Cyberpunk 2077 Creator Mike Pondsmith Dissects the Cyberpunk Genre: Says Deus Ex Doesn’t Count

Cyberpunk 2077 Creator Mike Pondsmith Dissects the Cyberpunk Genre: Says Deus Ex Doesn’t Count


Through an interview with RockPaperShotgun [via VG247], Mike Pondsmith–the creator of the tabletop RPGs Cyberpunk 2013, Cyberpunk 2020, and the upcoming videogame Cyberpunk 2077 by developer CD Projekt RED–is giving us his opinion on the cyberpunk genre, and more details on how 2077 came about.

Pondsmith starts off by talking about the long road from 2020 to 2077, with the inability to find a suitable developer taking him from studio to studio, and the next Cyberpunk game turning into a cellphone-based. He says to RPS:

The only one that was outstanding was a cellphone-based game done in the mid 2000′s by a Spanish company called Arasaka’s Quest… It really got the feel. Many of the other attempts died when the developers couldn’t pull together enough funding, or pull off the technology, or more importantly, made it pretty clear from the outset that they didn’t know the Cyberpunk world and pretty much just wanted to paste the name on something else they had in development.

And while CD Projekt RED–fans of the Cyberpunk series–eventually became the developers of 2077, it wasn’t an instant and perfect union. Things like what characters to use and what ideas to follow took some time to come about:

Cyberpunk 2020 is about key places, characters and technologies… You have to have characters like Morgan, Johnny Silverhand and Alt’; they’re fan faves that have generated tons of fan fiction. You can’t have Cyberpunk 2020 without the evil ninja-corp Arasaka and it’s paranoid corporate heads. Places like the Afterlife; the Forlorn Hope – these are the sites where a million adventures started in so many player’s own games. CD Projekt’s team are fans, and they get that these things are important; that they make Cyberpunk what it is. They remember things I’ve forgotten about my own world sometimes.

As for shooting down [ideas proposed by CD Projekt]: yeah, in the beginning, there were a few ideas that came out of left field, but we all got zeroed in pretty fast on what we all wanted, and it’s been pretty solid ever since.

I’m actually pretty involved in 2077,” Pondsmith said. “I’ve been part of the story and dev conferences both on-site and via the net. I get over to Poland about every 5-6 months and spend at least a week there meeting and talking to the whole team. I see the updates when they get posted and I talk to the whole team at least once a week in long Skype meetings where we cover mechanics, concepts, plots, dumb ideas – you name it.

Pondsmith adds that his role is to help bridge the distance from the year 2024 to 2077, especially with what there’s been stagnancy with the evolution of tech between the two eras.

My task has been to extrapolate what has happened since the 4th Corporate War in 2024 all the way up to the 2077 timeline. The biggest issue is explaining how the technology has not evolved far more than 50 years would actually allow. I’ve been working this out as a videogame for years, actually. I sometimes consider my time on Matrix Online as a good prep for this project, but [Cyberpunk owner] R.Tal was actually involved in an official Cyberpunk 2020 MMO back in the late 90′s, and we had to work out many of the issues back then. We have tons more tools to work with now, and the ability to make sandbox worlds that accurately reflect the elements of tabletop game play.

Perhaps Pondsmith’s biggest opinions hover around what it means to be a part of the cyberpunk genre: in his eyes, having tech and being set in the future doesn’t guarantee a good cyberpunk game, just a good game. The setting and the story is very important in how he views a cyberpunk game:

I played the original Deus Ex and enjoyed it a lot. Warren Spector is a master at layering complex plots and inferences. But Deus Ex always felt more like a conspiracy game than a cyberpunk game to me. Mirror’s Edge is great, but too clean. System Shock and Oni [from Bungie] are also good. Perfect Dark. Ghost in the Shell. Matrix. And Grand Theft Auto 3 is basically cyberpunk minus the hardware.

In the end, there has to be the right atmosphere. All echoes and dark city caverns. The right level of engagement. A world of human scaled characters fighting inhuman organizations, using technology to level to odds – but not to become supermen.

Finally, Pondsmith leaves with good thoughts aimed at CD Projekt RED and the the sucess of Cyberpunk 2077:

I’ve seen a lot of the tools that CDP will use in 2077,” Pondsmith concluded. “There’s a staggering amount of potential there to pull this off.

Do you agree with Pondsmith’s opinions? Are you excited for Cyberpunk 2077? Let us know in the comments below. For more news, stay tuned to