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God of War director explains why games are often ‘ugly’ until the end of development

Optimization is often the last part of the process

Some characters in Cyberpunk 2077. Image: CD Projekt Red

A few days ago, a rumor circulated which claimed that the reason for the delay of Cyberpunk 2077 was the game’s poor performance on current-generation consoles. The rumor prompted God of War director Cory Barlog to explain that while the situation may sound alarming for a game that is supposed to launch in the near future, such circumstances are a lot more common than fans would expect.

Games often don’t look presentable until the last minute, Barlog explained, because development is extremely complex, and optimization is almost always one of the last steps of the process. There are always a ton of moving pieces in big-budget, complicated games, that somehow have to all fit together. It doesn’t help matters that each piece of the game may be handled by different teams who sometimes aren’t even in the same country or time zone, depending on the project.

But his point is clear, and it’s one that more people probably need to hear and be aware of: Games don’t actually work very well for the vast majority of the time they’re being developed.

“GAMES ARE VERY UGLY, FOR A LONG TIME, UNTIL THEY ARE NOT,” he wrote on Twitter. “Traditionally, that is right near the end.”

“We are, more often than not, going on passion and belief that the vision of this buggy + duct taped together ‘thing’ is going to come together in the end,” Barlog continued.

If those duct-taped elements manage to come together in the end, game makers say the experience can feel like magic.

“It is the most amazing day of any development cycle,” developer Jennifer Scheurle said in a Polygon article last year.

“A lot of game development is just having faith that you’ll get there, with the game looking nothing like what you imagined while you question yourself and others,” she continued.

But until the magic can happen, in-development games won’t always look fully presentable to the public — and that’s OK.

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