The controversy surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 has continued through the title’s broken launch. Littered with bugs, the game has been nearly unplayable for some on last-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Even reports from the new current-gen consoles have highlighted game crashes, missing features, and a massive open-world that’s more empty than immersive. With the game’s launch riding on the back of a wave of previous controversy, CD Projekt Red has come under fire from the entire gaming community.
However, it’s just another demonstration showcasing just how problematic the video game industry actually is, and has been for several years.
September placed the spotlight on Polish game developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) when journalist Jason Schreier reported that employees were facing mandatory six-day work weeks. At this time, Cyberpunk 2077 was slated for a November release date, and time was dwindling. Crunch time in the video game industry is common, and has fallen under a negative light due to the amount of work hours forced upon already overworked employees.
In 2019, CDPR Co-chief Executive Officer Marcin Iwinski told Kotaku that the company would be “avoiding mandatory crunch and was ‘committed’ to allowing employees to work without overtime.” However, an account from a CDPR employee as well as a company email directed toward staff, revealed that the company hadn’t honored its promise.
In the email, CDPR Studio Head Adam Badowski wrote: “Starting today, the entire (development) studio is in overdrive. 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.” He continued, “But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”
However, the efforts to reduce bugs have seemed to fail, particularly for players experiencing the game on last-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
Unfinished games have become a common, and sometimes expected, occurrence in the community. In the beginning, the discussion circulated around post-release microtransactions and day-one DLC. EA in particular attracted a lot of negative attention due to these practices, even becoming the back-to-back champion as the Worst Company in America in 2012 and 2013.
In the past years, frequent patches as well as alpha and beta testing have been integrated into the overall gaming experience. Pre-ordering a game could unlock “early access” to a title in the form of beta testing (looking at you, Call of Duty). Additions like loot boxes were also criticized due to the possibility of obtaining weapons and perks that could offer an unfair advantage in-game.
The addition of battle royale titles like Fortnite and Warzone have solidified the “continuously-updated” culture, but for a single player RPG like Cyberpunk 2077, releasing with game breaking bugs is unacceptable.
The company has since released an apology for the errors, but it has only highlighted what some people have claimed to be shady practices, not only from CDPR, but from Microsoft and Sony.
— Cyberpunk 2077 (@CyberpunkGame) December 14, 2020
“First of all, we would like to start by apologizing to you for not showing the game on base last-gen consoles before it premiered and, in consequence, not allowing you to make a more informed decision about your purchase,” the company stated. “We should have paid more attention to making it play better on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.”
Responses have been mixed, with people criticizing last-gen console players for expecting a polished game, and consumers demanding refunds. However, while CDPR has stated that refunds will be allowed, many PS4 and Xbox One players are being denied by Sony and Microsoft.
Even Elon Musk replied to CDPR’s apology, stating, “The objective reality is that it is impossible to run an advanced game well on old hardware.”
Should Cyberpunk 2077 have even been considered for last-gen consoles? The blanket of bugs is only one of the issues the game faced.
Dangerous ‘Features’ Highlight Health Concerns
Video games can introduce epilepic triggers through rapid blinking lights, specifically red and white. For years, games have included warnings of these triggers, but people who suffer from epileptic seizures usually have to play at their own risk.
However, in Cyberpunk 2077, there wasn’t just a general risk of triggering seizures.
Game Informer Associate Editor Liana Ruppert published an “Epileptic PSA” about the game, particularly because she is also vulnerable to epileptic triggers.
In her article, she stated, “During my time with Cyberpunk 2077, I suffered one major seizure and felt several moments where I was close to another one. I kept going because I made that decision to, and I feel like that decision helped me sort of slap together a small little guide for players wanting to take part in this game for fear of missing out.”
She added: “Cyberpunk 2077 is about hedonistic excess. Much like the tabletop game that inspired the open-world RPG, everything is brighter, louder, and more in your face. Pair that with the reliance on technological interfacing, and some triggers were expected.”
She heavily covered the Braindances (BDs) in the game. These sequences are a major feature in Cyberpunk that allow players to “interface with memories, often of the deceased, by plugging into a mainframe and diving in. Pretty much everything about this is a trigger and this is something that caused me to have a grand mal seizure when playing to help with our review.
“The headset fits over both eyes and features a rapid onslaught of white and red blinking LEDs, much like the actual device neurologists use in real life to trigger a seizure when they need to trigger one for diagnosis purposes. If not modeled off of the IRL design, it’s a very spot-on coincidence.”
Ruppert’s article shed light on the issues surrounding video games and the lack of accessibility. CDPR released an update that included a modified version of the braindance animation, and other game developers are thankfully taking notes. While the Cyberpunk 2077 situation is disappointing, hopefully it creates a foundation for improvement in the industry.
Since this started, I’ve had 4 major AAA studios reach out to me saying this article has caused them to re-evaluate their dev process and more inclusive regarding neurological accessibility. I’ll take all of the abuse and hate if it means gamers can game safely 🙌🏼💜 THANK YOU!
— Liana Ruppert (@DirtyEffinHippy) December 10, 2020
Update (12/18/20): Sony has begun honoring refund requests and has removed Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store. CDPR has stated that the company is “working hard to bring Cyberpunk 2077 back to PlayStation Store as soon as possible.” Microsoft has also announced that all refund requests for the game will be honored.