Over at Fanbyte, writer Imran Khan has posted a useful article breaking down conversations he's had with developers across the globe about how the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their professional lives.
For the last year we've heard numerous anecdotes from developers ourselves, some of which directly line up with Khan's reporting. What's particularly notable among the developers and publishers Khan spoke with was a bit more transparency about what exactly is causing an ever-increasing list of COVID-19-driven delays.
For one thing, the saga of CD Projekt Red and the release of Cyberpunk: 2077 appear to have been rapidly changing how developers conduct their remote work practices. One developer told Khan that after the ransomware hack that slowed work down for CD Projekt Red employees (and compromised their personal data), they were required to remotely acess a supervisor's workstation in order to work on a specific task, slowing work on that project.
Another developer who described their situation as being "almost exactly like CD Projekt Red" before Cyberpunk: 2077's release said they only received extra time to work on their game specifically because of Cyberpunk's chaotic launch.
Several developers also said some of the greatest cargo ships in their metaphorical Suez Canals have been at the playtesting and QA level (something EA producer Jim Vessella mentioned last year on the GDC Twitch channel as well).
When playtesting features with new players, ManaVoid Entertainment CEO Christopher Chancey told Fanbyte it's been difficult to get the same reliable data in remote sessions as they could in person. "We usually like to have sessions in-studio where we can actually look at the player’s facial expressions in order to know if they’re enjoying a specific sequence, feel frustrated, sad, angry, excited, etc," he said.
"It’s really hard to do online, plus there are security concerns having to send a build online to a potential playtester."
Developers also told Khan that when the world's major QA companies sent their employees home, it led to more security checks and issues with sending feedback on bugs. That's created a pipeline slowdown that can impact companies whose games aren't even in QA yet.
For a broader look at how game developers are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic be sure to read the full piece on Fanbyte.