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CD Projekt’s new Witcher game director speaks out on crunch

The game director for CD Projekt’s just-announced new The Witcher project has spoken out on the issue of crunch.

CD Projekt has been criticised in the past for its track record on staff working conditions, and previously U-turned on its promise not to enforce crunch during development of Cyberpunk 2077.

This week, with its new The Witcher project now public, CD Projekt veteran Jason Slama announced he would serve as the project’s game director.

“I am super thrilled to announce that I have humbly been working to ensure the success of the next big AAA The Witcher game as its Game Director!” Slama wrote. “Think you could join the team? We have tons of roles open with the possibility of remote work we could discuss!”

One response to this suggested Slama had forgotten to mention “horrible crunch and being treated like a dog”.

Slama then responded: “Never on my watch!”

While this is not a promise the new project will be developed without crunch, it is already being held up by CD Projekt’s legion of fans as a statement of intent for the game’s (likely many years of) development going forward.

CD Projekt has had a long history of crunch, and previously had to address employee disquiet during its long push to get Cyberpunk 2077 out the door. (“This approach to making games is not for everyone,” co-founder Marcin Iwinski and studio manager Adam Badowski said in a 2017 statement, after numerous negative reviews surfaced on employee feedback site Glassdoor.)

Back at E3 2019, I spoke with Cyberpunk 2077 designer Paweł Sasko about hitting the game’s release date as part of a wide-ranging interview.

“We’re pretty comfortable we can deliver on this date and not kill ourselves,” Sasko told me at the time. “It’s a complex topic. We just love this project and we want to work on it. And if someone was to tell me to stop, or that I didn’t need to do something, I’d say – I want to make this better… There’s a balance to that and working 100 hour weeks. 100 hour weeks are extreme. It’s more about being clever and picking the right battles.”

In January 2020, CD Projekt exec Adam Kiciński said that staff would have to crunch “to some degree” through Cyberpunk 2077’s five-month delay to September 2020.

And then in September 2020, staff were told via company email they would have to work six-day weeks until the game’s launch (at that time set for November 2020, prior to its final delay into December).

“I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision,” Badowski said. “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.”

There’s no word on when CD Projekt’s next iteration of The Witcher might be released, or when we might hear more about the project.

Today, CD Projekt exclusively confirmed to Eurogamer that its medallion tease for the next Witcher game was indeed a lynx – backing up previous fan speculation.

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