CD Projekt Red has shed more light on the reason why multiplayer never materialised for Cyberpunk 2077.
Simply put, the game's rocky 2020 launch changed the studio's plans. CD Projekt Red had to prioritise fixing the single-player experience, and multiplayer suffered as a result.
"We really needed to look at what were the priorities for Cyberpunk [after it launched]," Philipp Weber told me when I visited the studio last week. Weber was senior quest designer and coordinator on Cyberpunk 2077. Today, he's acting narrative director of the new Witcher game codenamed Polaris.
"The priority was that the main experience will run for the people in a really good state," he said. "And essentially, the switch of priorities meant that other R&D projects had to go away. With Cyberpunk, we wanted to do many things at the same time, and we just needed to really focus and say, 'Okay, what's the important part? Yeah, we will make that part really good.'"
It's the first admission I've seen that Cyberpunk's launch was to blame.
A year ago, CD Projekt said that it had "reconsidered" the plan to release a triple-A, standalone multiplayer Cyberpunk game. "Previously, we hinted that our next triple-A would be a multiplayer Cyberpunk game," said Adam Kiciński, president and joint CEO, in an investor presentation. "But we have decided to reconsider this plan given our new, more systematic, agile approach.
"Instead of primarily focusing on one big, online experience - or game - we are focusing on bringing online into all of our franchises one day," he added. "We are building an online technology that can be seamlessly integrated into development of our future games."
He also said: "Let's stress this here: CD Projekt Red makes single-player, story-driven, triple-A RPGs - that is not changing. What is changing is our long-term approach to online, and by this we mean ensuring we are properly prepared to implement online elements in our games where they make sense. We don't want to go overboard or lose our single-player DNA. We want to take thoughtful steps to build robust online capabilities."
"Let's stress this here: CD Projekt Red makes single-player, story-driven, triple-A RPGs - that is not changing."
Exactly what shape these new online elements will take, and whether they constitute a multiplayer experience of people playing in the same game worlds, we don't know.
Multiplayer has been linked with Cyberpunk 2077 for as long as the game has been talked about. Studio head Adam Badowski told me in 2013 that the game would have "multiplayer features". We never found out what they were, though, as multiplayer seemed to linger always just out of sight. But when launch approached and the studio talked about adding multiplayer post-launch, suggestions of a GTA Online kind of approach started to form. But how accurate that is, and how far the studio got with it, again, we don't know.
We do know, however, that CD Projekt Red is making a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077, and that it's relocating the Cyberpunk team to Boston, America - to a new studio there - to develop it.
At some point next year, we will also get a big single-player story expansion for Cyberpunk 2077 called Phantom Liberty, which will once again stair Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand. It won't, however, be developed for older consoles PS4 and Xbox One.
This interview came from a trip provided by CD Projekt Red.