Monday, November 19, 2018

Cyberpunk 2077 News Update

I started this article back in June (after E3 when the initial trailer dropped), long before the gameplay demo was released at GamesCom two and a half months later. Prior to E3 I was convinced by arguments from TSL (The Triple S League) that the game was coming sooner than later--as early as late 2018 (you can read their reasoning here). When that prediction imploded it made me question TSL's next likely date of 2019 (the error and TSL's muted enthusiasm at E3 hurt their channel and they've largely switched their focus to Fallout 76). With the advent of the demo and the news since it's long past due to get caught up. I'll put my updated release predictions at the end of this article.

Let's briefly recap: CDPR's marketing plan for Cyberpunk 2077 was 'surprise' and we've had that in spades. Revealing the gameplay to the public has produced consumer interest above and beyond Witcher 3 levels (according to CDPR). The original (2012) promises by CDPR for the game were:

1. Mature RPG for mature audiences, realistic and brutal, set in a rich, futuristic world
2. Gripping, non-linear story filled with life and detail
3. Advanced RPG mechanics based on pen & paper RPG system
4. Varied selection of different character classes
5. Gigantic arsenal of weapons, upgrades, implants and cool high-tech toys
6. Set new standard in the futuristic RPG genre with an exceptional gaming experience

All of these tenants are still being served six years later, albeit #4 not quite in the expected manner.

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Back in 2013 CDPR talked about the other video games that helped inspire Cyberpunk 2077 (via senior designer Marcin Janiszewski) and I thought I'd repeat the list as it's largely disappeared from the public eye (the link is derived from a development blog that seems to have disappeared; this is supplemented by a Reddit post that includes some missing elements and other related comments by devs):
  • System Shock (1994) – Great atmosphere combined with non-linear gameplay
  • Beneath a Steel Sky (1994) – We talk about gameplay, weapons and style but people often forget to mention an immersive story that takes you by the nuts and shows you the real, gritty Cyberpunk universe
  • Fallout 2 (1998) – A character’s development could determine the available dialog options he/she would encounter
  • Tom Clancy’s (1998) – Evil Corporations play a huge part of any good CyberPunk worlds and manages to approach it from a different point of view
  • Baldur’s Gate Saga (1998-2000) – Faithful adaptation of a Pen & Paper RPG system without getting bogged down in numbers
  • Deus Ex (2000) – Considered by many to one of the best (if not the best) Cyberpunk game. It had an involving story [with] multiple ways to accomplish a goal. One of first games of its time and still one of the very few games where it was possible to finish it without killing anyone
  • The Witcher series (2007+) – Rich and mature story. Stunning graphics
  • E. Y. E. Divine Cybermancy (2011) – We do not advocate magic in 2077 as it would make no sense, but this game definitely had some excellent CyberWare augmentations as well as a great atmosphere
  • Skyrim (2011) – One of the best implementations of an open, sandbox world
  • Blacklight Retribution (2012) – Black Light is a straight up shooter, even more so than say Dystopia, but it’s a fast paced Cyberpunk-themed game that should not be ignored
Syndicate (1993), Dystopia (2007), and Shadowrun: Dragonfall (2014) were also referenced, but without specifics that I could find. CDPR has also talked about the influence of RoboCop, Terminator, Ghost in the Shell, and Blade Runner, saying:
We want to ask questions about what identity and individuality are in a world where people are so closely connected with technology.

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The Basics

  • Non-linear RPG with the same difficulty options as the Witcher (easy, normal, hard, very hard/death march)
  • 100+ hours of gameplay (similar to the design intention of Witcher 3); I don't think this is intended as a revision of what CDPR said back in February (50-60 hours main game with up to a couple of hundred hours of side quests), but simply a rounded estimate (I came across a streamer who said the main story is 120 hours, but haven't found verification of that)
  • First person perspective RPG with a small number of third person perspectives during cut scenes, such as in your apartment, and optionally for driving (both shown in the demo)
  • V's apartment (which includes a vending machine) needn't be a permanent base, as different apartments can be purchased
  • A fully customizable and voiced protagonist called V (an alias which cannot be changed), who is an urban merc/hired gun; his/her personality is shaped by the player
  • Full character creation system with basic character traits consisting of: Strength, Constitution, Intelligent, Reflex, Tech, and Cool
  • V isn't out to save the world, instead, it's more of a noir tale about people; 'noir' is a literary genre closely related to the hardboiled detective genre, but with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include a self-destructive protagonist who is dealing with the legal, political or other system, which is no less corrupt than the perpetrator, by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others on a daily basis, leading to a lose-lose situation
  • Multiple progression systems (Skills, Perks, etc.)
  • Non-linear class-system, meaning you never specifically pick a class so aren't locked into a skill tree; the abilities primarily reflect three classes from the pen and paper RPG: Netrunner, Techie and Solo; the other classes from the source material will appear within the game (for example, in the gameplay demo Johnny Silverhand is specifically called a Rockerboy, which is another class)
  • Characters from Cyberpunk 2020 lore will appear (some have been shown or referred too in both the trailer and demo already)
  • Uses a "directive scene system" whereby during cut scenes a player can choose to act and that will impact what occurs (we did not see this in the demo)
  • Story and quest system from Witcher 3 is being used, but the method of delivery (ie, how you get the quests) will suit the setting
  • Choice and consequence are a big part of the game
  • Ranged and melee combat, but often with options to avoid fighting (either through stealth, hacking, or conversation)
  • Three weapon branches: Power (heavy hitting/stagger), Tech (penetrating through cover), and Smart (tracking/following)
  • Four types of damage: physical, thermal, EMP, and chemical
  • Vehicles: motorcycles and cars are confirmed as available to players, with the possibility of more
  • World design is a huge focus and everything has a purpose (the ads can be interacted with, for example)
  • Set in the fictional Night City in California, with six unique districts (City Center, Watson, Westbrook, Heywood, Pacifica and Santo Domingo)
  • Large open world that is much more of a vertical space (as opposed to the Witcher 3's horizontal space)
  • No level scaling with two forms of XP: Core XP (main missions) and Street Cred (side missions)--the two forms aren't mutually exclusive, but give more of one than the other (Alanah Pearce said there was more than one kind of Street Cred, but I haven't found confirmation of that elsewhere and she may have simply meant there was more than one kind of experience points)
  • CDPR wants the combat to be challenging, such that you have to prep for encounters (the difficulty you choose should impact this necessity)
  • Mature game: both language and full frontal nudity
  • Relationships: just like the Witcher games there's opportunities for a one night stand or something more; NPC's have set sexuality
  • While V can work for the various factions in the game, s/he can never permanently join one (as befits the 'punk' element of the game)
  • The game will not steer clear of politics: "It’s not necessarily what you’re expecting, and we’re not going to talk about exactly what we’re going to say – it’s for you to decide when you play it. But Cyberpunk is relevant to today, extremely so."
  • Full Day/Night Cycle with dynamic weather
  • No loading screens
  • No multiplayer at release: while the option to add it later is still being entertained, for now the game is purely single player
  • An interesting comment about the music: "We obviously have a sourcebook for pen and paper, Cyberpunk 2020, but apart from that there isn’t actually anything there… and if we would even try to dive deeper into this rulebook of Cyberpunk pen and paper to find any clues regarding the music, there’s actually nothing there that would be very useful for us." Ergo the music for the game will be influenced more by the broader cyberpunk genre than specifically by the game itself
The bullet points give you the gist of the game, but let's dig in and truly get at the meat of what we know.

First Person Perspective

The most controversial thing to come out of E3 was this decision. Not only is it controversial because some people aren't fans of FPP (with some suffering from motion sickness), but CDPR themselves previously indicated that the intention was to have the option to switch back and forth. The decision to go with FPP isn't completely a surprise; back in January YongYea reported rumours he heard in November that this would be the case--he now says the same source claims the reason the change was made is that it was becoming too difficult to complete the game using both perspectives and that Cyberpunk had already been long delayed due to indecision at the top (likely the reason why the game director was changed back in June, 2016). When a decision for one or the other had to be made their playtests in first person were the most rewarding experience.

On a personal level I'm not a fan of FPP--I associate it with jump-scares and mindless shooters--but I think this is a case where it can work. While the demo included a lot of combat (see below), much like the Witcher that's only a part of the experience and I can get over the arcade-like goofiness of a disembodied gun and/or hands flailing away at enemies.

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The Cyberpunk RPG had a multitude of classes (Cop, Corporate, Fixer, Media, Netrunner, Nomad,
Rockerboy, Solo, and Techie) and I always thought it was impractical to try to integrate that much variety into a video game (there's a reason why most RPGs boil it down to three of four classes). CDPR has kept three (Solo, Techie, and Netrunner), but without locking you into them, which I think is a clever way of maintaining as much variety as possible. It's not hard to imagine future DLC unlocking other classes.

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Character Creation

The only element pre-set is our alias, V, so what are we picking?
  • Date of birth: I'm not sure if this will have any game-relevance or if we can actually change the given date
  • Gender: male/female
  • Prior Convictions: no idea what the choices are, if any, or how it impacts gameplay (perhaps interactions with law enforcement and criminals?); V has nothing listed in the demo
  • Education: not sure the choices or the impact (presumably related to our intelligence stat); this is also blank for demo-V
  • Childhood Hero: we're given three choices from the lore of the original RPG (Rockerboy Johnny Silverhand; Solo Morgan Blackhand; and Corporate God Saburo Arasaka); the V from the demo has the latter selected; I think YongYea is correct that these choices are a way of gauging the player's alignment (freedom loving Johnny, self-interested Morgan, and uber-establishment Arasaka); I suspect when the game is released there will be information available about each to help inform our choice
  • Key Life Event: death of a sibling; ran away from home; first big kill (demo-V picks the first); the way these are slotted echo the alignment of the childhood hero selections and, I think, are also ways of picking up on where the player's game-ethics are at
  • Why Night City: unfinished business; ex-lover in town; something to prove (demo-V picks the first); these are less clearly associated with the alignment choices (at least the latter doesn't fit as neatly)
  • Stats: Strength, Constitution, Intelligent, Reflex, Tech, and Cool. I agree with YongYea (link above) that strength/constitution is what 'Body' was in the original RPG. Missing from the original game is Empathy (which may have been folded into Cool),and Attractiveness (which seems to be folded into Cool or the Street Cred system). Demo-V's stats were 3, 2, 6, 8, 2, 4. I'm guessing 2 is the base number for an ability. These six stats mirror the standard attributes in Dungeons & Dragons (strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma)
There's a wide array of appearance options as well, but there's not much to say here other than they are using pre-sets as opposed to sliders (which suits my preference--I'm not a fan of sliders). I've seen a couple of people theorize that there's proof V is not from Night City originally and while I think that's likely ('why Night City' is suggestive) I'd call it supposition at this stage.

YongYea has a theory that because of the way the character sheet is laid out that it's actually from the perspective of someone looking for V (a person within the power structure of Night City or a Netrunner). He doesn't say it, but the game may well open with an NPC on the hunt for V for reasons and intentions unknown.

Night City

We've learned a little about each part of the city:
City Center: the sprawling core
Watson: corporate dystopia and very Asian (this is where V's apartment is located in the demo)
Westbrook: the rich burrough
Heywood: suburban and very Latino with an underlying gang problem
Pacifica: very dangerous area ruled by Psychogangs (an area originally planned for tourism, but funding dried up before it could be completed)
Santo Domingo: the industrial area


CDPR has only confirmed cars and motorcycles that you can drive and it seems like the struggle they're having with adding more is that they want players to explore the vertical space (buildings) and the crowded streets--something vehicles work against (Mike Pondsmith talks about that here, for example). Tom Marks from IGN noted: "the map doesn’t look nearly as open or free for driving as it is in GTA 5 from what I saw." This is likely to force the exploration CDPR desires (also the reason why they've said we won't be able to drive flying vehicles). As someone who runs RPGs I can empathize with this problem--the moment characters are highly mobile is the moment they begin to bypass content. The game also has a public transportation system (buses and trains)--we see male V using it in the trailer.

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Cyberpunk will release as a single player game, with multiplayer still in R&D (the relatively late date CDPR was hiring MP designers (August, 2016) means this isn't much of a surprise). If the game is as successful as one would imagine it will be subsequently added, but not (I think) integrated into the game as originally envisioned (as in, a seamless integration with the single player). The speculation is it will be confined to a single area of the city. I think the reason the MP is being delayed is similar to the dropping of third-person perspective: to simplify things so that the single player game can finish on schedule.

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One element from the RPG that we apparently won't suffer from in the video game is cyberpsychosis; this doesn't mean it doesn't exist in-game, but simply that we (as the player) won't specifically be debilitated by it (despite seeing a Humanity Cost while at the Ripperdoc in the demo). I'm positive CDPR will have a reason for this in-game, but what that is yet I have no idea.

Quest Design

Quest designer Patrick Mills talked about CDPR's approach to quest design and it's worth going through:
  • Every quest, big and small, needs a "twist," preferably several of them. "We don't want to make a situation where someone says 'I've got a job, I need you to do the job...' then you handle the situation, then you go back to them and they say 'thank you very much.' It can never be that simple." The latter approach is reminiscent of Dragon Age: Inquisition, whose side quests are virtually all like that, which did a lot to diminish my enthusiasm for them
  • CD Projekt's goal as it began to double down on development for Cyberpunk 2077 was a desire to account for player's being able to do quests in different orders "if it's logically possible"
  • Mills says the goal is to create game logic that keeps track of those varying paths, even if the realized differences aren't that noticeable.
  • Referring to the demo seen at E3, he points out how the player can either head straight to an appointment with a [Fixer] named Dex, or head for a scheduled appointment with their [Ripperdoc]. "Those scenes pretty much play out more or less the same, but there are little bits of reaction, little bits of differences, even something as simple as that, you want to make sure they reference one another."
  • Mills says he likes to start with a high-level theme or vibrant character that can help anchor the experience, and drive the aforementioned twists he has to work in.
The article linked adds that certain foundational design moments like the choices for the player character's backstory are still up to change. When those key changes occur, it creates ripple effects in the many logic frameworks that Mills and his colleagues have built. What's fascinating about all of this is how focused it is on the verisimilitude of the experience--even in situations where character choice is a very minor variation CDPR wants that to resonate in future occurrences. That attention to detail is part of what makes their stories so evocative and immersive.

Speaking of quests, Youtuber Mad Queen (henceforth MQ) has posted theories about both the Scavengers Quest and the Going Pro Quest that we see in the demo, both of which are worth exploring and I'll do so below.

E3 Trailer Notes

The trailer was dropped during Microsoft's presentation. A bit of trivia: Shane Satterfield (of SIFTD, but with a long history in games media) inexplicably secretly recorded and then uploaded audio of the demo (something he was absurdly proud of). That aside, there are items of interest to note specifically from the E3 trailer itself. Most of this is from Mad Queen's breakdown, but I've noted only those elements of her's which aren't duplicated in the demo (time codes are included where applicable for those who want to check out each item):
  • Orbital Air Space Center island is presumably an artificial one given the local geography
  • The Pacifica zone subway lines are out of service--she guessed this is due to nuclear fallout (via the game lore that spans the second to third edition), but as Miles Tost would reveal later (link above) the construction in the area was simply never completed; I've been speculating this could be the multiplayer zone whenever that comes out
  • V's look is derived from art in the RPG (6:41)
  • Samurai is the rock group lead by Johnny Silverhand from the RPG (who among other things was opposed to the Arasaka Corporation and fought with Militech)
  • She thinks the largest buildings are reminiscent of Dredd (2012), and the conception is on-target, as within the game they are called megabuildings
  • She thought the Night City vista was from the metro line in Glen (in Heywood near City Center) and that this is the area where V lives, but IGN said its from Watson and that the view of it is similar to the demo, but not exactly the same (this was then confirmed in the demo)
  • Lizzy Wizzy (another character from the lore) comes up frequently (based on RPG artwork; 21:49)
  • A bar is shown, but she doesn't believe it's the famous Afterlife Bar (referenced in the demo, but straight out of the RPG)--I find her reasons idiosyncratic so I'd take them with a grain of salt, but it's entirely possible it's yet another famous bar from the RPG
  • Brainiacs (a boostergang) are shown in a combat cab (the only cabs that operate in combat zones)
  • Crystaljack is on V's jacket and references Netrunners from the source material (20:16)
  • Low earth orbit shown (24:25)
  • Lazarus Corporation footage shown (26:04) in a report on Petro Chemical who had assets stolen from them
  • An Arasaka corpo is fried during the announcement by the Corp of a new plan for Night City (something broadcast live when it happens--TBug, from the demo, is responsible for this)
  • The Valentino boostergang and problems in Pacifica are mentioned on a newspaper shown (28:51); there's a separate headline announcing the death of one of Militech's leaders (whether by natural or unnatural means is unclear)
  • Mad Queen speculates that the Sov Oil corporation might be behind the Petro Chem theft (30:33), although I expect Sov Oil to be renamed since there's no Soviet Union for it to reference anymore
  • Jackie, TBug, and Dex (from the gameplay demo) are shown in the trailer (0:39, 1:10, and 0:59); there are other connections to the gameplay demo, but I'll go more in depth about that below
This shows just how integrated the RPG-lore is going to be in the game, while all being given CDPR's own treatment (as in, it's not simply lifted as-is from the books)--I'll have a separate post looking at all the references we've been given thus far. The earth orbit scene is further proof that the April leak via Game Pressure is 100% correct--all we're missing is confirmation about a mission on the moon (the leak correctly predicted FPP and wall-running before anyone else).

Adam Koebel has an excellent breakdown of the trailer (albeit a very rambling and long one). There's no similar breakdown of the demo from streaming illuminaries largely because those who would have done so had already described it after seeing it behind closed doors at E3.

One interesting note from Atomic Grounds who goes through the evidence that the lore from the pen and paper RPG is not only being somewhat altered, but many events have been shifted forward 25-years (to avoid all the erroneous predictions included in the original RPG, whose first edition was published in 1988) [the time shift was confirmed by Pondsmith].

The Demo

Some of the people watching this behind closed doors at E3 believed it was the very start of the game as it included creating V (others thought it was simply parts of a few early quests). We now know from the narration of the demo that it's near the start of the game. It's not clear if rescuing Sandra Dorsett at the beginning of the demo is the end of an optional quest or part of the main story; this is less ambiguous with Dexter DeShawn--I assume Dex is part of the main story, but I can't be absolutely sure or that his 'test' with the Maelstrom gangers is required to form that relationship (I think it likely, but perhaps there's another Fixer we start our career with). At E3 there was a bit more interplay with the story (for example, Hayden Dingman said "[Militect Corpo Meredith Stout] was angry because V’d done some work targeting Militech in the past." There was no sign of this in what was shown at GamesCom and I don't know if that's simply a matter of which dialogue options were picked or variations in character creation. In the demo Kazuliski saw V told Royce about the virus on the cred chip, getting the 'bot from the grateful leader after he wiped the virus. We also saw a variant ending of the Scavenger mission in the E3 trailer (as mentioned above), where Trauma Team shows up and presumably rescues Sandra Dorsett via a fire fight with the gang. I think this gives us an idea of what most of the quest flexibility--the missions all have a fairly set conclusion, but with variety in how that happens and the how effects reactions of NPC's going forward (as well as opening and closing the quests that follow--via the demo we could get cozy with Stout and Militech, whereas with Kazuliski's we'd have made friends with Royce and Maelstrom, but both routes satisfy Dex).

The demo has been described variously as pre-alphaalpha, and by others as looking like it's a nearly finished game, but it came out subsequently that it is indeed pre-alpha (whatever that might mean to CDPR). V's level was jumped forward at various stages to show how different things were with augmentations and abilities unlocked, but almost none of the coverage mentioned this--with the demo released publicly it's something well understood now. Most of the crazier things described that V does were at this higher level. Incidentally, Giant Bomb thought the game looked more finished than any other they saw at E3.

The demo was not specifically made for E3, although the fact that it was going to be shown there did move it up in the production schedule. The only major difference between the released demo and what was seen at E3 is the narration that was added. The criticisms of the latter presentation are highly idiosyncratic and personal, and as such they are not particularly useful in an overview of the game.

Within the demo there is a great deal of combat, but CDPR has emphasized that it is an RPG first and that there are often alternatives to conflict.

CDPR are still deciding if they want to implement fast travel (if so there will be loading screens, which they've been trying to avoid). I imagine the debate is similar to the one involving using more vehicles--do you miss too much game content by having them, and on the other hand, is it too tedious to get around without them? I know one of the complaints about Red Dead Redemption 2 is the inability to fast travel and I'm sure CDPR is aware of that (immersion is nice, but not to the point of frustration).

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The Scavengers Quest ('Breaking Through')

Let's breakdown what we know about the quest: "Breaking Through" begins the demo--whether this specific quest is required or optional we don't know (all the Scavengers fought are level 2 except for their boss who is level 4, incidentally). We're clearly arriving at the end of this particular job, and it's never made clear who gave us the task--was it TBug? Our success in the mission is what leads us to Dex. Jackie is with us, but he's a friend and colleague--TBug is never seen or heard from after this (although there is a scene with her in the E3 trailer as mentioned above). The job is a simple one: save Sandra Dorsett from the Scavengers. TBug tells us Sandra's Bio monitor has been down for an hour, but there's nothing on-screen that specifically gives us a time limit--TBug hacks us through the door and we go on a rampage to rescue her. We know this isn't the only way to solve this quest because the E3 trailer shows us another way (involving the Trauma Team directly attacking the group, 1:15), but the option for that must occur prior to when the demo picks up. It's clear we don't know who we are rescuing--at least, not that she'd have Trauma Team insurance--but learning this seems to have been a possibility given the scene from the trailer (otherwise there's no way for TT to come to the rescue). Sandra keeps being referred to as a 'girl,' but she's 29 so she's an adult. She looks a lot like the character seen in the trailer (0:37) coming out of a flying car. Once TT takes her away TBug disconnects and vanishes from the demo. We're told reinforcements are coming in the aftermath, but again, there's no timer to suggest how long that might take--could we have looted the area? It's not clear. The scavengers are referenced a couple of times subsequently: by Dex, who doesn't think much of them (14:43), and then we're attacked by them (25:05).

These are the basics, so what's MQ's theory (link above)? She wonders why the group has a Medtech computer--why do they need it? The system provides a lot of information about the victims which seems irrelevant if they are simply stealing cybernetic parts (the display is similar to the character creation screen). She thinks more is going on and that specific people are being targeted. Given that only the super rich can afford Trauma Team and that those people typically have bodyguards, how did they get such a person? She also notes the group has mega corporation Arasaka gear in their hideout--why is that? [In the E3 trailer the leader also has Militech hardware.] It doesn't add up, at least not in how it is being presented. I think if her suspicions are correct that this is indeed part of the main quest and will lead to the answers to these questions. If, on the other hand, it's optional, one could argue Sandra was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was headstrong or stupid enough to shake off her own protection. This seems unlikely, but it is a possibility. The fact that she (Sandra) seems to be in the E3 Trailer suggests she has a larger role to play in the story.

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'Going Pro' Quest

This is the only full quest we see--Fixer Dexter DeShawn offers it to us, we accept, follow the optional route of talking to Meredith Stout (the Militech Corpo agent), meet with Royce and the Maelstrom gang (who are mostly level 3 with Royce level 5), and wind up having the virus installed and killing them all while getting the bot Dex wants--this pleases both Meredith and Dex. At the end, when V and Jackie are summing up what's happened, V mentions being on a crusade--a crusade for what? It's not clear, although the official trailer description mentions becoming an urban legend.

What is MQ intrigued about? She points out that Stout's motivation is odd: she doesn't care about the stolen Militech equipment or the thieves who stole it, only the mole that provided them the information. When the quest is over we haven't provided her with what she requested, but she's pleased with us anyway--clearly having the virus installed provided her with whatever she needed.

This seems straightforward enough, so what's the conspiracy? MQ believes there are clues that indicate Cyberpunk 2077 is setting up a new version of the Fourth Corporate War or something very similar to it. In Pondsmith's RPG the war is what bridges the Cyberpunk 2020 timeline with Cyberpunk V.3 (only two parts of the planned three-part Firestorm books came out, both released in 1997, with the material for the third folded into the 2005 third edition)--these are the changes that move the players forward into the new edition. It's no secret that the third iteration of the RPG was not very popular (see below), but there's plenty of narrative material to tap into. I won't repeat the entire story (you can read a synopsis here), but the element MQ is touching on involves Johnny Silverhand and a war between Arasaka and Militech. Her theory is that an element from that storyline, the Soulkiller virus (a soul-stealing virus), is what Meredith Stout has uploaded into the Maelstrom hideout. Her reasoning is involved and very lore-heavy and, I think, ultimately overly convoluted. The story above, as-is, makes perfect sense. I think any iteration of the Fourth Corporate War could violate the idea that V is not trying to save the world, although she'll certainly be trying to prevent something awful from happening. This doesn't mean we won't see something like the Soulkiller, just that I don't believe it's required to explain the events of the quest.

Release Date

As the optimistic 2018 appraisals crashed and burned new estimates flew all over the place, most landing on 2020 (a very thematic connection with the most popular version of the RPG), but as we're without strong indicators from CDPR it remains up in the air. Keep in mind that everything is on schedule for the company, following a release date decided in late 2015.

One of the reasons fans have been looking for an earlier release is because CDPR's marketing strategy for the game has been 'surprise.' Some took that to mean the date, but at least thus far the 'surprise' has been broader than that--all their public announcements (from the waking up of their Twitter at the beginning of the year to E3 and GamesCom) have been surprises of sorts. CDPR has made it clear that they don't want a short marketing campaign ala Fallout 4, so that the 'surprise' is not inherently about the release date. We can consider the start of that campaign to be E3 itself, so we're five months into it with new stories and information coming out at an increasing pace.

TSL has been arguing for months that Cyberpunk will be attached to a new console release (you can see them argue for 2020 and then 2019), but Andrew Reiner (Game Informer) says it's intended for current generation. This debate became moot when CDPR themselves said it was for current consoles (eg)--that doesn't preclude it from also being for next gen as well, but certainly suggests it isn't hitched to them (TSL has now adjusted their PS5 release prediction to November, 2019). There's not much point in CDPR targeting older consoles unless the game is released while they are still prominent, so that pushes the target to sooner than later (far better to have it appear before next gen).

With that out of the way, what actual clues do we have?
  • A typical marketing campaign see's a game drop a year from its first trailer--there are exceptions to this, but if CDPR is following this approach then summer, 2019 makes sense.
  • CDPR has been releasing games at four-year intervals forever and The Witcher 3 came out in 2015.
  • CDPR told investors it planned on two major releases between 2017 and 2021 and it makes no sense to have those releases back-to-back in 2020 and 2021--given that Cyberpunk 2077 is on schedule this leans into a 2019 date.
  • CDPR is not giving out a revenue split in 2018 and that's only done when the company anticipates a major expense in that fiscal year; the most likely reason is to spend money marketing the game, which suggests a 2019 release--for them not to do the split without a game release makes little sense.
  • CDPR was given a grant by the Polish government with a due date of 2019 (the money was for seamless multiplayer among other things, which must have been intended for Cyberpunk 2077), although it's not clear the game needs to be released for CDPR to fulfill its obligations.
  • The company applied for various trademarks in June (for both gaming elements and things like jewelry, clothing, footwear, etc). This application was approved in October and a store selling merchandise is scheduled to be operational in 2019. This benefits most from the game being available and there's not much point in selling to the masses long before release.
  • Cyberpunk Red, the revised RPG (pen and paper) that's intended to accompany the game was originally scheduled for a late 2018 release when announced at the beginning of the year (the plan for a new version of the RPG goes all the way back to 2012). The game has since received a tentative release date of 2019.
  • By this August at the latest the game was fully playable. Some people assume that means simply the main story was completed, while others believe it means all the ancillary parts that make up the story are complete (that's my feeling). How far along that put's the game's development can vary, but it's a key step in moving forward.
  • CDPR's official Turkish Twitter page Tweeted the release as being in 2019. This was either an error (unlikely, but possible), or simply a lapse in judgement by whoever was running the feed. Most of the superfans following this occurrence rejected CDPR's dismissal of it
  • MQ, whose link I've included, references that IMDB echoes the 2019 this date and goes through why it's not that easy for the general public to put that date up.
  • In June Bankier, a Polish news agency, said brokerage houses told them the game will come out in the second half of 2019 or first half of 2020.
  • The game was listed on an Xbox One X game release list for 2019.
Everything with a date attached leans heavily into 2019, although it's not clear when. If 2019 is the plan that doesn't mean CDPR will hesitate to delay the game's release to ensure they are happy with it, but given that everything is on schedule I think the best assumption is that we will be playing the game sometime next year (probably Q3 or Q4 of 2019).

Reflecting on the Pen and Paper RPG

Just a final note: in doing research for these articles I am amazed at how much material there is from the original RPG (most of which are attached to the second edition, Cyberpunk 2020). I mentioned in my first post that while I was familiar with the game, but I never played it and didn't realize just how popular it was for a time. The amount of material is a huge boon to CDPR as there's so much lore for them to tap into. To give you an idea of how much there is I thought I'd list the number of products by year/edition (this list is via Wikipedia and may not be completely comprehensive):
Cyberpunk 2013 (1st edition; 5 books)
1988 - 1
1989 - 4
Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd edition; 80 books)
1990 - 6
1991 - 8
1992 - 17
1993 - 18
1994 - 18
1995 - 6; a novel by Stephen Billias
1996 - 3; a novel by Stephen Billias; Netrunner collectible card game released
1997 - 2
1998 - 0
1999 - (1 reprint)
2000 - 1 (plus 1 reprint)
2001-02 - 0
2003 - 1; Cyberpunk CCG collectible card game released
2004 - 0
Cyberpunk V.3.0 (3rd edition; 3 books)
2005 - 1
2006 - 0
2007 - 1 (Mobile game released)
2008 - 1 (2 other books went unpublished)
2009 - 1 (intended as a 2002 release and released as a PDF)

It's very clear there was a sweet spot in the early 90s (53, or 60% of the 88 books were published over just three years) after which the game fell off a cliff that Pondsmith simply could not climb out of (neither the 2005 third edition nor the 2007 mobile game from Mayhem Studios stemmed the drift into obscurity that only CDPR has halted). Incidentally, Billias was an odd choice to write the novels (picked, presumably, by publisher Aspect), having only two titles to his name previously (both from 1988) and since has published just one book (2013), none of which are of any note.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cyberpunk 2077 News Update

As the march to E3 (June 12-14) continues information about Cyberpunk 2077 continues to dribble out (with the presence of the game at E3 at last confirmed). Here's the news we have with my thoughts on it.

Image result for multiplayer

I mentioned in my original post that CD Project Red (CDPR) was looking to include a seamless multiplayer experience, even though this was not part of their original (2012) six promises for the game. There has since been some confusion over the multiplayer (with The Triple S League arguing nothing has changed). This is what company president Adam Kiciński said:
First of all we're going to deliver players a huge, story-driven role-playing game for a single player, as was the case with The Witcher 3. As to further extensions of the game, I don't like to comment on that, but I'm not saying it's [multiplayer] not going to be the case because we already said in the past that we wanted our future projects to integrate online components at some point. Technology-wise, Cyberpunk is very advanced. Our technology is ready to interface with future generations. The game is developed in such a way that it can use very powerful future equipment, but I cannot tell you more beyond that today, as no future generation of consoles has been announced.
This largely echoes what Kiciński said back in November and we know they were looking to hire a multiplayer designer back in August, 2016. I agree with TSL that nothing he said suggests any change being made.

Image result for next generation consoles

Kiciński referenced next gen consoles and evidence continues to accrue that the PS5 could come out later this year (a good summary is here, but also see below), something a high octane game like Cyberpunk 2077 would need to fully take advantage of what it can do (and separate itself from the Witcher 3).

Image result for coming soon

The idea Cyberpunk 2077 being released sooner than later is being accepted by others who prominently cover the game--in the cited specific it's bizarrely based on information that's been out since 2016 (the planned major release schedule for CDPR--two major games between then and 2021).

Speaking of the release TSL recently went through their reasons for why they expect the game to come out in November (with caveats for early 2019, but that's not the plan):
  • CDPR's studio is massive right now with 600+ employees (far larger than it typically is)
  • CDPR is not giving out a revenue split in 2018 and that's only done when the company anticipates a major expense in that fiscal year; the most likely reason is to spend money marketing the game, which suggests a late 2018 or early 2019 release--for them not to do the split without a game release makes no sense
  • There's a strong suggestion via statements they've made in financial presentations that their next major release (whatever comes after Cyberpunk) will be in 2020 (TSL says they have inside sources) and CDPR would not release games back-to-back (ie, in 2019)
  • Many major releases are coming out in 2019 (ergo, extra competition)
  • The game is almost certainly going to be released with a new console to separate it from the Witcher and take advantage of the new engine, as such: if, as expected, Sony releases a 25th anniversary playstation it has to be in November, 2018; the people covering the release of the new console are either saying 2018 or 2020 and the latter makes no sense (the reporting for the former is more reliable than the later, with the latter being Kotaku)--TSL says there are games coming out this year and following that cannot run on a PS4 even at 50% capacity (they make the example that Anthem can't run on a regular PS4 and that Horizon Zero Dawn had to make major adaptions to function on it). Sony Interactive Entertainment chief Kodera recently said "[PS4 is] finally entering the end of the console life cycle," adding yet more fuel to the fire
  • CDPR's comment that their main source of revenue in 2018 will be Gwent and Witcher was made because to say anything else would be to announce Cyberpunk's release date
  • Releasing in 2020 to match the best-known version of the RPG makes little sense because of how obscure that RPG is--it wouldn't be satisfying a significant market (I went over how quickly the game disappeared from the gaming scene in my previous post); I think if they wanted that connection they would have made the title Cyberpunk 2020
  • Consoles like to launch with a new game/IP
TSL speculated that E3 attendees will be able to play and record the demo of the game being brought there (previously rumours had it as purely a limited, closed-door demo for journalists); subsequently they've gone back to the original assumption due to the limited floor space CDPR has taken at E3.

In my first post I'd mentioned data being stolen from CDPR and held for ransom last June. There's finally an update: strong legal action was taken (unspecified) to deal with the situation immediately at that time.

Finally, and to me of limited interest, the ESRB rating will be the same as the Witcher. I don't think there was an expectation of anything else, but it certainly matches CDPR's original promise of a "mature RPG for mature audiences, realistic and brutal."

Image result for witcher

I mentioned previously that I believe a fourth Witcher game is the planned release after Cyberpunk 2077 and I wanted to briefly go over why. Beyond the fact that it simply makes sense--there is demand and it would make a ton of money--we also have comments in February at the Pareto Securities' Gaming Seminar where CDPR told the CFO's gathered that through 2021 the only IP they would be working on would be Witcher and Cyberpunk. That doesn't leave a lot of room for ambiguity. It's also the safe choice--while I expect Cyberpunk 2077 to be a very successful game, if it's not, or not as successful, going back to Witcher is the easiest way to carry on their legacy. My guess is that their consistent denials about a Witcher 4 means this won't be a continuation of Geralt's story, but rather an RPG like Cyberpunk 2077--one that isn't beholden to the Geralt story, although it will surely inform it. It's suggestive that Netflix is expected to release its Witcher series in 2020--even though the show is about Geralt, there's still synergy launching it around the game's release. CDPR doesn't have the same worries that original Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones material does because the Witcher games were original stories in the first place--the characters are adaptations, but the storytelling is all CDPR, so other than losing the titular character there's no loss in the caliber of what's available to them. A new Witcher in 2020 would also come close to their four-year release cycle for the franchise (2007, 2011, and 2015 previously)--giving some oomph to keeping Gwent humming along (new cards etc).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)