A couple weeks ago, a rare dribble of info about Witcher creator CD Projekt’s next game, Cyberpunk 2077, hit the web. Multiple outlets reported that CDP is not working on the game in earnest, that they have to complete a major dev tool overhaul first. Problem: that’s not how game development works.
As CDP has stated in the past, a large portion of the studio began working on the ambitious open-world game in earnest around the time of The Witcher 3's release. During an interview at a recent Witcher 3: Blood and Wine event in San Francisco, visual effects artist Jose Texiera—the guy who was quoted in the previous round of stories about Cyberpunk—reiterated that to me.
“I mentioned that we were upgrading the engine based on the feedback everybody gave from The Witcher 3,” Texiera said. “We’re upgrading the engine. It’s a pretty thorough upgrade. Almost every aspect of the engine is getting upgraded. My particle effects editor is getting upgraded, as is almost every other tool.”
“But the article that was written online was worded in a slightly click-bait-y type way that made it sound like we haven’t even started really working on Cyberpunk yet,” he added. “I didn’t say that. We’re just upgrading the tools. That’s all I said. That’s something that any company that uses custom software has to do from time-to-time. That’s all.”
An engine is a software framework used for game creation. Some engines, like the Unreal Engine and Unity, are more widespread than others. The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk both use versions of CD Projekt’s custom REDengine, an in-house proprietary engine tailored to their particular needs. Development tool upgrades are actually a pretty regular thing with game engines, and they don’t necessarily impede progress. CDP’s learned a lot while working on Witcher 3 DLC and Cyberpunk. Naturally, they’re feeding that back into the engine’s capabilities and ease-of-use.
“The engine team took all the feedback, and they’re upgrading it,” said Texiera. “The hope is that it’ll allow us to do a lot more with the same engine. A lot more and faster. It’s still very much an ongoing process, but it’s promising stuff.”
Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t have an exact release date yet, but there sure has been a lot of speculation about it. All we know for certain is that it won’t be out before 2017. Still, now you know how proprietary engines work, which might come in handy next time somebody tries to tell you that dev tool upgrades will delay a game’s release by a hundred-million years.