After the CDPR presentation in the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), we met up with Cyberpunk 2077’s senior level designer, Miles Tost. He joined CDPR in 2013 and has been in charge of Witcher 3’s ‘Hearts of Stone’ and ‘Blood and Wine’ expansion packs’ level design.
Starting from the general level design of Cyberpunk 2077 and to the behind stories of starring Keanu "Johnny Silverhand" Reeves, he shared some of his own and CDPR's values and standards of making this game. Let's see what he had to say on the highly anticipated, Cyberpunk 2077.... to be released next year on April 16th.
Is there a special reason why you decided to make Keanu Reeves, more specifically, a character resembling John Wick appear in Cyberpunk 2077?
It wasn’t that we were intending to use a celebrity for endorsement. We believed that Keanu Reeves fits well with the role in this game. We asked Keanu Reeves only; this character wouldn’t have been created if he declined. Since the character was a perfect fit for him, we didn’t consider asking anyone else.
Look at his filmography… John Wick, The Matrix series… the characters he was on fits well with Cyberpunk 2077. Those characters do not fight to save the world. Like ‘V’ in Cyberpunk 2077, they fight to survive. V and ‘Johnny Silverhand’ are both characters that do not try to save the world.
Will there be any other celebrities added in the game? Also, will the characters in Witcher appear?
Maybe? But, it’s something that we can't talk about yet. About the Witcher characters… wouldn’t you be able to find out after playing the game? (laughs)
CDPR stated that they’ll focus on the gunplay experience in Cyberpunk 2077. In which aspects did you focus in terms of combat?
The most important thing was to offer as many tools as possible for the players to do whatever they want. We added guns, which fits well in modern and future scenes and also weapons that are fit for close combat. A katana was revealed in one of our past clips.
Firearms are classified into three categories; tech weapons, smart weapons that automatically track down enemies, and power weapons that can be charged for a powerful strike. Weapons will be mainly classified into those 3 categories and you can also customize your weapon.
Our ultimate goal is to leave options open, let the gamers customize their own character, and let them take part in combat in their own way.
Sometimes user customized characters’ appearances and features are left out inside the game’s text or NPC dialogues. However, it seems that Cyberpunk 2077 is focusing on enhancing those user characteristics. Why did you choose to do so?
Good question. For sure, this makes it much more difficult because we have to consider a lot of variations. On the other hand, we thought that if we succeed, we can enhance player immersion significantly. And as a result, this became one of the main strength of Cyberpunk 2077.
So, our dialogue trees have increased immensely. According to how far you’ve made it in the game, or based on which skill points you’ve earned and to how ‘cool’ you are, users can make a character that they really want to play on. If one wants to become a nerdy character, you can play like a real-life hacker; you can disassemble and assemble gadgets or hack into a network. Cyberpunk is a character based fantasy. You act based on your taste, and the characters inside the game will react accordingly. The user can customize everything. This is the type of gameplay that Cyberpunk 2077 promises to give.
CDPR has been making storylines that spread like branches based on the user’s choices. Now we are trying to let the users choose their own kind of gameplay. Whether you’ll be cloaking or be on the front line to whom you’ll kill and spare, every choice is up to the users’ decision.
Exploring 'Night City' must be an important part of Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay. To what extent would the users be able to interact with the city?
Exploring the city is an important part of the game and users can interact with the city in many ways. Users can find side quests or go on with the storylines while walking through the streets. These stories sometimes have a connection to each other and it is similar to the mini quests in Witcher 3.
There will be additional contents as well such as car racing. You can also practice shooting and close combat in a gym. Vending machines and stores are available where you can buy upgrade parts and items.
How many districts are there in Night City such as the Pacifica and what kind of features do they each have?
Night City is divided into 6 districts: The ‘City Center’ which contains skyscrapers and salarymen, a huge Asian community named ‘Watson’, a Japanese district named ‘Westbrook’, ‘Pacifica’ a place that’s like a tore down Las Vegas, a district that has a Latin vibe ‘Santo Domingo’ and ‘Heywood’ a place that’s similar to Manhattan.
Each district has distinct concepts, diverse scenery, and atmosphere. A city's districts don’t need to look the same. That’s why we decided to reveal the Pacifica during this presentation which is a different place compared to what we’ve shown last year.
When we created the districts in Cyberpunk 2077, we made each place to have distinct features like the Skellige Isles, Kaer Morhen, and Novigard in Witcher 3. The places will have different vibes, architecture, and people. Players will be able to recognize where they’re at just by looking around.
As a level designer, what were your focus when designing this city?
There were a lot of things to consider. I hoped that the user feels freedom while exploring the city. Also, we had to add rewards. If you find a new path, it had to have interesting features to it. Users had to find out new things just by riding a vehicle or walking on foot. And, all the process had to be fun.
The most important thing for the level design was to add in the options I've mentioned above and make every playstyle the users have chosen become possible inside the game. If a player wants to play while cloaking, it simply should be designed to be possible.
There are numerous weapons and abilities in Cyberpunk 2077 which is used differently for moving to different locations. One can choose different paths depending on your abilities and what kind of character you are. We had to not only make diverse paths but link all the experiences in a natural way and make the users feel, "I found this path and this is what I'm going to choose."
Will the game offer multiplay?
There will be no multiplay. It’s a standalone, story-driven single player game. There are some research and development going on regarding multiplay but I think this is all I can tell you. The version that will be released next year will be a single player game.
People say that Cyberpunk 2077 is hard to define in a single genre, in a good way, of course. As a developer, what kind of game do you think Cyberpunk 2077 is?
This is a difficult question. (laughs) I think that Cyberpunk 2077 is defined as ‘high-tech, but low-quality life’. Cyberpunk 2077 explores the relationship between technology and human beings inside a dystopian world. It’s an SF genre, but it’s rather different compared to other SF games. While Cyberpunk covers positive and negative effects that technology gives to people, it also covers life in the streets and the people living in that world.
Although the characters sometimes confront and stand on the opposite side of a giant force, mostly there won’t be a force to be hostile towards at all. When you see these kinds of games, the characters usually don’t have a specific purpose. They simply try hard to survive. A Cyberpunk character doesn’t have a big ambition but just wants to be in the mainstream. And the city constantly holds down the protagonist and stops them from fulfilling their dreams. The biochip planted in the neck is one example of it.
Will there be DLCs?
The game will be released on April 16th, 2020 in a finalized form. We don’t know yet since we usually don’t plan to make DLCs while development. But, one thing we do know - you’ll probably be familiar with this if you’ve played CDPR games such as Witcher 3 - is that we’ve been offering big content updates and numerous services for free. We’ve been adding new gameplay options and UI improvements. We are very proud of ourselves for having done this. If something needs to be added after Cyberpunk 2077 is released, it will be given to everyone fairly.
To sum up the interview, what kind of experience do you want the users that will play Cyberpunk 2077 next year to have and what do you want them to focus on while playing the game?
After people turn on the Cyberpunk 2077 on April 16th, 2020, I want them to think, “What kind of character do I want to be?” I really want them to do role-playing. "Do you want to be a hacker?" Or, "Do you want to make a detective noir?" I hope you’ll think about what kind of character you’d like to be and try role-playing using the tools we’re offering.
When playing a tabletop game, using pen and paper, players experience what freedom really is. We wanted to put this ‘freedom’ inside the game. Cyberpunk 2077 requires user input… jump inside the game and do your own storytelling. Nevertheless, the players are the ones who choose what they really want to be.
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