Cyberpunk 2077 Producer: Peacemongers Probably Won't Finish The Game

As an RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 is very much about presenting players with choice, whether it’s how they build up their character skills or how their actions will affect the story. At the same time, it’s also a first-person shooter so you’ll in all likelihood be firing a few guns during your playthrough. Will you really be able to lay down arms and get through the game as a pacifist?

It’s telling that the presentation I saw, while showing a couple of variations on how you can go about the same mission, nonetheless always involves you getting bloody in some way. It should first of all be said that a press demo is a press demo: it’s perhaps easier to showcase the game’s violent delights and excellent-looking combat, not least because the gaming audience's tolerance for ultravionce is so high.

So when I had the chance to sit down with Cyberpunk 2077 producer Richard Borzymowski, I wanted to know whether there were genuinely other ways things could play out without being, for the want of a better word, boring.

“There are different ways for the player to try to finish a mission non-lethally: we don’t have a 'boring' path,” Borzymowski retorts.

I knew it wasn't quite the right word. But having just seen an enemy dispatched through the hacking of their weight-lifting machine (a uniquely gory take on the ‘do you even lift, bro?’ meme) it would take an especially puritanical player to forgo such delights in favour of working everything out like adults.

‘Style over substance’ is a motto from the original Cyberpunk pen-and-paper RPG, and style goes beyond appearance here in reference to how playstyles could be customised.

“This is supposed to be a cool game, so you can do cool things with shooter mechanics,” says Borzymowski. “So for example, as you’re developing your character’s weapon skills, the animations that you’re having while reloading the gun will change. At the beginning, you’re pretty clunky because you’re a new mercenary on the street, but over time, you’ll look more professional, slicker. Your progress will effect your reloading speed, precision, recoil, and many other things.”

But what if you don’t want to be that trigger-happy cyberpunk? How can the game make it just as satisfying to stealth around situations or talk your way out of trouble?

“It’s a complex answer,” says Borzymowski. “You might be able to sneak your way around and get past certain scenarios but, if you do get noticed after some point, and still don’t want to kill anybody because you’re playing a character that just by definition doesn’t kill a lot of people, then you can leave them on the ground: so they’re still alive, but are wounded enough not to interfere with you.”

Ah, the Batman solution. So basically you might be able to get through the whole game without killing anyone, but being non-lethal is a very far way from being non-violent. This was one of the big issues players had with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which would allow players to completely spec into stealth then throw up a forced boss encounter that relied on the combat mechanics.

At best, it might mean you defeat a boss by pumping them with lead but are still able to ‘spare’ them by not delivering the final shot. Trying to get through the game as a pacifist-hacker, however, sounds pretty much impossible.

Boryzmowski is candid about it. “Oh, you probably wouldn’t finish the campaign.”

I'm more curious about than bothered by this aspect of Cyberpunk 2077. Looking for non-combat outcomes in everything this world can throw up would rather rub against the subterranean menace of the setting, and in some senses is a contrivance itself.

Cyberpunk is a violent universe — we don’t really shy away from that,” says Borzymowski. “The main quest can branch into many paths, and choices are connected. The thing we’ve done in The Witcher, which we want to do in Cyberpunk 2077, is that when we are presenting choices to the player, we want them to be meaningful choices. And a meaningful choice is a choice that has causes and effects. Sometimes this effect might even mean a player won’t see every element that the game has to offer.”

In other words, avoiding a violent confrontation results in skipping a fight, which means you're missing out on that content. On the flipside, by sparing a character, you’ve probably gone and pissed off another group who'll be hostile about it when next you meet.

I’m sure that won’t put off players determined to sneak around Night City and find a path that lets no-one come to harm: but if you’re going to have to bash in somebody’s head and pick off some murderous gang members, it’s also hardly a response that will bring a dissonant effect.

“This is the world of Cyberpunk envisioned by Mike Pondsmith,” says Borzymowski. “It’s not a nice world, corporations are exploiting people using any means necessary, and that includes violence. But we are still just storytellers putting you into this living, breathing world. What you make of it, it’s in your hands.”

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


Comments

    Anyone else have a nagging feeling that Cyberpunk is writing cheques that it might not fully be able to cash?

    I don't think it'll be horrible in anyway, but I feel like instead of getting a hi-tech Witches 3, we'll get a first person Watch Dogs. Or closer yet, a Project-RED dead redemption 2, a game that will have its defenders, but others will end up sliding off it.

      no, but I think the hype train has no brakes and there will be people who get their hopes up so high it can't ever live up to their expectations.

        I don't agree that it's CDPR writing hype cheques, that's on players for sure but I do kinda see where he's coming from.
        Footage for the game has been interesting but very reserved and I can kind of see why one might be concerned about how it's all gonna play out and the possibility that it might not live up to even the most tempered hype.

        Still looks good though and they aren't known for being slack on the ingredients.
        Definitely looking forward to it.

          I don't think CDPR are writing the hype cheques themselves either.. it's the media and fans who are champing at the bit for it that any new info from CDPR will be overanalysed to heck and back.

          can't blame them either really, it looks sick.

            I suppose you're right, it's not like they hired Keanu Reeves to hype the game or anything...

              I appreciate the snark, but there's a fundamental difference between "promoting a game" and "writing hype cheques you can't cash".

                Snark aside, I suppose I just don't see the difference between what we are both saying, except that you are implying that is solely the media and fans building this game up and I'm pointing out how much corporate level marketing is playing a part (Remember, they announced this game in 2012).

                Early interviews and preview events sold a game where you can do anything and be anyone; now, as the game gets closer, we are starting to see the invisible walls around these possibilities.

      I hope I'm wrong, but from everything I've seen so far I'm not convinced at all. The combat looks dull, the driving looks stiff, the dialogue has mostly missed the mark, the voice acting is so-so and we know the development has been long and rocky which is never a good sign.

      I doubt it'll be a bad game, but instead of the absolute freedom they seem to be promising I get the feeling it's going to be more of a 'complete freedom to hack, shoot, punch or have sex with anyone' kind of deal. Not quite the same thing.

      I remember playing GTA V at a friend's house soon after it was released and at first I was amazed by the graphics, the world and the NPCs, but then I bumped into one and started a fight. I was always free to escalate the situation, but never free to de-escalate and as soon as I realised I couldn't de-escalate the fight I'd inadvertently started by apologising or admitting fault etc. all of the excitement I first had was gone. Of course that's what GTA is, there's no issue with it being just that, but I wanted something different, and that's the feeling I'm getting from 2077 and its marketing - a great game that wasn't quite what I was looking for.

      Until I have a title that melds the RPG and narrative mechanics of the first Mass Effect with the gameplay and level design of Deus Ex: Human Revolution or Deus Ex:Mankind Divided Cyberpunk just sounds like the closest I'll get to my dream game, and because it sounds like that it'll inevitably fall short of what I want from it.

      I really hope I'm wrong though.

        Spiffing Brit was fairly critical of the preview he saw at Gamescom. The Yogscast guys seemed mostly positive though so who knows.

          I heard some negative talk about the game play as well. But the game is still a work in progress so I'm taking them with a fair bit of salt.

      Nope. I am more worried about some gamers inability to control their expectations, while at the same time thinking they are being realistic with them.

        And that sir is why HL3 will never happen.

    With Dues Ex... stealth and non lethal was the most rewarding jn terms od both bonus exp (which unlicked abilities faster) but also with achievements.

    In Dishonoured you had bonus for stealth too, and kill/non lethal effected the environment.

    It would in 2077 be to see how the game rewards me for my choices.

    How dare I not be able to take a completely pacifist approach in an ultra-violent world. Good thing I can be an Apache Attack Copter though.

      Right? How dare people enjoy playing games in unusual ways. The fucking nerve. Especially when CDPR set the expectations clearly for such an ultraviolent world when art director Katarzyna Redesiuk said this, just two months ago:

      In Cyberpunk you don't have to kill anyone at all. You can finish the game without leaving a scratch on anyone.

      Absolutely ridiculous that people would think a pacifist playthrough would be possible or interesting.

        I can beat that!!

        From an excerpt taken from an interview in June 2018: Patrick Mills confirmed to Game Informer that, while you'll have a lot variety in your choices throughout Cyberpunk, your role within its world will make it impossible to always take a non-lethal approach. "You do play as a mercenary, so there are not non-violent solutions to all problems," he said. "It's not possible go through the game non-violently. You're a mercenary. Your job is violence."

        He did add though,

        That doesn't mean every quest has to end in a shootout, however. "What we do want do want to do is provide room for subtlety and less aggressive options for sure," Mills said. "Obviously that deal in the demo goes bad, but without spoiling anything, it may be possible to get through that encounter without that deal going bad depending on how you handle it."

        But clearly, at least from over 12 months ago, there was no 100% pacifist option.

        Personally, instead of trying to cater to 100% of people, they should just focus on making a game they are happy to put their name behind, because if you try to please everyone, you'll please noone. So stuff that and put out the game you want, you feel

          The mixed messages on the topic are why there's confusion, and why people ask questions about it to try to get solid answers. The point of the comparison was that your implied characterisation of people asking about pacifist play as wanting something at odds with the nature of the game is unfounded. The 'attack helicopter' thing is mocking both the gender identity thing it was created to insult, and the people interested in something CDPR has variably said would and wouldn't be in the game. In bird culture, what you said is considered a dick move.

          I'm all for developers making the game they want to make. But if they say something's going to be in it and then say otherwise, that's a problem.

            And that is why game devs shouldn’t ever say a thing, nothing, they should release no footage, just plonk the game in our laps. Yes I am being hyperbolic on purpose, we see it so often. As soon as something, anything changes it is suddenly a huge scandal.

            This like this is an annoying as ‘OMG downgrade’-hate in Witcher 3. Things change in games development whether for technical reasons or style reasons, everything we ever see or hear BEFORE launch is just hope and dreams. What is launched is what all those things came to be. To some of us that is just common sense. To others it is some how dishonesty. Far from it. ‘Games development’ implies constant changing.

            This is where I agree with @blakeavon in that devs should keep their mouths closed. (I think footage is important though).

            Remember the whole puddle fiasco with Marvel's Spider-Man game? People will be outraged at anything, for the sole purpose that their idea of what they wanted is shattered. It's almost second nature to people these days. Movies are also a great example of this.

            The fact that some people would ultimately not buy a game and play it, or have lost all "excitement" for it, as one commentator has in this comments section apparently has, because you can't play a 100% pacifist game, is as absurd as those who are now refusing to play it because binary sex/gender choices are apparently non-existent in terms of how those have been done in the vast majority of games for the past 40 years or whatnot.

              Sure, and you may be right. Mixed messages aren't good.

              But really, while you may not understand why a pacifist option that was essentially confirmed not being available might be a dealbreaker for some people any more than I don't understand why no visible fairy bush is a dealbreaker for people now refusing to buy FF8 Remaster because of it, just because we don't understand it doesn't mean it's wrong, it just means (assuming neither group is trolling) some people have very different things they find important. I know there are plenty of people here that don't understand my objections to EGS, so it's not so hard to relate to.

      Hmmmm... Seems you're trying to attack what absolutely no one is saying. Unoriginal repeats of tired tropes. You realise pretty much everyone has moved past this right? You're just making yourself sound entitled and foolish.

        *yawn*

        1) Read some of the comments in here, people are actually upset they can't play a 100% pacifist game.

        2) If pretty much everyone has "moved past" it, then why did you feel the need to comment (as a guest no less) and tell me as such? Looks like you aren't *shrug*

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