Perfect Dark development explosion

During The Game Awards 2020 show, Microsoft unveiled the existence of a new Perfect Dark reboot through a brief teaser trailer. Much like its older cousin GoldenEye 007, many fans of the Nintendo 64 see the original Perfect Dark as one of the best shooters to come out on that system. With this in mind, a revival of the IP seemed like a perfect way to create even more hype around the Microsoft brand. Unfortunately, it appears that development on this new reboot may not have gone as well as the developers had hoped. According to the VGC, an analysis of the Perfect Dark developers’ LinkedIn profiles reveals that around half of the core development team’s staff at The Initiative left the company last year.

This mass exodus of employees include some fairly high-profile individuals, such as game director Dan Neuburger and lead level designer Chris O’Neill. Additionally, principal world builder Jolyon Myers as well as a trio of designers who formerly worked on the new God of War game have moved on from the company. The departures also include employees who had roles outside of design, such as the two most senior writers and the technical director. All in all, around 34 employees departed from The Initiative during 2021, leaving the company with less than 50 employees as of right now. Apparently, within the past 12 months, only 12 individuals joined the company.


What happened?

The reasoning for this massive wave of departures reportedly comes from anonymous former employees of the company, who cite “a lack of creative autonomy and slow development progress.” They refer to the departures as “fast and furious” and claim that they have “heavily affected” the project’s momentum. Apparently, former developers expressed frustration over the decisions and direction that Neuburger and studio head Darrell Gallagher took with the new Perfect Dark. To make matters worse, the studio reportedly had a “top-down” development hierarchy that left most employees with little creative control over the project, contrasting with the company website’s claim of “a ‘collaborative’ creative environment.”

As a result of this structure, both Gallagher and Neuburger apparently did not listen to these employees’ concerns regarding project planning, development priorities, and other issues. This supposedly led to the project progressing at a “painfully” slow rate, and the studio apparently never managed to form a robust company culture. Former employees list these issues as partial reasons why The Initiative allowed Crystal Dynamics to help with the project. With the addition of a second development team, the former employees expected that the gaps created by the staff departures would soon be filled. These employees also suggested that Crystal Dynamics’ recruitment probably led to “an effective soft reboot of Perfect Dark,” which would mean it will likely take years before the game sees an official release.

How does The Initiative feel about this?

When VGC spoke to Gallagher, he expressed little concern over the recent wave of departures, stating that he feels excited over the relationship The Initiative has formed with Crystal Dynamics. He referred to the staff changes as “not uncommon,” and he wished the former employees success in their future endeavors. But, regardless of what Gallagher feels about it, the fact that so many employees left The Initiative in such a seemingly short amount of time is not a good sign. The new Perfect Dark could turn out extremely well, but the recent reports concerning its development should probably keep expectations in check.

Perfect Dark development horizon

Daniel Pinheiro
Daniel is a games journalist who is deeply passionate about the medium and the impact it can have on our lives. He is open to all kinds of genres, but has a particular affinity for platformers and beat 'em ups. He also helped back the Kickstarter for The Wonderful 101: Remastered.

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