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Perfect Dark development beset by "fast and furious" staff departures

Report says new studio has struggled

A new Perfect Dark game was announced back in 2020, but it seems like development hasn't been going smoothly. A new report from VGC says that as many as half of the core development team have quit the project in the past year, including several people on the senior design team. Sources say these departures are partly responsible for Crystal Dynamics being drafted to work on the game late last year.

Perfect Dark's development is being led by The Initiative, a new studio founded by Microsoft in 2018. In the past year, The Initiative has lost most of its senior design team, including game director, design director, lead level designer, principal world builder, two senior system designers, two senior writers, its technical director, tech art director, lead gameplay engineer and lead animator. And more.

Cover image for YouTube videoPerfect Dark - Official Announce Trailer - The Game Awards 2020

VGC's sources say that the departures are due to a lack of creative autonomy, with The Initiative studio head Darrell Gallagher - and now departed game director Dan Neuburger - taking a top-down approach to the Perfect Dark reboot's direction. Gallagher and Neuburger were previously studio head and design director at Crystal Dynamics.

"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."

The former Initiative employees who spoke to VGC alleged that Gallagher and Neuburger brought on Crystal Dynamics with the hope that production would move smoothly with a team used to their methods of production. There are more details and quotes over in the full VGC story.

While none of these stories inspire much confidence, Gallagher's "no small task" comment isn't wrong. Video game development is difficult and founding a new, large company is difficult. It does likely mean that the proposed reboot is years away.

Not much is known about what the new Perfect Dark will contain, other than it being a first-person shooter about a spy named Joanna Dark. The first two Perfect Dark games were developed by Rare and released for the N64 and Xbox 360, with the second releasing in 2005.

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Perfect Dark

Xbox Series X/S, Xbox 360, PC

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Graham Smith

Deputy Editorial Director

Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.