_Cyberpunk 2077’s art team talk to Oscar Taylor-Kent about creating the hot looks, fast rides, big guns, and slick cyberware that defines Night City
Every city has its soul: Liverpool’s cheek, London’s edginess, Madrid’s non-stop sociability, New York’s drive. Building an RPG world as vibrant and dense as Cyberpunk 2077’s is some undertaking, especially if you want it to feel like a living, believable space that’s faithful to the ’80s techno-futuristic style of the tabletop RPG it’s based on, Cyberpunk 2020. How do you give a virtual city a real soul – put the ghost in the machine?
“The first stage was just looking for the actual art style, and it was this kind of problematic question – are we making a futuristic game, or making some kind of retro-futuristic game, or are we completely leaving the game in the ’80s?” explains Pawel‚ Mielniczuk, the game’s art director, responsible for characters, vehicles, and weapons. He explains that part of the pre-production process was creating hundreds of pieces of concept art looking for the perfect style. “We ended up with some kind of a blend. We definitely decided that we don’t want to make a futuristic game that is an expansion of our reality. [It’s] this kind of dystopian future where things went kind of wrong, where humanity never stopped emitting carbon […] and destroying nature – erasing nature – from the face of the planet and just didn’t stop expanding. Which led to the corporate wars and disasters, you know, tossing meteorites at the planet – there’s this kind of story in Cyberpunk in the original rulebook.”
It’s an imposing world, dangerous just to walk around. “We picked brutalist and modernist architecture and we based on that, so everything is blocky, imposing, just dangerous-looking,” says Mielniczuk. For more general styles the team created an ‘art bible’ to track how it had evolved over time to reach 2077. As concept art co-ordinator Ben Andrews puts it: “instead of just having one art style, we decided we actually needed four.” The aesthetic quartet encompasses flashy, bold, retro (for them) Kitsch; the luxury-and-fur Neokitsch favoured by Night City’s elite; corporate, sharp, cold Neomilitarism; and the more down-to-earth Entropism of the working class. “These cultural eras, each has its own specific style,” says Andrews, adding: “and you can see it reflected in the architecture, the technology, the cyberware, the guns – every element of the game should have some influence from one of these eras.”
For Andrews, that’s what makes the world of Cyberpunk feel so unique and vital. “It is this idea that we do have this history there,” he says. “You can literally walk down the street in Cyberpunk, and you can see in the characters, in the technology, in the environments, in the buildings, you can see these styles pass.”
You don’t need to take Andrew’s word for it. Over the next eight pages we speak to the key people behind designing everything you’ll be firing, wearing, using, and driving in Cyberpunk 2077. We’ve been given exclusive and unrivalled access to the artistic work being done to ensure Night City will be one of PlayStation’s most compelling worlds. Turn the page now to discover how the city’s vending machines will give your arsenal a Boost with a difference…
_Ben Andrews, concept art co-ordinator for Cyberpunk 2077’s guns and mechanical devices, shows us what he’s packing…
The world supports that too, as firearms have become part of consumer culture, as common as pre-packaged sandwiches or disposable razors, chocolate bar and sweet dispensers. “We have this gun called the Budget Arms Slaughtomatic. And it’s one of the coolest guns we have. It’s basically just a really crap gun. It’s bright pink – well, it comes in every colour imaginable,” says the shows us sketches of this tiny, brightly coloured gun next to a branded vending machine. “It’s disposable. And it cannot be reloaded. Once you buy the gun, you empty the clip, you can’t reload it, you just throw it away, and you buy a new one, because it costs – I don’t know what the in-game cost is currently – but you know, the idea that you can pick up a gun for like five euro. And you pick it up when you’re shopping in the 24/7, you use it to defend your home at the weekend, and then you just throw it away and you buy a new one.”
There’s a knowing element of satire to the extreme gun culture on show in the game. “There’s an advert for some guns being advertised to a family; you’ve got this happy family, and they’re all posing with a gun, even the little kids and the pregnant mom,” chuckles Andrews as he recalls the moment.
We love the way you can see the ads for the terrible Slaughtomatic and then pick it up in-game, the worldbuilding feeding directly into the gameplay. “This was the initial concept for [Slaughtomatic], the idea that you just pick this thing up in a vending machine, and it’s available to everybody,” says Andrews. “It’s not accurate. It’s not safe in a lot of ways. But it embodies a theme that we have in the game and it supports that.”
Of course, not every gun in the game is mass-market and throwaway. In a futuristic game world you can expect some truly high-tech weapons, though they come at a higher cost, and in some cases require special cyberware and skills to use effectively.
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