After spending a great deal of time immersed in the world of Cyberpunk 2077 (2077 for short), I have coalesced my personal understanding of various aspects of the game into a relevant game review, yet I have remained curious about the factors behind much of 2077's brilliant design, which I find difficult to determine unilaterally.
It was a great honor for the author to secure a valuable written interview with CD Projekt RED (CDPR for short), which is best suited to answer these questions, and after submitting a list of questions, the development team commissioned two of its core members to respond to concerns:
Igor Sarzyński, narritive director at CDPR, cinematic director in Cyberpunk 2077.
Marcin Blacha, story director at CDPR as well as in Cyberpunk 2077.
SPOILER WARNING: this interview contains ultimate spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077 and some in-depth analysis of the relevant game content, so please read it according to your actual needs. Of course, if there is no worry about spoilers, you are also very welcome to read the author's previously issued Cyberpunk 2077 game review in Chinese.
Within the game
Q1：Regarding Automatic Love
We feel that Automatic Love is one of the most complex quests in Cyberpunk 2077, as it:
- Lays out many vital choices for V
- Two vastly different dolls for V to choose from
- Very complex dialogue tree designed for both dolls based on V’s questions and responses
- How Cloud and its dolls operate and ‘interface’ with their clients
Would you please share a little bit more on your thought and process behind this quest?
Putting the intricacies of implementation and paths aside for a moment, the Clouds quest was always a look into the commodification of intimacy — and if that necessarily makes it invalid. Even though V is interacting with an AI only pretending to be human, the things that are offered — compassion, understanding, intimacy — somehow work for V. Another interesting angle is to look into alienation of workers from their work: Dolls are fully unconscious during the service, and don't even know how they or their bodies are used. Overall it’s a pretty inhumane endeavor, which wears a human mask so well that we tend to accept it.
The quest Automatic Love was designed by Sarah Gruemmer, Magdalena Zych, and Andrzej Stopa. We assumed that this would be the first main quest in the game for most players, so the goal was to introduce the player to Night City and show the dark side of the metropolis. In addition, the quest was supposed to connect the player with Judy.
At the beginning, we did not plan to make it so extensive, but the people working on it were very ambitious and they decided to put in extra effort to make the mission impress the player as much as possible, resulting in a very diverse quest, full of characters, places, and choices. Every time I played it, I thought to myself that V’s journey through the worst districts of Night City is the road through hell and if the player goes through it, all other places in the game will seem better to them. I also think that going through the horrors of Automatic Love with Judy makes the player feel particularly attached to this character.
The stories of SAMURAI members are of great importance for the game. However, almost all of those fascinating content are categorized as Side Jobs, and finishing them is not required to ‘complete’ the game. Why the decision that they are only Side Jobs, and to Cyberpunk 2077, what are Side Jobs, exactly?
It would be also very interesting for us to know, that how the team designed the quest flow like how they are triggered by V and how the stories develop/branch along these quests?
In Cyberpunk 2077, the player has a choice whether they want to get to know Johnny better and become his friend, or ignore the intruder in their head. The SAMURAI stories are part of Johnny's storyline and are therefore optional. However, we hoped that the player would want to finish them, and in consequence Johnny would become as important to them as he is to V. Yet another goal of these missions was to bind the player with Kerry Eurodyne. These tasks have been designed so that the player can feel like a real rebel rocker and can meet eccentric characters from the music world. Our source material, Cyberpunk 2020, contained very little information about the band members, so the designers were inspired by the careers of real-world musicians and let their imaginations run wild.
Q3：The suicide ending
It makes Cyberpunk 2077 so different that you made a suicide ending, letting players choose the easy way out, instead of being led to other endings. Still, the credit call roster gets an equal treatment like other endings. Why did you decide that there should be a suicide ending?
It felt very thematically appropriate. In a city with no happy endings, maybe the happiest ending is the one that causes the least suffering all around?
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game about death. V is trying to survive, but can also give up and die by their own hand. Each ending tells a story about V's last months of life in a different way, depending on the player's choices, and a suicidal ending says: there are no last months, you’ve died, death is sudden and inevitable, and while you're gone, the world still goes on. Those who are still alive remember you and miss you. Just because the suicide ending is quick and sudden doesn't make it the least significant. In my opinion, by creating such a contrast with other endings, it clearly shows what death really is.
Q4：The hidden ending - why 5 minutes?
Let’s talk about the hidden ending, and the 5-minute wait - which seems rather long. Why 5 minutes, not any shorter?
It was supposed to be long enough to be ‘secret’ but in internet times, all easter eggs and secrets are available to all immediately after release, so in the end, the amount of time chosen didn’t really matter that much!
Q5：Where is Johnny from
Although Johnny Silverhand has made his debut in the original Cyberpunk board game, it seems that Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077 is not just a simple continuation of the board game character. Could you please share with us some general consideration and reference archetypes when re-creating Silverhand in this game?
Johnny Silverhand in our source material and the Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077 are very different from one another. Based on the information from Cyberpunk 2020, we tried to create a very complex character that will seem annoying and repulsive at the beginning of the game, and eventually, at the end of the game, V will want to give their life for Johnny. This character was mainly written by Aleksandra Motyka and myself. Preparing to write Johnny, we read biographies of punk musicians, and we were even inspired by the romantic heroes created by Lord Byron. We decided that Johnny would be a character who never deals with little things. Whatever he does, right or wrong, it always has to be on a grand scale, and it always has to have tremendous results. Ultimately, we created a character for whom death is nothing and being true to his beliefs is everything. Johnny was always meant to be a character that changes over the course of the game, and it was difficult for us to engineer a transformation from a complete asshole who doesn’t care about others to someone who is a caring friend to V.
Q6：Silverhand and Pacifica
Although it may just be us, but we do feel that there seemed to be some kind of strong bond between Silverhand and Pacifica. Is this true? If so, what exactly do you want to convey?
Pacifica is important to Johnny because Johnny underwent an internal transformation in this neighborhood. He went from a doubtful fugitive to a charismatic and determined leader. Moreover, Pacifica is the poorest neighborhood in Night City and Johnny feels a connection to its inhabitants. He believes his fight against corporations is a fight to protect people like the ones from Pacifica.
Q7：Relationship with Silverhand
Obviously, Kerry and Silverhand have a magical bond beyond time and space, and we wonder if there were any references to real-life bands and the anecdotes about their members when designing these?
Kerry Eurodyne presents another archetype of rock musician: someone who is talented but cannot escape from the shadow of a team leader. Like other characters around Johnny Silverhand, Kerry couldn't find his own way as long as Johnny was alive and was confused even after Johnny’s death. It was only through meeting V (and then Johnny again) that Kerry understood what he expected from life. When V meets Kerry, this musician is no longer a young man, and his story says that freedom and one’s own style can be found regardless of age.
Q8：The official launch trailer
Cyberpunk 2077’s official launch trailer V is just INCREDIBLE. Could you shed more light on its creation? And why so many shots from Side Jobs?
The actual trailer was put together by our Marketing team, so I can’t provide a lot of insight into its actual creation here. But for sure, we aimed for a more emotional, personal tone in this one. After all, character drama and emotions are our strong suit. The main story often focuses on plot and intrigue, so we included many of the side jobs to show off our characters as well.
Q9：27 Club reference
Considering V’s age and end, can we regard her/he as a member of "The 27 Club"?
Johnny, despite being much older in the game, is better suited to being a member of Club 27. Johnny is a desperado who lives intensely and dies in a big bang. V just wants to survive.
Q10：TPP at the endings?
Most of the time, the player is in V’s first person view to observe the outside world, but in each endings, the player will jump to a third person view, which I personally feel like my immersion has been broken for a moment. What are your reasons for creating this "out of body" experience at Cyberpunk 2077’s final moments?
As the camera leaves V’s body, the player can gain a different perspective on their own character — a more external one, reflecting on the journey. It’s not about immersion any more — it’s about seeing how far you have gone and, yes, slowly leaving your V. They are not YOU anymore, now they are separate as your adventure together has ended.
Q11：Cats in Night City
The game gives cats so much attention and we feel that the team are using them as embodiments of "Death", "Soul", etc. Could you please explain their narrative purpose in the game?
Mysterious cats also appeared in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I do not want to reveal their role, because then they will no longer be mysterious, and we might see them again in the future.
Those who influenced the game
Q12：Artist as rebels
In Cyberpunk 2077, you make Silverhand a rock musician and a violent rebel at the same time, why?
Rock music, especially punk music, has always been an expression of rebellion. In the dystopian reality of Cyberpunk 2077, violence is common, so it's no wonder that musicians are not satisfied with only singing about rebellion. With weapons in hand, they try to change the world.
We needed Johnny’s character to create a contrast with V. At first, the player's character is just a thief who cares only about themselves, but under the influence of Johnny they start to rebel, begin to fight for their own life with determination, and finally challenge an almighty corporation.
Q13：Rock music culture
Insightful rock music reviews/comments can be found everywhere in the game, and there are many rock clubs that V could visit in Night City, etc. Rock music is everywhere in the game. To you, how was the game influenced by rock music?
Cyberpunk as a genre enjoyed its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. It was also the time of the splendor of rock music. Music always expresses the spirit of the era, so it's no wonder that Cyberpunk 2077 was created to the rhythms of old rock. The energy of this music, its rebelliousness and authenticity inspired us, and we hope that it reminds the player what a loud rebellion is.
Q14：Your favorite quest/song name
Okay you used classics to name every quest in the game. Which song is your personal favorite?
Such a difficult choice, but probably “Transmission”.
Okaaaaaayyyy, how influential was Fight Club for you?
We were aware that the V/Johnny situation is similar to the concept of Fight Club but the movie was neither an inspiration nor an influential reference.
Thoughts beyond the game
Q16：Your answer to your own question?
In the Temperance ending, there is a conversation between Johnny and the boy about the "meaning of creation". We wonder what will be your choice among "Write for the people", "Write what you know about" and "Write the truth".
All the answers are somewhat correct and incorrect, which is what makes this choice interesting. If I were to choose one it would be “write what you know about”. It’s very difficult to write something believable if it’s something we never felt or knew.
I’d pick “write what you know about” as it may also include writing for the people and writing the truth. It's the writer's job to gather knowledge, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to process experiences, and give the output to the people.
Q17：Cyberpunk 2077 speaks stronger
We think The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a relatively ‘mild’ work because players don't necessarily have to sacrifice anyone in many of the important late game choices, but that's not the case in the final climax of Cyberpunk 2077. Why the difference/sacrifice?
Even though both universes are cruel and unforgiving, a lack of happy endings seems like Cyberpunk’s core idea. The world cannot be saved, and often even people cannot be saved. Every win comes at a cost, every gain requires a sacrifice. It felt only right to mirror this in our story design.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a game about family. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game about death. When you tell a story about the struggle for survival but also about the inevitability of death, it can’t end well. Hence all the grim endings.
Q18：To convey something important
What did you try to convey with Cyberpunk 2077? And what did you to to make it happen?
I feel we took on a bunch of uneasy topics: death, dreams and ambitions, the inability to follow them, the unstoppable power of the system in which we all live in, and finally — if we’re doomed, what can we leave behind? Is it about fame, about doing good in the world, or maybe about changing the lives of a few chosen people and being remembered by them? These themes are resonant in both V’s and Johnny’s stories.