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Cyberpunk 2077’s level designer talks about levels, multiplayer, DLC and more

CD Project Red’s level designer, Max Pears, has recently given an interview, where he talked about the forthcoming RPG. Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated video games coming in 2020.

I’m very pleased that CDPR is working on stealth, because… I frigging love stealth. The Witcher games never had any kind of stealth and I understand why. Still, it would be nice if there were some sections, where you could sneak your way through. The existence of stealth gives you more options, especially if you are planning a pacifist play-through.  For me, it’s all about the stealth takedowns; I adore takedowns and finishers, as long they have cool animations.

I care little for multiplayer in general and I am glad to see they have their priorities straight. The important thing right now is the single-player. So as long they deliver a great single-player experience, I really do not mind the implementation of multiplayer in the future. Of course CDPR has never done multiplayer before and the same goes for shooting mechanics, but as the level designer said “we’re hiring to make sure that we get the right people for the job”. That’s great, staying true in what you know, and hire people for what you don’t.

Now regarding DLC and post-launch support, it seems their plan is to follow the same strategy they used in The Witcher 3. In my opinion it worked great, numerous free DLC with regular updates patches and two lengthy expansions with a reasonable price tag. Especially reasonable compared to other companies. I mean both expansions together, add at least twenty five hours, If you only play the main story. Very few companies make value for money games any more. Sad but true.

Below you can read a portion of the interview. For the full interview you can visit VGC.

Have fun!

Have you had to change anything in your levels based on playtesting? We imagine different character types might have brought up unexpected results.

I think that has been one of the most interesting parts, watching people play. Whether you’re watching teammates or even playing yourself, you encounter different experiences that the player has. There was definitely constant tweaking and iteration, because in one playtest the player might not even touch certain routes. It’s been interesting to try and highlight which play style can lead you down which path: that’s been one of the most crucial tweaks, making sure that we highlight all the options for the player.

It’s about making sure a certain character doesn’t bypass important areas, but also that they don’t get stuck halfway down a route for example. Maybe you’ve made a Netrunner and then the only way past something is for a strong player. And because it’s a fluid class system and people can mix and match their characters, you constantly give different options to tackle different challenges.

Can you think of any examples of something you’ve had to change based on playtesting?

I’m not sure how much I can say, but there’s definitely been changes where I had to make sure a stealthy route was possible. That was one of the biggest things for me, that if you wanted to play stealthily there was always an option for you. Especially with the game being in first-person, you need to make sure it’s clear that you’ve cleared an enemy or challenge.

You will have to engage with certain characters, but making sure that stealth is a feasible option is something that we’ve been really making sure feels good. But if you do want to go in guns blazing, there’s enough cover and gunplay for that.

Post-launch multiplayer is finally confirmed now after months of R&D. Why was it important to research that before committing?

I can’t say too much on it because it’s still going through its process, but it’s about making sure that multiplayer fits in with the lore of the world and it feels right. It’s about making sure it fits in with who we are as a company as well, because story is so important to us, plus it needs to fit in with how we design and deliver games.

That’s why it was so important to go through the R&D process with it, to make sure that we’re not just throwing something in and that it feels like a CD Projekt Red multiplayer that has our beliefs and design philosophy. We’ve still got work going on and we’re hiring to make sure that we get the right people for the job. The main focus is still single-player right now and we’re making sure that people understand that this world is more than big enough for single-player.

There was a big reaction online to confirmation that the game will focus entirely on the first-person camera. Has CDPR seen that reaction and will it change anything based on it?

I hope people understand that we have thought about this and there is logic to our process. We’ve not just thrown this in randomly: there is a lot of thought that’s gone into it. In last year’s demo you saw the interactive dialogue system, where somebody pulled a gun on your face. I don’t think you would necessarily get that same impact in third-person. It’s moments like that which make it feel like it’s your story and your character.

There are clearly some people who are really strong and passionate about this, but we believe that this is the right choice for this game. Hopefully when people get the chance to experience it for themselves, they’ll understand why we’ve gone in that direction.

The E3 2018 demo featured third-person cut-scenes. Have your existing third-person scenes been changed to first-person?

From my experience, no. But most of the levels I worked on featured cut-scenes in a first-person perspective anyway.

There’s been a big emphasis around the character customisation in the game. Is it difficult to push that kind of feature, while also trying to make an immersive first-person game?

One question we get asked a lot is, ‘why customise your character if you can’t necessarily see it?’ But in real life we choose what we wear because it represents who we are… that’s what it’s about. Having this customisation channels into that ethos that it’s your story; you can customise your character, your guns and it feels like your fantasy within our world. I think it helps to have that feeling, compared to Witcher 3 which was Geralt’s story.

Every demo you’ve held behind closed doors in the past year has asked for feedback. CDPR recently revealed that feedback has led to increased customisation options. Did you take anything else from the feedback?

We take it very seriously. CDPR is a fan-friendly studio and that’s why we do it, because we’re gamers ourselves and there are changes we make because of that. But we’re so engrossed working on the project that we’ve sort of got the blinders on, so getting to hear outside feedback is really important to us. We need to make sure that we’re on the right track. We put a lot of internal pressure on ourselves and we want to make sure that we deliver the best possible game.

These forms were taken in, there were emails sent round to the right people, then we looked at the feedback and decided if we agreed and how we were going to approach it. Maybe stuff would get mentioned multiple times and that would be a big key for us, because that indicates that it’s clearly an issue for players. It’s important: it’s really rare that you get a chance to do this during development.

We were taking feedback as recently as Gamescom, which is really different to E3 and it’s important to listen to different people.

Cyberpunk 2077 will be released in 210 days, 10 hours & 37 minutes.

Chris Kountouras

Chris was born in the early 80’s along with the very birth of home gaming. After spending many maaany drachmas on arcades, his father decided to buy him a PC instead of going bankrupt. He lived through the advancing and development of the gaming industry, having played TONS of games on all platforms. He is always honest and will never hesitate to give his true opinion on a game no matter what. Loves stealth games and dislikes microtsansactions, DLC and pre-ordering…who doesn’t after all?! Contact: Email