Cyberpunk 2077. To the uninitiated, it might sound like a futuristic new music genre, but in the right circles, simply hearing the name is enough to elicit squeals of excitement. We are, of course, talking about one of the most hotly anticipated videogames of all time. Developed by the industry darling developer behind The Witcher series, CD Projekt Red, this dystopian-future RPG has been treated with the same level of reverence normally reserved for a Rockstar Games production.
Yet, until very recently, most of the world has known almost nothing about it. While the press had already seen the game in action at both E3 and Gamescom, this week, CD Projekt Red gave the public get their first look at the same eye-watering 48-minute demo. But despite that extended demo giving us all a taste of what it’s like to play Cyberpunk 2077, the exciting vertical slice almost raised more questions than it answered.
Keen to find out more about one of the most anticipated entertainment releases of the next few years, we sat down with Cyberpunk 2077’s Lead Cinematic Animator, Maciej Pietras to find out more about this ambitious dystopian adventure.
FANDOM: Based on what we’ve seen so far, it looks like you’re going for a deeper kind of roleplaying experience than most games currently offer. Can we expect much for players to do outside of combat?
Maciej Pietra: It goes back to Cyperpunk 2020, the Mike Pondsmith pen and paper roleplaying game [that inspired Cyberpunk 2077]. What Mike did in that book from 1988 is he created the world of Night City, which is a brutal, dark place with huge problems.
One of the biggest themes of Cyberpunk is that you are who you are and that you have to find your own thing. Even though you’re playing as a V [mercenary, as opposed to whoever you please in the pen and paper game], you are still going to have plenty of options to express yourself [in Cyberpunk 2077].
[With the] kind of design approach that we are taking, right from the character creation screen, you are already making these choices. One of those choices is the character’s backstory. You are already making choices there that will have consequences, some of those consequences will be short-term and some will be so long that they might even influence what kind of ending you’ll have in the game.
“[W]e think we’ve found a new way to immerse the player into this world.”
FANDOM: During the demo, you talked a lot about what you’re calling an “interactive scene system”, can you explain it in more detail?
Pietra: [With the new] first-person perspective and what we’re calling the interactive scene system, we think we’ve found a new way to immerse the player into this world.
Basically, this interactive scene system is a way that players can interact during the scene with NPCs and different objects, meaning that players are still in control. To give you an example how that would work, we’re here talking right now and I could just stand up and leave and you would somehow react to that — or not, because maybe you know that someone else would come and sit in my place! But somehow that would influence you.
Either way, this non-dialogue decision as a player would make the NPC react to you, right?
“[I]t’s not a black or white choice, it’s more of a grey one — but those choices matter.”
In the demo you can see some examples of that, with Royce in the deal, you could give him a chip with the money on it. You can choose to tell him that it has a virus — or not. So at that moment, you’ve either aligned yourself to the cyberpsycho gang or if you don’t say anything at all, you’ll probably get a better standing with the megacorporation. It’s not a black or white choice, it’s more of a grey one — but those choices matter.
FANDOM: Another new system that stands out is the fact that equipping clothing gives you street cred. How will street cred affect you in the game?
Pietra: When it comes to the leveling system, you get XP points for finishing missions. Street cred though is something you also gain by completing certain missions. But the difference is, street cred is used to show how respected you are on a street level, which will give you access to different ripperdocs, different vendors, different gunsmiths, and different weapon mods.
You saw that with the jacket. The jacket is pure style. Style over substance is a theme that’s been continuously running in Cyberpunk 2020, and we’re trying to incorporate that [into our game].
“[T]he way you approach certain characters, your choices, they will matter[.]”
FANDOM: Speaking of style, will your street cred have an effect on how successful your romantic relationships are in the game?
Pietra: I can’t say too much, but the way you approach certain characters, your choices, they will matter …
In terms of how relationships work, you’re defining your gender in the character creation screen. So, going through the game you will meet other NPCs with pre-defined sexual preferences and based on that and your interactions with them during missions … there will be one night stands and there will also be long-term relationships that you’ll able to have with some characters. [Unlike in The Witcher,] it’s a bit more of a classical role-playing approach [in Cyberpunk 2077] where who you are, you define, but [who] those NPCs are is already defined.
“[T]here will be one night stands and there will also be long-term relationships.”
FANDOM: Another core part of the game seems to be the augmentation-style cyberware abilities. How many different cyberware will players have access too, and can we expect a great variety of different gameplay possibilities to result from them?
Pietra: There will be many different abilities and because of the fluid class system, you can mix and match them. So, if you want to spend a few points in [the hacker style] Netrunning skill tree, or some as a techy, this is a good choice. This will help you if say, you want enemy turrets to be standing still when you run into the enemy [base].
Or you can spend some points in the solo playstyle if you want access to a particular weapon, etc, so obviously, you’ll be able to mix and match those and create your own unique playstyle.
“[Y]ou’ll be able to mix and match [abilities] and create your own unique playstyle.”
One of the ways you can acquire cyberware — you already got a sneak peek of this in the demo — is by visiting ripperdocs. Ripperdocs in the world of Night City are people who are masters of cyberware. In the demo, you have the optical eye scanner and a weapon grip which both also connect to the HUD.
We want to create a feeling that the way you see the world [as a player] is how you make your character see it. So the Kiroshi optical eye scanner combined with the weapon grip gives the player information about how many bullets are left in the magazine and also what kind of defences the enemy has so that you can adjust your approach accordingly.
“Bikes are also a big a part of the game. … [Y]ou will be able to fly in an AV a few times.”
FANDOM: We’ve seen that you’ll be able to navigate Night City by car, can we expect to use other vehicles in Cyberpunk 2077?
Pietra: We are planning many different vehicles [as well as] modification for your cars. Bikes are also a big a part of the game. When it comes to flying vehicles … in the reference material, flying AVs are the most expensive thing in the entire world. So, as a player, you will be able to fly in an AV a few times, but not as a pilot, as a passenger, and it will be strongly connected to the narrative. Because you start almost at the bottom, right? In the demo you’ve seen you’re at the beginning of your journey there and, well, AVs are expensive.
FANDOM: The Witcher 3 earned a lot of praise for its naturalistic storytelling, did player feedback help you shape the writing for Cyberpunk 2077?
Pietra: What we learned from The Witcher, especially from the Bloody Baron quest, was that some of the best stories are the most personal ones. We truly believe that with those personal stories told in a broader spectrum, the core [there] is that basic human emotion, and just like those kinds of quests in The Witcher, we’ve approached designing Cyberpunk in the same way.
“[S]ome of the best stories are the most personal ones.”
FANDOM: Night City looks to feature a jaw-dropping number of NPCs. How many of these can players expect to actually interact with?
Pietra: Obviously, when you encounter anyone in the street — not even in the game — most of the people won’t talk to you, no matter how much you bug them. If you bug them a lot, they’ll probably run away scared, or call the police.
In a certain way, we’re aiming to recreate that. It’s a natural common-sense approach. You’ll be able to talk to a certain amount of NPCs and people with which you have interactions are obviously connected to the story itself of the game — as this is the narrative, story-driven [type of] experience that we are proud of making.
Because we control those situations we know that “oh, this guy has to have a certain backstory,” he’s selling weapons but he’s depressed because of X, Y, and Z etc. You may pass him by and know he’s a vendor, but until you start a conversation with him, you might not know that he has something for you to do. Because in this game you’re playing as V, a cyberpunk, and as a mercenary you will get different jobs … I can’t get into spoilers, but like in the demo certain jobs open the door for V to pursue a career as a cyberpunk further.
“[U]ntil you start a conversation with [a vendor], you might not know he has something for you to do.”
FANDOM: Night City is a pretty sprawling metropolis. What kind of visual and gameplay variety can players expect to find in different areas of the city?
Pietra: What I can tell you is that Night City has districts, and each district is different. The one you mostly saw in the demo is Watson, and Watson is a place where there are mega buildings, those self-sustainable ecosystems, which have gyms and shops and weaponsmiths and gun ranges [built in]. If you get to the bottom, there are vendors everywhere, it’s a centre of commerce.
On the other hand, you have places like Pacifica. Pacifica is a district that is overrun by psychogangs and those gangs are ruling that territory so it’s extremely dangerous to go there — police surveillance doesn’t really work there. You will be visiting all those places in between. Rich districts, average places, but they will vary greatly in terms of architecture, environment, and even social standing.
When it comes to gameplay mechanics [in each district] … all I can tell you is that we’re not using any procedural elements. We truly believe that in order to achieve a high-quality gameplay action and reactions you have to do everything hand-crafted so there won’t be any procedural elements.
If you meet a group somewhere, you’re probably meeting them for a reason because you took the wrong turn in the wrong turf and you’re going to pay a price for that because that was your choice to take that turn. This is more or less the design process, how we’re aiming to create that living, breathing version of Night City.
“You will be able to buy a couple of apartments in different locations[.]”
FANDOM: Will you be able to buy apartments in different districts of Night City?
Pietra: Absolutely. You will be able to buy a couple of apartments in different locations, so obviously upgrading yourself will push you towards a certain path in the game but saying any more would be too spoilery right now.
FANDOM: The Witcher series was obviously all played from a third-person perspective. You’ve mentioned it a bit briefly already, but what made you decide to switch to first-person for Cyberpunk 2077?
Pietra: It comes down to immersion. The first-person perspective makes it much more immersive than the third-person camera. In first person, you can see all the details of the world — you can watch [your character’s] hand movement, see what kind of cyberwear you have, peak underneath tables, and look up and see the mega buildings reaching into the sky.
All that combined with the interactive scene system was simply the best way to create a truly immersive world.
“[T]he game we’ve developed will be released on Xbox One, PS4, and PC[.]”
FANDOM: Cyberpunk 2077 looks visually stunning, but also like it might struggle to run on the current generation of consoles. Many have speculated that it will be a cross-generational release. Can you confirm what platforms it will come to?
Pietra: We are currently developing the game for PC, Xbox One and PS4 and we have been working on the optimisation process right from the start. We take the optimisation very much into consideration with everything we do, but the game we’ve developed will be released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.