IN A NUTSHELL:
- The artistic layer of Cyberpunk 2077 will contain tons of kitsch (understood as a characteristic trend in art and architecture);
- The plot is to be very cinematic;
- The creators want to drag the players out of their comfort zone - confront them with things that that will urge them to rebel;
- Keanu Reeves was the best choice for Johnny Silverhand's character;
- The pressure is enormous, but the studio takes on the challenge with pleasure.
Polish Radio conducted an extensive interview(in Polish) with Pawel Sasko, CD Projekt RED's main designer, which lasted over twenty-five minutes. The conversation included many facts and tidbits concerning both Cyberpunk 2077 and previous games from the Polish developer.
On retrofuturism and dystopia.
One of the topic of the conversation was the world of Cyberpunk 2077. Pawel Sasko told how the studio approached the subject of so-called retrofuturism, i.e. showing the future with elements characteristic of the past. The treatment is necessary due to the fact that Mike Pondsmith's cyberpunk vision did not predict some of the elements found in modern world.
"One of the key elements of cyberpunk is retrofuturism. What cyberpunk does is like taking over the visions of our future from the 60s, 70s, or 80s, but assuming a development of obvious inventions that existed in the 80s, and without all the elements that we know currently. For example, in the demo that we showed, you can see the moment when V connects to various types of devices using a personal link. Personal link is a kind of analog cable that V has in his wrist. Because in cyberpunk, which is retrofuturistic, everything is de facto analog. We use a cable to communicate with various devices and that's how the web functions as it does," said Sasko.
This setting depicts a so-called dystopia, a dark future that focuses on the negative aspects of the world. How do developers understand this term?
"Dystopia has formed on everything negative around us. Just like in The Witcher - when Andrzej Sapkowski wrote his novels, he included many political and racism-related themes. Cyberpunk also touches on a lot of political issues - it is, one could say, inherently political and refers to these elements very strongly. This dystopian reality shows what was imagined to happen in the future, taking into account the reality of the 80's", describes the dev.
Kitsch in Cyberpunk 2077? Absolutely!
The dev also referred to the characteristic graphic style and artistic direction. Developers use several different styles, which thay try to combine into a single entity.
"We pay a lot of attention to how this world looks like. We have shown four completely different styles that affect fashion and architecture. There are elements such as kitsch, neo-kitsch, militarism and neo-militarism. These are architectural styles, associated with fashion, which have developed over the years and they have influenced the way Cyberpunk 2077 is shaped," continues the developer.
Futuristic climate and world of Cyberpunk 2077 will play the same role as fantasy aesthetics in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - they are to be a metaphor that will make it easier to tell an interesting story.
"This fantastic staffage, whether from science fiction or futurism, serves only as a metaphor. It serves the purpose of telling an interesting story, because it is the most important thing for us," emphasized Sasko. "The Night City is also a metaphor - a system, a reality, to a large extent."
Cinematics and Suspense - the pillars Cyberpunk 2077's narrative
Story will be crucial for Cyberpunk 2077, which is no surprise to anyone who knows CD Projekt RED's productions. The developers plan to build the story in a similar way to The Witcher 3 - giving the players a clear goal and dragging them into a cinematic world full of suspense and characters.
"The most important thing for us is that this story should be as cinematic as possible and keep the player in suspense. We always try to achieve this by using scenes and characters. And these are actually the key elements and tools for building a story. When a player starts playing in an open world, we try to construct the plot so that thay have a very clear, central "trunk" surrounded by lots of small branches and leaves. These leaves, these separate branches are additional storylines, which are opened by subsequent characters", said the developer.
The creator also emphasized that for the Polish company, video games are not a medium dedicated exclusively to children, but a tool for telling mature stories.
For us, games are not toys. (...) This is an experience for a very adult recipient. The topics we dealt with in The Witcher 3 were serious topics for people who like to think. (...) I think we can say that in Cyberpunk we even went one step further. In a sense, it seems to me that the contemporary pop-culture is convinced that one has to try to avoid offending the player or viewer in any way. Not to show them things that they may disagree with, that they may rebel against. However, in Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk we do not shy away from such topics. There's a lot of that in the quests, in the storylines, in the scenes. These are things that will be disturbing for many people, but they are there to disturb, to show something different, a different perspective," explains Sasko.
Why Keanu Reeves?
A Polish Radio journalist also asked why the studio decided to cooperate with Keanu Reeves.
"Keanu, as an actor, has made many films that made him into an icon of cyberpunk. There's Johnny Mnemonic, The Matrix, something our younger fans probably know. On the one hand, he is attracted to such stories and was sincerely interested in playing such a role. On the other hand, the character of Johnny Silverhand, which we have had in the story for a long time - he dates back to the times of this original pen&paper Cyberpunk 2020, that is the ruleboook on which we rely - he is a very important character in these stories. For us, Johnny Silverhand is to some extent the key to the whole story. Keanu was an incredibly good fit for the character. (...) We like the way Keanu showed us how he would like to play this character, and this de facto made us decide to cast him in this role," said the developer.
How has Cyberpunk 2077 changed over the years?
The next topic of the conversation was the question of the development time of Cyberpunk 2077. How does what we see now on trailers and gameplay differ from the initial vision?
"Many of the things we currently have in the game are very old. They were conceptualized and came into being a long time ago, because we knew that this was the right idea. But sometimes it takes a long time to find the right solution, see how something should look like. An example of this is our scene system, which we polished for a few years. After we created the system for the third Witcher, which was considered to be one of the best in the world, we actually threw it all away and made something completely new for Cyberpunk, based on the experiences we had with the Witcher and the findings we managed to make while working on the first elements and premise of Cyberpunk 2077. I don't think we were able to show this cyberpunk as mature and deep as it is now, without that period of long preparation," said the dev.
Pressure and expectations
At the very end, the topic of pressure and expectations connected with Polish superproduction came up. How do the developers deal with this? It turns out that... pretty good actually, especially considering how innovative Cyberpunk 2077 is compared to previous works from the studio.
"This challenge is very exciting. The making of the third Witcher was to some extent based on what we learned in the first and second. It was a lot of new, but Cyberpunk has an incomparable scope. A completely different world, absolutely everything, the whole technology, is completely different. This is very exciting, especially for devs who have been in the studio longer and wanted to try something new.
And the second point is... Imagine a reality in which there are absolutely no expectations of Cyberpunk. It seems to me that in fact, as game developers, we would work exactly the same way as we do now. Because we put as much work, brainwork and heart into it as we can. This was the case with the second and third Witcher, were the expectations were not that high - and yet we put everything we had into it. Despite the fact that these expectations are already reaching incredible sizes, it doesn't affect us so much, because we just put everything we have into this project. It is probably as important to us as it is to the players worldwide. But we have the advantage that we know what we have, we know what it looks like, what we have achieved. This gives us a little bit of self-confidence," summed up Sasko.
- Cyberpunk 2077 - official website
- Is It Breathtaking or Hype-Making? Cyberpunk 2077 Served Cold
- Cyberpunk 2077 E3 Gameplay Impressions