A damning report about the state of studio culture at Polish developer Techland has revealed a number of issues impacting the creation of Dying Light 2. The situation, which stems from what the rapport alleges is a bullish, autocratic tier of upper management, has resulted in numerous staff walking away from the project and studio.
The report, published by The Gamer, compiles a number of testimonies from anonymous sources who either currently work or have been employed by Techland. Among the many allegations, it appears that the company’s management is having a negative effect on both the morale and workflow of its employees, and thus in turn complicating and slowing development of Dying Light 2. Apparently at least 20 staff have left Techland in the last two months.
Much of the problem apparently stems from harsh demands and feedback provided by the upper management, led by company CEO Pawel Marchewka. He and his managers allegedly refute the advice of the studio’s own experts, and insist on the team using ideas found in other games rather than creating their own.
“Whenever an expert starts advising things that are not aligned with the board’s agenda, they slowly get isolated from the project and responsibilities,” a source told The Gamer. “That leads to them leaving or eventually getting fired. To make a career at Techland, you have to be subservient.”
Apparently Marc Albinet, a 30-year industry veteran previously at Ubisoft, was brought in to restructure the studio’s design process, but ultimately was unable to convince management on a new structure. Similarly, veteran Techland employee Paweł Zawodny apparently wanted to try and make workflow easier by replacing Techland’s procedures with a more traditional development pipeline, using either Unreal or Unity. He was denied, which allegedly led to a falling out between Zawodny and Marchewka. Zawodny then left the studio.
“Trust and the flow of ideas in a large organisation is a complex issue,” Marchewka told The Gamer in response to the allegations. “After all, you can trust someone, but not agree to their idea, because it is not, for example, the right moment to implement it or it does not fit the certain project.”
Another issue staff at the studio apparently deal with is Marchewka’s demands for game features to be based on those in existing games. “One of his super strict rules for design is that ‘an idea can’t be implemented if it doesn’t have an existing reference from another game’,” said a source. Apparently, Marchewka is “infatuated” with CD Projekt Red.
Such a demand means that the staff feel creatively stifled. “If you have references from games Marchewka may not know about, you may as well not have any references, and anything slightly innovative or expensive is [off] the table immediately,” a source said.
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The rejection of ideas can apparently come in offensive form, with reports of management team members using homophobic and course language in feedback. A source explained that such treatment makes you feel like “you don’t know sh*t”.
This studio environment has meant many staff have exited the company. Notably, Dying Light 2’s story is currently being worked on by the sixth iteration of the narrative team. The constant turn over of writers – one of which was Chris Avellone who split from the company over allegations of sexual harassment rather than studio issues – has meant the story is apparently a “Frankenstein’s monster” of stitched together ideas from different teams.
A source said that they “have no idea what the final game will be, or what the story is. It’s changed so much. People kept quitting, getting fired.”
In response to the issue of high staff turnover, Marchewka told The Gamer: “Making games is tough and it is normal that sometimes there is a need to change the workplace and look for new challenges. I am very sorry that some of our employees left us and decided to find their way outside the structures of Techland but I’d always wish them the best.”
As far as the management’s demands for ideas from other games, he said “It’s natural that I pay attention to what others in our industry are doing, so when talking about examples of high-quality solutions, I often refer to CD Projekt Red. I point out that it is also a Polish company, so certainly our origins and roots should not be an excuse.
Currently, Dying Light 2 is without a release date after being delayed in January 2020. No significant news about the game has come out of Techland since the announcement, meaning our last proper look at the game was the Dying Light 2 developer commentary back in 2019.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.
Source: IGN Video Games All