The Gamer published today a large investigation into the situation with the studio Techland, according to which there is a serious rift in the development team of Dying Light 2 that could lead to an even greater delay in the game. We have collected only the main points of the publication, which can be read here .
What happened at Techland
Employees contacted by the publication report that the Techland studio has developed an autocratic form of management, there are complaints about poor planning and a toxic work culture. And all this descends on the heads of ordinary developers from above.
The author of the publication, Kirk McKind, notes that several people independently spoke of disrespectful communication during communication, when the work of artists and other members of the team was called “crap.”
What the head of Techland says
At the same time, the head of the studio, Pavel Marchevka, said in a correspondence that the team was trying to improve the situation. According to him, problems arise due to the fact that the studio is at the stage of “invention”, which leads to a clash of opinions and views.
Thus, I admit that in a small team it is possible to use such words. However, this is not our standard and such expressions do not meet our criteria.
Paul also notes:
- Techland cares about employee welfare
- The team always evaluates what can be learned and what can be improved
- Good behavior is expected of all employees
- This year, the studio will launch a series of courses for working on communication, among the instructors will be outsiders
- There is no gender, color or orientation discrimination at Techland
However, employees complain that the cases described above are not isolated incidents. During one meeting while there was a discussion of the modern dark ages, one of the leaders said:
At least then they knew how to treat women!
According to Pavel, this situation happened a couple of years ago and the personnel department took measures to prevent this from happening again. The head insists that the studio has created an environment for women and the team wants them to be able to count on support.
Kirk notes that his sources confirmed the case at the meeting, but they did not see any consequences. In addition, some employees are unsure how seriously complaints about sexism are taken when a large photo of a naked woman on a cheetah hangs in the studio head’s office.
According to Pavel, this photo was taken by the famous English artist David Yarrow, whom he considers one of the best wildlife photographers. And so he hung up this photo. But if employees don’t like it, then they can report it anonymously.
The problem is that the HR manager is the boss’s wife.
She was originally hired by Alexandra Marchevka to work on the interior design of the new office. Prior to Techland, she was a freelance lawyer. Two years later, she became the only woman on the Techland board. In February 2020, she became head of HR.
But Pavel does not believe that in this case there is a conflict of interest, since his wife is a professional and they have a professional relationship at work.
According to staff, Alexandra is a friendly and open person, but her relationship with the head of the studio turns some off from complaints. On the other hand, if you convince her of some idea, then she can influence her husband. In addition to his wife, Pavel’s sister works in the studio and is responsible for international sales.
Like family relationships, the influence of a leader is felt in virtually every department, from screenwriters to artists to marketing. Paul is called a man of ideas and he offers some pretty bold and interesting options. One of the marketing options for Dying Light 2 is to deliver packages of fake bodies to the border between the United States and Mexico in order to stage a daring ARG that will even be reported in the mainstream media.
According to Pavel, these are nothing more than ideas, they allow you to filter out what fits and what does not fit, banal and original concepts. He agrees that the body story is too much.
At the start of the pandemic, there was an idea to send out medical test kits so people could check if they were victims of a virtual pathogen. However, since the kits are real, they can reveal real serious diseases. Another idea was to collaborate with the UN to get a representative from the organization to talk about the virtual metropolis from the game.
Lucas Janas, the new Creative Marketing Director, acts as a buffer between Pavel’s ideas and their implementation. When he joined in May 2020, the team had hopes that he would make things better. It turned out that he had limited knowledge of the gaming industry and the global market in general. Many people think that his experience is not enough for such a job. An example would be a drop in the quality of content on a studio’s Facebook page.
One source says:
There is a consensus in the studio that marketing does almost nothing and looks incompetent.
Pavel assures that Lucas is a strong leader capable of strengthening the team, directing it in the right direction, and he has ambitions for high-quality content. However, from the outside there is a feeling that the creative director is only a symptom of a global problem.
Pursuit of the ideal
The problems can be traced back to 2011, when the famous Dead Island CGI trailer came out. The video turned out to be phenomenally cool, but had nothing to do with the game. But he and the game announced the studio, and since then Pavel has been chasing this lightning in a bottle. He even voiced the idea of repeating this trailer, played backwards.
Meanwhile, Marchevka wants to work with the best people in the gaming industry, so the team is constantly hiring new employees. Presumably to fill the seats because Techland’s turnover is very high. Over the past couple of months, 20 people have left the studio, which is quite a lot for a team of 400 goals.
One source says the studio has a habit of hiring people who don’t deliver any results. For example, Pavel brought in Mark Albine, a former director of Ubisoft, who was to re-engineer the design process in the studio. But even with his many years of experience, he was unable to break through the stubbornness of top management.
As soon as the “newbie” begins to make recommendations that do not correspond to the ideas of the leadership, the developer is isolated from projects and responsibilities. As a result, senior developers simply leave or are fired.
To this, Pavel argues that high turnover is normal for AAA projects, at the same time, many are still working at Techland even after many years. The CEO regrets that some employees are leaving or deciding to find a new location outside Techland.
Sources say the studio has developed a cult of outside consultants. Allegedly, Pavel trusts people from the outside more than his employees and often invites experts to certain tasks. But when they become Techland employees, it takes a couple of weeks and they stop listening, trust disappears.
Another example is the story of Pavel Zavodny, who worked for Techland for a long time and began to lead the development. He wanted the team to go into a traditional development process to make things easier. He suggested using Unreal or Unity to iterate ideas and experiments before introducing them to his Chrome Engine 6. However, Marchevka insisted that everything should be done in the studio’s engine. At the same time, the boss wondered why the team did not work faster – and it could have been more effective, but the head did not provide such an opportunity.
According to Pavel, the studio simply has its own approach to development.
Other experts were invited to Techland to learn from EA and Ubisoft, but many of their recommendations were rejected. One of the suggestions is that the chapter should not get involved in all processes.
Today’s development process at Techland is changing so fast that it seems like it’s not there. Techland continues to hire outsiders, but the old guard brushes aside any positive attempts and solutions that newcomers bring. And according to the source, it’s amazing – the management doesn’t meet deadlines and plans, but finds time to redesign and argue about design. Another source agrees that older producers have become a big problem in the studio.
The cycle continues over and over again, so it is not clear now where this mess will lead. Comparing Techland to CD Projekt RED only creates more problems. Marchevka is constantly striving for innovation, while at the same time checking with what others are doing.
There is nothing wrong with that, but in the case of Techland, it has taken on a truly morbid look. After comparisons, the team has to rework what has already been created, undermining creative freedom and morality among developers.
Developers feel that they are in a state of constant shaking, their ideas are kicked, they are expected to follow other people’s trends, depriving them of freedom of expression.
Briefly about everything
- Studio culture teaches that ideas won’t be accepted
- There is a joke in the studio that the developer may be required to redo what was approved a month ago, because the boss changed his attitude when he saw something on the network
- Then they say that you work too slowly or there is no skill
- “Horrible management decisions and lack of clear vision – people fall into a spiral of apathy”
- It is still not clear what Dying Light 2 will be, what the plot of the game is about, because it is constantly changing
- The chapter never listened to the scriptwriters, relying on external experts and his own ideas
- Developers are expected to come up with something commercially viable for the studio as budgets are limited
- If the developer cannot come up with a cheap solution, then more creative work and thinking outside the boundaries is expected of him.
- One developer notes that Techland kills creativity, a lot of stress, the feeling that you have to constantly struggle with others, instead of cooperating on something in common.
- Paul is called “the eye of Sauron” and only programmers are safe
- Marchevka fits everywhere, except for programmers, because they don’t know how to solve this or that problem
- Another problem is that Paul’s words often go against the words of creative director Adrian.
- If Pavel doesn’t like something, then Adrian can immediately change his mind, in the end the developer is to blame
- Because of Adrian, there is a feeling that it is simply impossible to finish something to the end – you can work at the maximum, but then he will take it and change his mind
- “What’s happening in Techland is complete chaos, not an evolutionary process.”
- Constant change, lack of direction, lack of trust in the studio, constant skipping of deadlines, unsuccessful attempts to motivate people – employees are simply tired, while they are expected to be effective all the time, otherwise they gobble up studio money
- Initially, the release of Dying Light 2 was planned for 2019, in the courtyard of 2021, but there are no traces of it
- The story of Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be repeating itself as management sets unrealistic deadlines
- “It’s so good that he [Pavel] moved the game”
- Marchevka sincerely believes that she is doing something positive, but for some reason it does not work out.
- Marchevka is a billionaire, and this status gives rise to crazy conceit in him
- “You will argue with him, this is requested inevitably. He is such a man, fighting. If he does not like someone and he does not want to speak out, then this is the end. If you cross the line, then this is the end. But you need to approach the line, he waits response, which is good. But when the line is crossed, there is a problem. When something goes wrong, he looks for the culprit. He himself is not guilty of anything. How can he be guilty if he is a billionaire from the slums. “
A hard-working team of talented people from which enthusiasm leaks. Techland has a lot of amazing people. These are ordinary employees, because the management is burnt out and tired. The feeling that managers do not care anymore, they will do whatever the boss tells them to do in order to maintain the position. It is sad to see potential and enthusiasm go to waste.