You’re either a true fan of a genre – or die trying to get a license. Mike Pondsmith, the inventor of the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG, spoke to PCGamesN and explained the reasons why he decided it was CD Projekt RED who deserved the rights necessary to develop the cRPG adaptation – Cyberpunk 2077. Polish developers were not the first one to take up the job, but distinguished themselves through their profound knowledge of the universe. Other teams simply couldn’t hold a candle to the creators of The Witcher series.
As Pondsmith puts it:
What we faced is people wanted to take the name or the roughest idea of it and slap it on either something new, something they’d done – you know, reskin it – or they just didn’t get the gag about how the world worked and how the politics worked, how it’s structured.
Things were different with CD Projekt RED, Pondsmith adds, as they were fans of tabletop RPGs and simply knew how things worked:
What fascinated us was that they knew the material and they loved the material as fans. When I went up to see them, they could quote me chapter and verse of characters they wanted to have in it, and groups and organizations and events. So unlike many of the people who wanted to do Cyberpunk as a videogame, CDPR got it because they liked it, loved it, had lived it.
Unlike the other applicants for the Cyberpunk 2020 license, the developers at CD Projekt RED wanted to put together a game they themselves would love to play. Pondsmith also emphasized that CDPR was the one developer with enough background in the field of gamedev to make Cyberpunk 2077 an exceptional game. Commitment and skills go well together.
As one could expect, Pondsmith does not regret the decision to sign the contract with the Polish developer in any way. CD Projekt RED consults every little detail regarding the game’s lore and atmosphere with Cyberpunk 2020’s creator, and treats his expertise seriously, taking every opinion into consideration when shaping the gameplay. The outcome is CDPR “translating” a tabletop RPG into a computer RPG.
Pondsmith traveled to Poland "two or three times" to advise the devs during the pre-production of Cyberpunk 2077. Since the game went into production, the number of meetings shrunk, but the Polish team still pays Pondsmith a visit from time to time. For instance, they once went to the father of the universe to talk Night City. The payoff, according to Pondsmith – they "nailed" the look of the dystopian metropolis (even though ultimately, it seemed a little bit over-the-top in terms of colorfulness to some). As for the rest, we’ll see in the coming months.
One thing Pondsmith knows – Cyberpunk is in good hands.