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New Report Paints A Dark Picture About Dying Light 2’s Development

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The question “Where is Dying Light 2?” has been on many minds since the announcement of the indefinite delay in January 2020, and now that same question has returned following reports of the culture within Techland and a lack of direction for the choice-heavy sequel.

In a report by The player, Kirk McKeand spoke to many Techland developers to assess where the studio is at with the highly anticipated launch of Dying Light 2. What he found instead was a disheartening image including a lack of leadership, a lack of direction and a demoralizing atmosphere. One developer even told the site that “the fish is rotting in the head” when discussing the more toxic aspects of the studio and its leadership.

With comments from 10 current and former studio members, the report shows how management took an abusive tone, including the use of a homophobic slur when offering comments. In the report, CEO Pawel Marchewka says the findings of The Gamer’s investigation are an “important question” when examining the communication issues the company is currently seeking to improve. The CEO responded by saying that the team’s job is to “invent and iterate” and that goal has often caused clashes with team members who have differing views on how development is going. “When we are in the invention stage, we have heated discussions with each other,” he said. “Therefore, I can imagine that in a tight knight team, such words could have been said. Nevertheless, this is not our standard and these sentences do not meet our criteria in any way. We always remind our employees to make sure they are communicating correctly. ”

While this sounds Well, the report continues to show that the aforementioned comments are far from a one-off case, but rather something much more common than the CEO portrayed in his response. One example concerns a meeting on the direction of Dying Light and how it touches tones that are considered to be “modern dark ages”. During this meeting, a source tells The player that a lead developer responded to this period by saying, “At least they knew how to deal with women back then.” Marchewka also responded to this incident, saying the response was inappropriate and this developer reported to Human Resources almost immediately. “We have a strong representation of women at Techland,” he said. “We want them to feel supported at all times.”

Women led notoriously horrible lives during this time, a far cry from the light fairy tales that many fictional stories like to paint. While women were expected to work at that time like their male counterparts (which is fair), they were paid much less than men and the jobs available were much more restrictive. Although there are women in the nobility, it was not the standard domestic life for the average woman at this age. In fact, there were many laws against women in particular, including the limited freedom as a full person, which you can read more about here.

But even that could be seen as an isolated incident, prompting the site to keep digging. Some of the employees who The player spoke with mentioned a board the CEO hangs in his office, a board he himself said if it makes people uncomfortable he will take it down immediately. The painting in question represents a woman lying naked with a cheetah, an animal object by artist David Yarrow (a man known for his conservation work). “I find him one of the best, if not the best wildlife photographer. That’s why I hung it up in my office. But I want to make sure I’m setting a good example, so if any of our employees, anonymously, reports that they feel uncomfortable, I’ll remove them immediately. “

Nepotism

It appears in his response that the CEO is ready to make necessary changes, but the report goes on to reveal that the HR manager is his wife, which would leave him with complaints about him, compromised in a way that many employees expressed uncomfortable. . His wife, Aleksandra Marchewka, did not start her time at Techland as HR, but began her journey with the company as an interior designer for Techland’s expanding offices. Despite the lack of an HR history on her CV, she was promoted to Acting HR Director in February 2020. When asked if the CEO thought this could be a conflict of interest – what it inherently is and why many companies disavow this type of hiring practice – he said, “No, I don’t know. My wife is professional and we have a professional relationship at work.”

The issue here is not who she is as a person. Many Techland employees have said that she is a very approachable and friendly face in the office, but there will always be a bias regarding her husband, especially regarding the more sensitive reports that some developers withhold for fear of reprisal. It was also reported that many would use her relationship with her husband to their advantage by selling him an idea that she would pass on to the CEO.

His wife is not the only close connection Marchewka has under his employment; his sister also holds a management position as head of international sales. Nepotism plays an important role here, which in itself is worrying, but also prevents the qualified personnel of the company from any change of potential role already occupied by the family.

Marketing conflicts

Going back to the communication issues, apparently some controversial marketing ideas have been thrown that have some of the team worried. One was to drive an unmarked van in real life across the Mexican border and drop off a stack of body bags to grab the headlines. The plan was to later reveal that this move was a marketing tool for Dying Light 2, linking it to the story itself.

Another controversial marketing argument regarding concerns about disease disclosures (a decision made even more controversial given the ongoing pandemic). In this pitch, the plan was to send random medical test kits and return them only to reveal that they have contracted a fictitious disease (the disease seen in the game). The problem here, however, was that these were actual medical kits being used and actual illnesses could be detected, which was an ethical issue not everyone agreed to.

The team also tinkered with the idea of ​​working with the United Nations to create a video where a United Nations spokesperson would trigger panic detailing an event where people were “scrambling to survive” in a fight for water. . Given that this is a very real issue in many parts of the world, including the United States, the conversation around this decision has also come under scrutiny.

The CEO responded to these reports of marketing ideas saying it was just a small part of a bigger “creative brainstorming session.” According to him, no idea is too weird during the ideation phase, which is fair considering that this type of spitballing clearly defines what is too far away and helps keep brainstorming on track in a more appropriate way. .

Kinguin influence

When Lukasz Janas joined Techland in 2020 as Creative Director from his previous role at Kinguine, a company that operates the same as G2A as a PC reseller, it was reported that the general attitude towards his arrival was positive. Unfortunately, that hope in his influence was quickly squandered when it became apparent that, according to sources that opened up about their time there, he did not have the necessary experience for the job, which confused the waters of communication and clear direction.

According to a developer at Techland, “There is this general consensus at Techland that marketing doesn’t do much and seems incompetent.” The CEO, in turn, responded that Janas’ employment was a step towards correcting this feeling of incompetence and that her inclusion had a positive influence on bringing “new solutions” to the studio as a whole. According to the sources who spoke, his addition to the team is widely seen as a major obstacle to the overall goal as the company works to launch Dying Light 2.

“The fish rots in the head”

The player The report details Marchewka’s desire to work with the “best of the best,” a goal that is not unlike many in any industry. Unfortunately, Techland has an incredibly high turnover, a rate that has steadily increased over the past year. “Techland has a history of hiring people the team had ‘high hopes’ for, but it came to naught,” said an insider. “One of those cases for designers was hiring Marc Albinet, a former game director at Ubisoft, who was supposed to restructure the way design is done in the studio. Even he, a veteran with 30 years of experience, couldn’t break through the top leadership which is harder to change than the fucking Earth’s rotation.

The lack of a clear vision, of people in roles they are not qualified to advise on new directions, and the misalignment between core staff and the board as a whole has taken its toll. on Techland’s infrastructure. In fact, some have come forward to say that if someone’s vision did not match that of the board, then those people were isolated from the whole project and their main responsibilities, which inevitably led them to to be sent back or to go and collect. better opportunities.

Marchewka, however, says that this high turnover rate is quite normal for an AAA studio and that there is no cause for concern. While staff turnover is an expected part of any studio, an ever-increasing number of people leaving are not, especially if it feels like many of those departures are due to poor leadership and to poor management. This perception has only grown over the past year, with one source even claiming that the CEO trusts outsiders more than his own staff, often looking outside the company to weigh in on the mainstream. aspects of the development process.

The picture is that many of those in leadership positions were not qualified or were not trained to work as a team. This was a point hammered out when making contact with Development Director Pawel Zawodny, who was promoted to Software Developer within the company to introduce a more traditional development structure to make the workflow more efficient. Zawodny reportedly wanted to give developers a chance to create their work in established engines like Unity and Unreal, to which Marchewksa was very much against the desire to use Techland’s own engine. According to various sources that opened up about it, they wanted to go in the direction that Zawodny was trying to lead them and Marchewka’s refusal to budge caused immense frustration.

“He was asking why people aren’t working faster and that’s because the technology isn’t up to the task,” one employee said of the frustration surrounding the CEO’s tough stance. “We can work faster, but we have to go here, and you don’t allow us to go. Experts know what the goal is and should be given the opportunity to do what is best. “

The CEO, of course, responded by saying that Techland has their own way of approaching game production and that they have adapted accordingly. Unfortunately, much of the staff feels the opposite, saying that there is no adaptation going on and it slows down efforts to a point where everyone involved is concerned. A factor that also contributes to this is that the CEO often tries to be directly involved in every milestone review meeting. On paper it looks good, but the delegation is there for a reason and the need to be involved on every corner leads to a slowdown in the schedule and ideas that are not fully formed are shut down and stalled before they happen. they cannot see the light of day.

Despite Marchewska’s praise for Zawodny and their collaborative process, Zawodny eventually left Techland to start his own studio, a studio called Strange New Things which was eventually acquired by the developers of Cyberpunk 2077 CD Projekt Red. “After decades of creating headlines driven by so-called market demand, [we] all of them have reached a point where we’ve decided to do something different – something that comes from ‘us’, ”Zawodny said upon leaving. “We also felt that the way the industry giants work is outdated. We want to adapt to a new way of working and fostering teamwork – an evolutionary approach described as Teal – where there are no predefined hierarchies or roles. It’s time for us to change the interior industry. “

Too many chefs in the kitchen

A common complaint to all The player It’s about every designer, every developer, could weigh in on all aspects of development, including producers closing ideas they weren’t familiar or equipped to understand. Because of this, there were too many people who were constantly designing and redefining aspects of the game with no real cohesion as to what these changes would mean on a larger scale.

Reports continued to show the disconnect with the “new” and “old” teams when new members were brought in and immediately saw the chaos that the “too many chefs in the kitchen” mentality was causing. When these newcomers spoke of their concerns, they were immediately “out”, according to a source.

A withdrawal of people who worked on Dying Light 2 at its base once they left to work with increasing toxicity within the company’s pool of people (as shown by the allegation of sexual misconduct regarding writer Chris Avellone), it quickly became clear how Dying Light 2 found itself in a position of uncertainty.

Lack of cohesion, lack of clear leadership and respect for delegated roles, a lack of awareness, and a refusal to adapt outside of “the way it has always been done” all contribute to the reports collected on the company. For more on the state of Dying Light 2 and Techland, including many accounts from inside sources, you can check out the full story here.

[[[[Source: The player]

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