24 Feb 2021 2:34 PM +00:00

Cyberpunk 2077: How CD Projekt Red built Night City

Hiroshi Sakakibara, environment-city coordinator on Cyberpunk 2077, shared his team’s design philosophy during a recent Tokyo Game Show livestream. Thanks to IGN Japan editor Esra Krabbe, we have a partial translation as well as a summary of what Sakakibara said during the broadcast.

CD Projekt Red’s environment-art team is broken up into three separate groups of artists: the quest-location team, a team that designs “props” and other items throughout the game world, and the “city team,” led by Sakakibara.

Within the larger game world of Night City, there are separate boroughs and districts such as Japantown and Retro China, where the player character lives. Sakakibara names Japantown as his favorite locale within the game.

“Japantown is a vibrant downtown area with many towering buildings, and while walking through the narrow alleys in the area these skyscrapers make it feel like you are walking through a futuristic valley,” he said.

“You will see details like terrace seating, kiosks and other shops, people hanging out their clothes, somebody sitting at a balcony, [or] a drone carrying goods.”

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Sakakibara says a guiding principle for the project, handed down from game director Adam Badowski, was that the cyberpunk ethos had to permeate the game’s design. Badowski would say, “An environment filled with things that look futuristic is not cyberpunk, but simply science fiction.”

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For Sakakibara, this meant a marriage of that which feels futuristic and stuff that’s just completely mundane.

“For example, you could have a rundown building with an old wooden door, but an LED light might be attached to that door, which could be a part of a high-tech security system,” he said.

“Or maybe an old-fashioned diner could have a modern device that allows its customers to make orders.”

When it comes to influences, Sakakibara cites some fairly obvious choices — Akira, Blade Runner, and Ghost in the Shell — calling Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece “the bible of all cyberpunk.”