In a recent broadcast, Cyberpunk 2077 Task Director Pawe Sasko took the time to answer viewer questions about the highs and lows of CD Projekt Red’s sci-fi RPG.
In what would have been a regular Cyberpunk 2077 stream, Sasko used the platform to answer some fan questions about the title’s story formation and had a lot to say about its narrative design (via PC games (Opens in a new tab)).
He acknowledged that the game had “an insane amount of linearity” and that the various branches for player selection were “unsatisfying”. He went on to highlight how developers tend to see “nonlinearity in a much broader sense than players see”, implying that “gamers [Cyberpunk 2077’s story choices] It wasn’t enough.”
Having said that, Sasko called some of the player criticism “a little overdone”. “People pretend there is nothing, [but]if you use such a strict definition [of what branching storylines are], and then you get to the fact that literally only the big branches are important and nothing else,” Sasko said. “I’m not saying we’ve done…a great job. I think it’s okay. I think it could have been better.”
You can find the full broadcast on Sasko’s Twitch channel (Opens in a new tab). His discussion of player questions and the narrative design of Cyberpunk 2077 can be found at 1:17:00 if you want to hear his comments for yourself.
Sacco also drew comparisons between Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt Red’s previous project: The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 set something of a bar for story-driven open-world RPGs with branching narratives, which Sasko highly praised: “You can’t have too many runs.” identical [of The Witcher 3] Absolutely”.
Players expect more [from Cyberpunk]“Because of how The Witcher 3 was built… expectations were higher,” Sasko explained. “In The Witcher 3, you had huge branches. [including] The bloody baron… vampires or [the] fairy tale world [in Blood and Wine]. This means that when it comes to Cyberpunk 2077, “expectations have been [high] Regarding the great [narrative] Branches”, which means that the “incredibly linear” Cyberpunk will never satisfy player demand.
Saxo went on to discuss a particular branching story path in Cyberpunk 2077 as a point of comparison, the (possible) death of Arasaka Corporation agent Goro Takemura. Takemura can die or not… [it took] a lot to do [both branches] work” from a narrative design perspective. However, Saxo acknowledged that once people learn the fact that you can save this fan-favorite character by completing a secondary objective hidden in the main story mission, they “run to save him,” implying that “the thing that was done Designed to be non-linear. [stops being] option.”
In a recent teaser of Cyberpunk 2077 over the Christmas holidays, I discovered this previously unknown story path for myself. Once I knew Takemura could be rescued from his predicament, I loaded an earlier hit and got the result I wanted. CD Projekt Red did such a good job of presenting Takemura as a sympathetic character that letting him die no longer seemed like a palatable option. Saxo was right: it wasn’t really an option.
The revelations Sakso made in his Twitch stream remind us that it’s not enough to populate a game with random player choices; The choices must mean something – each offering a unique and worthwhile story that outdoes itself.