I hope you’ve had your fill of cyberpunk, because we’re heading back to Rivia, baby. Almost half of CD Projekt’s development staff – around 330 people – are now working on the next Witcher game, the mysterious project Polaris.
The news comes from CD Projekt’s latest earnings report, as passed on by IGN. According to the company’s CEO Adam Kiciński, over 400 developers will be working on Polaris by the middle of 2024, with some currently transferring from development of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
Polaris was announced in March 2022, and will be among the first CD Projekt games to run on Unreal Engine 5. As revealed in October 2022, it’s also the first of a new Witcher trilogy that will release over a six year period. The other games include Project Sirius, an “innovative take” on the series which is being developed by Flame in the Flood creators The Molasses Flood, who were acquired in 2021. And then there’s Project Canis Majoris, a story-driven single player open world RPG which is being created by an unnamed third-party studio run by former Witcher developers.
CD Projekt RED’s Colin Walder, engineering director for management and audio, had a bit to say this October about the Polaris project’s development, and what CD Projekt have learned from the mismanagement and crunch of Cyberpunk 2077’s creation. Amongst other things, the developers are running demos and internal reviews for the console versions much earlier in the process.
Cyberpunk 2077’s lead quest designer Pawel Sasko also shared thoughts a couple of weeks ago about the challenge of shifting over from CD Projekt’s REDEngine to Unreal and the current state of the next Cyberpunk game, Orion.
So many codenames! What could they mean? Well, Polaris is the North Star in the constellation of Ursa Minor. It’s often used to navigate by (north of the equator, anyway) and as such, is a symbol of stability and guidance – hence the phrase “such and such is my north star”. I guess the implication is that the Polaris project will light the way for its other Witcher games? Or that it features sailing? Or is set in outer space?
Sirius is also a star – you’ll find it in the constellation Canis Major, aka the Great Dog. Does this mean that the Canis Majoris and Sirius projects have a stronger connection than the other Witcher games? It would make sense for a riskier spin-off to have some kind of grounding in a larger-sounding, more traditional Witcher project. The Ancient Greeks, incidentally, thought that the Great Dog belonged to Orion, a fellow constellation and the Great Huntsman, which points to a connection between the new Cyberpunk and Witcher, and argh argh argh. My brain is beginning to creak under the weight of Wiki-conjecture.
There’s obviously no release date for Polaris yet, but back in October 2022, Kiciński said that it was at least three years away. Here’s hoping the studio leadership give it all the time it needs, rather than working developers to exhaustion.