Report: Work slow on Initiative's Perfect Dark

Report: Work slow on Initiative's Perfect Dark

It sounds like work on on the upcoming Perfect Dark reboot from Microsoft's Initiative studio has not been going so well.

That's according to IGN, which reports that the project has been blighted by poor management and a lack of coherent vision. The Initiative was initially working with Certain Affinity on Perfect Dark, but the former lacked a clear idea of what it wanted from the project. This appears to have been a problem for the latter, which usually works on specific and tightly focused parts of a game.

A final vision for the game was enacted in spring 2021 – shortly before it emerged that The Initiative and Certain Affinity would no longer be working together – leaving Perfect Dark wildly short-staffed.

Crystal Dynamics joined the project later in September 2021. Before this, Perfect Dark had moved to Unreal Engine 5, meaning that all the work the developers had committed so far was essentially thrown out of the window.

“It was not that we didn’t know what we wanted, it was that we kept making things that weren’t what we wanted,” one The Initiative developer said.

“We’d do it over and over again. The…levels we had when I left weren’t the same ones we’d had three months prior, or three months prior [to that]. I don’t know why people just kept hitting the reset button. That was definitely contributing to that feeling that we weren’t making any progress. People kept starting over.”

A former member of staff added: “I blame The Initiative. I don’t blame our development partners. We chose not to hold anyone accountable to the vision, and we just let people keep trying things. Yeah, people were all over the place. It was a giant game of telephone. You heard that expression thrown around in the process all the time. ‘Oh, it’s telephone! I said this, but then this person said this, then they went and talked to their manager, then their manager talked to our manager, then our manager talked to this lead, and by the time the message got to the other side, it’s been completely mangled beyond recognition.’”

One accusation levelled at the project is that it has suffered from a laidback approach from Xbox, something that the company's studios chief Matt Booty refutes.

“I will just chuckle a little bit at the ‘hands-off,’” the exec said. “The amount of time I’ve spent on the phone with Darrell and everybody at that studio is sort of the opposite of hands-off, and the amount we’ve been down there.”

Perfect Dark was announced at The Game Awards 2021.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.