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Cyberpunk 2077 continues to be one of the most exciting games on the horizon and although CD Projekt Red didn’t bring much in the way of new content to Gamescom 2019, there was still plenty to discuss.
In a dev diary premiered at the event, CDPR said it was ready to shock players with the story beats in its sci-fi epic, which it also confirmed will be arriving on Google’s Stadia platform at some point in the future.
To get an update on development, VGC met with spokesperson and senior concept artist, Marthe Jonkers.
There’s so much anticipation for this game right now, does it feel like something of a missed opportunity that you couldn’t get it out for Christmas?
Well first of all the hype is amazing and makes us really excited to work on this. We planned the game for April 2020, which I think is a very good date because Cyberpunk 2020 is the origin of the game, so it’s very symbolic.
At E3 and again at Gamecom you had feedback forms for those who viewed the game demo. What did you take from that, if anything?
I can probably compare it more with last year’s E3 , after which we massively expanded the character creation options and added a lot more stuff, which was a response to that. We just listened to what people wanted, how they thought we could improve… we really expanded that, which I think is really exciting. You can actually make your own character now; you can change your body type, you can pick a voice you like, you can make all kinds of combinations. We really appreciate the feedback that we get from these demos and we are constantly looking to see what we can improve.
You’re building a complex game, to say the least. How have you found balancing the game? We imagine that’s what you’re working on right now?
Yeah we are in full production and really focusing right now on polishing, optimising and raising the level of detail on the visuals etc. So yeah, we’re working hard. We really have to balance it all, right? I think a lot of that depends on the level design and we have very talented level designers who made all these locations that can be approached in many different ways.
But yes, we’ve worked and tested it and it’s very cool to see all the different options the player has for missions and types of characters. You can play any way you want: you don’t even have to kill anyone to finish the game.
Right now we are mostly focused on polishing things, adding detail to areas and optimising performance.
In your Gamescom dev diary, it was mentioned that there are some story points that CDPR expects to shock players. So is it fair to say you’re tackling some difficult themes?
That’s a good question. Cyberpunk as a genre covers some difficult topics. It’s all about technology and how much humanity is left when you integrate with it. You have corporations that are in control, even over the government. You wouldn’t have Cyberpunk if you didn’t have a society with contrasts. That’s the technique that we’re trying to make: Night City is not a very happy place, it’s not a safe place, but it has many different aspects and we are making it as believable as we can.
We’ve added all kinds of characters, all kinds of stories and then we let the player go and explore that. It’s up to the player to interpret those stories and decide what they’ll do with them. We are trying to create a very believable Cyberpunk world.
The dev diary also mentioned holding a lens up to real-world issues. In that sense, do you expect it to be a bit controversial?
We are not taking a stance on anything… we are really creating this realistic city of the future and it’s up to the player to decide what they think about that, and how they tackle it. It’s all about freedom of the player. We want to deliver this environment that feels like it could be a city of the future.
So many big developers seem reluctant to discuss the real-world themes featured in their games, but CDPR seems more open to the political nature of Cyberpunk. Why is that?
I think it has to do with the themes of Cyberpunk and of course we based it on Mike Pondsmith’s world that he created, which was already a dangerous world. If you take that, you have to go for it: you can’t just make some happy world. You have to respect the source material and then expand on it, so we’re keeping the same vibe as Mike Pondsmith’s original vision. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how people engage with this world.
Mike Pondsmith also created a lot of the original art for Cyberpunk. How authentic did you want to be in that sense?
We worked a lot with Mike as a kick-off point. He was very involved in development and would answer any questions we had, but 2077 is obviously more than 50 years later so we also had a lot of freedom to bring in our own art styles as well.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the posters of the different districts in the game, but these represent all the different art styles in the game, because of course a city doesn’t have just one style. Because we wanted to create a realistic city, we actually created a timeline for these four styles.
“Exploration is very different from The Witcher, which was very flat, because you have all this verticality with the buildings. There’s so much to explore in every direction.”
For example, there’s the Kitsch style which is really pink, yellow and with round shapes. It’s really happy because at the time people were having a good time. Then there’s the Neomilitarism style, which is very corporate, from when the corporations started to take over. We mix those styles together in the game, so if you travel the city you will see architecture from different eras. This is all stuff that CDPR added to the fiction, to overlap that 50-year gap from Cyberpunk 2020.
You seem to have created an impressive technology base with The Witcher on Nintendo Switch. What are the chances of Cyberpunk one day reaching that platform?
Presumably you’ve finished the game. What did you think?
I have played several quests, yeah, and I’m really excited for the release! I think for me the most exciting part of the game is driving your car through Night City, with your music blasting, exploring all the different districts and seeing this really advanced crowd UI system and people reacting to you… the exploration for me alone is amazing.
My favourite district is Watson, which you saw a bit of in our first gameplay demo, because it’s this bustling, beehive of narrow streets and markets which I love to walk around at night. You hear NPC’s conversations and stories, which is very cool.
How much of the game have we not seen?
It’s a huge game. We’ve shown two districts now and there are six in the game. Exploration is very different from The Witcher, which was very flat, because you have all this verticality with the buildings. There’s so much to explore in every direction.
There are a lot of surprises left. I can’t really say a number or anything, but it’s going to be huge, that’s for sure.