Q&A MIKE PONDSMITH

Cre­ator of Cy­ber­punk 2020 and con­sul­tant on Cy­ber­punk 2077

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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.

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