Half of Perfect Dark’s ‘core team’ have quit in last year
Update: VGC recently published a follow-up report that “as much as half of the core development team” on The Initiative’s Perfect Dark reboot have quit in the past 12 months.
Along with game director Dan Neuburger and design director Drew Murray, around 34 people key to the game’s development have left. Other exits include lead level designer Chris O’Neill and principal world builder Jolyon Myers, two senior writers, the lead gameplay engineer, as well as “two senior system designers and a group of three former God of War designers.”
Several “former senior developers” told VGC that “a lack of creative autonomy and slow development progress” were the reasons for such a large wave of departures. More specifically, it appears that there was a lot of pushback against studio head Darrell Gallagher’s “top-down” approach to creative decision-making that he has reportedly carried over from his time leading Crystal Dynamics—which, perhaps uncoincidentally, joined Perfect Dark as a “support studio” in September 2021.
The Initiative, meanwhile, attributes the departures to the challenges of game development in the era of COVID-19 and the normal cost of setting up a new “quadruple-A” studio.
“It’s no small task to build a studio and reinvent a beloved franchise,” Gallagher told VGC. “In creating The Initiative, we set out to leverage co-development partnerships to achieve our ambitions, and we’re really excited about all the progress we’re seeing with our relationship with Crystal Dynamics.
“In this journey, it’s not uncommon for there to be staffing changes, especially during a time of global upheaval over the last two years, and there’s plenty more work in front of us to deliver a fantastic Perfect Dark experience to our players.”
Original Story: The Perfect Dark reboot’s game director, Dan Neuburger, has left his position at The Initiative, according to a recent update to his LinkedIn profile.
As spotted by Klobrille and posted to ResetEra (via Eurogamer), Neuburger left The Initiative in February after nearly four years at the relatively new Xbox Games Studios’ “quadruple-A” studio. Prior to that, Neuburger was a game director at Crystal Dynamics for 12 years. Neuburger’s departure follows design director Drew Murray also leaving Perfect Dark a year ago to rejoin former employers Insomniac Games, as noted by VGC.
So what does this mean for the game? Well, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that Perfect Dark, which was announced in December 2020, is in trouble. As the XboxEra Podcast noted, high-profile game directors get job offers all the time, and their leaving a project doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in trouble. However, it doesn’t appear that Neuburger received an offer he couldn’t refuse, as his LinkedIn profile insinuates that he’s currently looking for work.
Neuburger’s departure could have more to do with the fact that his former employers, Crystal Dynamics, are now handling more of the workload as a “support studio” as The Initiative was having difficulties “ramping up” to full production, according to a September 2021 report from GamesBeat. Klobrille noted that The Initiative appears to be a “studio that kicks off a project and carries it through to concept, prototype, and full pre-production phases” before bringing in another studio that has the actual resources for full production. In this case, that’s Neuburger’s former employers Crystal Dynamics, where Initiative Studio head Darrell Gallagher also hails from.
As far as official news is concerned, the last update we have from The Initiative on Perfect Dark is that Crystal Dynamics joined the project almost six months ago. Right now, there’s no announced release date for Perfect Dark.
Michael Goroff has written and edited for EGM since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter @gogogoroff.