For all the positive responses that CD Projekt's upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 has enjoyed, one area where it hasn't gone over particularly well is in its portrayal of gender. It was initially designed to be playable as male or female but some critics noted that binary gender delineation falls well short of themes expressed in actual cyberpunk—a shortcoming highlighted by the presence of in-game ads seen by some as transphobic.
In an interview with Metro, senior concept artist Marthe Jonkers said the studio is striving to make a game "that's really inclusive," and based on feedback it received after the initial reveal it's made changes to how character creation will work.
"You don’t choose your gender anymore. You don’t choose, ‘I want to be a female or male character’ you now choose a body type. Because we want you to feel free to create any character you want," Jonkers explained.
"So you choose your body type and we have two voices, one that’s male sounding, one is female sounding. You can mix and match. You can just connect them any way you want. And then we have a lot of extra skin tones and tattoos and hairstyles. So we really want to give people the freedom to make their own character and play the way they want to play."
Jonkers said that the CD Projekt team is "very international and very diverse," and that it's sought "a lot of feedback" on challenging issues like trans representation. "We just wanna know what we can improve on because we want to make a really good game and we really wanna make a game that everybody is comfortable playing," they said. "But at the same time we’ll tackle difficult issues. It is a cyberpunk world after all."
Avoiding spoilers means that details on how exactly the updated system will be implemented, and how Cyberpunk 2077 will approach its broader themes of humanity and technology, weren't shared. But Jonkers emphasized that CD Projekt is "really putting effort into the character creation" system and "fluid class system" so that players can immerse themselves into the world as deeply as possible.
"Usually you pick one class and you play as that type of person, but in our game you can combine everything," they said.
CD Projekt will share 15 minutes of Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay from Gamescom during a livestream set to begin at 11 am PT/2 pm ET on August 30. The full game comes out on April 16, 2020.