We’re only a week away from the full release of Cyberpunk 2077, or at least a week away from grinding Cyberpunk 2077 for the foreseeable future. And ahead of that, we’ve just gotten a neat little preview of what might be one of the game’s best features, courtesy of the original Cyberpunk 2020 RPG creator Mike Pondsmith.
Pondsmith, creator of the classic Cyberpunk pen and paper RPGs, has been working with CD Projekt Red as a consultant on Cyberpunk 2077 since the beginning. Back when The Witcher 3 was in full development, the Polish developers rolled out Pondsmith at their 2012 summer conference to help pitch the game.
So Pondsmith, who has gotten a lot of coverage as Cyberpunk 2077 got closer to release, has naturally been profiled a few times. The latest article at The Atlantic is a great piece, touching on Pondsmith’s original vision for Cyberpunk and what he dubbed “technoshock”, but also Pondsmith’s current creative process and his take on Cyberpunk 2077 right now.
For instance, one of Pondsmith’s original visions for the Cyberpunk 2020 source material would have had a world tarnished with blood-red skies and an airborne plague. That’s eerily prescient for the current times we’re living in, but in a lot of ways, the cyberpunk dystopia was always designed to be a warning of where society was headed:
“We’ve got a lot of people who feel like it’s out of control and they cannot affect their own destiny,” [Pondsmith] said. “I think cyberpunk is in a lot of ways an articulation of that frustration.”
True enough. But when asked more directly about Cyberpunk 2077 — which he hadn’t played a finished version of, although the article doesn’t outline when the interview took place — Pondsmith outlined a small part of Night City that sounds just utterly fantastic.
“I walk around. I go where I’m not supposed to go. I stand on street corners … It’s great, because there are moments where somebody walks by. And they’re having a real conversation. And I listen in. Just as I would on a real street. I’m thinking, ‘Well, it’s not my business … but it does sound like an interesting story.'”
The vibrancy and liveliness of Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City is a key part of the game’s appeal. Night City looks like a fun place to hang out. I didn’t get to spend much time with it during my five hour preview, but the simple act of driving and walking around the various markets and alleys was easily one of the game’s highlights. It’s a bustling city, a virtual environment stuck in constant conflict that sounds perfect for role-playing.
But as was the case with The Witcher 3, and many other open-world games before it, it’s the little bits of character throughout the city that really brings it to life. You can have a lot of quality quests, RPG mechanics, skill trees and weapons. But if the city only revolves around you, it doesn’t feel like a proper city. People need to wander around and go about their daily business, exhibiting signs of life and a purpose that doesn’t revolve around the player character.
So having NPCs go about their business is exactly the kind of thing you’d want to see (and hear!) lots of in Night City. Any open-world RPG, to be fair, but especially a game like Cyberpunk 2077 that’s so urban driven.