From The Witcher 3 to Cyberpunk 2077: “I would love to say that everything was easy”

It’s too easy to forget that Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG in the first place. At a glance, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s a fancy first-person shooter, an open-world game like Grand Theft Auto, or an immersive simulator inspired by Deus Ex. As delays will attest, this is a ridiculously ambitious undertaking.

However, after playing Cyberpunk 2077 for four hours, it is clear that while there are hints of all of those genres, this is an RPG from start to finish. Options are built into every nook and cranny of Night City, and every decision you make in developing your V, whether it’s the character build you specify, the clothes you wear, or the bars and clubs you visit, will affect how you go about it. develop your story.

We talked to level designer Max Pears about our lengthy Cyberpunk 2077 practice session, the challenges of building shooting and driving mechanics for the first time, Witcher 3 Easter Eggs, and the experience of writing a single-player story that doesn’t neglect player choice

PCGamesN: How much does the choice of Life Path affect the game?

Max Pears: The idea is that it’s about creating your own cyberpunk, so having that Life Path option will play into that. Not only necessarily what you saw in the demo, but also throughout the game.

That will come in the form of different dialogue options, but there will also be specific quests linked to these Paths of Life, which you’ll find later in the game. Life Paths can also unlock different conversations that open up new reactions to help shape the outcome of the mission you’re playing.

What path of life did you choose?

I went for Corpo …

With that option, you don’t have the option to earn additional Meredith Stout credits, but if you play as a nomad, you will be able to negotiate with Stout to win more.

At what point do these paths of life converge? Since Corpo started at Arasaka Tower, would it have been totally different if he was playing as a nomad?

Yes, exactly. But each search and secondary search will also have different areas where their Life Path, and sometimes the skill tree options, will have an impact. As for how much things impact, that depends a lot on the mission you’re playing.

As an individual player, open world game, I am sure that a part of the team felt at home giving life to Night City. What has been the experience of making a first person shooter with driving mechanics for the first time?

I would love to say that everything was easy and we nailed it the first time, but it was hard work and we enjoyed the challenge. After all with The Witcher series, the team was looking for something new to try and a new challenge. One of the biggest challenges has been thinking about these elements.

There will be things to learn in terms of having the feeling of driving and shooting correctly, because at the end of the day it is a first person shooter, but it is also an RPG. Thus, you will see numbers appearing on enemies, which you can disable, but we must also make headshots feel shocking when you land them. Finding that balance has been the key challenge for us.

It’s something we asked for, that’s why we wanted to switch to Cyberpunk: to try something new.

What games did you turn to for inspiration when designing the beat and gun feel for Cyberpunk 2077?

It’s an odd response, but honestly, the biggest inspiration was the board game itself. Anyone who has played the board game knows that the number of solutions you can find using your imagination is something your CPU and GPU cannot compete with. The most interesting part for us is trying to integrate player options, be it Life Paths, upgrades or even how you handled previous missions, all of this has inspired us to translate the feel of the board game into Cyberpunk 2077 itself. . As a level designer, it has been one of the coolest things for me to learn creatively.

For me, the combat felt more methodical and tactical than I had anticipated. From a level designer’s perspective, do you want to discourage players from running in gung-ho?

Providing those options has been one of the biggest challenges. If you want to shoot with weapons, that’s one option: you can upgrade your character to carry heavier weapons. You can become a Solo like Jackie, run and crush people; That is an option, we have created it so that it also covers you. We also have those elements that allow you to play slow and methodical, which is why we’re excited to see how players decide to tackle it, but we’ve kept that in mind when building levels that we want to be rewarding without neglecting certain playstyles.

The other thing is that we have a fluid class system, so you can mix and match the two ends. You can shoot for a minute and then take the next combat area slowly. There’s always a chance to take a moment and pull yourself together before heading to the next fight.

Do you think pure builds will be workable?

It is a viable option for you, but I think most people will want to choose between different attributes and skill trees. That’s where a lot of fun comes from, it’s finding your favorite playstyle, like sneaking around just to fall in love with a weapon you’ve found and then specifying around that. Hopefully people will experiment, we want them to.

How are these styles addressed in the open world?

There are many details in the open world. I am really amazed by that and what we have done with it. Even though our open world might be like smaller areas, the number of options has not been neglected at all. The amount of things you can still do is impressive in its own right, and that’s another thing we are really excited to see: seeing people discover how diverse the open world is and not feeling like they have to get close to it. road.

You can still take a car and run over people, draw firearms, or hack objects to distract people. The amount of detail out there is really impressive.

I was relieved to discover that you can steal cars and create total chaos in Night City. Cyberpunk definitely has more po face than the GTA series. Is this type of gamer behavior something you want to discourage at all as it might be at odds with the game’s themes?

If you want to go outside and have no regrets, then you have a choice, and that’s fine with us. However, once you start playing missions and see how many options you have, I think that will make players stop and think a bit before doing something reckless. We have seen many people use that ‘GTA mode’ by default and then after a while they realize how many things are different and adjust their gameplay.

Many open world games struggle with that macro and micro scale contrast. What is Cyberpunk 2077’s approach to this?

For me it is the density of the city. The people you see in the city and how many of them are changes present based on the number of dangerous events, the time of day, and the district you’re in. We showed Pacifica last year, which is a really illegal section of the world, and if you compare that to the downtown section where you played where there was a strong police presence, you will see and feel it.

Hopefully, players will see how the city is alive with different things you can stumble upon by chance, so I think people will be impressed and love what they experience in Night City. I really hope that people see that density, not only in terms of how the city is laid out, but also in terms of what you will find simply running around and talking to different people.

There’s a part where you go through V’s apartment building and see this boxing robot in a gym. If you talk to them, you can start to earn a reputation in that boxing community there. You could just pass by and not notice it, but if you get involved with it I don’t want to spoil it, the ending is awesome to say the least.

What is your approach to looting in Cyberpunk and how important do you want it to be?

The fact that Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG means that loot will always be an important part of it. You need to feel a sense of growth in your character. In terms of pacing, we’re still going to tweak loot, but it’s all about customization, so you can also add mods to your weapons and clothing, which in turn affects your character’s attributes and opens up new options in the world. We’re still adjusting loot, but we always want loot to encourage experimentation.

I saw a Witcher 3 Easter egg in a retro gaming magazine in the Arasaka tower. Obviously, it’s lovely to see that The Witcher games exist in the Cyberpunk world, but how many Witcher games have been around in the 57 years between now and 2077?

[Laughs] Oh man I’m trying to calculate development time, it must be in its 50s by this point, right?

How different has it been to make a game with customization at the forefront of everything you do, compared to The Witcher series, where the story is predetermined by tradition?

We want the player to feel that it is their story. We are not playing as Geralt, where your Geralt might be a bit more abrupt than my Geralt, but it is still Geralt’s story. I think that is what we expect the most. Players are going to customize their V in a way we wouldn’t have thought of, and we hope people will play around with all those options to make it look like it’s your story, your V, and your cyberpunk.