An in-depth look at CD Projekt RED’s ambitious new RPG
Andy visits CD Projekt RED to extract new details about the studio’s exciting RPG.
You’ve likely seen the Cyberpunk 2077 demo by now. After keeping it behind closed doors at E3, the Polish developer suddenly released the entire thing on YouTube. It was a power move by a studio aware of how anticipated this follow-up to The Witcher 3 is, and the video is now sitting at over ten million views: figures usually reserved for Rockstar games.
When I sit down in a cavernous boardroom in the studio’s Warsaw headquarters to see the game, I’m aware it’s the same demo. But the difference is, this one is just for me. The developer manning the controller tells me he’s relieved there’s no time limit, no queues of hundreds of people waiting eagerly outside, and he takes the opportunity to give me a slower, more detailed demonstration, stopping to take a closer look at things. It’s a game world that aches to be studied and scrutinised, with a cluttered, lived-in feel that few virtual worlds manage to accomplish this well.
One of the most striking things about the game’s setting, Night City, is how vibrant it is compared to the dark, rain-soaked dystopias usually associated with the genre. Cyberpunk2077 is set in a future California, and writer Stanislaw Swiecicki tells me that the studio is going to great lengths to capture the Golden State’s distinctive atmosphere.
“We want to give Night City a Californian feel,” he says. “It’s not just another abstract dystopia. I visited LA for the first time this year and it was very inspiring, especially walking along Venice Beach. We want to bring some of that vibe to the game. The sun, the palm trees, but a darker side, too. It’s an incredibly diverse place, with all these different people, fashions and cultures sharing the same space, but it can also be dangerous.”
As we walk through Watson, a bustling shopping and entertainment district bombarded by neon billboards, the passing hordes of citizens give me a sense of this diversity, and I don’t see one repeated character model. Crowds are generated semi-procedurally to avoid repetition, mixing body parts, faces, clothes and hairstyles, and CDPR promises the finished game will feature an even greater variety of heights, weights, and body shapes.
“Watson is a multicultural district with a strong Asian influence and a rising crime problem,” says Swiecicki. “But there are other districts too, each with their own unique feel. Westbrook is where the middle classes live; Heywood was once home to the tech giants, but abandoned and left to rot; and Pacifica is a suburban district ruled by gangs, and the most dangerous place in the city. Wherever you are in the city, there’s a layer of darkness.”
The complexity and fidelity of the city is astonishing, both on a grand scale and in the finer details. The entire game is first-person, viewed through hero V’s eyes, letting you get closer to the world than Geralt ever did. A street market is a particular feast for the eyes, with dozens of vendors hawking their wares and flipping heaps of sizzling noodles in woks. Above them digitised petals fall from a holographic cherry blossom tree and trains skim silently along monorail tracks. I’ve never experienced such a dense videogame city before, which extends to the audio design. The sound of people talking, sirens blaring, music playing and those ever-present advertising billboards chattering over the top of one another in a dozen languages only adds to the turmoil.
“The devil is in the details,” says Maciej Pietras, lead cinematic animator. “The third-person camera in TheWitcher floated slightly above NPCs, which we took into account when animating them. But now you can really look at what they’re doing up close, and we’ve improved the animation to reflect this. When we
I’ve never experienced such a dense videogame city before