Skip to main content

CD Project devs want to "call out" big problems like homelessness and the wealth gap in Cyberpunk 2077 sequel

"We're in a really broken world"

Idris Elba as Solomon Reed in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
Image credit: CD Projeckt RED

The makers of Cyberpunk 2077 host a podcast every once in a while, in which the studio's developers chat about what's going on in the company. In the latest episode, they're discussing their (relatively new) Boston studio and how it's spearheading the as-yet-enigmatic sequel to Cyberpunk 2077. There's a lot of middle-managey chit chat but one thing that stood out was one developer's earnest remarks about what he considers some of the sci-fi RPG's shortcomings.

"I see that we didn't push the envelope far enough in some places, for instance," said Paweł Sasko, Associate Game Director at CD Project RED. "Like, let's say the homeless crisis... when I look at it, I'm like, we weren't far enough in '77. We thought that we were dystopian, but... we just touched the surface."

The general hope aired in the podcast is that, now that they have a studio in the US, the creators can make the sequel more true-to-life, and engage more deeply in some issues the first game didn't address. The planned sequel is internally called "Orion" and we don't know much about it yet, except that it has the lead writer of Control at its narrative helm.

"I think the really cool thing about Cyberpunk - and the dystopian future that it has - is there's so much relevance to today, of megacorporations, of people on the fringes, you know, of people just being exploited resources, of the wealth gap, of all these things," said Dan Hernberg, Acting Executive Producer on the sequel.

"I think that Cyberpunk allows us to tell these stories in ways where... at the heart of it there's always relationships and people, but we're in a really broken world and that we can call out some of these things.

"I think for me that's what Cyberpunk is about, exploring those themes but in a very poignant way... and I think that's what we're going to try to do with project Orion. Really continue to lean into that..."

It isn't the only way in which the studio claims its new North American home will aid in creating a lifelike world for the sci-fi follow-up. They want to avoid another "manhole debacle".

"I mean, there's this interesting story after the release of Cyberpunk that blew up on Reddit at some point, and it's the manhole debacle," said Sasko. "I remember there was this post [with] the guy saying that there is this immersion-breaking bug in Cyberpunk... that the covers for manholes for a sewer were the manholes that you use normally in Europe, in Germany, for a pavement. Those are not manholes that you normally [use] in America on the streets."

It's a pretty minor fault, and it reminds me of recent comments by Dragon Age producer Mark Darrah, claiming that blockbuster games are in the grip of a high-fidelity death cult - an exhausting and unwinnable race to be more and more realistic. Personally, I like a broad range of art styles in the industry, and don't want to see games opting for hyperrealism disappearing. But we can forgive a manhole cover, surely.

As for homelessness in the US, that's a disaster visible to anyone who sets foot in the country, and won't be solved in an article about video games. It will likewise be a difficult issue to address within the context of an often ridiculous RPG world full of talking vending machines and routinely exploding heads. There's no reason to believe this issue will be a huge part of the sequel's storytelling, to be clear (Sasko doesn't mention it with that significant a tone). The intention may be as simple as including a greater number of homeless NPCs in the sequel. Whatever the case, it is at least something they are thinking about. And considering how closely everything about Cyberpunk 2077 was watched, and how fiercely it was interpreted, it makes sense that the company may want to leverage the cultural sensibilities of its US employees in any way that may be helpful.

Read this next