GamingBolt and CD Projekt RED level designer Miles Tost talk about the upcoming megaton RPG.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration say that CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most highly anticipated upcoming video games. We’ve known about its existence for several years, but it’s re-reveal at E3 2018, followed by a 50 minute long gameplay demo that was shown to the entire world, have led to a resurgence in anticipation for the title. Given the developer’s pedigree with The Witcher, and their ambitions for Cyberpunk 2077 itself, that anticipation looks perfectly reasonable. Recently, we sent across some questions about the upcoming RPG to CD Projekt RED’s level designer Miles Tost. We talked about everything from its demo, to the freedom of choice the game offers in terms of gameplay, to what players can expect from side quests in the title, and much, much more. Read on below.
"As was the case with our previous games, we put great care into making sure that actions and decisions you make feel meaningful. With Cyberpunk 2077 we’re trying to strengthen this approach not only when it comes to choices present in dialogues, but also by infusing it in the way you play the game."
One of the things you focused on the most in the demo was that quests in the game can be approached in various ways. How different can the outcomes depending on this be? And as an extension of that question of sorts, are approaches to quests ever so diverging that, for instance, the player may even skip entire combat encounters based on their choices?
As was the case with our previous games, we put great care into making sure that actions and decisions you make feel meaningful. With Cyberpunk 2077 we’re trying to strengthen this approach not only when it comes to choices present in dialogues, but also by infusing it in the way you play the game. Your character can specialize in variety of roles and skills, and this freedom of choice will result in an array of ways you can go about when solving quests. In the gameplay video you can only see one solution to the encounter with the Maelstroms, however, there are actually multiple ways to go about getting your hands on the spiderbot — and nothing stopping you from simply buying the tech and leaving, no bloodshed involved.
We saw hints of destructibility in environments during the demo. I know you’ve spoken about this a bit recently, and I understand that right now you may or may not have pinned this down, but is that something you’re looking to make a much larger part of the game?
We believe that having a world you can interact with and which reacts to your presence is a key part of a good open-world experience. Dynamic environments ultimately serve to fulfill that promise exactly: they help to enhance your immersion, the game world to become more alive and believable, and — what’s especially important when it comes to Cyberpunk 2077 — add a whole different level of weight and grit. Combat becomes that much more vicious too, enhancing the feeling of a world shrouded in violence and danger. Given all that, let me just say that we’re working hard on making sure that our environments look just as good when they’re untouched as when they’re getting blown up, without sacrificing the performance.
Night City has looked absolutely stunning so far, but will we be visiting any other areas in Cyberpunk 2077? Perhaps suburbs or lesser known townships in the vicinity of Night City?
Night City’s six districts are designed to be unique in many ways — their architecture, culture, atmosphere, people living there and the problems they are facing. We’re making sure that all of these districts blend nicely into one consistent and believable city environment.
Not all parts of the city are covered in darkness by shadows thrown from skyscrapers. Take for example Pacifica, which was a district planned to be Night City’s prime tourist resort. When the funding died, so did this dream, leaving many started construction projects unfinished and ultimately taken over by gangs as their hideouts. Each district has its own history which you will be able to uncover. It is really important to us to allow for this variety whilst also keeping it grounded within the lore of our world.
You’ve talked about how you want Cyberpunk 2077 to be a story that players can make their own, which is a bit different from The Witcher, which, in spite of all the choices those games presented, was very much Geralt’s story. How are you reconciling that with having a protagonist that is still very much a defined personality rather than a blank slate? Is this a Commander Shepard-like situation of sorts?
There isn’t anything to reconcile. You will determine how your character looks like and what kind of abilities they specialize in. Yes, V exists in a world we’ve set up for him/her. They’re a character who, growing up in our version of a cyberpunk world, was inevitably shaped by it. They are not a blank piece of paper — but in a story-driven game, which character ever is? Despite that, ultimately, it is up to you, the player, to gauge where your character’s moral compass leads and what decisions they make. The outcomes are very much in your hands — you can (and will) shape the story you experience.
"Recently released titles have shown us that there’s still a lot of juice left in the current generation and I continue to be amazed by what’s being done."
Can we expect to see any emergent gameplay mechanics in Cyberpunk 2077?
Too early to really talk about this. If it makes sense, and if we could pull it off in a way that feels organic and meets our quality standards, then maybe. But we’re certainly not going to be artificially extending the playtime by pushing more content into the game. If it can add to our story-driven experience in a meaningful way, we’re not closed off to anything. Personally, I think our strength lies in creating handcrafted experiences.
One of the most common reactions to the demo has been- it looks amazing, but there’s no way this can be done on current gen consoles. I guess a lot of that has to do with how dense, dynamic, and varied the city environments look. Do you think there’s any truth to that statement? How much of a challenge has this been for you during development?
Recently released titles have shown us that there’s still a lot of juice left in the current generation and I continue to be amazed by what’s being done.
Do you think the current-gen consoles can pull off that kind of NPC count and that level of fidelity as seen in the demo?
Looking at the games released at the beginning of this generation and comparing them to some of the absolutely amazing looking recent titles, we can see quite an astonishing difference. Devs are a resourceful bunch — we figure out new and better ways of using and optimizing tools we work with all the time.
Releasing the demo so early was a risk but in many ways, it shows off how confident you are in your product. Given the demo was not a representation of the final game, did the Witcher 3 downgrade drama cross your mind while launching this demo?
The demo gameplay video was recorded from a work in progress version of the game and we were a bit uncertain if we should release it to the general public as we didn’t want to commit to any particular design. A lot can change between now and launch, but you can be certain that we’re not going to release a game we’re not happy with.
The Witcher 3 had probably one of the best models for DLC updates in recent years. Do you plan on following that with Cyberpunk 2077 as well, or is that something you’re not even thinking about at this stage?
Thank you! As of now, we are focusing on the development of the base game.
If players want to play Cyberpunk 2077 with a completely stealth-based approach, does the game allow for that?
A big part of what lets players immerse themselves in our game is allowing them to play it the way they want to. This means providing them with options to navigate locations, solve or even bypass problems, etc. We never force players to adopt any particular playstyle and we certainly won’t do it in Cyberpunk 2077.
"Side quests are great opportunities for us to tell stories of our cyberpunk world. After all, despite not being a part of the main questline, they are still connected to the world and can elaborate on certain parts of it, like the characters. So it’s all interwoven. And yes, that also means that our side quests could affect the main story."
The response to the demo has obviously been fantastic, and while a lot of that is obviously about the game itself and how good it looks, I think people have also been very receptive of the way you showed it off. No cut footage, no CG cutscenes, no PR talk, just a huge 50-minute chunk- “here’s what the game looks like right now, enjoy”. What was your thinking behind this approach? Do you think this is something other companies should do more of as well?
Like I said, the demo gameplay video was recorded from a game in development and we are aware that the version of Cyberpunk 2077 we’ve shown is still likely to be modified. Everything’s work in progress — including gunplay, car physics, netrunning, UI, etc. — but we were excited to show off what we accomplished so far and are proud of.
If I’m the sort of player who’s looking for Cyberpunk 2077 to occasionally be sort of a GTA-like game set in a cyberpunk setting where I can just drive around and mess about in the open world, does the game permit that?
Our game will provide a lot of side activities for you to engage in outside the main quest. Whether it’s side quests or encounters waiting for you on the streets of Night City, it will be crafted by us with a lot of love and care.
Whilst it’s very humbling to us to have our game be compared to GTA, with Cyberpunk 2077, we are striving for a different, story-driven experience. That’s not to say we will stop players from goofing around.
Do random unscripted actions by the player provoke any sort of a reaction from NPCs or the world itself? For instance, maybe something along the lines of law enforcement hunting you down?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s really important to us to portray a world that you feel a part of, so naturally, the world also has to react to your presence. Regarding this particular example, let me just say the Night City police don’t react lightly to people stepping out of the line. Their cyber implants, as well as advanced weaponry make them not a pushover, either.
You have spoken at length about the V’s main story but what about the side missions? What can you tell us about them, and will side missions impact the main plotline?
Side quests are great opportunities for us to tell stories of our cyberpunk world. After all, despite not being a part of the main questline, they are still connected to the world and can elaborate on certain parts of it, like the characters. So it’s all interwoven. And yes, that also means that our side quests could affect the main story.
Are vehicles upgradable? If yes, what sort of upgrades are we talking about? Are several kinds of vehicles drivable in the game, or is it just cars for now?
For now, I can only say that you will be able to ride a variety of different vehicles. Among them, of course, a wide array of cars and motorbikes.
What can you tell us about the map size? How big is it compared to Witcher 3?
This question is really difficult to answer for a variety of different reasons. To name a few, Night City is more vertical than The Witcher has ever been. How do you compare the mega-building from the demo to a “high-rise” building in Novigrad? The player character can double jump and do other crazy moves, allowing us to easily reach heights Geralt could only using his not-so-favorite portals.
Additionally, thanks to our change from third-person to first-person, the actual metrics of our world need to be adjusted, because lense-distortion and a few other elements change the way we perceive spaces.
Another reason for this adjustment in metrics is the different speeds that the player can move in. Say that for a conversation between characters while travelling we want to have one minute of travelling between quest locations. The distance you leave behind you in one minute of driving a car full-speed is very different to the distance you travel when on horseback, yet to the player it doesn’t make a real difference — for them it is still one minute of travelling.
A better metric might be the content we provide and for that I can say that players can expect no less than in The Witcher 3. People will be able to sink their teeth into Cyberpunk 2077 for many many hours and in the end, I hope none of you will be disappointed with the amount of game content we provide.
"We’re focused on releasing Cyberpunk 2077 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One."
You have spoken about the verticality of the map, but what about underground levels or levels set in sea/water? Do you have any of those and if yes, how diverse are they?
Night City houses a huge range of different locations, featuring varied, handcrafted content. What content that is however is, as of now, too soon to talk about.
And lastly, I wanted to ask whether there are any plans to make Cyberpunk 2077 a cross gen title.
We’re focused on releasing Cyberpunk 2077 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.