#95: Redemption 101

A few lessons in how not to atone for your game's mistakes, courtesy of Cyberpunk 2077.

We need a new word for that feeling you get when you start a hotly anticipated game and are hit with the sad realisation that it has been rushed out: that little itchy niggle that says you’re wasting your time, that you are beta-testing the soft-launch version of a game that is months or years away from being the game you had in your head, because that was the game you were promised and this game — this game you are playing on launch day, that you preordered, that you maybe booked the day or even the week off work for, such was your excitement for it — this game is not that, so you uninstall it, put it back on the shelf if physical is still your thing, mentally adding it to your other ‘pile of shame’: not the games that you have yourself failed to play, but the ones that are waiting for developers — who for reasons of talent or time or some other sorry circumstance sold you on a game they weren’t really making — to at some point patch into an acceptably playable state.

Big sentence, that. Unwieldy. Like I say, we could do with a word for it.

We are quite good at noticing these games now, aren’t we? These games that launch with a fanfare that peters out within hours, as players notice the frayed seams and broken promises, as developers admit their errors and promise not to rest until all of them are fixed. They seem to come along like buses, and we get better at seeing them coming all the time. When Destiny came out it took me about 40 hours to go, hang on, is this all there is? With No Man’s Sky, I needed a couple of days. Last weekend I bought Dying Light 2, and had refunded it within the hour.

When Cyberpunk 2077 launched in late 2020 it was obvious within minutes that I was playing another one of Those Games, but I stuck with it for a while. I so desperately wanted it to be good, and not just because I had written one of the many breathless previews of it after that (in)famous E3 demo. My first ever Edge cover story involved a trip to Warsaw to see The Witcher 3, and during the studio tour I asked if I could see the Cyberpunk team. They’d only recently acquired the rights, and I expected my request to be laughed off. To my surprise they said yes, but I soon understood why: it was maybe half a dozen people sitting around a board game made out of Post-Its. There was nothing to see, no scoop to be had. Gosh, what a valuable experience that was, and how I have carried it with me. This is how game development begins. They are all miracles, these things, even the bad, buggy, broken ones, though naturally some are more miraculous than others.

Yesterday CD Projekt announced, showed off, and released the long-awaited, and much-delayed, next-gen update for Cyberpunk 2077. Hurrah, you might think. But CD Projekt’s handling of the update’s deployment was a bit of a mess. I found that very strange, particularly when you consider the volume of precedent it had for inspiration, and the fact that the developer has had over a year to contemplate how best to frame the first proper chapter of its game’s redemption story. There is a lot in here, I think, that other studios can learn from.

First, when your game has endured one of the most embarrassing launches in game-industry history — when it was in such a state you had to offer refunds on every platform, it was actually removed from sale on PlayStation, and you were sued by pissed-off investors who felt they’d been lied to — I would suggest turning the volume down on your comeback a bit. Be modest. Do not preface your announcement with an overlong, low-rent, self-congratulatory livestream. I loaded up Twitch to see what the news was, and the first thing I saw was four people gushing over the fact that motorbikes now have LED lights on their wheels. You can toggle them on and off, apparently! I swiftly closed the tab.

Next up, a couple of slides pushed out on socials highlighting the main improvements. Given everything this game has been through, a wide-ranging overhaul of Cyberpunk’s systems — here phrased as “rebalance of gameplay, economy and loot” — should surely be given the greatest prominence. That is a very important set of changes, it seems to me, and something I imagine a large number of developers spent a long time on. I would probably put that first on a bulleted list, just to make sure everyone saw it. Instead it ranks fourth, below “new weapons”, “additional apartments for V”, and in third — and I promise I am not making this up — “hairdressing mirror.”

Finally, an observation on patch notes that I would like every developer on the planet to jot down somewhere. You should not do jokes in patch notes unless you have made a universally acclaimed and widely beloved game whose failings are minor. When your launch has gone as badly as Cyberpunk’s, I would probably advise against saying things like, “Fixed an issue where vehicles could be frozen in the air after loading a save file. Now they are just regular boring cars that fall down.” Or, “Fixed an issue where River would instantly hang up after calling him. How rude!” The vibe here is not one of, ahh, isn’t game development funny sometimes. Rather, it is: lmao we sold you guys a right fucking lemon didn’t we. Thanks for paying us to finish it.

Besides, there is plenty of comedy to be had in the patch notes as they are. Herewith a selection of favourites:

  • Fixed an issue where summoned vehicles could spawn within each other, resulting in them either shattering to pieces or being launched in the air.
  • NPCs crushed by a vehicle that are unable to recover will die after some time.
  • Enemy shotgunners will now attempt to keep a closer distance to the player during combat.
  • It’s no longer possible to apply the Cyberpsychosis quickhack on cyberpsychos.


Lastly, and perhaps most bafflingly, is the timing of it all. It is either tremendously brave, highly arrogant or very, very dim to try to make people care about Cyberpunk 2077 in one of the busiest and most exciting months for new game releases in years. To be fair, I can see both sides of this decision. It is an arguably better idea to launch the next-gen-ish update to your open-world game three days before the arrival of Horizon Forbidden West — a true next-gen open-world game, on PS5 at least — than to try and do so in its wake. And I see the logic in launching it midway through your fiscal quarter at a time when the game is on sale. But gosh, it’s not brilliant timing, is it? We have something to talk about today, sure. But I can’t see Cyberpunk generating much conversation when Horizon, Elden Ring, The Witch Queen and Gran Turismo 7 come along.

Perhaps that’s for the best. I spent a couple of hours with the game on Series X last night, and they’ve done a decent job. It runs at 60fps, I didn’t see any bugs, and there’s the seed of a decent game in there somewhere. It is flat and weirdly empty and has a lot more baggage than it did 15 months ago, but I saw enough to want to continue with it, though obviously not for a month or two. But this is still not the game we expected, or were promised, or paid for, and I don’t think it ever will be. In which case I suppose it probably makes sense to push the thing out at a time when it will be swiftly forgotten, and try to get on with your lives. What a shame.


  • Nintendo is to close the Wii U and 3DS eShops for good in March 2023. Boo. On the bright side, you can now view your playtime stats on each console on this newly launched website. I played a lot of Street Fighter IV, as is correct.
  • Netflix has announced a film adaptation of Irrational Games’ BioShock. Hollywood has been trying to get this done since the game launched in 2007, apparently; a project helmed by Gore Verbinski fell apart due to concerns over its likely budget and R rating. Netflix cares little for such matters, of course, so this feels like a pretty good fit.
  • More woes for Roblox, with the BBC focusing in on the proliferation of sexual content on a platform overwhelmingly aimed at and populated by minors.
  • Nintendo gives no fucks about the metaverse. Rejoice! “There is no easy way to define specifically what kinds of surprises and enjoyment the metaverse can deliver to our consumers,” said company president Shuntaro Furukawa. Hasn’t stopped anyone else, unfortunately, but here’s hoping.
  • Team17 has acknowledged the issues raised in Eurogamer’s report from last week, and promised change — including an immediate pay review for QA staff. It’s almost as if investigative journalism works, and is to be cherished. Who knew!
  • If this Capcom countdown timer isn’t building up to a Street Fighter VI announcement, I shall simply scream.

There you go! Another hearty welcome to new readers, this time thanks to Eurogamer republishing the Max HP interview with Tracy Fullerton. As always, please do the things with the buttons below, and I’ll see you all on Friday.