Last night The Witcher developer CD Projekt RED held a livestreamed conference in Warsaw, Poland, with the intentions of fleshing out a little more detail on a project that’s so far been kept very quiet: sci-fi tabletop role-playing game conversion Cyberpunk 2077.
The 2077 suffix was officially added yesterday; mainly due to the fact the 2013 or 2020 used in the original tabletop role-player might deem the game’s overly-stylized futuristic neon landscape a little too unimaginable so close to home.
The conference brought word that Cyberpunk’s original creator Mike Pondsmith is completely on-board with the project. Pondsmith is himself a game designer, so beyond the fact that he’ll be ensuring the game’s story is written with every ounce of credibility possible, he’ll no doubt be having an influence in gameplay mechanics, graphical style and other important aspects.
There’s still not even a hint of a release date for Cyberpunk 2077 (unless you’re taking that suffix a little too seriously), but amongst the few details revealed in last night’s conference and accompanying new blog, a couple of aspects really stood out: this will be an attempt at a sandbox game of the highest order. The intention is very much to translate some of the freedom experienced playing tabletop RPGs into a computer game. The challenge of this mammoth task is touched upon in an introductory entry into what could be a very interesting series of Cyberpunk 2077 blog posts, it’s titled “Implementing Pen & Paper mechanisms into a computer game.”
The game is set in Cyberpunk’s Night City, a dark and neon Blade Runner-inspired location with all the trimmings of old-school sci-fi noir you’ve come to expect. From the original title we know Night City is based somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mega-corporations have huge influence over the government and violence is rife at a Mega-City One kind of level.
Pondsmith openly referenced the works of Phillip K Dick and William Gibson as huge influences, making it clear these would be carried through into the title. While the late 80s and early 90s saw popularity in great games such as Syndicate, Bloodnet, Neuromancer (based on aforementioned writer Gibson’s novel), Shadowrun and System Shock there was a certain 80s aesthetic lost in the much cleaner sci-fi games and movies that came later. Perhaps the reboot of Syndicate, Deux Ex and now Cyberpunk (and to a lesser extent the quite niche, but unashamedly cyberpunk text adventure Cypher) are indications of a much-needed retro-futurist cyberpunk revival. I, for one surely hope so.
There have apparently been many failed attempts to bring Cyberpunk out as a computer game, but they’ve been thwarted by a selection of unlucky incidents or simply the lack of technology to really do the title justice. Akin to the recent work of Chris Roberts on Star Citizen, it seems technology has finally caught up and Pondsmith can help create something truly worthy of Cyberpunk’s rich lore.
“This isn’t exactly my first rodeo,” a post on the Cyberpunk blog reads. “We’ve been down this long and tortuous trail several times before and up to this point we just haven’t been able to find the right team with the right balance to make the RPG game we’d be proud to put out in front of our fans.” Pondsmith has likely made a great choice of developer, though I’m sure Obsidian, Bethesda or BioWare could probably do a pretty great job too (berate me in the comments if you like). It’s evident CD Projekt has certainly captured the hearts of a lot of RPG players in every comments thread on articles even giving them a mention, often being named as fans’ favorite dev despite the teams modest two-game back-catalogue.
The game will incorporate huge amounts of character customization, which will range from changing stats and equipment to the thematically relevant implants characters can adopt. Much of the mechanics will be based on the pen and paper original and there’s even talk of incorporating the Wardrobe & Style mechanic.
"Every element has to be accounted for and carefully designed. Of course, modern AAA RPG games like The Witcher 2 or the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 can give the player lots of freedom. But the underlying mechanics are adhering to very strict rules and if an action or option wasn't implemented in the code, then the player will not be able to do it.
"The same principle applies to character customisation: the player can do only as much as game allows him to. So if game designers decide that it is not possible to play as an ugly midget, you will not be able to play one. Sorry Tyrion Lannister fans."
There’s been very little said about the game beyond the few details I’ve mentioned above and a little on the fact it'll have a “smoother learning curve” than The Witcher, which was known for being pretty hardcore from the off. There has been mention of a "gigantic arsenal of weapons, upgrades, implants and cool high-tech gadgets. New equipment adopted to reflect over 50 years of mankind progress."
At this point we know the game will use classes and is set to rely heavily on skills rather than levels. The classes Cyberpunk 2077 will incorporate are similar to those in the tabletop game, with a few extra touches that bring the game up to the date of 2077 beyond its earlier setting. The pen and paper Cyberpunk has nine of these classes (referring to them as roles), these are Nomad (gypsy warrior), Rockerboy (rebel rockers), Fixer (a kind of dealer), Solo (that’s an assassin), Techie (mechanics and doctor-types), Cop (you got that one, right?), Netrunner (a hacker type), Media (reporter types) and Corporate (the slick, corrupt multi-millionaires).
Beyond that, it’s mainly guesswork right now. But have a watch of the videos below, marvel at the contrast in the speakers’ styles and do join in with the hordes of people attempting to get Pondsmith to take on a cast or narration role in Cyberpunk 2077. That voice!