Why CD Projekt Red thinks Cyberpunk 2077 is better than The Witcher 3


‘We demand this from ourselves’

Admittedly, we haven’t seen a lot of Cyberpunk 2077— especially compared to the scope of the final product. Adding last year’s E3 demo to this year’s demo, we’re up to approximately two hours of gameplay. But, what we have seen has been incredibly detailed. CD Projekt Red has masterly crafted another lived-in world that seems to prop up its narrative in an immersive way.

It’s not surprising. It’s kind of what CD Projekt Red does best at this point. We sat down withsenior level designer Miles Tost at E3 and asked if there’s an analog in modern games that matches Cyberpunk 2077‘s level of detail and world building. With a laugh, Tost predictably replies “The Witcher 3.”

It seems like the easy way out, but Tost takes the opportunity to leverage the question into a conversation about design philosophy. “It’s really hard, man. I’ve been playing a lot of video games and it all just really depends on where a game puts its focus,” he says. “I’ll say that I’m pretty hard-pressed right now to find a game that might be comparable. In our focus, we always try to make the most believable and lived-in worlds we can.”

Tost relents that the studio possibly made some concessions to reach that level of world detail inThe Witcher 3. “In the past, like withWitcher 3, it meant that we were admittedly maybe a little weaker on the gameplay,” Tost admits. “That wasn’t our focus. We were going for story and a world with full-on immersion.”

Like any good developer, CD Projekt Red is learning from and building on the past. “[Our focus] changes a bit with how we approachCyberpunkwhere it’s all about including this freedom of gameplay into the previous recipe of how we didWitcher,” Tost says. “The idea is really to take our approach to marrying story and open worlds, and add to it the component of freedom of gameplay. So, you don’t only have non-linearity in the story, but also non-linearity in gameplay. That’s where the whole fluid class system comes in. We allow for stealthy playthroughs. You can play the whole game without killing a single person if you so desire. It really really depends on you.”

That means you can reasonably expect Cyberpunk 2077to be more well-rounded than The Witcher 3. This evolution and betterment is natural at CD Projekt Red, according to Tost. “We have a really high standard of how we approach our ambitions. If you look at the jump between Witcher 1, 2, and 3, we seek to keep up these kinds of jumps. We demand this from ourselves.We want to play Cyberpunk, so we want it to be the best thing possible.”

Anyone who’s eagerly awaiting Cyberpunk 2077— and there are a lot of those people — might not have to wait until April 2020 to see it in action again. Tost says there’s a chance this year’s demo will make its way to the public. “We’re very aware of how people who aren’t able to attend E3 would like to see more gameplay,” he sympathizes. “Last year, there was a lot of internal struggle for us. It’s always difficult to show your baby when you don’t think it’s ready yet. That was the disclaimer we put out: ‘This is very much still a work in progress. We have a lot of time to work on this and we will iterate.’”

He continues “We’re a studio that isn’t afraid to throw out big chunks of ‘final’ work if it turns out that in the grand scheme of things, it turns out it doesn’t fit that well anymore. The quality-driven approach that we have to our games means that it can be difficult to open ourselves up like that. But, we’re observing this and we’re learning. So…we’ll see.”