Cyberpunk 2077 – The Unique Mix Of Next-Gen, High-Tech And Low-Life
If you were going to pick a development studio to make a game based on a classic tabletop RPG, which would you choose? It’s a question that had often played in the head of Mike Pondsmith, creator of the beloved game Cyberpunk 2020.
Over the years, he’s had several offers to turn his vision into a digital reality.
“There have been some fairly big players, which non-disclosure agreements do not allow me to discuss,” says Pondsmith.
“Something always happened to bring the project to a premature end. Often the team broke down because of external factors, like they couldn’t get enough money together. I remember a memorable case where I really loved the prototype, and then the president of the company was drafted and had to go back into the military.”
That all changed when Pondsmith received an email from The Witcher developer CD Projekt RED, expressing interesting in creating a new Cyberpunk videogame.
“To us it made sense to adapt something that we enjoy playing,” explains gameplay designer Damien Monnier. “The world of Cyberpunk is so gritty, mature and deadly – it really fits the sort of games we make here at CD Projekt RED.”
“They were asking me questions about stuff and the background history of Cyberpunk 2020,” explains Pondsmith, “which showed they genuinely knew their stuff and were not just slapping a label on it, which happened with some of the larger companies we had talked to. They have the capability, they have the money, they have the team and they have the desire to do the real thing, as opposed to something that just has our name on it.”
It’s enough to get existing Cyberpunk fans drooling, but those unfamiliar with the RPG or the general concept of cyberpunk might not understand what all the fuss is about.
Cyberpunk as a sci-fi sub-genre originated in the writings of William Gibson and includes films like Blade Runner and manga like Akira. The general idea is “high-tech and low-life.”
Technology has enabled humanity to do incredible things, but rampant social decay and a huge divide between rich and poor has created a decadent, lawless society rife with crime, substance abuse and filthy slums. Human augmentation is a standard practice, the line between man and machine becomes more blurred by the day.
The visual style is immediately arresting and evocative of an Eighties vision of the future. Enormous, dark cities with towering skyscrapers and terrible overpopulation lit by neon streams and roaming searchlights, the sun never reaching the ground level through layers of concrete.
Quality of life isn’t exactly a priority.
The tabletop RPG is set in 2020, but the upcoming videogame will be in 2077, and working out how things have progressed in the time in-between is one of the biggest challenges for Pondsmith and CDPR. Luckily, the series already has a rich history that they can draw from.
“The biggest battle we are having is we have to regress the technology enough to where we wouldn’t find a natural process of technological development,” says Pondsmith, “where you are walking around with jet packs and flying cars and winged helmets. Lucky for us, we had a Corporate War that damn near destroyed most of the planet.”
Not only that, but a flood of lethal computer viruses has meant people can no longer communicate over the net. In many ways, the tech of 2077 is less advanced than that of 2020, and this is a key to maintaining the cyberpunk feel according to Monnier.
“To keep the feeling of cyberpunk, you kinda have to keep things broken just enough. You have to keep the technology curve down to where it’s still people, interacting on a personal level.”
That’s all we know so far, with no gameplay to judge and little idea of when to expect the game beyond ‘2015 at the earliest’.
CDPR is currently busy making The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk won’t be done until it’s good and ready.
The wait might seem long (and it is) but this is a bunch of guys that we know can make an excellent game. We’ve waited so long for a great cyberpunk game, we can wait a couple more years.
The full Cyberpunk 2077 preview can be found with screenshots and boxouts in issue 237 of Play, available from iTunes, Google Play, Zinio and more.