Unlike a cellular automata, however, the REDengine requires human effort, and lots of it. It’s what CD Projekt Red has been working on ever since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, so that it may form the basis of its next game, Cyberpunk 2077. The resulting metamorphosis affects millions of lines of code and introduces many new and experimental features that will make this version of the REDengine difficult to recognize from the one that brought you such memorable sights as Geralt in a bath tub.
While each new game is a technical leap for CD Projekt Red, they’re also just as much a product of all the lessons learned during the development of those which came before. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the culmination of years of game development and years of engine evolution. That game’s legacy has set expectations high for Cyberpunk 2077 and the REDengine, now set for its fourth major iteration.
“There are pros and cons of having your own engine to make games,” Krzyscin tells me. “First of all, maintaining, developing, and optimizing a game engine is technically complicated, and requires huge effort. Imagine four million lines of code where even small changes in a non-related system have a big chance to cause issues or introduce bugs.” It sounds like a near-impossible task, but Krzyscin sees it as just as much of an opportunity. “Being able to change whatever we want creates a perfect environment for ambitious, crazy people with, well, let’s say nonstandard ideas.”
In Cyberpunk 2077, these ‘non-standard’ ideas take form in a huge variety of features. From accurately layering items of clothing for the fashion-forward punk icons, to true-to-life traffic light systems, to accurately mapping the minutiae of brow movements for the game’s urbanite cast—Cyberpunk 2077 is promising an eye for detail at an extraordinary level.
The vast titular jungle of Cyberpunk 2077 is not only a visual departure from the war-torn countryside of Velen or the bustling port of Novigrad, it required a complete redesign of the underlying technology. Processing the increasing amount of data associated with the jump to a technocratic city is no small feat—much like how modern metropolitan areas require complex management, so too does Night City.
“There were so many things in Cyberpunk 2077 that we just didn’t have to do for The Witcher games,” Krzyscin explains. “Safe to say, it goes an order of magnitude beyond Novigrad, in any aspect. Rendering, IO, and memory management—all that needed to run on steroids now.”
Krzyscin lists off sweeping changes on the way for REDengine. “After The Witcher 3, we immediately knew what aspects of the engine needed updates.” There’s a brand new lighting pipeline with support for a full day/night cycle. Further environmental upgrades such as volumetric clouds and fog bring engrossing new elements to the environment and opportunities for that new lighting system and a multitude of ray-traced effects to shine. A brand new shared material library allows developers more time to sculpt detail into textures, the results of which will be present all around you in-game. CD Projekt Red has even gone as far as implementing simulation-based dynamics for liquids and clothing so they flow and interact with one another just like in real-life.
And that’s just that which is evident on the surface with Cyberpunk 2077. Behind the scenes, the studio has implemented multilayered shaders, which allows for a leap in effective texel density on screen—that translates to crisp, detailed environments. There’s a new async compute pipeline, to better make use of brand new graphics hardware built for DX12, the new API of choice for Cyberpunk 2077. Lastly, there’s a system for procedural asset generation, allowing for attention to detail on an unprecedented scale.
“Essentially, we made the engine highly customizable,” Krzyscin says.
TECH A LOOK
Cyberpunk 2077’s shiniest features
A new dynamic clothing system allows you to layer up in every which way you think best without tearing textures—even a bulletproof vest over a fluffy winter coat. Work it.
Using an approach based on structural analysis simulation, every vehicle type in Cyberpunk 2077 will fall to bits in a unique way. Your idiotic crashes will look incredible.
Delivering scaled-back in-game models for use at a distance from the player camera, this clever system means your PC doesn’t have to sweat the small stuff from miles away.
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