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For Cyberpunk 2077, asking the right questions is key for staying true to source material

After a number of game studios have tried and failed to strike a deal for his Cyberpunk tabletop series, Mike Pondsmith is adamant that CD Projekt Red’s adaptation stays faithful.

Alissa McAloon

July 12, 2017

3 Min Read

“So a lot of the conversations we’ve had on the team are not ‘can we do this?’ ... Instead, it’s me explaining why I did it in pen and paper, and then we figure out if we need it again, and whether it serves a different purpose in a video game.”

- Mike Pondsmith shares how the back-and-forth between creator and dev can benefit the development process

Like The Witcher before it, CD Projekt Red's upcoming project Cyberpunk 2077 is based on a long series of pre-existing fiction. But unlike The Witcher, the creator of the Cyberpunk series, Mike Pondsmith, is working closely with CD Projekt Red on the video game adaptation of his work. 

Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun, Pondsmith shares how his background in both pen-and-paper and digital game design gave him a unique ability to communicate with CD Projekt Red to smoothly translate tabletop concepts into video game mechanics.

Part of this process, he explains, meant reevaluating things that were present in the tabletop and ensuring that the core purpose of that technology made sense when brought to life in a video game. As one example, he brought up a conversation he and CD Projekt Red had regarding flying cars.

“Flying cars are cool but they’re not there for flying car gun fights,” explains Pondsmith. “It’s not their place in the world. They’re a convenience in the design and like so many things in Cyberpunk they have a mechanical function rather than just being there because they’re cool.”

“I know why flying cars are there in the original but that’s not necessarily the same functionality we need in 2077. Everything is taken apart in terms of what it does to the game, how it differs from tabletop, and getting the right feel.”

Pondsmith’s deal is notably quite different from the one CD Projekt Red forged with the creator of The Witcher source material, and Pondsmith seems to believe this is something that will benefit both the final game and his own ongoing pen-and-paper Cyberpunk games. 

In another recent interview, this time from Eurogamer, Pondsmith notes that the arrangement he has with CD Projekt Red allows the duo to communicate and collaborate to ensure that the digital take on Cyberpunk stays both true to the core ethos of the series and jives with the pre-2077 universe Pondsmith is still weaving. 

"When I write new stuff for Cyberpunk now, I talk to them so what I do in 2030 matches up with what's going to happen in 2077. It allows them the ability to move forward and I can still create new stuff as long as we stay coordinated," says Pondsmith.

“A couple of weeks ago I went over the current story script and was going through it, 'okay okay this is great this is great - oh by the way that person is dead'. We're constantly going back and forth, we work really hard on the timeline. We want people to have that sense that there's a coherent universe. They mesh together surprisingly well.”

About the Author(s)

Alissa McAloon

Publisher, GameDeveloper.com

As the Publisher of Game Developer, Alissa McAloon brings a decade of experience in the video game industry and media. When not working in the world of B2B game journalism, Alissa enjoys spending her time in the worlds of immersive sandbox games or dabbling in the occasional TTRPG.

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