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CD Projekt made Keanu Reeves a "real asshole" in Cyberpunk 2077 because his "star power" made players side with him

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Cyberpunk 2077
Image credit: CD Projekt

Keanu Reeves' "star power" gave him such a draw that CD Projekt Red had to make his Cyberpunk 2077 character, Johnny Silverhand, especially "horrible" at first just so player's wouldn't constantly side with him in quest choices.

That's according to Paweł Sasko, who was lead quest designer on The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, and is now CDPR's quest director for the upcoming Phantom Liberty expansion. Sasko was speaking at his GDC talk on Wednesday, where he suggested it's a similar situation for Idris Elba, who stars in the DLC.

"When it comes to Cyberpunk," he said, "we discovered this very interesting factor which is star power. We had Keanu Reeves playing Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077 - and Idris Elba in Phantom Liberty - and so we had to take into account the fact that every time we had a star, players were going to fall for a star almost all the time.

"Therefore Johnny Silverhand, when you meet him for the first time in Cyberpunk, he's a real asshole. Because we wanted to make sure we could draw this really big arc, from being a horrible person, to the point where you actually really like this guy, and really understand him."

Watch Ian climb into the body of none other than Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077.Watch on YouTube

This meant the CDPR team had to think about Reeves' inherent likeability "from the very beginning" and that, because of his "star power", the majority of the time in quests with multiple decisions, players would always take the option that aligned with him - "he'll make you want to be with him more than if we put in some random generic character".

The rest of Sasko's talk made for interesting listening. Talking about "bravery" as one key aspect of good storytelling, he used the Cyberpunk quest The Crucifixion of Joshua Stephenson as an example of where they wanted to drive up the impact, by changing it during development so the player was directly in the role of the one doing the crucifying.

As an industry, Sasko said, "we are so safe," although he noted indies are doing far better to push boundaries with difficult scenes. "I honestly believe we as a triple-A industry are so afraid of new topics."

GDC talks will be available to watch on the GDC Vault - for those with a pass - from 14th April.

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