What Microsoft can learn from Cyberpunk 77

2020 has been hitting us left and right with delays and cancellations. The biggest of them all arguably being Cyberpunk 77. I, like almost everyone else, have watched the Cyberpunk 77 saga with interest. One of the most hyped games continuing to have development delays? That is juicy stuff. How will the game turn out? Is this a sign that the game will not meet player expectations at launch? Will this be one of the biggest flops in modern gaming?

I do appreciate the practice of publishers allowing game studios to take more time with a project however it never seems like quite enough time to get things perfect. Off the top of my head, games like Might Number 9 and Duke Nukem Forever come to mind for games that just couldn’t find enough time. While other games squeeze every last second out of their delays like Bioshock Infinite or Halo 2 and turn out okay. There can be a clear divide over whether delaying a game can have significant benefits.

Cyberpunk 77 finally released last week and and it appears that PC and next generation console players are having a decent time with the game. There are still players attempting to play on last generation hardware who are struggling to have the same experience. Polygon reports that players on last generation hardware are having enemies clip out of vehicles, assets not loading, or models completely freezing mid animation. The game is performing so bad on the older consoles that some outlets like IGN have encouraged consumers that “If your only option right now is playing Cyberpunk 2077 on either of the base console platforms, I highly suggest you don’t play at all until its many terrible performance issues are fixed.” That is disturbing from a AAA game release.

I recognize that the game is playing on older hardware but it technically is the hardware that the game was originally designed for (and continued to be marketed and sold for). On top of that, Cyberpunk 77 is a AAA game with Microsoft and Warner Brother behind it. Someone should have delayed the old console releases or pulled the plug entirely from the projects. It’s disappointing to see that there are versions of a game, that obviously had a lot of passion in development, exist that don’t showcase that same passion.

I can’t understate how glad I am that Cyberpunk 77 was delayed multiple times before. The product that was received on PC and new consoles probably is much more in line with the end product CD Projekt Red had envisioned. It has me thinking though of the other big AAA game that was recently delayed, Halo Infinite.

343 Industries finally released a gameplay demo and for the most part it looked in line for what I expect from a Halo game. The aesthetic looked like it was in line with Bungie’s original vision of the world and the movement of chief felt in line with a super human wearing a tank for armor rather than sprightly Hawkeye in a full set of armor.

The real issue of the gameplay that was shown to us didn’t appear until we had a chance to have a closeup with one of the enemy characters. In a now famous screenshot, Craig the brute can be seen staring off frame to where Microsoft Execs are speculated to be threatening Craig with no time off. Craig the brute became an instant meme and so did some of the other older looking textures that were presented in the demo. Essentially, the game looked like it hit the goal of looking like the older Halo games but not just because it matched the aesthetic of the Bungie games. Some of the enemies were poorly rendered and sometimes didn’t even look complete.

There were also some pop ins and some weird stilted flight patterns of one of the Covenant drop ships. The drop ship looked like something from Combat Evolved by how jagged its flight path was in the video. However, I think the most egregious of all the examples people are pulling from the gameplay is the last 2 minutes of the 8 minute gameplay demo, where a Brute Chieftain challenges the Master Chief in a monologue.

The Chieftain is so poorly animated and rendered that I still can’t believe that 343 and Microsoft were okay with showing it to the general public. The idea was for the Chieftain to be the next big enemy for the Chief to face off against. The scene was meant to set the tone of the game and get everyone excited but instead I am only filled with fear of another botched Halo release.

After the reception of the game’s gameplay demo, Microsoft said that Halo was to be delayed but that no new release date was announced yet. At the time, I thought that was good or else you might have a Cyberpunk 77 release schedule where it would be delayed every 3 weeks or so. 343 developers and people within in the community were speculating that the delay could be a few extra weeks to early spring 2021 as a release window. To me that made sense because from that gameplay demo alone it looked like the issues were mostly graphical.

So it came as a shock when the game was delayed an entire year to Fall 2021. What looked like only slight graphical issues seems to have been a host of other issues in some portion of the game. It’s also worrying that Microsoft was initially okay with releasing a game that needed another year of development. I am sure 343 have worked tirelessly to try to make a game that caters to new and old fans of Halo so I am glad the delay happened but I hope that some things can be learned from Cyberpunk77’s release.

I hope in that year Microsoft and 343 Industries cancel the Xbox One version of the game and focus exclusively on the next generation of Halo. I would prefer 343 Industries learn from CD Projekt Red’s mistakes and deliver a game that is worthy successor to the Halo legacy. Focus resources on the current generation releases of the game. There should be little reason to divide the team and try to make halo work on the old hardware.

Halo might just be delayed to next Fall so it can be in the Holiday season again. It might do that to put more distance between the Xbox One and the current generation of Xbox. This distancing might allow Microsoft to cancel the last generation version of Infinite. Or else, Halo really needs that entire year and we need to be prepared for all that might mean.

From what I can tell, the development of Halo is going through some changes. The staffing at 343 keeps changing it seems and sometimes for the better, since it appears Joseph Staten is returning to write for Halo infinite. We don’t know what is going on behind the curtain so we can only hope that 343 is trying to make a game that won’t disappoint the Halo community. Hopefully Microsoft gives 343 the time, resources, and freedom to develop the game to the standard that they hope to make it because in all honesty Halo Infinite looks like a return to form for the series and I hope 343i can finally prove that Halo can exist in the modern gaming landscape.

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