A Delayed Game is a Good Game
Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto once said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” This quote has been echoed quite a lot these past months. Another game this year has been delayed. CD Projekt Red has announced that they are delaying Cyberpunk 2077 to September 17, 2020, instead of its initial April release date.
This is the first delay for Cyberpunk 2077 even though the wait has felt like years. Cyberpunk 2077 was announced way back in 2013 and didn’t get a release date until E3 2018. Now it does seem that the majority of the community and myself are willing to wait. Unfortunately, there are the few that are not as compassionate.
Now Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t the first game to be delayed. The first Triple A 2020 game that I can remember to be delayed was The Last of Us Part II, originally slated for February and now slated for May. Then it was The Avengers and then followed by the Final Fantasy 7 remake.
From my perspective, I’m not at all upset by these delays. In fact, I think my wallet is more relieved because of it. When talking to my group of friends the other day, we agreed that there is no delayed game that we would be really upset over. They can take all the time they need as delays are not really my concern. It happens, right? Sometimes it just needs a little more time in the oven. What I’m really concerned about however is the nature of crunching in the video game industry. Crunching is a video game industry term for developers spending time working on a video game for an unhealthy amount of time. Typically working overtime without pay.
As CD Projekt Red has explained in their Q&A conference call, Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed to allow more time for the developers to polish up the game. According to CD Projekt Red’s CEO Adam Kicinski, “polishing is just a complex task. It’s about the number of things we have to take care of rather than some fundamental problem.” The base game is playable, it just needs time for bug fixing.
Delayed ≠ No Crunch
Initially, I was pleased that CD Projekt Red decided to delay so they could give their developers plentiful time to work on the game without a rush. Unfortunately, crunching seems unavoidable even with the delay.
When asked about crunching during their Q&A conference call, Kicinski responded “To some degree, yes, to be honest. We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately.”
This calls into question the work ethic behind these Triple-A titles even with delays. Crunching doesn’t always happen but it’s seemingly becoming more and more common, unfortunately.
The last big crunching controversy that came to light was Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. In a Vulture article, Dan Houser, the co-founder of Rockstar Games, stated that they were working 100-hour weeks when working on Red Dead Redemption 2. It immediately sparked controversy in the video game community, denouncing Rockstar for their crunching practice.
Some developers even came out to claim how working long hours negatively affected their health. “I was pushed further into depression and anxiety than I had ever been while I worked there,” a former Rockstar Games developer told Kotaku. “My body was exhausted, I did not feel as though I was able to have any friends outside of work, I felt like I was going insane for much of my time there and I started drinking heavily.”
Is the Art Worth the Sacrifice?
The former Rockstar developer was just one example and I would really hate to see this practice becoming the standard in the industry. It’s understandable that companies like CD Projekt Red and Rockstar Games are committed to giving us the players the best possible experience as we were promised. But it comes into question, when is the art worth the sacrifice?
Kicinski stated in the Q&A, “You sacrifice some things to do that and be part of that. There are a lot of people who come into the industry that are fresh; they don’t really understand what it takes to do it,” he said. “So, we get a lot of new guys coming in, and they go, ‘Oh god, this is like too much.’ But then we have other guys come in from Rockstar Games, and they’re like, ‘This is not even crunch!’ We’re doing the best we can to keep the work under control. But sometimes when you’re doing some big-ass game like this, it’s not always possible to do that. It takes really hard work to make it really awesome.”
CD Projekt Red’s Adam Kicinski openly admits that even though the game is delayed, crunching is still inevitable. Delaying the project didn’t shorten crunch time, it just extended it. The fact that he also seems to almost shrug it off, speaking on their behalf and say that his team can handle it is quite concerning. For me, it just calls into question, what other Triple-A game is dealing with this?
As much as we demand the highest quality in our games, we do have to keep in mind that it may also come at a cost. When CEO’s say that sacrifices must be made for the perfect game, they rarely mean their own sacrifices.