Cyberpunk 2077 marks the end for CD Projekt's REDengine, the in-house technology that it's been building on since 2011's The Witcher 2. Last year, CD Projekt announced that its next Witcher game and other games going forward—including Cyberpunk's sequel, codename Orion—will be developed with Unreal Engine 5.
In a recent interview with Cyberpunk 2077 director Gabe Amatangelo, I asked about that transition to UE5, especially in light of the cutting edge tech the studio has continued adding to Cyberpunk 2077 (it's the first game to build in Nvidia's new ray tracing Ray Reconstruction, for example). Does all that work essentially die with 2077?
"It isn't starting from scratch," Amatangelo said. "A lot of times when you build these things, like Ray Reconstruction, there are a lot of methodologies you can apply to new engines. Learnings and the strategy of setting up the architecture. And when you look at the things that Unreal does well, the things that REDengine does well—there are some similarities and some gaps, but the brilliant engineers are like 'with all the stuff that we know you crazy creatives want to do in the future, there's less of a delta here. Let's strategically shift to [Unreal Engine 5]'."
I asked Amatangelo if he could point to any specific challenges that the dev team faced with REDengine that would be easier with Unreal. He didn't want to give away any secrets from Cyberpunk's sequel, but said that at the high level it's "refreshing" to be coming to Unreal with what they've learned while developing 2077 without having to start the process of "rebuilding" their own engine for the next game.
"Likewise there's some things that REDengine does better than Unreal [that] we're working with Epic to basically bring to that engine as well. So it goes both ways… It's about economies of scale: you can obviously do all these amazing things in both. There's so much nuance behind it, but it comes down to ways to approach things to be able to do more. Not necessarily better—it could be just as good—but do it more. It's a scale thing sometimes."
The Cyberpunk team is ready to start developing the sequel, but it likely won't be the first game we see from CD Projekt built on Unreal Engine 4. That's more likely to be The Witcher 4 (or whatever its name ends up being), announced last year.