CD Projekt RED interview: Cyberpunk 2077, Witcher 2 piracy, Windows 8, and more

Earlier this week I had a chat with CD Projekt RED PR Specialist Agnieszka Szóstak and GOG Head of PR & Marketing Trevor Longino. We briefly discussed several topics, including CDP RED's upcoming open-world RPG Cyberpunk 2077 , GOG's take on Windows 8 and its new Mac library, as well as some of the piracy issues CDP has been so vocal about in the past. Here are the best responses on those topics:

On Cyberpunk 2077's open world and modding

PC Gamer: Since Cyberpunk will be using RED Engine, is there the possibility of introducing REDKit compatibility, making it moddable?

Agnieszka Szóstak: You know, we got lots of questions like that before we've actually said that REDKit will be available, and we are doing this toolset. So, it's like, we did that with The Witcher 1, we're doing this with The Witcher 2, so there's a high, high, high possibility we are going to do this with Cyberpunk, but since it's in a very early stage of development, it's too early to talk about that.

That will be a logical step, and knowing our team—how ambitious they are, and how supportive we are in terms of our community—it's something we'd like to do. Will that happen? It's too early to say, but it's a great idea to consider and I know we would love to. It's all about things like timing, doing it right, because releasing the tool is one thing, and then making it as accessible and working well and all those stuff, it's more difficult.

PCG: What do you mean by early development—is it all conceptual right now?

AS: There's actually a lot of things going on simultaneously. Lots of ideas going on, lots of creative process going on, lots of design and ideas being brought up and then left because we say, “No, that won't work.”

We do an enormous amount of work with Mike Pondsmith, simply because, you know, there's a challenge pretty similar to the challenge we've had with The Witcher, because the whole franchise was already created in the mind of Andrzej Sapkowski, basically the creator of a whole universe. So we have the same challenge with Mike, because we have the universe creator, and now we have to kind of push it a step forward and bring it to a platform like the PC.

So there's lots of conceptual work, and on the other side you already have people working on particular assets, early models, building the art. So it's like, going two ways. At this point, it's also always about what is working, what is not really working. Plus, for us, an open world is a new experience.

PCG: How different is it in the open world respect? There's still a central narrative, right?

AS: Storytelling is really important to us, so that's one of the key features for each and every of our games. On the other hand, Cyberpunk, from definition, should allow you to do different kind of stuff. It should allow you to have a real choice between the main plot and just exploring the world and doing different side quests. So, this is one of the greatest challenges we will have to face, because we do believe that we can actually create a great story within the whole world that people will enjoy and would like to follow, so we have to think how to create a world that will be consistent in terms of what you can do outside the main story, and how those side quests are connected to the main story itself. How to make it approachable and immersive enough so gamers don't get lost in the whole thing.

So if they're like, 100s of hours into the gameplay and they've left the main plot at some point and just started exploring the world—how to make sure that after several hours they won't be lost and saying, “So where was I? What was I supposed to do? What's the main story all about?” So it is totally challenging, though the plan for now is to create a really gripping and immersive story that will drive the whole world, and side quests around it will be very connected and kind of, the best thing we could possibly do is actually have those side quests connected one with another, all of them with the main plot.

So, let's say if we reveal some things in the main plot, or if you reveal some side information regarding what's going on in the main story. So that's very, very hard to achieve, but we do believe we will with Mike's help and the great team working on it.

PCG: A lot of games strive for that balance. You'll probably be compared to The Elder Scrolls series in terms of open worlds with main storylines and side material.

AS: Yes. That's all about making the world liveable with a good story, making it immersive. There's lots of great ideas we have to do that, and obviously we can't reveal any of them at this point. It's a little bit too early—we have to save something for later on—but yes, we do have great ideas for how to achieve that goal and find this balance between the open world and great storytelling. If we're going to succeed or not—that's a future thing.

GOG on Windows 8, Mac gaming, and Linux support

PCG: You've just released a new catalog of Mac games on GOG. You and Valve are sort of moving into that space together, and Valve with Linux, too. Is any of that a response to the reception of Windows 8?

Trevor Longino: [Laughs] Well, there are things I can't say about Windows 8 or else someone will drag me out back behind the Microsoft building and shoot me. But I will say, based on what I know, I know what people's concerns are about Windows 8. And there are some very serious ones as far as releasing new games.

But from GOG's point of view, Windows 8 gaming isn't quite as scary as it is for other game outlets. But we mentioned at our conference that we're working on Windows 8 support. The majority of games that work on Windows 7—I'm saying like 90% here—work on Windows 8. But we're based on the release candidate build that was publicly available. And one, we don't know what's going to change in the final build—hopefully not much—and two, we don't know what they might change in say, Service Pack 1. It may be they get really big pushback from the community. Not just developers that are concerned, but users who are saying, “I'm not gonna upgrade, this looks like rubbish.” So they may walk back some changes, in which case what we've been testing on might not be what ends up being the OS that you have available.

So, we have a plan in place for Windows 8. We will support it with the majority of our titles, I don't doubt. But I will say that moving over to Mac gaming isn't because we anticipate seeing more gamers thinking, “Hey, you know, this Windows 8 isn't worth it, let me go see about Mac gaming.”

PCG: And Linux?

TL: Linux gaming is also something we'd love to do, but we haven't made any announcements about it yet. We've been looking at it.

I've been making public statements for a while that there are technical hurdles. Steam's approach is to say, “Here's our distro, we support this distro. Have another distro? Sorry.” That's not how GOG does things, we're more free-range gaming. So we're looking at how to deliver the GOG experience on— we can't say every computer, because you can of course hook up an E Ink display with 2-color CGA as your monitor, use Lynx as your web browser, and run some weird Debian distro that you've custom modded to do just what you want and then say, “How come I can't play your games?”

PCG: I'd love to play Fallout 2 on an E Ink display.

TL: Yeah, something like that? No, we won't support it, obviously. But we want to try to get it where the majority of gamers, if they're on Linux, will be able to get a game and expect it works. We haven't found a solution, yet. We know there's a big demand for it, just like we know everyone wants System Shock with 25 thousand votes. It's tough, because the rights with System Shock are just a mess. Likewise, we know people want Linux games. And people are saying “You could just distribute the TAR and we'll figure it out.” Sure, we could just distribute the DOS executables and just let the Windows users figure it out, but that's not how we do business. So making that experience on Linux is a challenge and one that we're trying to address.

PCG: Speaking of things we want, I wish Microsoft would give you Freelancer. I've been looking for a copy.

TL: Oh, yes, I love it. I have a copy. I have a CD.

PCG: I can't find mine. It might be in a box.

TL: Well, we announced two years ago what our top five targets are. We've signed two of them, and what we have left now are Microsoft, Take-Two, and LucasArts. We've gotten really far in talks with one of those guys, and we believe probably right around the time of the next big press conference we'll be able to say, “Here, we have these games.”

They're really exciting, and our test team is starting to look at them, because we pretty much have it worked out with these guys. So now we're just talking about what games we can have, what games [they] have advice for. It should be awesome news for classic gamers. These games are such great games, even new gamers should be able to say, “This is an awesome game.” There are tons of really good releases we're working on signing on the classic games front.

And of course, new games like Deponia 2, and other new games I can't talk about, because we haven't signed the deal yet.

On piracy of The Witcher 2

PCG: So, off topic, there was a story recently from a torrent news site which said The Witcher 2 is the most pirated game at a US university.

Agnieszka Szóstak: Obviously, we are aware of news like that. We have this e-mail thread going on within the studio that says, “Hey guys, did you see this thing that says our game is the most pirated?” And it's like—it's—

PCG: Flattering, in a way?

AS: Absolutely, because you can look at it from two different point of views. From one point of views, it's obviously sad, right? There's a bunch of people working on it for years, and then you get other people taking it free, pirating it, and that's it. On the other hand, well, the game must be good, right? If there's such a demand to do that. There's nothing we can do about it. It's something that we're aware of, but that will never change our attitude towards what we do and the approach we have.

I mean, we really do believe that it's better to deliver high quality content and support gamers on several different levels. So, either releasing modding tools, or giving DLC for free, or doing huge updates which are like 10 gigs and give them out free. Instead of doing DRM, because that's, frankly speaking, a pain in the ass for the users.

PCG: There was that period in Germany when you were able to track those who pirated the game and send legal letters to them.

AS: Yeah. It was going on. It was all about sending letters to people who we knew pirated the game, and say “Hey, we know you have the pirated version of the game, and it would be nice if you could actually pay for it if you find the game good enough.”

Although, once we started doing that, we got lots of feedback from the community—from gamers, and not even pirates, but actually legal gamers with a legal version of the game, saying “You know what, guys? That's not entirely right to do that.” And they were like, “You're saying that DRM is not such a great thing, and you try to give your games without it, but on the other hand, you're doing something like that?”

So, we're not afraid to say that wasn't the best choice and best solution we could have done. And that's why we kind of resigned and we don't do it anymore.

PCG: Do you think it was unfair? To ask for money when they've pirated your game?

AS: I mean, well, the funniest question we got was, “Don't you guys like money? That you're actually releasing games without DRM.” Yes, it is fair. It is fair to ask for money for a job that we do. And for content we do believe it's actually worth paying for. So, it is fair to ask for money, although one thing doesn't collide with another. Since we're talking about the news or things going on, I'm not sure if you're aware of the quite funny thing that happened to us on 4chan website.

There was a guy there saying, “Hey, there is this game called The Witcher 2, and I just downloaded it from torrents or whatever, and I'm kinda stuck on this quest and I don't know what to do so I need support from you guys.” And the whole 4chan community, they just went totally mad, and they were like, “Are you crazy? Downloading and pirating the game from those guys? If there's anybody in the industry worth supporting and actually paying for the games, that's CD Projekt RED. So just go… blah blah,” I will not be using bad words here!

Trevor Longino: Go do creative, anatomically impossible things.

AS: [Laughs] So, "We will not support you, just go and buy the damn game." That was actually the comment we get. And you know, 4chan community is—let's call it a unique one. So if you're getting this kind of feedback from those guys, that's probably proof that you're doing things right.

PCG: So it criticized the legal stuff, but the community also comes to your defense.

AS: Yes. So that's something we don't want to change, simply because, on a daily basis we see it works. This kind of approach works. And if you take care of the community, if you take care of your fans, if you have the kind of approach of not just releasing the game and then you're done. Right? You've sold the game, so [you] don't care about anything else. That's totally not us, because our approach is to support constantly our customers whether for PC gaming or Xbox gaming or any other thing.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.