Monday, December 7, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 Preview: Reflecting on Story and Character

This is a reflection on what we know about the game as I prepare to jump into it on release (like so many others, I'll be streaming it). This isn't intended to be encyclopedic and I won't discuss leaked footage (Best Buy inexplicably delivered the game a week early), both because I haven't seen it and because I wouldn't want to spoil it for others. This is a different approach than I took for Last of Us Part II, and that's because I had grave concerns about that game before those leaks that I don't have for Cyberpunk 2077. I've used headers for those want to jump around.

My Background

I haven't played a video game that's blown me away since the Witcher 3 (in spring of 2016). I don't play a wide variety of games, but spend a ton of time with those that I do. Over the past four years I've sailed through average to poor offerings which haven't come close to hitting the mark: 2017's Mass Effect: Andromeda; 2018's Spider-ManResident Evil 2Red Dead Redemption 2; 2019's Days Gone (which I played in 2020); and The Last of Us Part 2. I'm aware that most of those games are loved by many and my reaction is largely down to taste and what I see as the strength and maturity of the writing. Story is king in games and I prefer it in choice-filled RPGs. My favourite games in that vein are the aforementioned Witcher 3 along with Dragon Age 2Mass Effect 2, and Dragon Age: Origins. I want an immersive plot, interesting setting, strong characters, excellent dialogue, and a sense of choice and consequence. Visuals and combat, while important, aren't the main consideration for me.

I'm not a fan of the Cyberpunk genre per se--I'm much more into fantasy--but I enjoy dystopia's and cyberpunk was strongly predictive of elements in real life today. My limited experience with the genre includes a small amount of reading (such as Burning Chrome by William Gibson and several Philip K. Dick novels), films (like Blade Runner), and RPGs (Shadowrun in particular; I had access to Cyberpunk 2020, but it's laboured mechanics turned me away). What hooked me on Cyberpunk 2077 was that CDPR was making the game. Thus far, unlike Last of Us 2 or Mass Effect: Andromeda, all the preview material (trailers etc) have added to my hype for the game--there have been no warning signs. This doesn't mean I believe the game will be perfect or that there won't be elements I dislike, just that all the indicators have been positive.

Critical Noise

I want to get this out of the way: a small number of reviewers are looking for reasons to criticize the game--some for its perceived insensitivity (seemingly the source of Jim Sterling's endless carping), and others as a vague push without substance against crunch in the industry (Erik Kain). While the goals of both approaches are good, the tactics are not (often accompanied by toxic behaviour). None of this will impact sales of Cyberpunk 2077 and I expect it to be another genre-defining game ala Witcher 3.

The Story

Our understanding of the story has been partially clarified by the final game trailer. Our character, V, is looking to become a legend in Night City--a mercenary for hire. On the other hand, Johnny Silverhand (who becomes stuck in our head), wants to finish what he started before he died--destroy corporate powerhouse Arasaka. The latter echoes the Fourth Corporate War (the climax to the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG). This approach thematically mirrors what CDPR did with the original Witcher game, borrowing from the short story "The Witcher" (in The Last Wish), and Witcher 3, which completes Ciri's story after The Lady of the Lake. CDPR isn't simply copying Mike Pondsmith's story, as there's little sense we'll get yet another Corporate War (it's not even clear if destroying Arasaka is how the story ends--I suspect that Arasaka will undergo an evolution of some sort while Johnny winds up with his dead girlfriend Alt Cunningham in the Deep Net).

Speaking of Johnny, I think the reason we're getting him so prominently in the game is to give the character proper closure and immerse players in the lore of the original RPG (very much as CDPR did with the Witcher-franchise). The smaller scale of the story will make it easier for CDPR to write sequels (likely with a new protagonist to avoid all the issues of differing choices carried over from one game to another). I assume that, like Witcher 3, there will be three distinct endings for the game which don't impact the final result (which is to say, the climatic event will be set in stone, but how we achieve it and what happens to V afterwards is up to us--producer Adam Badowski has implied that V says goodbye to Night City in the end, but it's not clear what he means by that).

Moral Greyness

The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is meant to be a dystopia without black and white factions, but the game does seem to have a good/bad compass amongst groups (where they are more obviously 'good' or 'bad'). I don't see this as a problem or contradiction so long as there's depth within those groups that includes variety. One of the best examples of moral ambiguity from CDPR is the Baron in Witcher 3 (you can see the lead creators of that quest discuss it here)--a man guilty of horrible things, but who nonetheless has a capacity for kindness and love that is vital to Ciri's survival and (therefore) ultimate triumph--characters like that are what I'm hoping for in Cyberpunk. As for the groups and characters, here's how things shape-up from what we've been shown:

Moxes - Created to protect sex workers from violence; there's no negative here, as they have a noble goal and don't have territorial ambitions (it's no coincidence that this is the group one of our potential love interests, Judy, works for)
Voodoo Boys - Representing a group of real people (Haitians), whose ethos is about freedom (in the Net, wanting to break through the Black Wall); the only negative portrayed is a deep suspicion of outsiders, but on the scale of the setting that's small potatoes--CDPR is not going to give a negative portrayal an entire ethnic group
Valentinos - This is Jackie's former gang; they have a code and are quite explicitly derived from Latino culture (so, again, making them evil could come across poorly)
Aldecaldos - With family at their core and a group that doesn't engage in random violence, they easily slip into the 'good' column (yet another source of a potential romance, in this case Panam--by association this is also Badowski's favourite group, making it even clearer they are 'good')
Johnny Silverhand - While he has his own agenda, he's anti-corporate and is motivated to make the world a better place, so however much he might disagree with V, his intentions are good

Corporations - It's part and parcel of the genre, but corporations are immoral and act only in their own self-interest
Maelstrom - Ultra-violent and with an ethos that's negative towards those who disagree--I hope there's more subtlety here, but we haven't seen it yet
6th Street - A militia-like group that robes itself in patriotism
Tyger Claws - Probably evil, as their violence created the Mox and they are templated on the Yakuza; while they have a cultural association, that gets counterbalanced by allied NPC's like Takemura
Scavengers - They don't have an ethos, simply murdering people for profit--they seem to be the most simplistic of the bad guys (along with the Wraiths below)
Wraiths - Like the Scavs, they murder people for profit and have no real ethos

Insufficient Data
Animals - Mercs just like V, I suspect they are among the few truly grey groups (neither good nor bad)
Meredith Stout - A corporate true believer, she's clearly a selfish narcissist, but perhaps her romance includes swaying her away from that (the road to redemption)

There remains room for variance with individual members in each group and I think in general CDPR is not going to say any gang is ultimately 'good' (since nearly all rely on violence and crime).

What's Been Shown
  • 2018 E3 Trailer - The short snippets have largely been repeated since, but those that haven't lack context to reveal what they mean
  • 2018 Demo - Shows most of 'The Rescue' quest, all of 'Visit the Doc' and 'Going Pro' (as they were in the game at that time--a build that's now 2.5 years old)
  • 2019 E3 Cinematic Trailer - Shows the ending of 'The Gig' quest, but it's not clear how much it approximates the real game and how much is dramatic license (the main sticking point is whether Jackie's death is inevitable--CDPR says it's not, but we have no confirmation of that from reviewers)
  • 2019 Deep Dive - Shows parts of 'Pattern Recognition', which occurs about midway through the main story
  • 2020 The Gig - In-game footage showing parts of 'The Gig' among others
  • 2020 B-Roll Footage (given to previewers to show while they discussed their 4-5 hours with the game) - 'Gig: Monster Hunt', 'The Information' (which seems to be part of 'The Gig'), 'Sacrum Profanum', 'Champion of Kabuki', 'The Heist', and parts of all three lifepath quests
  • 2020 Lifepaths - Shows snippets from all lifepaths (Street Kid, Nomad, and Corpo)
  • 2020 Postcards - Among various bits of scenery and clips of TV shows we can watch, there's a bit that seems to be from 'Automatic Love'
  • 2020 Gangs of Night City - Various short cuts illustrating the various gangs (most clearly showing the end of 'Going Pro' again)
  • 2020 2077 in Style - A fashion exploration
  • 2020 Xbox Trailer - Parts of 'Automatic Love', 'The Space in Between', and 'Disasterpiece'
  • 2020 Johnny Silverhand Trailer - A mix of flashbacks and his interactions with V
  • 2020 Gameplay Trailer - Includes 'The Gig' and the Nomad/Street Kid lifepath quests
  • 2020 PS Trailer - Parts of the Nomad lifepath quest, 'I Fought the Law', and the end of 'The Rescue'
  • 2020 Photo Mode Trailer - Shots from 'Automatic Love' and 'M'ap Tann Pelen'
Neither 2020's Tools of Destruction (weapons) or Rides of of the Dark Future (vehicles) had the HUD with missions turned on, so it's not clear if the footage is from specific missions. So why am I going through all of this? It's not just trivia, it's a way to illustrate how carefully CDPR has been in hiding the game beyond the prologue. I can illustrate this a bit more clearly this way:
Lifepath quests - Lifepaths, The GigB-Roll, Gangs, Styles, Gameplay, and PS Gameplay
'The Rescue' - Demo and PS Gameplay
'Visit the Doc' - Demo and The Gig
'Going Pro' - Demo, The Gig, and Gameplay
'The Heist' - B-Roll, The Gig, and Gameplay
'The Information' (seemingly part of 'The Gig') - B-Roll
'The Gig' - Cinematic, The Gig, B-Roll, and Gameplay
'Champion of Kabuki' (optional melee mini-game quest) - B-Roll
'Sacrum Profanum' - B-Roll
'Gig: Monster Hunt' - B-Roll
Unknown (but seemingly early)
'Automatic Love - PostcardsXbox Trailer, and Photo Mode
'The Space in Between' - Gangs and Xbox Trailer
'I Fought the Law' - PS Trailer
'Disasterpiece' - Xbox Trailer
'M'ap Tann Pelen' - Photo Mode
Main Game
'Pattern Recognition' - Deep Dive

CDPR is leaving the vast bulk of the narrative to be discovered--even for those paying keen attention are left to guess at where the story is going and how various NPCs will evolve through that process.


We open with the character creator and from there we move to choosing our lifepath (Street Kid, Nomad, and Corpo; the decision to add lifepaths came well into development--there was no sign of it in the 2018 demo--as shown above). The new choices are much more straightforward, which is likely why they were introduced (I suspect their reflections in the game echo the earlier template). I think the three templates are distinct and offer players an interesting choice--I wrestled at length with where I wanted to go, seriously considering all three, but ultimately landed on Street Kid to start.

Following character creation, each origin has a 20-40 minute unique story attached to it (I think the lower number comes from journalists rushing to complete it), that are very much in the spirit of Dragon Age: Origins (2009). I'll go over all three below, but when they end there is a time skip forward to six months later (covered by a montage)--this is one of the few third-person cutscenes remaining in the game. Once the montage ends we jump into a tutorial--V is sitting in a car with Jackie, who offers a hacked Militech chip to prepare for the mission ahead (it contains various combat tutorials). Once completed (or skipped), you proceed up the elevator to where the 2018 demo begins, trying to rescue Sandra Dorsett from Scavs (a mission given to us by fixer Wakako Okada--something revealed in the Xbox Gameplay trailer). The prologue differs considerably in tension from Witcher 3's opening, where (beyond the cinematic), the pace is very gradual and the optional combat tutorial begins almost immediately.

The Rescue

Given the 2018 demo, it appears as though major changes were made to the start of the game, as back then we were told there were a number of different ways to solve the Sandra Dorsett rescue mission ('The Rescue' now, but 'Rescue the Girl' in 2018)--none of that variance has come up in the reviews I've seen (other than different combat approaches--the implication being that fighting the Scavs is the only option, although journalists might be rushing to get through the prologue). The addition of the lifepath stories seems to have truncated whatever the opening quest was. This doesn't mean the content has been lost (as in, future resonance), but that whatever dynamics were part of it earlier have been removed. It's possible that whatever was planned for Sandra has been dumped (and that's why she was used in the 2019 ARG the company used for an Xbox-related promotion), we simply don't know.

When the Sandra-mission completes, Jackie takes you back to your apartment (see below), you go to sleep, and then wake up ala the 2018 demo (minus the third-person cutscene and the sexual encounter--the latter I believe was inserted to demonstrate the mature rating). There's one other element early in the demo which appears to have been placed in a non-canon position: the attack by Scavs--in the demo this occurs after starting 'Going Pro' (which we now know is followed by 'The Heist') and completing 'Visiting the Doc', but from the PS Gameplay we now know it occurs at the end of 'The Rescue' when Jackie is driving us home.

Meeting with Dex follows ('Going Pro' ala the demo--retrieving the Flathead from Maelstrom), and from there we transition into the mission described in the The Gig trailer, with Dex wanting the immortality chip from Arasaka which, unbeknownst to him, contains Johnny Silverhand. Interacting with Johnny after this point is roughly where the prologue ends, a process that took journalists about six hours to complete. It's unclear if the 2019 Cinematic Trailer occurs as-seen--we were told at that time that Jackie's death is not set in stone (it has been pointed out that the in-game scene shows a variance and we see in the Gameplay Trailer that how we get the chip is completely different). However, given Johnny's heavy presence in the game and the absence of any Jackie footage afterwards, it remains possible (alternatively he might be badly injured making him unavailable for awhile). It's not clear if Dex's betrayal is unavoidable (the scene of he and Takemura in the landfill, presumably collecting V after being shot, could suggest Dex is not why we ended up there). I have a feeling it's Takemura who saves us and that's where our connection to him comes from, as it seems like his goal is revenge against his former employer (Arasaka).

According to reviewers, during the prologue much of the city was inaccessible--players were forced to remain in Watson by police checkpoints. The in-game reason for this might have to do with the assassination of Night City's major, although I've heard no one specify what changes to open things up after the prologue.

The only coherent content we've seen beyond the prologue comes from 2019's Deep Dive, where we meet the Voodoo Boys in a quest that ultimately seems aimed at the Black Wall (that separates the free Net from what's controlled by corporations and governments). This occurs about midway through the main story and seems like something we pursue at Johnny's behest (since his dead girlfriend Alt Cunningham still exists beyond the Black Wall). Phil Hornshaw (of Gamespot) may have reached this point within his sixteen hours of play (cf), judging by having been to Pacifica while trying to hurry through the main quest (the few reviews I've seen suggest the main story is about the length of Dragon Age; Inquisition's, which is to say 25 hours or so if you do nothing else).

The Life Path Quests

Which path you choose impacts dialogue options throughout the game, which means you will have unique options in the game unavailable to the other choices. It's been implied that you can shift your lifepath association as the game progresses, so it may be possible to switch those dialogue toggles later in the game. How different this choice will make the journey is not fully clear (Dragon Age: Inquisition is an example of poor implementation because as a late addition, the only meaningful change was if you played as a female elf who romanced Solas--otherwise it was purely cosmetic). In comments none of the journalists who played sixteen hours had found large changes in outcomes, but it's clear they were either rushing through the game (like Hornshaw) or being very leisurely about it, making it difficult to assess impact.

Street Kid (eg Alanah Pearce) - We do a favour for our friend and barkeep Pepe to help remove his debt to fixer Kirk Sawyer; the fixer wants us to steal a car and, after an interaction of some kind with the 6th Street gang, we're stopped by Jackie as we're about to steal it--he's also stealing it. We're both interrupted by the NCPD, whom Kaoru Fujioka (who owns the car and works for Arasaka) wants to have us killed for rather than arrested. Through this quest we learn that Street Kid V went to Atlanta previously for reasons unknown. Inspector Stints, who arrests the pair, knows about our trip to Atlanta and many fans think he looks like Gaunter O'Dimm (from Witcher 3)--what to make of that, I'm not sure. I don't think CDPR intends on mixing magic with the genre, so I don't think we'll see Gaunter in this context.

Nomad (eg Miranda Sanchez) - We've lost our clan connection for unclear reasons (I wonder if they were killed by the Wraiths). We're being paid to smuggle precious cargo into Night City, meeting our contact Jackie who has the goods; we bribe our way across the border and then there's a high speed chase involving Arasaka; V and Jackie escape and discover what the contraband is. The two decide to become partners after this interaction. It's possible the quest doesn't always go this way, as the PS Gameplay might imply you can fail to get across the border with the contraband. Miranda Sanchez spent time driving around the badlands and said that, by and large, it was empty (likely locked down to keep the focus on the mission). In this quest we learn more about Jackie's background than in any of the other lifepaths. This also seems to be the 'happiest' ending of the three choices.

Corpo (eg Ryan McCaffrey) - We are working for Arasaka and specifically Arthur Jenkins, who demands you kill his boss, Susan Abernathy, who beat him out for promotion. We meet with Jackie (who we are already friends with) to make plans--Jackie thinks its too dangerous, but before that can be resolved Abernathy's people show up, fire you from Arasaka, and remove all your cybernetic toys.

All three origins involve Jackie Welles (in the Nomad and Street Kid stories, it's the first time we meet him), and all three involve Arasaka in one way or another. This is excellent foreshadowing and, combined with how useful Jackie is when we save Sandra, players are going to have a very positive view of him (as, indeed, they already do).

We know a few things about the differences in how your lifepath choice impacts the 'Going Pro' quest. As a Corpo, you can get more information out of Meredith Stout (see below); as a Nomad you can find out how Maelstrom were able to steal the Flathead from Militech; as either a Nomad or Street Kid (Parris couldn't remember which), you could scan and disable the mines in the Maelstrom lair; as a Street Kid you have an easier time talking to the gang (Dum Dum offers you the inhaler this way).

Going Pro

This mission is a test by Dex to make sure we're reliable, but he also needs the bot for the real mission ahead. Dex paid Maelstrom for the Flathead (stolen Militech gear), but because Royce has usurped leadership of the group (see below), they are refusing to give it to him. Because of their refusal, Dex gives us the option of talking to Meredith (ie Militech). How we succeed in this mission is left open, since the only requirement is getting Dex the Flathead. Alanah Pearce was told there are seven possible outcomes to the quest, which was later clarified to be twelve, so let's see if we can figure them out:

Known Outcomes
  • 1) 2018 Demo: we pay Maelstrom with the infected chip from Militech (Meredith); we fight our way out against Maelstrom, killing Royce in a boss battle at the end
  • 2) Parris (as a Corpo): with his Corpo options, he shut down Meredith's threats and eventually told her to fuck off, which meant no credit chip, putting him in the same situation as if you hadn't met her (he fought Maelstrom)
  • 3) Alanah Pearce (as a Street Kid): took the chip, but removed the virus and informs Royce about it; the Maelstrom become allies and they fight Militech as you escape
  • 4) Ryan McCaffrey (as a Corpo): as Parris above, except Gilchrist is now in charge because McCaffrey betrayed Meredith to Maelstrom and stayed neutral in the exchange between the two when he met them (we actually see footage of this outcome in the Styles video)
Unknown Outcomes
  • 1) Pay for the bot ourselves (presumably this means there's no conflict between us and Maelstrom; whether Militech shows up is unknown)
  • 2) Take the Militech chip, but keep it and pay Royce ourselves--this might have a similar result with Maelstrom, although undoubtedly there would be a serious consequence with Militech
  • 3) We've learned that Royce is the new leader for Maelstrom, having imprisoned the prior leader (Brick)--presumably freeing Brick could also land us the Flathead, since Dex already paid Brick for the bot and he'd be grateful for being freed
There must be more than one outcome with Brick, or it may even be possible to simply steal the bot--speculation abounds for whatever the other scenarios are. Not talking to Meredith might remove Militech from the situation--it's simply not clear. There's a piece of Royce dialogue from the Gangs trailer that's hard to place in these options ("Who are you to say what can or can't be?").

The Heist

Once we give Dex the Flathead, our next move is to steal from Arasaka; one journalist mentions that Evelyn Parker suggests doing the deed without Dex and we have no idea how attempting that would turn out (perhaps its a loyalty test). We perform the heist with Jackie and what's not clear are the variables within the quest. In the Cinematic Trailer is appears the heist either turned into a shootout or was a shootout all along--that violent path seems to lead to Jackie's death. This iteration is not reflected in the final Gameplay Trailer at all, so it's not clear if the cinematic reflects actual events correctly. The risk of the mission makes it clear why Dex wanted a little known mercenary for the task rather than someone renowned--he needed a disposable hire. From the Russian VO video it appears as though we wake up at Viktor's (the ripper doc's) place--something made much clearer in the final Night City Wire.


Not everyone cares about romances in RPGs, but I enjoy them when they are written well (the mechanics matter less than the quality of the writing). We now know that all the major romanceable characters in the game (as opposed to flings) have been shown, albeit not revealed. Before I go over my general impressions, I want to go through who I think they might be in the female category. I believe these are either named characters or ones who have appeared prominently in some fashion.

Evelyn Parker (unconfirmed)

First seen in The Gig trailer. It hasn't been said whether she's a romance option or not, but given Judy's probable predilections (see below) and the limitations of other characters, she's the most likely candidate (whether she's straight or bi we don't know, but we can presumably eliminate her being a lesbian given that she had sex with Hanako Arasaka).

Judy Alvarez (confirmed)

Also first seen in the The Gig trailer (minus the hairstyle and tattoos looks like a friend of mine). It's been rumoured she's for girls only and while that's yet to be confirmed, the one romantic scene we've seen with her is with female V. Of the female options, she's proven the most popular with fans thus far.

Meredith Stout (confirmed)

First seen in the 2018 demo and, in the aftermath of that, CDPR confirmed her as a potential romance. I don't recall hearing her orientation. I'm not sure what angle CDPR wants to go with her, since her first impression is not positive (I have a suspicion she might only be available to those who take the Corpo lifepath).

Sandra Dorsett (unconfirmed)

Possibly seen in the E3 trailer, but definitely in the 2018 Demo; she was also part of a long-running ARG in 2019 where she's presented as actively working against Net Watch. As someone with Trauma Team Platinum, she's extremely wealthy, making me wonder if she represents the 'good' on the wealthy side. No one has suggested her as a romance, but given the limited other options, I think she makes sense as one (no idea what orientation--I don't think her being older than V matters).

Panam (confirmed)
First mentioned in descriptions of the Nomad lifepath from those who played the intro and then appeared in the Lifepaths trailer. I've seen people say it's confirmed that she's a romance option (probably only for Nomads); contextually it seems she's either straight or bi (since people playing male characters have implied the romance).

T-Bug (unconfirmed)

I vaguely recall hearing she's a potential romance partner and I think that's likely, as I believe we'll have at least one African-American romance available. Her orientation isn't clear.

Other Options
  • It's been said that Claire (a bartender at the After Life) is romanceable, but that seems more like a fling given her seemingly minor role
  • Misty is Jackie's partner, making her unavailable to V
  • I've seen suggestions for Voodoo Boys' leader Brigitte, but since you meet her halfway through the main story that seems unlikely
  • Singer Lizzy Wizzy has come up as a possibility, but given Grimes' lack of acting experience, I think that's highly unlikely (I presume all the celebrity cameos have very few lines of dialogue)
  • Corpo Susan Abernathy is theoretically possible, but she's barely been seen, making her a long shot (especially since Meredith presumably fills the corporate love path)
Beyond that there aren't any female characters of note that seem likely. This makes for six options on the female side, which seems like a high number, but within the realm of possibility. If all six are correct, I'd guess we have two lesbian, two bi, and two straight options. This group is a harder sell than the women in the Witcher, but not the disaster that was Dragon Age: Inquisition. Aesthetically, Evelyn would be my choice from what we've seen thus far. For male romances, other than Kerry Eurodyne, it's not clear to me who they are.


I'll touch just the things I have an opinion on:
  • Subway travel - Removed and replaced with a fast travel system ala Witcher 3; I liked this idea as a way to avoid dependence on vehicles, but in the grand scheme of things I suspect the novelty would wear off quickly, so it's not a big loss
  • Original female V design (changed in 2020): while aesthetics are highly personal, this was off-putting to me and since the change female V has been largely absent from marketing
  • Original "Chippin' In" song - We heard the rock-version on the radio in the 2018 demo, which was swapped out for the punk version from Refused. I like both, so I'm disappointed we won't hear the original again (strangely the original was played in the intro of the Japanese trailer and a Youtuber has now cobbled together what might be the full song)

Other Thoughts

This are various thoughts about the game that don't slot neatly into the above headings:
  • Jackie reminds me of Varric from Dragon Age 2 (an uber-positive BFF who introduces us to an unfamiliar city); via footage shown he left the Valentino's at his mother's insistence
  • There seems to be a lot of quick-time responses to key dialogue--I'm curious to see how that feels (will it be too rushed?)
  • We're getting Ciri-like flashbacks as Johnny Silverhand (a very good way to step into his skin and to explore the lore), by which I mean we'll get to play as him from time-to-time
  • I often prefer the female VO actors in RPGs and that's the same here--male V (Gavin Drea) is fine, but I prefer female V's voice (Cherami Leigh)
  • I like how Street Cred varies from XP--the latter performs the usual function, but SC is a fantastic solution to the usual problem in RPGs of players out scaling the core quests and eventually dunking on the final fights (SC still benefits you, but won't allow you to overpower the challenge intended by the main quest)
  • I'm on the fence on whether Ciri appears in game or not; Badowski, who is directing the game, is against it, but fans and many people at CDPR are not--I don't know who wins out in that struggle; we'll certainly see references to the Witcher-franchise (we already have), but Ciri's appearance remains a coin toss (I'd personally like to see it, but I won't be disappointed if I don't)
  • In the 2018 demo Viktor mentions he doesn't know where he got our eye implant--could it be (directly or indirectly) from Scavs?
  • There's a bit of dialogue in Gangs that sounds like Jackie and 6th Street have issues (related, no doubt, to his prior association with the Valentinos)
  • In the 2018 demo V already knows Viktor; that's Street Kid V, and Corpo might know him too, but there's a scene I think is from the Nomad lifepath where Jackie introduces V to him (Styles)
  • Given what we see in the Johnny Silverhand trailer, it seems like Johnny decides to make peace with us after we've made some kind of commitment to Takemura
  • We still don't know who Dex was stealing the Immortality Chip for--who was paying him to have it done (perhaps it's Takemura to keep it out of the hands of Saburo Arasaka)
  • In the helicopter scene from the Gameplay trailer it sounds like Placide, or someone with a Haitian accent, is talking
  • I've seen some criticism that the prologue of the game implies there's a ticking clock for V so solve the issue of the chip in his head or else--and yet within the game there's no time pressure--in general this doesn't bother me, although it does push at verisimilitude
  • From what we've seen of driving in the game (from both Xbox and PS trailers), it looks like the AI cars will scoot over a little to give you room, making navigation easier
  • I'm curious if player economy will function like Witcher 3; in that game you start off very poor (particularly in White Orchard), but once the game truly gets underway you quickly become rich such that you can buy virtually anything you want--I hope Cyberpunk is a little more balanced, where you aren't quite as destitute at the start as well as don't get as insanely rich as quickly
  • Reviewers are suggesting a main story of 20-30 hours and I wonder if this will feel satisfying or too short--I suspect with side quests included we will get a satisfying arc
  • The amount of music in the game is insane--7.5 hours of sound plus 150 tracks for the radio

Cyberpunk Red

There's a sense that this RPG is doomed after the initial bump it receives--ideally it should have come out months before the video game. My expectations for it are low after the poor reception of the Witcher RPG (released using a version of Cyberpunk 2020's system--the reviews of that are grim and it sounds like Pondsmith put it together in a rush), but perhaps Pondsmith has streamlined the system enough and the CDPR tie-in will bring it truly into the limelight.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077: News Update

Image result for cyberpunk 2077 logo

It's been almost a year since I posted an update here--I've had a draft floating along all that time--just five months away from release (which seems like it will avoid being impacted by the pandemic), I've buckled down to catch us up on relevant news.

My hopeful 2019 prediction (buoyed by Youtubers The Triple S League--wrong yet again--along with Luke Stephens and others) crashed and burned, although there's some solace in reports that there was a time where Q4, 2019 was planned (I believe this is indirectly confirmed by the original release date of Cyberpunk Red in August of that year). The conventional wisdom that has proven correct: the game will come out in 2020, matching the iconic version of the pen and paper RPG. One aspect of conventional wisdom that's been refuted by this date is that the game will be hitched to next-gen consoles (something TSL and others were peddling for quite some time).

The Deep Dive was not as electrifying as the gameplay demo released the year before (cf). That's not to say it was poor or even average, just that it didn't hit the general public in the same way. In general I think the marketing for the last year, Keanu excepted, has been more about trying to maintain the hype rather than adding to it (things like the ARG are fantastic for those who pay attention to it, but that's a subset of fans; the music artists announcement didn't make a noticeable blip either). We can quickly look at numbers to establish the general idea (Google Trends is the chart above):
E3 Trailer (Jun.10/18) - 18.5 million views (841k/month)
Gameplay Demo (Aug.27/18) - 19.1 million views (950k/month)
E3 Trailer (Jun.9/19) - 12 million views (1.2m/month)
Deep Dive (Aug.30/19) - 5.8 million views (725k/month)
The demo created fan interest in characters like Meredith Stout, Dum Dum, Jackie, and more, but there's been no similar resonance from the Voodoo Boys or The Animals (the decision to largely eliminate story moments did not help).

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Visually the game looked about the same as last year (the deep dive video was from a build of the game from six months earlier, so late February or early March of 2019). Some claimed there was a downgrade, but that was the graphics squeezed through Youtube and Twitch. We also saw some UI changes (such as adding a mini-map), which I think is an improvement over the Skyrim-like compass. Because we only saw tweaks, it's clear that CDPR is happy with the overall state of the game. We know the main story was playable from beginning to end in August, 2018, so they've had a lot of time to tweak things since.

Cyberpunk 2077 Female V Just Had A Design Change - GameranxFemale V cover : cyberpunkgame

On a personal level, some of the changes I haven't cared for. The gameplay demo's hard driving rock song has become a generic punk song; the original female V (who starred in the gameplay demo) has been tweaked to look more generically punk (I don't like the mute dyed hair or the facial feature changes--the new version looks more idealized, while the original looks more like real person). The push for these changes seems to have come from a small group of superfans, although I hope CDPR isn't that easily swayed (I saw a lot of backlash about the change to V, so we can hope switching her back doesn't require a lot of work). Male V was never going to change, because his appearance was locked into items for sale (I always thought he was less interesting regardless). I'm also not a fan of the song by Grimes that was released, but that's because it's not my type of music (I'm glad it's in the game because it fits the setting).

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Beyond the aforementioned UI change, the gun play is (reportedly) better, but other changes have been made:
V's origin
In 2018 there were three background selections that seem to have been removed: childhood hero, key life event, and why we're in Night City. In 2019 we now pick between three origin types (Corpo, Nomad, and Street Kid), which will have distinct openings in the game (including different starting locations). This decision neatly folds in all those earlier questions while adding a gameplay element to it. I think this is an improvement, as it's rare in RPGs to have your origin impact the opening (Dragon Age: Origins is the only game I've played that did so)--those unique beginnings will lend weight to the options opened up by that choice later on in the game, as well as add to the game's replay value. I also think the three types are quite distinctive, which means it's easier for a player to make that choice.
Compressed from six to five, as Strength and Constitution have been merged into Body (this change is pretty minor, but I prefer it--simplifying systems is a good thing in video games, as it helps reduce busywork in menus).
Nomad and Corporate were classes in the RPG, while Street Kid doesn't have a similar parallel.

It seems like CDPR paid close attention to the feedback to the 2018 demo, as they've implied that Meredith Stout could be a romantic option (something I don't think was the case originally), as well as T-Bug (seen much more prominently in the 2019 E3 trailer). I wouldn't be surprised if there's something extra for Dum Dum as well (Justice for Dum Dum, after all), albeit not a romance.

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There is no end state--failing missions just adds development to the story. This is an interesting way of getting around the game element of redoing failure by starting over again (how it will impact the story remains to be seen; the idea is, in spirit, similar to Death Stranding). CDPR has already revealed that V has the immortality chip installed--I'm assuming the chip also has Johnny Silverhand on it (in the 2018 gameplay demo Doctor Victor says "I don't know where I got it" in reference to the link for the sub-dermal weapon grip, but V seems to be getting the chip for Dex in the 2019 E3 trailer, so that may not be related).

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CDPR is trying to cut out most third person scenes--a small number remain in the game, but the shift furthers their goal of total immersion. The concern is how this will work with romance scenes (for a reasoned overview go here), but it doesn't mean it can't be done well. Like most things that are visual, it can't be judged until we see it (I expect reviewers to have mixed feelings about it). Comments related to the 2019 E3 trailer (specifically Keanu's 'wake up Samurai' moment) suggest some or all of that entire scene was made for the trailer and isn't from the game (at least, as depicted).

Truths about Using Consequences to Discipline

From a summary I saw on YT months ago (whose link I've lost, but was possibly Funhaus), the game is a little shorter than Witcher, but has more replay value (I think they are referring to the main story). This idea has been repeated various places, but CDPR has never provided a number, so all we get are speculative estimations of what this means. The emphasis in the game is on consequences and branching choices rather than the firm linear line used in Witcher 3. This means how each player reaches the end of the story will have a lot more variety.

Charly Boy: Dynamics of immortality - Daily Post Nigeria

The basic plot of the game has been revealed (something The Last of Us 2 has steered clear of, which I find baffling): we are looking for a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality. The chip is able to upload your identity such that if your body dies, it can be downloaded into a new one (that's my interpretation, at least). This kind of tech would be wanted by everyone and would create story pressure to resolve it. This idea also gets away from the standard RPG trope of needing to save the world. What's not clear to me is if we'll be part of the decision over to save or destroy the technology--in terms of world logic the chip cannot become commonplace in the end.

E3 2019: Who Is Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077? Well, He's a ...

Was I anticipating Keanu Reeves in the game? No. I had no idea CDPR would target an actor who has done so little VO work before (with apologies to 1990's Bill & Ted and 2003's The Animatrix). There's always a fear about using a non-VO actor for such a role, ala Peter Dinklage in Destiny (2014). That aside, Reeves is a fantastic choice for Johnny Silverhand, as he's an actor heavily associated with the genre. Normally I don't like celebrities in video games (they overshadow their character), but because of how obscure the IP is Reeves can make him his own. The other advantage of using Reeves is it draws attention even from non-video game fans (see the Google Trends chart above; friends of mine who don't play games heard about the trailer just because he was in it). Teasing Silverhand's involvement goes right back to the beginning of the marketing for the game, and it's a clever idea keeping him alive by having his upload be on the immortality chip (if, indeed, that's what he's on).

Reeves was approached around July, 2018. One of the interesting facets of learning this is, given how involved his character is in the game, how was the game playable that August? My guess is, given that he's stuck in V's head, much of his dialogue is commentary rather than interactive, such that adding him into the game doesn't impact the basic gameplay much (the alternative theory is that they had a stand-in do his lines until he was cast).

Elon Musk and Grimes

On a much smaller scale, Canadian singer Grimes (whom I'd never heard of until she was announced for the game, but is apparently quite famous), is playing Lizzy Wizzy. I'm not sure how many lines she'll have, as she has no prior acting experience that I can find, but having a singer play a singer isn't a huge stretch. She's almost certainly the reason for the occasional Elon Musk things we hear associated with the game (like his Cybertruck), and perhaps the reason why Lady Gaga is following it on Twitter.

Here Are the Voice Actors of Cyberpunk 2077 | USgamer

The other shocker in the E3 trailer was the death of Jackie Welles. There was an outcry for the tertiary Dum Dum in 2018's gameplay trailer, but that would have been nothing had CDPR not immediately clarified it's just one possible outcome. What's not clear is how much further into the game this mission is compared to the demo (which was near the beginning of the game). We're still working for Dex in Watson (whom T-Bug is working for here), but we have Mantis Blades, which is new--how much later is this? Reports were that the demo was at the midway point of the game, but it's not clear when the trailer takes place (could this be the big mission Dex teases in the gameplay demo?). My impression is that you get Johnny via the chip and that happens early enough that Reeves has the second-most dialogue in the game (although we only see him at the end of the trailer).

Level Up Creator Space (@LvLUpCreators) | Twitter

At the end of the gameplay demo we went up to Street Cred level 2, while completing the deep dive brings you to level 12. We earn Street Cred for side missions, so presumably this was the twelfth side mission V had completed. CDPR has the game function this way to avoid players being too high level for the various story beats (anyone who has played Witcher 3 quite quickly outstrips the levels of the main quest unless you intentionally keep yourself at that level). Those who were at E3 were told two major story events have occurred prior to the Demo, but it's not clear what those events are (the only main story content I think we've seen is rescuing Sandra Dorset, who has been prominent in the current ARG for the game). There's no sign of Jackie, likely to coincide with his death in the trailer released at the time--what's not clear is if he (or some other NPC) could potentially accompany you on the Pacifica mission.

E3 Breakdowns

YongYea had the most thorough breakdown of what was shown (Easy Allies also did a good job). The main takeaways were (info from elsewhere will have its own link below):
  • Immortality chip installed against your will
  • The deep dive quest occurs around the middle of the game
  • Mission is to learn more about the chip in his/her head
  • Nudity removed in player creation screen (underwear instead of blurred)--presumably to avoid rating issues, although I think it's a bit ridiculous
  • Mr. Hands has sent him to meet with the Voodoo Boys (I've seen theories that this refers to Johnny Silverhand or Morgan Blackhand, with only the latter being probable to my mind)
  • Bryce, the Cyberwatch agent, is behind the Animals presence and their improved weaponry
  • Alt Cunningham is in the game (no surprise given both Johnny's involvement and that she was shown in the 2013 teaser)
  • Enemies shown were level 18 (the Maelstrom gang members from last year were level 3; Royce was 5; Placide is 40), and V is level 18
  • Language chip requires an upgrade (we start with a basic one, but it only does the most common languages--my guess is we automatically get Spanish and Japanese, given the location and lore)
  • There will be quests under water
  • The only loading screens in the game are via Fast Travel
  • You can do a non-lethal playthrough Miles Tost confirmed (TSL claimed it's not completely non-lethal); Miles said doing so is quite difficult
  • One change from last year is that V will get only one apartment
  • They've tweaked the childhood hero option (in what way isn't clear, but likely attached to the origins discussed above)
  • Each district will have its own fixer (we've seen Dex in Watson)
Not mentioned is that, in the background dialogue, there is an election going on in Night City--it's not clear for what position, but the candidate mentioned is Has Peralez (this can be seen in the gameplay demo that was released), who specifically mentions cleaning up Pacifica--something that could be seen as a direct threat to the Voodoo Boys.

In June CDPR told YongYea the following:
  • They are still working on character creation
  • Are uncertain about having New Game Plus
  • Won't estimate yet how long the game will be if you skip side quests
  • Multiple endings (which is no surprise--presumably they are ala Witcher 3--different, but within a narrow scope so that expansions still make sense)
  • The gameplay demo was the prologue
  • The only obligatory augmentations are the eye implant and grip you get during the prologue (along with the chip-slot in the neck and personal link in the arm--these you begin with)
  • It has mini-games (target practice, car racing, MMA fighting, and hacking)--the middle two also appear, in context, in Witcher--the hacking game is less about failing and more about a better result the better you do
By August CDPR said in an interview that they were down to polishing and final optimization, but given that they subsequently delayed the release, either more content was added or that optimization was more difficult than originally conceived. For those paying attention, this means the complete version of the game that existed in August, 2018, was essentially done one year later. From subsequent comments it seems like one area they were still working on was vehicle customization (something I couldn't care less about).

In November they said:
  • They have a 'cool way to [continue play after the main story,]'  but we have no idea what that means yet
  • Side quests tend to grow further quests and impact other, unrelated quests
  • Decisions can limit access or block specific areas
  • The actions of the police (or the gang that is policing an area) depends a great deal on what you are doing--a fist fight won't bother anyone, but driving through crowds or pulling a gun will
  • About 3/4's of the environment is destructible
Through the current ARG there were more hints about a possible Lunar mission (cf), specifically associated with Night Corp. The ARG has also brought up the Soulkiller program, Netwatch, and Arasaka. The former is heavily associated with Alt Cunningham and we saw Netwatch in the Deep Dive. Arasaka has, mostly, been kept out of the marketing.

In terms of the districts thus far we've seen Watson (described as corporate and largely Asian) and now Pacifica (dysfunctional and largely Haitian). We know the following about other areas:
City Center: it's sprawling
Westbrook: the rich burrough
Heywood: suburban/Latino
Santo Domingo: industrial

I'd guess the latter has the most limited content. An interesting tidbit related to Night City was that CDPR hired a city planner (or planners) to help rationalize their layout, which is a fantastic idea and will add realism (and likely make driving simpler). Miles Tost said the intention is for the six districts to all seem distinct and all have a life beyond the main quest line to interest the player (just like the regions in Witcher 3). Miles compared the variance to Skellige vs Novigrad, which are the most contrasting areas in that game.

The number of known gangs has increased:
Brainiacs (2018 E3 trailer)
Maelstrom (gameplay demo)
Valentino's (via Jackie's origin)
The Animals (deep dive)
The Voodoo Boys (deep dive)
6th Street (deluxe edition of the game)
The Mox (deluxe edition of the game/Twitter)
The Wraiths (deluxe edition of the game)
The Tiger's Claw (deluxe edition of the game)
The Steel Dragons (art)

There are also strong hints that we'll see the Bozos as well.

What does "storyline" mean? | Learn English at English, baby!

I've been thinking about what the opening of the game will be. Since Keanu was brought on board and they introduced separate origin stories, abandoning (or at least altering) whatever opening they'd originally envisioned. I suspect we'll get the chip with Johnny Silverhand implanted in us either during those origins (distinct as they are), via Doctor Victor, or it's the main mission Dexter discusses in the demo (probably the latter). After the origin we transition into the Scavenger mission with Jackie and T-Bug whose ending we see at the beginning of the 2018 Gamescom demo (given the seeming prominence of Sandra Dorset, that seems like a main quest). The Maelstrom quest is a side quest (since we get Street Cred for it), so presumably optional. We've been told that the initial implants from Victor are required for the game, which suggests that mini-quest is unchanged as well. Laying it out, here's how I think it might begin:
  • 1) Character origin introduction (varying depending on the choice of Corpo, Street Kid, or Nomad); presumably in all of these cases we have an association with Jackie
  • 2) "Rescue the Girl" main quest (saving Sandra Dorset from the Scavangers)--the end of this was shown in the demo--we know we're working with T-Bug, but no idea who gave us the mission
  • 3) "Visiting the Doc" quest (where we get our required implants)
  • 3a) "V's Got a Gun" quest (possibly optional--we see it in the demo, but it's ignored)
  • 4) "Going Pro" (meeting with Dexter Deshawn)--this is the Maelstrom quest, which we know is a side quest, but it's difficult to imagine it being optional (unless there's another way to persuade Dex to hire us for his job)
  • 5) Dealing with Maelstrom was simply proving ourselves to Dex for his real job--it's my guess that the job we do for him afterwards is what's shown in the 2019 E3 trailer (my guess based on Jackie's presence and the involvement of T-Bug--everyone teased previously)--this would, presumably, be when and where we get the immortality chip, and Keanu needs to arrive early to allow for his massive amount of dialogue in the game
Beyond that it's hard to say where the story will go. We'll have reasons to visit each area of the city and get caught up with whatever is going on, but CDPR hasn't let much of that slip out (the quest with the Voodoo Boys, taking place mid-game, may happen very differently depending on the circumstances when we arrive at that point).

We know Johnny wants the city to burn and by that I think he means destroying corporate control, but CDPR doesn't want to follow the usual heroic tropes, so it will be interesting to see what Johnny's specific goal is and, if followed, what it can ultimately achieve.

From the ARG it seems like Night Corp is the primary antagonist, with Sandra Dorset and whatever faction she represents on the other side. I'm curious how black and white this will be--does siding with the Corp mean a tragic ending ala Witcher 3, or will it be more nuanced?

One interesting facet of our decisions mattering is how it will impact a sequel--how will the variety introduced by our character's decisions be reflected? Even if we're playing as a different character (as seems likely), it would suggest there will be a canonical iteration of this game no matter what we decide. It'll be interesting to see how that's tackled, as it's something Bioware fumbled with quite badly in the Dragon Age franchise.


Persistent whinging from a few people about the gunplay remains; these originally came from a small subset of fans (TSL among others), but has since been picked up by journalists (Dual Shockers, Game Pressure, The Verge, and even IGN), much of which seems inspired by those offended by the game (see below).

Accusations of Racism/Transphobia

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The transphobic complaints take more time to go through, so I'll address the racism complaints first. Back when the 2018 E3 trailer was released a small number of people complained that the Combat Cab driver was of Indian descent (Sihk specifically, given the Dastar he's wearing), and they believed this was an offensive stereotype. This complaint didn't get a lot of attention, but when we see a Combat Cab in the 2019 E3 trailer, it's an AI driver instead of a person. I don't know if this change was in response to that criticism or if CDPR simply thought it made more sense (possibly a mix of the two--lest we forget, CDPR likes awards and critical praise).

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The second bit of outrage was much more pronounced and spent a week or two in the news cycle. It started with Matt Cox at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, who claimed the gang The Animals were racist because many of its members were African-American. This was echoed by Ana Valens of The Daily Dot, but the real push came from the owner of RPS, John Walker, who went on a social media rant about it. What stopped the controversy was when people informed Walker: 1) Mike Pondsmith is African-American and not fictional (Walker had no idea he was a real person), 2) Actual African-Americans besides Pondsmith (like Youtuber Parris) said he was White Knighting and either ignorant or disinterested in the opinions of actual Africa-Americans (all the people I can find in the media complaining were Caucasian). Walker was so embarrassed by all this that he apologized. This story was echoed in a way not long after in a different context, when Walter Mosley (who is African-American), a writer for Star Trek: Discovery, was accused of racism by an unnamed coworker who felt 'uncomfortable' by a personal anecdote Mosley was telling. It's a strange world that we live in.

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Jackie above isn't part of a controversy, but I'm including him to make a point about accusations that fans of CDPR (or gamers generally) are somehow racist/homophobic by default (a lazy accusation that gets thrown around). Jackie is a Latino character who might be gay (or bi)--there are hints of that in the E3 2019 trailer--so what has been the reaction to him? Fans enjoyed him so much in the 2018 gameplay demo there was shock at his death scene in the following trailer and CDPR had to make it clear after the fact that this was just a possible result. That reaction makes it very hard to claim that there's something overtly -ist about gamers as a group. In anything--games and elsewhere--the quality of the material (the writing/story) and the context of the story is what matters. Fans want to the see effort--they want to see the Voodoo Boys as real Haitians, speaking Creole French, and having a culture that fits a Cyberpunk context. That's proper representation and exactly what CDPR has striven for.

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What's the transphobia accusation about? It's twofold. A year ago, the now former-CDPR Twitter handler made a pair of Tweets which offended some in the community (Polygon covered this extensively)--the words he used are the same that the anti-trans community use to attack them. The manager was fired after his second such Tweet, but the accusation resurfaced during the gameplay demo at E3 2019. An ad showing a sexualized transgendered woman triggered a number of people--the aforementioned Valens at The Daily Dot, along with Heather Alexandra at Kotaku particularly (the ad had appeared before, but neither had noticed it previously). Through comments laid out in GamasutraGreenman Gaming, and Polygon, CDPR walked the journalists through the obvious point the image was making. The accusation was so painfully dumb that folks like Hasan Piker dismissed them. CDPR clearly didn't feel pressured by this as they prominently displayed the ad in the Deep Dive released subsequently.

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The final critique comes from Youtubers on the right. Outrage peddler The Quartering (he's embarrassingly open about pushing clickbait), decided he was upset because he believed you couldn't choose male or female in the character creator, basing this on the fact that body parts were interchangeable during creation. When it was pointed out to him that he was factually wrong, he did what he normally does, deny it in a rambling, incoherent video. I'm familiar with the Quartering (unfortunately) and this kind of thing is nothing new (he's one of the primary triggers for the Captain Marvel outrage in early 2019). His audience flooded comment sections about his erroneous point such that serious people had to respond to them, but it's all nonsense (as YongYea goes through). Unlike the above complaints, this will have no lingering impact on CDPR or the game and there was enough backlash internally that Quartering gave up complaining about it and is back to cheerleading the game.


I came across an interesting video that goes through the origins of Cyberpunk (the first part of a series which is either stalled or dead). These are the items picked out by it:
1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (novel)
1970 Colossus: The Forbin Project (film)
1973 Westworld (TV)
1976 The Long Tomorrow (comic)
1977 Judge Dredd (comic)
1980s authors Bruce Sterling, Walter Jon Williams, and William Gibson
1982 Blade Runner (film), Tron (film)
1983 Wargames (film)
1984 Neuromancer (novel)
1985 Max Headroom (TV)
1987 RoboCop (film)
1988 Cyberpunk (RPG), Akira (film)
1989 Shadowrun (RPG)

Hopefully part two will come out--this covers the rise of Cyberpunk and I'm curious how the YTer will cover its mega-popular phase in the 90s and its steep decline afterwards.

Maximum Mike

This is just an observation I've made in doing research for articles on here: Mike Pondsmith's memory of how the deal with CDPR came about isn't perfect. I've seen Mike tell the same story several times and it's always the same tale. However, the way he tells the story doesn't make sense as-is. Mike talks about the game getting into communist Poland and being distributed by the original CDPR partners (Marcin Iwinski and Michal Kicinski). What's ahistorical about the story is the timeframe:
  • The original Cyberpunk RPG came out in 1988 (Iwinski was 14 at the time)
  • Communist rule ended in Poland in August, 1989
  • Cyberpunk 2020 came out in 1990 (the second edition in August)
  • Iwinski and Kicinski begin to work together in 1994
There's no scenario where one of the partners just happened to get in touch with Pondsmith during the small period of time (about a year) when Poland was still a communist country and the original edition of Cyberpunk was out. Obviously these details are trivial--the overall idea is correct (they contacted Mike about the game and transmitted it to others in Poland), it's just the when and context which is off. It's not at all surprising the pair would contact Mike during the most popular phase of the game.

Speaking of Pondsmith, he was given the rights to make The Witcher RPG in 2015 (which came out in 2018 and, as far as I can tell, has made little to no impact on the market).

Cyberpunk Red

The full, official game is not yet out, due to the delay of the Cyberpunk 2077. What has come out is the jumpstarter kit, which is set in the 2030s-40s as a prelude to the video game. I've only seen reviews of it, but from what I can tell its made limited impact (without a full game to jump too, it's a bit difficult to expand beyond the kit itself). I'd expect a solid boost in sales once the video game is released and then we'll have a better feel for how much appetite there is for the game in a field that's been dominated by Dungeons & Dragons for the last six years.

Shifting Fans

This is anecdotal, but one of the interesting things for me is how BioWare fans have been migrating over to CDPR, beginning with the failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda and pushed along by Anthem. A long time ago I wrote about Dragon Age: Inquisition in the lead-up to its release (here's the old blog) and in that process got familiar with the various personalities covering it (and ME). All of them have either disappeared entirely (eg) or made the switch or tried and gave up. The person I miss most is Minius GC, but he screwed himself over by hitching his content to other YT personalities (Tucker) rather than continuing to make his own insightful content.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)