We haven’t heard much about Dying Light 2 lately beyond its indefinite delay and cutting ties with Chris Avellone. A new report has indicated why that might be the case, raising concerns of mismanagement and bizarre behaviour, including one of the strangest marketing ideas I’ve heard in years.
The report comes from Kirk McKeand at TheGamer. It details complaints from staffers within Dying Light 2 developers Techland, ranging from inappropriate workplace behaviour that’s not adequately rectified by HR, delays in pre-production because of management decisions to force the use of Techland’s internal tools rather than initially iterating in other engines, high turnover, a failure to implement workflow improvements and a company culture that stymies progress.
There’s an awful lot of concerns raised, and none of them sound great. Here’s a quip from a developer about Techland’s internal approach to creativity:
Since everything at the end is changed by directors, every presented idea has to have plenty of references. If you have references from games [Pawel Marchewka, Techland CEO] may not know about, you may as well not have any references, and anything slightly innovative or expensive is [off] the table immediately. Because of the culture inside the company, people quickly go into stagnation and give up on trying to innovate.
That’s not a great sign. Nor is a story that multiple people reportedly told TheGamer about a piece of art, which was formally described as “too f**got-like”. (Techland’s CEO, Pawel Marchewka, acknowledged the incident had taken place and said the person responsible “was reported to our Human Resources department and swift action was taken to ensure it didn’t happen again”.)
It’s not the only instance of homophobic language in the studio quoted, though. Here’s a snippet from another developer about some feedback given:
It could also be something like the shape of spikes on the enemy, how [a certain] AI kicks the player, or some visual aspect where Marchewka will give his famous feedback like, ‘that just looks bad’ or ‘this character looks gay’, which is very useful feedback for specialists who work on such things for years, right?
Other sources told TheGamer that Techland management is known for heavily micromanaging staff and projects. The story on the original Dying Light was reportedly rewritten at the CEO’s prompting, despite voice overs and cut scenes having already been scripted, shot and recorded. Dying Light 2‘s story has already been rewritten “six times or so” as well.
“There are plenty of examples where there is someone responsible for a given feature – like a game director decides on something – but [Techland creative director Adrian Ciszewski] and Marchewka just overwrite this because of some bullshit reason, like they’ve seen something working differently in other games so we can do it like that,” an anonymous developer is quoted as saying.
And as for that marketing idea? One floated by the CEO was to use a pile of body bags that would be unloaded at the Mexican border in an unmarked van for some form of bizarre ARG. Another idea suggested last year was to send people medical kits so they could test themselves for the fictional pathogen within the Dying Light 2 universe, although the kits weren’t fake: they were also capable of detecting real diseases.
Developers also spoke about being given “unrealistic deadlines” as a motivational tactic, resulting in a culture of burnout. It’s a great bit of game reporting, so give it the dues necessary and check McKeand’s full story out here.