Screw E3 – the most exciting upcoming game announcement has already been made.
CD Projekt Red, the developers of The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings announced at their annual summer expo that their hitherto unnamed science fiction RPG in the works is in fact, Cyberpunk, based on the classic Cyberpunk 2013 and Cyberpunk 2020 pen and paper role playing games. Not too many details have been announced as yet, but what there is should definitely make any RPG fan rather happy in the pants.
The game is being developed by a stable of Witcher veterans, and Mike Pondsmith is also on board with the project. During the announcement all the right key phrases were hit doled out, such as “advanced RPG mechanics”, “mature content” and “cutting edge looks”, as well as mentions of things that will definitely please both fans of the pen-and-paper game and CRPGs in general, including customisable characters, different character classes, non-linear structure and a huge number of weapons and items.
For those not familiar with the pen and paper game, Cyberpunk 2020 is set in a dark corporate future based on the 1980s works of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, John Shirley and the rest of the so called “Mirrorshades Group”, a collective of authors who set the groundwork for the genre and collaborated on the highly successful short story collection, “Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology”.
Set in the year 2020 (originally 2013, but the second edition of the game pushed the timeline forward seven years and retconned some game history to fit better with real-world events such as the reunification of Germany), the Cyberpunk RPG plays on all the most recognisable tropes of the genre; man vs. machine, transhumanism and what it means to be human, corporate government, conspiracies, oligarchic rule and the substance of style. Against this oppressive backdrop, teams of marginalised characters fought for freedom, knowledge and cold hard cash.
Now for some rampant speculation. Whilst the pen and paper game had nine character classes when the game launched, its unlikely that the CRPG will have as many. The original classes, Cop, Corporate, Fixer, Media, Netrunner, Nomad, Rockerboy, Solo and Techie all have a place in the pen and paper world, but in the videogame spectrum a few of them probably won’t be as relevant as the others. Cops seem like a natural fit for the game, as do Solos (mercenaries and assassins), Nomads (think Mad Max) and Techies (mechanics and doctors).
Corporate (business leaders and deal makers), Fixer (information brokers and smugglers), Media (news men) and Rockerboy (underground musicians composing the soundtrack to revolution) characters have potential if the game allows characters to talk their way out of situations, but I’d be prepared to put decent money on only one or two of the archetypes being available, if any.
The character class I don’t think will be appearing at all will be, oddly enough, the single most iconic Cyberpunk character class of them all – the Netrunner. These hackers jack directly into the Net via a neural interface, allowing them to take control of computers and networks, fighting on a virtual plane against AI, countermeasure software, malware and corporate ‘runners hell-bent on taking them down. The reason I don’t think this character class won’t appear in the game is because it makes sense for every character to be able to jack into the Net, both from a development and gameplay standpoint. The virtual realm of the Net would probably have to feature a whole new suite of gameplay features to make it anything more than a mini-game, so it wouldn’t make sense to develop them for a single class out of many.
No details of the story have been announced as yet, but fingers crossed some of the key characters from the RPG show up, like Alt Cunningham, the virtual ghost of a brilliant Netrunner who had her mind fried and uploaded when one of the mega-corporations extracted her conscience, or Alt’s boyfriend, Johnny Silverhand, a famous rocker with a chrome arm. No release window has been announced as yet, but you had better believe I will be stalking CDP until I hear something more.