Dying Light 2 has had its share of struggles since it was announced almost three years ago at E3 2018. Developer Techland made some very big promises regarding the impact of individual player choice on gameplay and outcomes, which would demand multiple playthroughs for anyone who wanted to see more than half of the content it offered. But a planned release for spring 2020 was missed, and a new release date hasn’t been set. The game also lost its lead writer, Pawel Selinger, who departed earlier this year after more than 20 years at the studio.
A new report on Techland published by TheGamer suggests that the project may be floundering largely due to problems at the studio, particularly regarding the “autocratic” management style of CEO Pawel Marchewka. Interviews with ten current and former employees allege problems including an over-reliance on external consultants who lack experience in the games industry (whose advice is often ignored anyway), conflict at the production level, a high rate of staff turnover, and micromanagement that some developers characterized as “the eye of Sauron,” which has collectively had the effect of stripping the game of a “coherent vision.”
“Techland has a history of hiring people for which the team had ‘high hopes,’ but it ended up in nothing,” one source said. “One such case for the designers was the hiring of Marc Albinet, a former game director from Ubisoft, that was supposed to restructure how design is done in the studio. Even he, a veteran with 30 years of experience, couldn’t break through upper management that is harder to change than the spin of the fucking Earth.”
New hires and consultant who don’t follow the company line end up sidelined, according to another source, which ultimately leads to their resignation or termination: “To make a career at Techland, you have to be subservient.”
Techland’s insistence on using its own internal technology to power the game is also a stumbling block, according to some employees. Dying Light uses the Chrome Engine, a proprietary 3D engine developed by Techland, but after the first game was released the chief development officer at the time, Pawel Zawodny, wanted development of the sequel to be iterated in a more widely used engine, like Unreal or Unity, before bringing their work to the Chrome Engine. Marchewka, however, insisted on everything being done in Chrome Engine 6.
“It slowed everyone down and that frustrated everyone,” a source told TheGamer. “He would ask why people aren’t working faster and it was because the tech isn’t up to speed. We can work faster, but we have to go here, and you’re not allowing us to go there. The experts know what the goal is, and they should be allowed the flexibility to do what’s best.”
Zawodny, who now heads up CD Projekt Red’s Wroclaw studio, brought on consultants of his own to help build a more conventional workflow, but many of their suggestions were apparently not adopted. The system as it currently stands, one employee told TheGamer, is “a production pipeline that changes so quickly and rapidly that it might as well not exist.” More producers have been hired to help get the wheels turning, but reportedly often find their efforts blocked be veteran employees.
The report touches on a range of other issues, such as producers interfering in design decisions—one source said producers on Dying Light 2 “cannot hold the pipeline or milestones together, but they [have] time to redesign or argue about design”—and constant micromanagement from upper management, which collectively points to an atmosphere of chaos and aimlessness at the studio, and on Dying Light 2.
“What is going on in Techland is just total chaos, not iteration,” a source said. “There are plenty of examples where there is someone responsible for a given feature—like a game director decides on something—but Pyza [creative director Adrian ‘Pyza’ Ciszewski] and Marchewka just overwrite this because of some bullshit reason, like they’ve seen something working differently in other games so we can do it like that.”
Marchewka defended the studio and its processes, saying that “trust and the flow of ideas in a large organization is a complex issue.”
“We are currently working on creating an innovative game that millions of players around the world will love, and thus we are constantly looking for methods that allow us to improve the transmission of fresh and interesting ideas,” he said. “However, not every idea is a good idea for this project, and only the best and consistent ones with the vision of the project will be implemented in our game.”
Unfortunately, there’s still no sign of a Dying Light 2 release date: Techland said in January when it confirmed Selinger’s departure that it would “be sharing exciting news about Dying Light 2 soon,” but as of now there’s been no sign of what that news might be. I’ve reached out to Techland for comment, and will update if I receive a reply.