Report: Cyberpunk 2077 Developers Will Be Crunching, Despite Promises They Wouldn’t

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Report: Cyberpunk 2077 Developers Will Be Crunching, Despite Promises They Wouldn’t
Image: Cyberpunk 2077

In May 2019, Cyberpunk 2077 developers CD Projekt Red promised staff that there would be no mandatory crunch as the game neared completion. A month later, the same promise was made. Now? A report says they’re being told it’s time to crunch.

In a move that will surprise few, least of all followers of the exploits of capitalism in the pandemic age, the studio’s previously volunteer-only crunch policy has now reportedly become mandatory, as CDPR rush to get the game’s bugs squished before Cyberpunk’s scheduled release date in November.

What’s “Crunch”?

Crunch is a term used to describe “extended periods of overtime that can last for weeks or months on end”, and usually comes towards the back end of a game’s development. Once almost universal across the industry, in recent years it has become rightly criticised as an exploitative and anti-worker business practice.

According to Bloomberg, the change in policy was sent to staff in an email, and means everyone was now expected to be completing “your typical amount of work and one day of the weekend.” That extra work will, at least in this case, be paid (many other studios do not pay extra for periods of crunch).

Addressing the fact this goes directly against promises made only a year ago, studio head Adam Badowski writes in the email:

I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision. I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back — that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.

One of the assumed reasons CDPR went so public with those promises last year was to assure staff that the studio was a more “humane” place to work compared to other developers. To make that pledge then break it is…yeah.

Comments

  • Honestly, there are so many games coming out between now and the end of the year. Just delay it again. Your sales will not be impacted, everyone will still want this game

    • Yeah, how much time are they gaining with one extra day per week for the next month and a half? Delay by that amount of time (fuckit, double it) and get better quality work out of your devs than when they’re crunching.

      This is a shit move. I mean, good that they’re paying, where others reportedly don’t? But fuck me that’s a really low bar to cross. I mean, not paying people for their time is so low it’s buried in the floor, it’s either illegal or should be. No credit deserved there.

      This industry infatuation with release dates being set in stone is infuriating. It’s pretty well understood that sometimes you can have something done fast, or you can have something done right, but for some reason it’s almost universally considered better for it to be done fast than right, to meet advertised deadlines?

      Why is that? Is it because there are no penalties for releasing a lower-quality product that requires patching? Because it only affects consumers?

      • To build on what you are saying, they are paying their workers because it is illegal to not pay them in Poland, that’s the difference between companies that pay for overtime and don’t, not the goodness of their hearts.

        It’s not mentioned in this article, but it was in either Jason’s tweets or the Bloomberg article that the game has already been sent for approval. They are now crunching to develop the day one patch.

        I’m so done with people that defend this practice, I’m glad that people that think like this are in the minority on this site.

      • The reason why developers are so obsessed with release dates is there’s often contracted obligations with various entities such as publishers, investors and the like.
        Those obligations can often cover everything from bonuses, profit share and the covering of certain development costs.
        I don’t agree with it either, just putting it out there.

      • Money. Especially investor and shareholder money. I’ve been through a number of involuntary administrations, one of them while I was working at a games company and basically it comes down to two things:
        1) The people who have given you their money on the promise of results want to see those results and get their return on investment when promised.
        2) To keep yourself funded, you need to hit your funding milestones to secure the next round of investment or look to other sources for more money.

        Unless you have a solid plan, delaying your release a third time (in this case) is just asking for trouble with those who are paying you and they’re going to be thinking twice before giving you anything else and may come knocking for some sort of return or guarantee.

      • I’m sure delaying a games costs the company a fair bit of money but I think you’d rather release a finished game than a half broken one. Maybe there’s a balance, a few bugs might not be that bad as long as the actual game is finished. No man’s sky is the best example of a game that wasn’t finished, it cost them dearly.

  • If they’re being transparent about it, and paying the staff, and also allowing staff to opt out of the necessary workload, then ok. A lot of the companies forcing crunch on the staff weren’t doing any of this. As someone who works in an industry with abhorrent workloads that aren’t paid fairly, I can honestly say that it sucks when you aren’t compensated.

    Again, if they’re allowed to opt out, if they’re compensated for it and if work conditions aren’t bad now as opposed to before, then ok. I have no qualms with it. There’s compensated crunch and there’s crunch time with unfair work conditions. This to me, sounds like the former.

    • From the Bloomberg article:

      “Polish video game developer CD Projekt Red told employees on Monday that six-day work weeks will be mandatory leading up to the November release of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, reneging on an earlier promise to not force overtime on the project.”

      It’s mandatory crunch, and
      “But an account from a CD Projekt Red employee recently as well as an email to staff earlier this week indicate that the company hasn’t lived up to its word. The employee, who asked not to be named discussing private information, said some staff had already been putting in nights and weekends for more than a year.”

      So they are being paid for overtime, but this isn’t opt-out and by the sounds of things things have been crunchy for a long time before now. So it’s not great.

      • This is not exactly how you put it. It’s mandatory crunch, but it’s also not ‘crunch culture’ as you’re presenting it. This is a couple of weeks before it’s being released, and here’s an updated from CDProjekt Red:

        “This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in,” Badowski adds. “And, like in recent years, 10% of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team.”

        That’s pretty damn good. Not many companies out there are compensating their employees like that. They’re asking them, for a few weeks only, to do an extra day and compensating them for all hours they do, and giving them a bonus in lieu. That’s not the old style crunch culture. What’s needed here is perspective and details.

  • It depends how they do it. If the workers have a choice, or have a choice to opt out? Do they get perks or reimbursement? I would be more surprised if they werent asked to work weekends in the lead up. I seriously doubt any of their main employers would have expected anything different.

    I work in theatre and it is the nature of our industry to do such things, they are only bad if there is no choice and if it goes on for too long. Even just recently I was in a position where I had to do eight six days week, and because of COVID there simply was no money coming which meant I couldnt get my penalty rates, so I felt that I had no choice BUT I did get time in lieu. At no time was I forced. So when it stopped I took a week no holiday pay used. And cos of that sacrifice for a few we earned enough to get casuals back employed.

    2020 in a nutshell, sometimes we have to do something we dont like. As long as the employees are being respected and there is a choice.

  • This blows but I don’t think another delay is an option. It’s already been hyped beyond what any title can really deliver. I suspect that there will be mixed emotions when it comes out because I’m sure it’s really, really good, but on the other hand nothing can live up to so many years of anticipation.

    It just needs to come out now. They can patch it in the following months as they did with Witcher 3.

  • So… Are we all hopping on the #CancelCDProjektRed and #boycottCP2077 train? Or are we just going to faux-outrage and then get it and enjoy it anyway?

  • I guess its a case of being earnest making promises, and then reality comes, bites you in the ass, and the promises end up being broken.

    It seem to have been the case for the entire history of game development that when you have a release date you have crunch. You can go back 30 years to various Ultima game releases and in the bonus ‘Dev quotes’ there are ones that mention the crunch they were doing then.

    The alternative to not having a release date is scope creep and it never being released, such as one particular kickstarter that I wouldn’t be surprised if its sucked billions out of its backers with no release in sight.

    Or just release a broken game, and see all the complaints that come out and what they do to the emotional health of the people that worked on it.

    Can’t really win?

  • I dont get what the fuss is about? When the factory I work at was commissioning a new line, as the deadline loomed we all had to work overtime to complete the project, it was all hands on deck. We worked hard, got paid and got the project completed. Isnt that completely normal?
    I bet the journalists on this very site have to stay up past midnight working on articles because of deadlines.
    The release date is approaching, so they need everyone to work overtime (paid) to make sure it’s ready. I honestly don’t see the problem.

    • Crunch is normal in any job and I think 1 month of working an extra day each week that they get paid for just before a release is fine.

  • There’s overtime, then there’s crunch.

    Many companies/factories implement overtime if situations/projects demand it. They ask for people to sign up as additional resources to commit to completing something on time.

    I feel “crunch” is really when its an “unspoken” rule that everyone is working extended hours to meet a deadline and management is not acknowledging that anything is out of the ordinary at all or paying their staff for the extra work. That’s crunch

    • Working government, we had one manager come in from the broader system who expected us to do unpaid overtime ‘Out of kindness’. It became a meme in the workplace for us to refer to doing something ‘out of kindness’. Luckily, we had protection to be able to say that no, we weren’t going to do the work out of kindness.

      • The public sector has been slowly greying the line between overtime and crunch for decades.

        I experienced crunch first hand numerous times in the ATO, whether it was expected in a section (enquiries during tax time), or a big launch like GST. People were expected to put up with it as it was part of the job. And we did.

        Fast forward to today, and a lot of the smaller things around that have been eroded away as well. Travelling for work outside normal hours used to get overtime, or the equivalent in flex time. Not these days, you just clock up to 10 hours on flex and lose the rest.

        Getting to 10 hours is pretty easy when you travel interstate after a full days work. Hell, it was easy to rack up 10 hours travelling inter-city if you were going from somewhere like Newcastle to Sydney. There also used to be small allowances to cover incidentals when doing part time travel. Not any more.

        More and more additional work effort has become unpaid, and nobody seems to have noticed. Glad I’m out of it now.

        Its blurred the line between overtime and crunch to the point they’re almost the same thing.

  • I expected crunch, you can’t abolish it when you have set “dates” on a calender.

    What I do is expect a company is aware of it, makes it elective and justly compensates staff for their time like any industry with overtime and penalty rates.

    If it becomes systemic, or staff are work overtime every week, then management has to hire more staff and change business practice.

    • From the little information that we have at this point, it sounds like it was elective overtime and it just didn’t cut it so they’ve moved to mandatory.

      At this point in the project its possible that the time in getting new people up to speed would be more detrimental to the project than paying people to work more. I know in my workplace, every time we get someone new in I end up writing off that day, and for hours each day after that.

      • Similar situation in any industry really… Get some new people in and it is going to crash production for someone somewhere.

        Even tiny seemingly insignificant aspects of work like just having to show newbies where things are adds up over a days/weeks of training… And it’d only get worse for a more complex project that is already well in gear.

  • “ That extra work will, at least in this case, be paid (many other studios do not pay extra for periods of crunch).”

    So, don’t go in! Can’t make a person work on their day off! Or is this something that other countries suck at in their laws?

    • Its fear, if I dont go in… I dont have a job.
      And risk my ability to get another job after it.

      A lot if the industry is contract work and has a high staff turnover.

      Sometimes it is their one big break into the game industry… dont rock the boat, I am just paying my dues, I need to do more to get noticed. The boss won’t yell at me if I just get this done.

      Sometimes management is waiving a carrot like a completion and performance bonuses. When your bonus could potentially be 50% of your salary, you dont blink working 100% more hours (and not realise your under paid)

  • I can’t feel sorry about crunch, given EVERY single job I’ve ever had, has had, it in some form or another and they have been a damn sight less spiritually fulfilling as working at a well respected gaming company who win multitudes of awards for the excellence of their products.

    Customer service at Xmas or Black Friday or if there’s a rush. Overtime a plenty. Hell one Xmas season I was working twelve hours a day for six days a week for over three months. And I had to deal with whinging shit and a job that really sucks.

    Working for McDonalds as a manager. Twelve hour days were the norm. As was Opening, swing shift, closes at least one a week, at minimum once a fortnight.

    Having to work a full day, as in as long as the store was open, at a Red Rooster, because the only other manager had top have a weekend, he also had to do the same for me. Dangerous as fuck when I fell over in the freezer and was by myself, and hit my head. Luckily I wasn’t knocked out or injured to badly.

    Working labouring jobs, like building or making hearing aids. When making the hearing aids I had to work an extra four hours a day and start at 4.00 am on a Saturday for another nine hour shift. Why? Because we had big government orders we needed to fill. This could go on for months, then we maybe had a lull for a few months, then back into it again.

    My point is. There are A LOT of jobs that have a form of crunch. As long as they get paid and are on some level given the odd time to spend with their families and such it’s just like every other fucking job.

    Also where are the stream of articles about how shittily Amazon treat their workers? Like no toilet breaks, shit pay, stupid impossible deadlines and masses of overtime, for little to no increase in pay. Be consistent.

  • Update from CD Projekt Red:

    “This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but everyone is well compensated for every extra hour they put in,” Badowski adds. “And, like in recent years, 10% of the annual profit our company generates in 2020 will be split directly among the team.”

    Maybe it’s worth chasing them up for an extra interview? Or even asking to speak to the actual employees to clarify how they feel about it?

  • So here is some things that this article and Jasons seemingly intentionally forgot to include:

    As per their contracts, CDPR Employees receive a portion of the revenue from the game sales. 10% of the royalties are set aside solely as a bonus to employees. This generates a whole lot more money for them than overtime pay

    These articles also leave out that these employees will be paid overtime, Unlike other publishers who don’t

    You also left out the fact that under Polish law, You cannot work more than 150 hours a year in overtime. You are also only allowed to work a maximum of 48 hours a week per polish law and you can only work a maxium of 8 hours overtime a week. So this crunch will only equate to an extra day of work

    I question whether Jason or the other writers actually bothered to contact some CDPR employees and see how they felt about the situation.

    These articles seem like an orchestrated takedown of CPDR for some unknown slight they have done.

    Some honest reporting would be great.

    • Yep, people aren’t asking the truly relevant questions here, forgetting that different regions have different requirements. The term ‘crunch’ here is being applied in an unfair manner. Six days a week, 48 hours? Shit. As a teacher on average I work 70-80 hours a week on average, I know there’s those of you out there who work MORE than me too (Nurses, Doctors etc, some of you work insane amount of hours). And yes, I wholly agree, this feels like an orchestrated slander of the company with it’s selectively avoided topics and relevant information that’s been disregarded.

      • “As a teacher on average I work 70-80 hours a week on average”

        And even more so now, due to such “unprecedented times”.

        My wife has been told to be, “actively available” 24hrs a day to students and parents. Absolute joke

  • The number of people pretending that this isn’t just another example of normalised, industry-wide abuse tactics is disappointing. The game industry is full to bursting of abusers and abusive practices.

    You can admit that the industry surrounding your hobby is shitty, dislike it, want it to change and still like the hobby. It’s not an all or nothing situation.

    • Except it isn’t an example. There are laws regarding how much they can work. There’s compensation going on. This isn’t ‘crunch’ that goes on in America, this is one *single* day over a couple of weeks, not months and months and months.

      To spin it around on you, ‘the number of people pretending that this is just another example of normalise industry wide abuse’, are blindly applying the term crunch without considering the truest thing: Context. Also, they’re missing something vital: The opinions and thoughts of the actual EMPLOYEES. We need to hear what they think of this. Until then, we don’t know what they think and have no right to condemn the company for them in their place.

      • lol… asking poke (and his ilk) to consider such foreign concepts like “context”…

        And yes… This is a very intentional dig. Look at me care

      • 6 days a week for several weeks without a choice is fine then I guess? What if they don’t want to? They lose their jobs? Doesn’t sound very voluntary.

        When the opinions of the employees come out and everyone is totally cool about it, I will unreservedly apologise. If this isn’t a carefully worded corporate communique to hide the fact that the employees are suffering I will unreservedly apologise. But I’m feeling pretty damn confident, here.

        It’s also pretty great being accused of hating context when I’m constantly putting way too much effort into explaining the reasons for why I think asd I do and the result is almost universally some Very Smart Boy replying with “SJW TRASH CONETEXT MATTERS DERP DERP”

  • Like most things these days, the outrage is not commensurate with the issue. Most jobs have peaks and troughs; this is a spike mere weeks before the game’s release, and in a country whose labour laws will ensure a reasonable outcome for all concerned.

  • It’s a game about a dystopian possible future, seems fitting they must crunch. I hope they get extended holiday breaks afterwards (often in rotation so some of the team can work on patch/fixes).

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