Cyberpunk 2077 launches for PC, Xbox One and PS4 on December 10. Even a week out, it almost seems like it isn’t true. Cyberpunk 2077 has been in development for nearly a decade, with several stumbling blocks along the way. From the heights of Keanu Reeves’ E3 2019 appearance to the disappointing reports of crunch experienced by the CD Projekt Red crew, we take a look at the development of Cyberpunk 2077 and every major change along the way.
Let’s get stuck in with the game’s early beginnings:
May 2012 – Cyberpunk 2077 is officially announced by CD Projekt Red. While details are slim, we learn it’s a non-linear, mature RPG game based on Mike Pondsmith’s epic Cyberpunk tabletop roleplaying game.
At the developer’s summer conference, CD Projekt Red promises five things: a mature RPG in a realistic, brutal world; a non-linear story; advanced RPG mechanics based on the Cyberpunk tabletop games; character class selection; and a “gigantic” array of weapons.
Years later, Pondsmith revealed in an interview with Eurogamer how CD Projekt Red sold Pondsmith on the project, by explaining their personal connection to cyberpunk.
CD Projekt Red shrugged and explained: “We had Communism and we had Cyberpunk.” And that,” Pondsmith says, “sealed it for us.”
Pondsmith added that it took around half a year before the deal between him and CD Projekt Red was finalised. “The way we operate is we do everything up to the 2077 period and they do beyond. Part of that was to allow everyone a little room.”
10 January 2013 – The original Cyberpunk 2077 teaser trailer is released. It features a cyborg woman shot the in the face, arms and legs. A slow pan out also reveals a high tech city and a police officer holding a gun to her head. Nothing else is revealed.
Those plans obviously include Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red’s next big game, which was announced in May 2012. I had a look up upstairs at Cyberpunk development when I visited in 2013, but I wasn’t allowed this time. There were around 50 people on the team back then so I imagine pre-production and planning are been done, but beyond that I don’t know. All work done on the RedEngine for The Witcher will be mutually beneficial, and the experience the studio gained likewise.
2013 – 2018 – News of Cyberpunk 2077 is scarce with development shifting to CD Projekt Red’s other title, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Michał Platkow-Gilewski, Head of Marketing even refuses to answer questions about the game during an interview with VentureBeat.
Little new information during this period is revealed, beyond Cyberpunk launching on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. However, visual effects artist Jose Teixiera also told MCV that Cyberpunk 2077 would be “far, far bigger” than The Witcher 3‘s open world. “The Witcher helped Cyberpunk quite a bit, because the game got so big and so complex that it really taught us,” Teixeira said.
(Five years later, however, CD Projekt Red told investors that the main story would be smaller than The Witcher 3 due to complaints over the length of The Witcher 3‘s narrative. “We got a lot of complaints about The Witcher 3’s main story just being too long. And looking at the metrics, you see tremendous amounts of people played through that game really far, but never made it to the end,” quest designer Patrick K Mills said.)
Tidbits of CD Projekt’s development process that would filter into Cyberpunk 2077 also emerged. In an interview at PAX Australia with Aussie site Rocket Chainsaw, Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz explained what the studio learnt from storytelling in The Witcher 3:
Given it’s such a huge step from the previous The Witcher games into The Witcher 3 and Hearts of Stone, what are some of the lessons learned moving towards Blood & Wine and Cyberpunk 2077, concerning constructing quests in these gigantic open world environments?
Tomaszkiewicz: Well definitely I think what we learned in The Witcher 3 is we don’t have to force players to see everything in the main storyline. This is something we already experimented with, for example the ending of some plot lines, like Keira Metz. They used to be on the main story line, but we shifted them to side quests.
I think Kiera Metz is an excellent example. It feels important, but not like you have to do it.
Tomaszkiewicz: Exactly. And that’s the thing, when it was in the main storyline it felt forced in there. And our previous games tended to do that as well. We wanted to give players an option of ignoring these things. If you want to pursue it, it’s your choice. If you’re interested.
Marcin Iwinski, co-founder of the Polish studio, also tells IGN in 2015 that the “core” Witcher 3 team would be moving over to Cyberpunk 2077.
11 June 2018 – Cyberpunk 2077 returns with its first trailer in five years at E3 2018. It shows off a neon world filled with cutting edge tech and teases the appearance of male V, the default protagonist for the game. Media are given a playable preview of the game for the first time with footage being made available to the public later in August. Minor backlash surfaces due to the game’s first person perspective.
May 2019 – After concerns about Cyberpunk 2077’s intense development process are raised by fans and journalists Marcin Iwiński, CD Projekt Red co-founder, tells Kotaku’s Jason Schreier the company wants to treat its developers with respect and states crunch is not mandatory.
10 June 2019 – The game’s first cinematic trailer is unveiled at E3 2019. It gives fans their first clear look at male V in action and shows off sleek, retro-futuristic visuals. It also sets a date for the game: 16 April, 2020. At the end of the trailer, Keanu Reeves is revealed as a character in the game and makes his iconic “you’re breathtaking” appearance on the E3 stage. Later in the year Grimes is announced to appear in the game, and a streaming version of the title is announced for Stadia and GeForce Now.
June 2019 – CD Projekt Red again tells Kotaku that the company’s crunch policy is not mandatory but says “we can never be 200% sure that there won’t be some pressure”. Later that same month, controversy arises over the game’s fetishisation of transgender people.
January 2020 – CD Projekt Red confirms they’re trying to limit crunch, but says it’s likely developers will have to work longer hours to meet the looming release date deadline. “We’re trying to limit crunch as much as possible,” Adam Kiciński, president and joint CEO of CD Projekt Red says during an investor call.
17 January 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed to 17 September, 2020 due to the need for more polish. At this stage, the game is complete and playable. At that time, however, CD Projekt Red tells investors that Cyberpunk‘s multiplayer mode will be delayed until at least 2022. “So given the expected release of CP2077 in September, and frankly speaking the series of events which we expect to occur after that date, 2021 appears unlikely as a release date for the Cyberpunk multiplayer,” the studio said.
19 June 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed to 19 November, 2020 because the game isn’t quite ‘ready yet’. At this stage, the content and gameplay are complete including cutscenes, skills and items. CEO Adam Kiciński, however, reassures investors that journalists and media are already having hands-on time with the game, and confirms it will support the PS4 and PS5 “from the launch date”.
25 June 2020 – Night City Wire begins airing. Each episode of this show focuses on one aspect of Cyberpunk 2077’s world and explores it in depth. The first episode focuses on the braindance mechanic while subsequent episodes introduce new weapons, Johnny Silverhand’s history and life paths.
26 June 2020 – Media (including Kotaku Australia) publish their impressions from a five hour preview of the game. These previews reveal a bundle of customisation options, details about new life paths and the awesome breadth of the weapons system.
30 September 2020 – Despite promises to the contrary, reports emerge indicating CD Projekt Red developers will be crunching to complete Cyberpunk 2077 in time for launch. While an email obtained by Bloomberg indicates the extra work will be paid, it does state weekend work will be required.
28 October 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed again to 10 December, 2020. As of writing, this remains the planned release date.
8 December 2020 – The review embargo for Cyberpunk 2077 drops. You can view Kotaku Australia’s impressions here.
10 December 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077 is finally set for launch.
It’s been a long road for Cyberpunk 2077 with several pitfalls along the way. Should the current plan remain in place, we’ll all be getting our sweaty hands on the game late next week. With eight long years of hype behind it, there’s a considerable amount of expectation awaiting its release.
Stay tuned to Kotaku Australia for coverage on all things Cyberpunk 2077 next week.