Video Games

What Cyberpunk 2077’s Design Got Wrong, According to One of Its Lead Developers

When Miles Tost transitioned from The Witcher 3 to Cyberpunk 2077 in 2016, he quickly found himself facing a unique challenge. Despite being both RPGs, these two of him “couldn’t be more different.” CD Projekt aims to “take a giant leap” in terms of the freedom Cyberpunk 2077 offered in gameplay. As a level designer, Tost is a huge open world and Brute he was asked to create a level that supports every playstyle, from force to stealth.

“It may sound insane, but it also sounded great. Boy, could we try,” Tost said.

Of course we know what happened next.Cyberpunk 2077, when it was released in 2020, especially Older consoles like PlayStation 4But beyond that technical issue, many players found it to be a flawed immersive sim. Cyberpunk 2077 has recovered somewhat since then, but CD Projekt is trying to figure out exactly what went wrong with its ambitious RPG.

“We are proud to be storytellers”

Tost’s observations were part of a GDC 2023 panel titled “What Cyberpunk 2077 Taught Me About Non-Linear Level Design” and encountered by CD Projekt Red trying to make branching paths rewarding and special. I dug into the problem. Like many CD Projekt developers, Tost has a candid and self-deprecating sense of humor about the launch of Cyberpunk. He joked during the talk when his surge of power obscured some of the level blueprints.

But those cynicisms betrayed a company-wide desire to learn as many lessons from the problematic launch as possible, leading the design team to do a comprehensive analysis of what went wrong with Cyberpunk 2077. I was. Tost decided to focus on why nonlinear level design failed. Why did a game with less variety seem to have more energy and freedom than Cyberpunk 2077?

Tost ultimately determined that one of CD Projekt’s greatest strengths, its commitment to telling strong stories, was also a key obstacle.

“We pride ourselves on being storytellers, and we didn’t want players to stop enjoying the story because they were prescient,” explains Tost.

That is, make it as clear as possible so they don’t miss it, including what Tost calls the “general path” for those who don’t properly designate their characters. I meant As a result, most players chose the path of least resistance, dwarfing what was supposed to be a robust choice of playstyle, he says.

It sounded insane, but it also sounded great and boy did we challenge ourselves.

When criticizing Cyberpunk 2077, many reviewers point to this aspect as one of its fundamental weaknesses, and perhaps it’s a decision that doesn’t make for a truly good RPG no matter how refined it is. I point out that it is for a reason. However, in analyzing Cyberpunk 2077’s level design, Tost derived some new design principles that he hopes will help him in his CD Projekt work going forward.

He starts by citing Dishonored 1 and 2 as the main influences, noting that Arkane’s stealth series tends to do a better job of rewarding players who find an alternative path.

“You have to treat paths as something special,” explains Tost. “This is what creates value in the choices players make.”

By contrast, Cyberpunk 2077’s general pass has what he calls a “cool, bespoke experience,” including custom interactions and chatter. According to Tost, Cyberpunk’s paths often boil down to these reward-filled bottlenecks, leaving players with the feeling that none of their choices matter.

Solving this problem is as simple as placing separate paths away from each other. Note that as long as two paths are near each other, they will be recognized as the same path. According to Tost, the more isolated a path feels, the more special it becomes in the player’s mind, allowing them to “completely focus on experiencing the path they have chosen.” It also increases curiosity and makes players wonder what they might have missed, he explains.

3 basic principles

Ultimately, Tost developed three basic principles of level design, but warns that ultimately it depends on the game to which they apply.

  1. sense of distance. The closer the paths are to each other, the less likely you will notice a difference in choosing one over the other.
  2. The more exclusive or isolated a pass feels, the more special it can be in the player’s mindThis allows players to fully focus on experiencing their chosen path. Increase the player’s curiosity about “what if”.
  3. inspection. Paths should be treated as special. This is what creates value in the player’s choice. Make them worth their time and show them off. Offers exclusive scenes, encounters, or world-building.

Taken together, Tost believes that widening the entrance to different pathways will have the desired effect. Restrict and control what the player can see. Use tricks like one-way drops and passages to force choices and reward them appropriately with exclusive content and other incentives. It also gives you the freedom to create incentives to use playstyles, like sneaking past enemies and into secret passageways, says Tost.

Even without these improvements, Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be gaining popularity among fans. It seems confident that the lessons learned from can be applied to future games.

“All three principles [perception, exclusivity, and validation] While not restrictive, it’s especially effective at enhancing the power of two different level design beats designed to maximize choices and rewards. It’s about discovery and exploration.

We’ll see if those lessons pay off in the Phantom Liberty expansion, due out later this year. A sequel is also in development. Keep an eye on this space as GDC 2023 continues.

Kat Bailey is IGN’s Senior News Editor and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Any tips? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also
Back to top button