Q&A MIKE PONDSMITH
Creator of Cyberpunk 2020 and consultant on Cyberpunk 2077
When did CD Projekt Red approach you about working on
Cyberpunk 2077? What was the moment that convinced you that this would be the right team to bring it to digital life? They approached us about six years ago. I didn’t know much about them, but The Witcher 2 copy they sent was impressive and when I looked over their operation in Warsaw, they were even more impressive. But most important was the fact that they had grown up with Cyberpunk 2020 and were true fans. You’ve worked with other game companies in the past. What’s different about working with CD Projekt Red? They listen. And they are willing to do whatever it takes to get a great product. What are the challenges of translating pen-and-paper mechanics into videogame form? Tabletop games can instantly adjust to the player’s needs. In videogames, you have to be able to forecast what the player will want/need ahead of time, because there’s no direct feedback loop. How believable should a cyberpunk vision of the future be? I’ve got a reputation for forecasting the real-world future pretty accurately. Mostly because I extrapolate from a huge number of real-world resources. Half my day is spent reading articles about political, social and technological issues that would affect the Cyberpunk world. How were things different in the world when you made Cyberpunk 2020, and how did that affect your vision of its world? How are things different now? The tech was less ubiquitous and harder to get. The world had not yet hit some of the more shocking changes, like 9/11 and the rise of terrorism. But a lot of things we were working with are now the everyday, which means we hover on the edge of being boring and still being relevant. Making a game with political overtones invites controversy. Is that something you’ve been aware of while working on 2077? Does it make designing for today’s digital audience different? Cyberpunk is always political, but it doesn’t mean it’s political in a left/right way. It’s about the imbalance of power versus the empowerment of technology. That’s as old as the Egyptians. The fact that politics is present doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that the politics should get in the way of having a good time. Why are people so attracted to the idea of cyberpunk? What is it about it, do you think, that captures the imagination? It’s the fantasy of having a direct and almost superheroic effect on your personal life, empowered by tech and raging with attitude. It’s personal. It’s stylistic. And as a genre it serves as a warning about what that kind of world really entails. Do you really want to live in a decaying society? Is a cyberarm really worth living under the gun all the time? That choice (in Cyberpunk at least) is up to you.