Work On Cyberpunk 2077 Began in 2016, Four Years After First Trailer

Cyberpunk 2077's lauded E3 demo was almost entirely fake, per a Bloomberg report.
Cyberpunk 2077's lauded E3 demo was almost entirely fake, per a Bloomberg report. | Photo courtesy of CD Projekt Red

CD Projekt Red didn't begin development on Cyberpunk 2077 until 2016, four years after it released the first teaser for the game, per a Bloomberg report on the game's development published Saturday.

The game's development started off rocky, with many of the veteran developers responsible for CD Projekt Red's previous success, The Witcher 3, departing early on. Some of those developers had clashed with studio head Adam Badowski when he took over as director in 2016.

The team was unable to leverage much of what it had learned and built for The Witcher because of Cyberpunk's dramatic departures from that game, per Bloomberg's sources. Working in science fiction instead of medieval fantasy and the shift to a first-person camera required new hires, new techniques, and new technology.

That technology in particular proved a sticking point. CD Projekt Red attempted to build out the engine technology powering Cyberpunk while simultaneously developing the game, creating significant production slowdowns.

Even as development flagged, marketing around Cyberpunk continued to grow. The demo shown at E3 2018 that so impressed journalists was almost entirely fake. CD Projekt Red had yet to code the gameplay systems that would have allowed for the kind of action shown in the trailer, and many of those systems were ultimately cut from the final game. Some developers on the team felt the demo had been a waste of months of work that distracted from building the game itself.

Not that developers weren't working hard on Cyberpunk — despite Iwiński telling staff there would be no mandatory overtime on Cyberpunk 2077, more than a dozen employees told Bloomberg they felt pressured to put in extra hours by managers or coworkers. One former audio programmer said he would work up to 13 hours a day, five days a week.

Language barriers between Polish- and English-speakers, a dizzying increase in employee headcount, and the move to work-from-home in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic all further contributed to the game's torturous development. Management resisted pressure to further delay the game despite widespread acknowledgment among developers that Cyberpunk was far from ready to ship. Even when CD Projekt management announced the game had gone gold, major bugs were still being discovered. That didn't stop the company from launching it to vitriolic backlash.

CD Projekt Red now plans to spend the foreseeable future working to fix the game's many glitches and win back fans. Although there is precedent for a game recovering after a disappointing launch, it remains to be seen whether Cyberpunk can turn things around.