Cyberpunk 2077 – Origins: from page to screen

CD Projekt has made a name for itself by adapting a series of fantasy novels from the 90s more or less confidential before the release of the games: The Witcher,Andrzej Sapkowski – in 2007 became the hit RPG saga The Witcher. The next project of the developers follows a little the same path, the confidentiality in less, since Cyberpunk 2077 is the official adaptation of the genre-leading paper role-playing game Cyberpunk and one of the most important RPG titles of the 90s.

A title, a genre

Cyberpunk is a role-playing game created by Mike Pondsmith, and published in 1988 by the American publisher R. Talsorian Games (who, back and forth in history, has since published a role-playing game The Witcher!). The first edition has never been translated into French. Its title is as clear as boat: it simply takes the name of the literary genre in which it fits, a bit like if we released a role-playing game called “Space-opera” or “Polar” …

Cyberpunk is this dystopian future in which humans augmented by technology, cyborgs (the cyber- of the term) evolve in a more unequal society than ever, offering little hope (No Future! -punk of the term). Among the great representatives of this literature, we find William Gibson, often considered the father of the genre with his cult novel Neuromancer (Neuromancer in vo), which lays the foundations of the genre: megalopolis owned by large capitalist corporations, unequal, individualist and merciless society, and hackers, marginal, able to wander on the networks of networks, the Matrix (yes, it comes from there!). But the general public especially knows the work of William Gibson via the film adaptation of one of his short stories, “Johnny Mnemonic” (with Keanu Reeves, which definitely goes through the whole history of the genre!).

Among the other very numerous authors of this sub-genre of science fiction, we find Bruce Sterling (Schismatrice +) who worked with Gibson, but also Richard Morgan, adapted on Netflix with the Altered Carbon series, or of course Philippe K. Dick and his classic “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, which has become Blade Runner at the movies (cyberpunk is not the author’s favorite genre, however). Among the French, we note the unequal Maurice G. Dantec (Babylon Babies, or the rather bad Residents) or the most recommendable Jean Marc Ligny.

Johnny Mnemonic (1995) – Yes, it’s Ice-T on the left. With also Dolph Lundgren in Jesus…

Cyberpunk, the RPG

A paper role-playing game is first and foremost a book (s). In general, a guide from the game master (often called the Basic Book), a player guide, and various extensions presenting certain parts of the game universe in detail, or ready-to-play scenarios. If the main book contains the necessary rules and game mechanics, there is above all a description of the world in which we will evolve at the whim of the parties. The lore (of “folklore”), as we say now.

Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the second edition of the role-playing game, titled Cyberpunk 2020. It is the first edition to have been translated into French, published in 1991 by Oriflam, publisher who has since disappeared. However, in a rather amusing way, the former address of the editor ( leads today to an article on … cybercrime!

So this is the universe of Cyberpunk 2020 which is adapted into video games by CD Projekt. It is indeed in this second edition that Night City appears. Utopian real estate project, the city created by Richard Night (and which will take its name at the death of the latter) was to represent the ideal city. Alas, the project has deviated a little (euphemism) and in 2077, the city is cut into different districts, some privileged and protected, others gangrened by criminal groups, while still others are only slums where reign misery and anarchy.

It will have escaped no one but from the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG to the Cyberpunk 2077 video game, fifty years have passed, so as to remain in the future, and to straighten out the way networks are described a little. In Cyberpunk 2020, the internet has become a kind of huge virtual reality space, like Ready Player One,Ernest Cline.

A small adjustment to remain consistent, but the vast majority of lore Cyberpunk will be respected. We will thus find, in a playable way or not, the different classes of characters present in the role-playing game, Netrunners, these hackers who can freely connect to networks, to Rockerboys, musicians and rebels, of which Johnny Silverhand is now the most prominent member! Other character classes include Fixers, dealers in everything and anything – information, drugs, weapons, etc. – Techies, whose name is transparent, Solos, mercenaries, or even Corporate, who benefit from the enormous resources of their employers…

Detail of the Cyberpunk RPG screen.

An RPG, a real one!

Another aspect of Cyberpunk 2020 that will be respected is its very nature: role playing. The video game has indeed the bad habit of sticking the RPG label to any title that offers evolutionary statistics … In fact, it’s annoyingly annoying when it comes to “RPG elements” as soon as you find a wheel of skills or systems that allow you to improve characteristics quantitatively.

This unpleasant habit comes from the technical limitations of the first adventure games, when it was suddenly possible to personalize your character a little, by being able to modify for example weapons or equipment. We then found that we were getting a little closer to true role-playing, tabletop, model of the first adventure video games. Since then, since the avatar has characteristics represented as a percentage, we speak of RPG – for role-playing game. Diablo is thus placed in this category, while the character’s margin of interpretation (the role-playing) is still extremely limited!

Recently, Disco Elysium came to show us what a real RPG could be video game version (there are fortunately other examples), and what we could see Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be on the right path. The game indeed aims to offer many ways to achieve the multiple missions, will let the player decide who he will trust or not, for whom he will work and who he will eventually decide to betray… A real freedom of action on the map, but also in the script.

We saw with The Witcher III how CD Projekt could sublimate a basic material. With a license as solid as Cyberpunk, and under the benevolent eye of its creator Mike Pondsmith, who assumes the role of advisor on the game, the gamers will perhaps hold their Grail video game!

For the moment, the game seems in any case to take the lead … Remember that Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on September 17, 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It should be worn a little later on machines of the new generation.

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