to work together on the Witcher franchise in a publisher/developer relationship. In the meantime, I produced some additional titles for Atari including Riddick 2, two Neverwinter Nights 2 expansions, and a Panzers RTS game. Atari ended up closing down its office in France in late 2010. Adam Badowski, the then Game Director on The Witcher 2, contacted me a bit later saying they needed a Managing Producer on The Witcher 2. I knew Adam as one of the most talented directors I’d ever worked with, and I also knew the team was focused on quality and were creatively independent. I jumped on the opportunity and relocated to Poland around Alpha on The Witcher 2 and started managing the Rather young internal production team. The rest is history – we finished The Witcher 2 and then did an Xbox 360 port and at the same time started on story prepro on the epic The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. We also made some critical production hires along the way and I can confidently say that we now have one the strongest production teams on the planet, and we are well equipped to pull off something as ambitious as Cyberpunk 2077 next as a fully independent developer / publisher.
Q: So, you’ve been working in CD PROJEKT RED for over 5 years now. I guess that a lot of things have changed within the studio since you joined.
A: I joined in late 2011 and wrapped The Witcher 2 on PC and Xbox 360. After W2 we had a huge task in front of us given the content scope and technological requirements for the now open world of The Witcher 3. The main creative and technical challenge then was to transform the content and tech from linear to open world – while maintaining the very strong storytelling evident in the previous Witcher games. We were also moving into next gen and didn’t know much at all about the capabilities of the new hardware. At the time, we also decided to attempt to split the studio into 2 major content teams, namely Witcher and Cyberpunk, and to create a 3rd core technology team responsible for the engine (REDengine) to support both games in parallel production. I would manager the Lead Producers on the two content teams (and also directly manage the core tech team and the support teams including QA and Localization). It was a bit mad because the team was suddenly splintered, but it did give us a huge hiring impetus, and we did manage to effectively triple the size of the team in a few years. Towards the middle of development on The Witcher 3, we decided to move the majority of devs from Cyberpunk 2077 back into Wild Hunt. This really injected a lot of talent and energy into the W3 team and provided the necessary energy to push it to the end. In the meantime, we were still thinking about expanding our structure. We perceived Kraków as being a good talent pool and we had always wanted to form a second development arm in Poland (North and south) and we decided to give it a go. Shortly after the Kraków team was born and immediately tasked with conceptualizing an idea for an expansion pack for Wild Hunt. In the same time we were integrating the core tech team in Warsaw into Cyberpunk 2077 structure. So yeah, we are quite dynamic. Cyberpunk 2077 will be a challenging, but hugely rewarding adventure for those that aspire to something really grand in scope and cutting edge in terms of tech and content.
Q: Do you guys slow down sometimes?
A: Well, we haven’t slowed down much in the last 5 years, perhaps except for a few long weekends, some raucous team parties, and a few personal holidays ;). It’s been The Witcher 2 straight to The Witcher 3 in parallel with Cyberpunk and then, after TW3 base game, straight onto 2 large expansions: Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. To realize our ambitions regarding Cyberpunk 2077 we need to scale the size of the team working on it which means from 300+ to 500+. Kraków will play a critical role in that expansion and the intention is to grow that studio from 30 now to 100+ in the next year (representing about 20% of the dev team on CP). Kraków is already planned to work on some key areas of Cyberpunk. But it’s part of the goal to build a studio with its own identity and to give the Kraków team ownership. Thereafter in Kraków it will be more and more growth and a new independent full AAA game conceived, pitched, and developed in Kraków.
Q: How do you guys plan to do it?
A: Both Warsaw and Kraków need to grow rapidly. Given the critical success of Wild Hunt (many thanks to gamers supporting us!) and the positive perception of our development studio due to our core values (no DRM, free DLCs) – there has been no shortage of great CVs. But it takes a great deal of scrutiny and time and effort to select the right candidates based on talent, experience, and attitude. So as Blood and Wine wraps, a larger part of the team can focus on this recruitment effort – evaluating tests and sitting in for intensive interview sessions. Kraków played an important role in the development of Blood and Wine – with the whole idea of Toussaint and some of the core story ideas and key art from the team there. And in terms of code, Kraków is continuing to play a vital role in the development of the the engine, with the entire programming team there tightly integrated across our engine and tools team in Warsaw. All this experience and this current level of integration has proven the Kraków team is working at the same level and in the same mindset as the Warsaw team. So there is already a very solid foundation for growth and synergy between the two studios.
In addition to that, I will be taking over as Head of Studio this autumn, with the primary focus on growth and management. We will also be moving some additional key development staff for a great er degree of knowledge transfer from Warsaw to Kraków. Having some veteran Warsaw developers in Kraków should also help us attract some additional senior level talent there.
Q: What’s the most challenging part of this endeavor?
A: Building a second substantially sized studio rapidly, maintaining creative and organizational congruence with Warsaw, and establishing a greater level of independence will be our main challenges. To achieve this independence, which comes from trust, we will need to continue to deliver extremely high quality content that is on artistic and technical parity or even better than what Warsaw is delivering (without the need for too many iterative feedback rounds), and we will need to maintain very high levels of transparency between the two studios (so as to limit the element of surprise and doubt). Our planning, milestones, and communication will need to be well synced which will take a lot of hard work from dedicated resources in production and project management – which happens to be my area of expertise.
And I have to add that our Design Director, Michal Madej, one of the original creatives behind the first The Witcher, is also moving to Kraków. Madej is also very experienced at this type of crossstudio coordination given his recent experience working at one of Ubisoft’s studios as a Creative Director. We also have the advantage of being relatively close within Poland, in the same time zone, and have an order of magnitude less coordination due to the fact that it’s a direct line of communication between two studios.
In terms of rapid growth – I have been highly involved with the Warsaw hiring push on The Witcher 3 from 2011 until now, and we have successfully managed to grow from 80 to 300+ in the last 4 years. We have refined our recruitment process and expanded our channels significantly over that time and that experience and those acquired techniques are already being applied to Kraków.
With that in mind we need to recruit both locally and from abroad. We’ll focus on key talent (Senior, Lead, Director) from here and abroad, and will also keep fueling the studio with less experienced talent (Jrs and Interns) sourced regionally. We have faith that there’s a ton of untapped talent in and around Kraków, and throughout Poland for that matter, that we can attract to our expanding studio.
Q: Even though it seems it’s a bumpy road you guys seem to have everything under control.
A: Well thank you as well! Everything is moving in the right direction for the CD PROJEKT RED Kraków division to be one of the leading independent AAA developers in the region. If you feel like you have the talent and the ambition to part of the studio please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].