Cyberpunk 2077 builds from a tabletop legacy going back three decades, though CD Projekt Red’s take on the RPG has certainly brought the name to light for many more potential fans. But the makers of the Witcher games weren’t the first to pitch an adaptation - they were just the first to do so as fans.
The tabletop Cyberpunk RPG - best known by the name of its second edition, Cyberpunk 2020 - is the brainchild of Mike Pondsmith, and he’s been turning down videogame adaptations of the concept for years.
Its 'cyber' aesthetic may have been co-opted by the megacorps, but the 'punk' in Cyberpunk is more relevant to the world today than ever.
“What we faced,” Pondsmith tells us, “is people wanted to take the name or the roughest idea of it and slap it on either something new, something they’d done - you know, reskin it - or they just didn’t get the gag about how the world worked and how the politics worked, how it’s structured.
“CD [Projekt Red] was different because from the beginning they were fans. The running joke was we licensed Cyberpunk in, like, nine countries, and we licensed it to Poland, and I said ‘OK I guess we’ll sell five copies there’. And remember, when we did this, they were still just getting out of the Soviet bloc, so we figured there are maybe six guys who are going to see it in Polish. Turned out those six guys worked in CDPR.”
CD Projekt pitched the adaptation, and Pondsmith says “what fascinated us was that they knew the material and they loved the material as fans. When I went up to see them, they could quote me chapter and verse of characters they wanted to have in it, and groups and organizations and events. So unlike many of the people who wanted to do Cyberpunk as a videogame, CDPR got it because they liked it, loved it, had lived it. The other thing is that they’re meticulous and they’re really, really good at what they do, and they’re willing to push it to get a really, really good project.”
Even though the folks at CD Projekt know the source material well, Pondsmith says he heads over to the studio “two or three times a year” for support, though that’s slowed down since the game’s hit full production. “They also come over here quite a bit, so I meet with different people in the team, and we have these intense week to two-week periods where we just jump on everything and talk about ‘what does this mean, how does this work, what will work here, what character or things will be the most important?’”
With CD Projekt’s love of the property and Pondsmith’s own involvement, the designer of Cyberpunk is pretty pleased with how the game’s shaping up. He saw the trailer a month before its E3 debut, and says the devs “nailed” the look of Night City.
The Cyberpunk 2077 release date is still some distance away, but CD Projekt has been pretty open with dropping new details on social media. With the game’s faithfulness to the source material, you can find out plenty through reading up on the RPG - and we did just that to break down what you should expect from Cyberpunk 2077’s factions, classes, and lore. Stay tuned for more details as they come up.
This story is based on an interview conducted by Lewis Packwood.