Ten current and former Techland devs spoke anonymously to The Gamer highlighing what seems to be the crisis of the studio’s management culture. We have selected the most graphic quotes both from the team and from the management on various aspects of the Dying Light 2 development.
The developers claim that there have been cases when they have turned in their work only to hear “It’s shit” or “that just looks bad” or “this character looks gay” from the management.
CEO Pawel Marchewka did not expressely deny this happening: “When we’re in the inventing phase, we have lively discussions with each other, clashing different ideas and opinions. Therefore, I can imagine that in a tightly-knit team such words could have been said. Nevertheless, this is not our standard and those phrases do not meet our criteria in any way.” He also added that Techland has launched “training sessions” to address the culture of communication at the studio.
“At least they knew how to deal with women back then!” said one of the leads referring to the dark ages that Dying Light 2 aims to replicate.
To that, Marchewka responded by claiming that “The person who is responsible for these words was reported to our Human Resources department and swift action was taken to ensure it didn’t happen again. We have a strong representation of women at Techland and we want them to feel supported at all times.”
The cult of external experts
“Techland has a history of hiring people for which the team had ‘high hopes’, but it ended up in nothing,” says one of the sources. “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.” “Whenever an expert starts advising things that are not aligned with the board’s agenda, they slowly get isolated from the project and responsibilities,” adds another team member. “That leads to them leaving or eventually getting fired. To make a career at Techland, you have to be subservient.”
“Making games is tough and it is normal that sometimes there is a need to change the workplace and look for new challenges,” Marchewka shrugs it off. “I am very sorry that some of our employees left us and decided to find their way outside the structures of Techland.”
The eye of Sauron
“Techland in general has this creativity-killing vibe,” one of the sources says. “Since everything at the end is changed by directors, every presented idea has to have plenty of references. 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. Because of the culture inside the company, people quickly go into stagnation and give up on trying to innovate. The environment is stressful because you feel like you have to fight with everybody about everything instead of cooperating on a project. Everything is always challenged and even when something is ‘accepted’, it might be thrown out two weeks later by someone and then brought back months later. The cycle repeats and people are just genuinely tired.”
“What’s also strange regarding producers is they have a say in design,” another member of staff confided. “They cannot hold the pipeline or milestones together, but they [have] time to redesign or argue about design.”
This is confirmed by a third sourse: “[Marchewka] can butt into every department except programming, because a programmer can just fire up a big line of code and say, ‘OK, how would you fix this?’ He would just not know what to do. Anything else – marketing, sound design, anything visual – the guy can just say ‘This sucks, change this’.”
Marchewka does not agree. “Trust and the flow of ideas in a large organisation is a complex issue,” he says. “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. 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. 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.”
The original interview goes on to detail other issues, from the members of Marchewka’s family holding the executive positions to iterations that never end, to the problems around the studio’s proprietary engine, Chrome Engine 6.