A chat with CD Projekt Red about the romances, flying cars and hacking of Cyberpunk 2077

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The demo for Cyberpunk 2077 shown to press at E3 was pretty neat. It displayed CD Projekt Red’s upcoming first-person neo-noir RPG as a promising city of cybernetically enhanced mercenaries, dodgy information brokers, and corporate maniacs. Without a doubt, that demo will be shown to the rest of the public soon. For now, you can read my impressions or come with me right now, for a chat with one of the developers.

Maciej Pietras is the game’s lead cinematic animator. He was fairly tight-lipped about certain things, but did speak to me about Night City’s cars, the game’s romantic entanglements, and the hacking abilities of main character, V.

RPS: How do you bring variety to such a big environment as an animator? You’ve got a lot to do in terms of the people.

Maciej Pietras: When it comes to the animations and the systems, we’re trying to create a seamless experience, where you don’t actually see the big difference between the gameplay and cinematics. We’re trying to make the transitions as seamless as possible… This is actually the biggest part of our challenge. We’re trying to really express the world, the interactivity, the NPCs, as fluidly as possible…

RPS: So that’s how the dialogue will work in the final thing? You just walk up and talk to someone, no freezing, no zooming in, or whatever. But what happens if there’s an interruption for example?

Pietras: When it comes to interruptions… we revised the Witcher 3 system and we’re trying to find a way where it’s seamless as possible. We’re working on creating this weird feeling… where if a person is still talking to you, she can be interrupted, that’s what we’re trying to do.

RPS: So you can allow for it, and then they’ll just return to the point they were making?

Pietras: For instance, yes, yeah.

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RPS: The driving can be in first-person or third-person. But for the car’s handling, are you going to do the thing from Witcher 3 where you can hold down a button and it will auto-steer. Like when Roach, your horse, just followed the road?

Pietras: When it comes to driving and systems, I think all I can say right now is that this is something we’re really working hard to make it as seamless as possible to be able to drive through the city, and I think in the demo you also saw the combat situation from the car, yeah? So this also part of one of the systems we have. You will be able to get out of the car, start shooting from the top of it, and it’s all systemic… The cars have to feel heavy… and we’re trying to recreate that realistic feeling of driving a car…. When it comes to [automatic road following] it’s too early to tell.

RPS: We didn’t die in that demo but –

Pietras: You will be able to die in the game!

RPS: But will it be a normal “game over” style death or is it going to be something a little more creative in terms of Cyberpunk? Something like Altered Carbon, where you haven’t really died?

Pietras: You will be ‘dieable’ in the game.

RPS: So just a game over screen.

Pietras: Yeah, like if you die in the game you die in the game, it’s a game over. Having said that, I can’t tell you more about that because that would be telling you too much about the story.

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RPS: In terms of that story, how much of it do you want to be a critique of the corporate world and how much of it do you want to be just good fun? A good romp?

Pietras: This is cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is a super… narrative-driven game. And since the world, as you said already, is ruled by the megacorps, and on the bottom of the ladder you have the lowlifes – you know, the psychogangs – and in the middle there’s a struggle of trying to stay afloat. I truly believe that the story will be touching those themes. Because, to put it simply, if you’re living in a dystopian world, you’re fighting to stay yourself. In this game you’re playing as V, the mercenary, who just started to work in the city, to push through the city to find your own path, and this is a thing that we’ll be able to show you all the problems of society in this game. But also all the ways that the psychogangs fight against each other and how the mega corporations are ruling the world… but when it comes to details of the story I can only [say so much].

RPS: You’re always playing as V, the main character, whether you’re male or female, but you can change how you appear, how you look.

Pietras: Yes, in the character creation process you’re able to create all your appearances, the skin colour, hairstyles, faces, body types, but also you define there your classical RPG stats. Your attributes, abilities and perks.

RPS: One of these [characteristics] is “Cool” – what does that mean?

Pietras: [laughs] I will have to refer you to the Cyberpunk 2020 rule book, how it defines cool.

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RPS: You can also have different backstories. Can you give us some examples of those?

Pietras: The main thing about backstories is that, since we’re creating a game in which you’re making your own character… you want, as a player, to be able to create anything, to play as anyone. And choosing your backstory is one of those first choices you make in the game, and … there are going to be consequences of those choices throughout the story. But when it comes to details of those backstories I’m sorry I can’t [tell you].

RPS: No debt collector origins? Maybe your family was killed in a terrorist bombing? Anything!?

Pietras: [laughs] What! What was that last one?

RPS: Your family was killed in a terrorist bombing. What? That’s the kind of thing that would happen in a game.

Pietras: That’s a very dark, very cyberpunkish thing you just said…

RPS: Hire me.

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RPS: Jackie is the big character who accompanies V. Is that a constant character who’ll be with you throughout, or will characters drop in and out, like in The Witcher? Will you have companions that come and go?

Pietras: Yeah, like even in the demo, he wasn’t with you the whole time. The person you had sex with in the demo, who you woke up with, that wasn’t Jackie, right. So he’s not always with you. He’s one of the main NPCs. Jackie is… super interesting [and] is involved deeply in the story. This is actually the approach we do when it comes to the NPCs that you have relationships with. They are not just NPCs, they are vessels that answer your questions about your choices and how you want to progress through the story, and your relationships with them are important.

RPS: That’s romancing confirmed.

Pietras: Yeah! If you want to talk romancing I can talk romancing.

RPS: Tell me about romancing!

Pietras: My own!? [laughs] Sorry, I’m tired.

RPS: That’s fine.

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Pietras: So yeah when it comes to romances, and dealing with that system: you’re creating a character in the beginning, so you’re choosing a gender. And that choice will matter, especially when it comes to romances… so based on that you will have different choices to romance different NPCs. And with some NPCs you will be engaged with long-lasting romances, but some options will include one night stands and shit.

RPS: Do you mean that characters in the world, some of them will reject you outright based on your gender? Because they’re not straight or gay or whatever?

Pietras: Yeah, right, yeah.

RPS: So those things are set in stone. It’s not like a BioWare game where you can just go with whoever you want? You can’t romance anyone, because they will put a limit on your romance.

Pietras: Yeah of course, because we treat every NPC as a character. So there will be characters who are homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual but they will be obviously responding to your gender and your choices. Because you’re choosing to romance that person, and if you happen to be, I don’t know, a guy, and he happens to be a guy, then yeah [shrugs].

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RPS: Just out of interest why have you gone with this Destiny style of numbers popping out of the bodies when you shoot enemies? Why not just have a health bar?

Pietras: That’s a very good question. I think to be honest it’s more about the style of the game, you know, we are making a first person role-playing game. As an RPG you have to be able to show the player how much damage his weapons actually do, right? So since you will be able to change your combat style, since there’s a fluid class system, you’ll be able to adjust things on the fly. And this is just one of the visual references we have to show you this weapon does this [amount of] damage to that enemy, and based on this armour, or your weapon and mods, this is how much damage you do.

RPS: Will you be able to fly the flying cars? I need a straight answer.

Pietras: Current means of transportation that I can tell you about, that we are sure of, and that we know we can share with you: obviously you can walk on foot, you can drive a car, and you can drive a motorcycle. When it comes to AVs [aerial vehicles], yes, there will be moments when you will be able to fly AVs but you’re not going to be able to control it because if you refer to the source material, AVs are like the most expensive things in the Cyberpunk 2020 world.

RPS: So it’ll be limited.

Pietras: Yeah. And heavily connected to the story, because this is still the societal struggle, right? Because you’re starting the game as V, who has nothing, and is trying to make a mark in the world, starting from the bottom up.

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RPS: We saw an example of V hacking a person, to stop their gun from working, for instance. Are there any other examples of stuff like that which you can talk about?

Pietras:  Yeah, of course. We call it Netrunning, which is again from the source material, and I think it’s a perfect description because … in the demo you had to hack a terminal first, and through that terminal you gave yourself “Quick Hack” to [apply] during combat on those enemies that you hack. And all while you’re hanging from your mantis blades on the wall, before jumping down and smashing the guy [laughs], so we were actually disabling the guy’s weapons, as you say. But other forms of hacking that I can tell you about for instance, let’s say there’s a turret, you will be able to hack it if that turret is connected to the network. If you hack the network, then you can hack the turret. Netrunning is for, like I say, turrets, weapons… doors, especially connections to different places. Like [there’s] a way to hack security systems, that will then be disabled when you enter the room.

[At this point in the interview, the PR comes in and tells us “last question”.]

RPS: I’m going to ask a cheeky question.

Pietras: Cheeky or tricky?

RPS: Maybe both. There were some murmurs of multiplayer. Can you tell me what’s happening there?

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Pietras: Currently we are really focusing on developing the fully open-world role-playing game. And what you’re going to get straight from the box will be a fully fledged single-player experience. When it comes to the multiplayer, I’ll be honest, we’re doing some R&D, we’re researching but that’s all I have to say.

RPS: So it might be something added later?

Pietras: [silent poker face]

RPS: No comment!

Pietras:  That was your last question!

RPS: You’re like a tricky genie. Thanks for your time.

Check out our E3 2018 tag for more announcements, trailers, news, and goodness knows what else.

46 Comments

  1. c-Row says:

    It’s not like a BioWare game where you can just go with whoever you want?

    In Mass Effect Cortez and Tali can only be romanced by male Shepard, Traynor and Garrus only by female Shepard. Not exactly “whoever you want”.

    • Rince says:

      Not being able to romance Tali as my Femshep was one of my biggest gaming deceptions.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Dragon Age as well. It could be said it’s usual for Bioware to have NPCs with set preferences.

      • Not Marvelous says:

        Since DAI characters also had set preferences, I think it was only DA2 where companions were fluid like that. I just think it made such a ridiculous uproar at the time that it ended up remembered as a general Bioware thing.

      • a very affectionate parrot says:

        The only Bioware title I can think of where everybody is Bisexual is Jade Empire, and I played through that without even realizing there were romances.

        • Rosveen says:

          Dawn Star was romanceable only by male characters.

          • Werthead says:

            There is the infamous “threesome” option where you character hooks up with Dawn Star and Sun Lian, and they seem to be into each other as well (the game is pretty PG on this so it’s up for interpretation a bit).

  2. kud13 says:

    Aside from how many times they used the word “seamless” , I like these answers.

    Bloodlines also had the popping damage numbers back in 200 2004 ( so waaaay before either Borderlands or Destiny), and that system worked just fine.

    I’d obviously want to see how these systems work in combat (especially stuff like wall-running and hanging on mantis blades), but a a Deus Ex with witcher-level complex systems and a punk aesthetic sounds absolutely enticing.

    • joer says:

      I suspect we’ll also have the option to turn the numbers off if we don’t like them.

    • Dewal says:

      I was very happy when I learned that it was a FPS but that’s a thing that kills it a lot for me.
      Ennemies with HPs in FPS are the worst thing that exists. If I shoot someone in the head or the heart, I want him to die no matter what. If I shoot him in the leg, I want him to drop down. I don’t want to see numbers that inform me that I still need to shoot him five times for him to die, with no reaction whatsoever in between.

      And I know that there’s “always” HPs. But what you see in games like GoldenEye/PerfectDark, CallOfDuty/MW, Red Orchestra is the way to go instead of games like Borderlands, Halo and Bioshock.
      And with floating damage numbers, it feels like Cyberpunk will be like the latter.

      • zaldar1978 says:

        So you need to adjust your expectations – this is not an FPS but a first person RPG. This is the Witcher but sci-fi. All first person with guns are thankfully not FPS – otherwise the first mass effect would actually not be good and the one with the best game mechanics.

        • Dewal says:

          I don’t really see why a RPG couldn’t have “realistic” shooting mechanics either. You could have role playing, item upgrades, new capacities unlock and interesting dialogs without once touching weapon damages. I don’t know why its less frustrating with swords though but it’s a real pain in the case of guns.

          • Chrithu says:

            That one is easy.Because a lot of so called RPG fans will tell you that without stats and skills and attributes and Progression of those there is in fact no RPG.

            Starting with that premis you have no choice but to have weapons do progressively more damage, in order to justify different (better) guns needing higher skill Levels, which in turn justifies that you Progress skills in the first place in this kind of game.

            So basically thank all those munchkins doing number minmaxing that call themselves RPGers for bollocks stuff like this.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        This shit drove me nuts in New Vegas. I loved the game world and most of the stories, but it was so fucking stupid how many times you had to shoot things in the head before they would die. I get it in a turn based game where a low points “hit” is a way of indicating “actually, you missed”, but it’s incredibly frustrating in a real-time first person game to reload and replay a battle, shoot the same guy in the same head with the same gun and have him die faster or not due to random. I hate it so much.

        Inexplicably, completely bafflingly to me, lots of people must like this mechanic otherwise games wouldn’t have it. I am super excited for Cyberpunk and will probably buy it in spite of bullet sponge enemies and random damage but I really hope they make avoiding combat viable so this weird mechanic doesn’t get in the way of the story too much.

      • ohminus says:

        Did you actually watch the trailer? Did you watch the teaser? You want to shoot someone in the head and they should die? Even when their head is a big metal construct with a well-armored cavity for the brain?
        Pray that you’re not the one taking damage when you punch someone in the face…

      • lordcooper says:

        A headshot probably shouldn’t be instant death if your head is largely comprised of metal though.

      • Dewal says:

        Then let it show that the helmet/armor is getting damaged and removed until a headshot takes the kill, like in Wolfenstein where even shooting armoured big baddies feels right.

        There are always better things than “takes damage until HP bar is depleted”.

  3. Dorga says:

    I’m fine with the flying cars being restricted, I can imagine making them playable would be quite taxing, on world building, level design etc.. And I see how it could work in the story, he made it sound like they are closer to an helicopter than a car, being an elite thing and whatnot, so it make sense that you not only couldn’t afford one, but also wouldn’t know how to operate it.

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    I still haven’t read anything about it, but I’m really hoping that since they’ve said you can purchase newer/better apartments, and the high level of customization you can do with your own character that you can do so with your car as well. Like, it’s great you can steal and hotwire cars for transportation and all that, but I want to have *my* car and I want to customize it with armor, better engine, run flat wheels, offensive weaponry, etc. Whatever might be allowed based on the original board game’s rulesets (which I’m admittedly ignorant of).

    I just think that add a nice level of personalization to the world for your character and I’m really hoping there’s something like it in the release game.

    • LexW1 says:

      Before you get your hopes too high, I would say that in the source RPG, vehicle customisation is not a large focus. Most PCs in that drove largely stock vehicles. Which isn’t to say there were no rules for it or anything, just that it wasn’t a key or expected thing.

      This is in stark contrast to Shadowrun, where Riggers pretty much always run heavily customised vehicles, the standard rules include decent customisation and entire sourcebooks focus on the topic. Vehicle mounted weapons are much rarer in CP2020 outside of actual military or security vehicles too.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    “The person you had sex with in the demo, who you woke up with, that wasn’t Jackie, right. So he’s not always with you.”

    Well, that’s good, it would be awkward if Jackie just hovered around while you had sex.

  6. Jerppa says:

    Why didn’t you ask about the male butt?

  7. Kollega says:

    There’s a quote from last year, by Austin Walker (if memory serves): “Blade Runner opens with the scene of a flying car, flying over oil fields on fire. Nowadays, when people remember Blade Runner, everyone remembers the flying car – and no-one remembers the oil fields on fire.”

    And what I would like to say is… given that this is CD Projekt Red, who are widely acknowledged as people who are able to write good RPGs… I damn well hope that the (metaphorical) oil fields on fire won’t be ignored this time. That is all.

    • Hoot says:

      That’s weird because the first thing I remember about the opening of Blade Runner was the oil flares from the factories.

      Probably because I live close to where Ridley Scott was brought up and I happen to know the exact place that was the inspiration for that scene. Yeah, it has the oil flares :P

      • airmikee99 says:

        Yeah, that’s definitely not an oil field on fire. I guess most people haven’t seen a refinery or chemical plant at work, since they’re constantly spewing fire flares.

        • Kollega says:

          I actually do know that what you can see in the intro to Blade Runner are the flares of oil refineries, not burning oil fields. It may just be that Austin Walker doesn’t, or has misremembered what exactly those were, or just as likely, didn’t describe right what he was thinking about.

          However, I cannot help but feel that my actual point in posting this has gone way over everyone’s heads.

          • zaldar1978 says:

            Oh not mine – like Austin you see Blade Runner as a Dystopia and I can see that interpretation – but I see high technology like that effective science and I am like when? Yes it means there will be industrialization. Price I am willing to pay.

            This being a polish developer and by some of the things they said in this very interview about the “lower classes” and other things I have heard and read – I expect you will get your communist critique on capitalism. I just hope it isn’t to heavy handed and ridiculous so I can still enjoy the game. But then I am the guy who doesn’t mind health insurance copays – as they make you care about looking for cheaper healthcare and help keep prices down.

          • Not Marvelous says:

            This whole post is a real treasure, but I particularly love the “this being a Polish developer” bit as if Poland today is a hotbed of communism.

          • milligna says:

            Not really. It’s an obvious point. Just based on somebody else’s ignorance, so obviously will trigger pedant circuits.

  8. Nauallis says:

    Maybe we’ll be able to whistle and our car will majestically appear from behind a neon dumpster.

  9. Luminomancer says:

    The more i hear about this, the more Im reminded of the cancelled prey 2 game, and that definitely isnt a bad thing, its actually very good if they can pull that off

  10. milligna says:

    Where’s the neo-noir part? Needs more Venetian blinds!

  11. pookie191 says:

    Well I’m disappointed.. One of the best parts of Cyberpunk is crashing an AV-4 through the 90th floor window of a megacorp.

    Best and usually very quickly terminal as well

  12. zaldar1978 says:

    “Talk to me about romancing”

    “My own? Sorry I’m tired”

    So glad to see the crazy anti-sex craziness hasn’t been imported to Poland yet. This is a perfect example of a joke that would get someone in a western country lambasted on the internet and sued for sexual harassment. It should not. I expect it made the interviewer uncomfortable – because he is a Beta British male – it shouldn’t have.

    • substationradio says:

      Jesus Christ.

    • khamul says:

      I find this comment very offensive!
      British Males are no longer in Beta! I’ve been out of Early Access for some time, and patches for the remaining User Experience issues will be released soon.

    • Josh W says:

      I’m beginning to suspect that a particular minority of young men have managed to become sufficiently disconnected from their own society that they are actually experiencing it more through propoganda than personal experience.

      Like 20 years ago, you’d have people sharing all kinds of ill informed nonsense about places they’ve never visited, but now thanks to the internet, and possibly newspapers, they can do it about places they’ve never left.

  13. LJA says:

    “Just out of interest why have you gone with this Destiny style of numbers popping out of the bodies when you shoot enemies? Why not just have a health bar?”

    That’s lame, I really hate numbers flying or whatever when shooting sthg, is really annoying, gives an arcade feeling to a game that I guess is trying to generate an inmersive feeling…is the thing I hate the most from borderlands

  14. DailyFrankPeter says:

    Wait, we can romance a flying car? Cause that would be… I suppose pretty natural in a world where cars have AI and some of your private parts are also metal…

    • Nibblet says:

      So dude, last night four of us totally detailed every inch of my car. It was wild man, at one point we had 2 people in the back seat 1 in the trunk and one on the hood. We even had the entire muffler cleaned out with oil.
      I can’t even look at my ride without blushing now.

  15. Robomonk says:

    I’m wondering how the hacking mechanism works in the game. Is it a mini game, like recent Deus Ex series or Bioshock? I prefer if they didn’t have the mini games. I rather they have a bar that moves across the screen. The speed depends on your upgrades. Or have something like a virtual world similar to the old System Shock game, but more stylised.

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