METRO - Cyberpunk 2077 will have more Inclusive Character Options

Sorry for the source. It doesn’t seem like the major sites are picking this up yet:

You know, [with Cyberpunk 2077] we really want to make a video game that’s really inclusive. Of course, if you tackle certain subjects then you will expect people to have an opinion about it and we respect that. And it’s good that people give us feedback. And our character creation menu, for instance, compared to the last demo we now give you so many more options. For instance, 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. 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.

Our team is very international and very diverse but we have asked for a lot of feedback. We always ask for feedback and even when we show these demos, we still ask people to tell us what they think. We just wanna know what we can improve on because we want to make a really good game [with Cyberpunk 2077] and we really wanna make a game that everybody is comfortable playing. But at the same time we’ll tackle difficult issues. It is a cyberpunk world after all.

So, this sounds like a step in the right direction. I guess my question is if you can attach pronouns to those bodies? Specifically them/they pronouns. With all the crap coming from 3D Realms and Voidpoint, I thought it’d be nice to hear about a company that seems like they’re trying to take feedback from queer and trans folk seriously, despite all the recent missteps they have taken.

While it seems like the character creation changes are a step in the right direction, I still 1: dont have a lot of faith that CDPR will actually handle the concept of transhumanism all that well when they had someone at the Stadia thing saying “are you still human if you replace your body with metal!?”, which, to me, feels like a solved question in cyberpunk (not that I think it’s impossible to be interesting in that space, but c’mon, you don’t lead with that like it’s a new thing) and 2: don’t trust them to have a They/Them pronoun option.

My most charitable thinking on this is that they would have to have people come back into the VO booth to record some stuff, and when you have Keanu Reeves in your game, presumably a lot of Keanu Reeves, that feels like a costly endeavour. My least charitable thinking is that they actually don’t care and hope that this is a suitable enough bone to throw at progressive types who were disappointed in various aspects of CDPR’s conduct since the E3 2018 CP2077 demo.

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Honestly, in case they do have they/them pronoun option it makes me wonder how the hell would they translate that into a polish version. Using ‘ono’ could lead to interesting writing, seeing as they would have basically create a lot of new forms of ‘I’ verbs but with ‘ono’ being basically ‘it’ dunno if that’s a good choice necessary. They could opt to use polish masculine & mixed group ‘they’ but I also literally have never seen anyone use that as a pronoun for themselvs.

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By all accounts, I do think that CP2077 is gonna be in a lot of ways ‘baby’s first cyberpunk.’

If anything from what I’ve read of the newest demo, it seems more like an ad to read Gibson’s Count Zero. The quest they’ve been showing off sounds beat for beat a remake of that book’s whole plot, including the Voodoo-infused gang that believe the ‘net’ has evolved into something else.

Hell, even Silverhand’s whole ‘ghost’ appearance is right out of Mona Lisa Overdrive.

It seems to wear its influences not only on its sleeve but on a big billboard strapped to its head as well.

But I think the majority of the game’s RPG was basically that too? The creativity of Cyberpunk, the roleplaying game, always seemed to be the world building, not the themes of transhumanism. Pondsmith even states that they couldn’t do a direct retelling of a Gibson style story in his game, because the players in those works usually end up in worse places. The game ‘has to make you feel cool.’

So that’s why we have the Akira bike and cool guns and wow look at all this murder.

And I think that’s why I kind of come at CP77 not with the idea that it’s going to push boundaries. I’ve always seen it as excess rather than thoughtful. It’s Will Smith’s I, Robot, not Blade Runner 2049.

And I think I’m fine with that? Hell, if this is a stepping stone for people to start creating their own cyberpunk works, or a new renewed interest in old material, then that’s cool with me.

If anything, I expect the ‘heart’ of the game to come from weird side quests, not the main ‘are you more human than human’ plotline.

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I’m kind of interested in how the writing is going to be handled in general across languages. All of the early writing I’ve seen for the game has had… let’s say “distinguishing qualities”. Like, will other languages have potty-mouthed NPCs galore? Will other languages have their relative equivalent to Jackie’s hammed up Spanglish?

I’m super glad to see this feature added, but I can’t say it’s enough to give me more confidence in CDPR. They have too much of a history with various forms of majorly screwing up, so I really want to see the studio show more active improvement. I’ve given up on it expecting it to be a particularly poignant or excellent cyberpunk narrative, but I’m sure they can weed out the garbage.

Anyway, every game with a character creator should have Caves of Qud’s pronoun system, and no, you can’t convince me otherwise

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Honestly, I agree that I wouldn’t expect them to have a they/them option, but because they won’t have third person pronouns at all. How often are they really used in a voiced, first-person game? Easy enough to just write around ever having to refer to the player character in third person.

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Oh, how I love LOVE this backpedal.

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Neat. Still nowhere as good as any of the Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun games (and Returns wasn’t that good). Let a bunch of POC queers make a big budget Shadowrun game you cowards.

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I don’t really expect this game to be the most thoughtful cyberpunk around. I could tell right from the first trailers that this was going to be some Gibson-ass shit. I just hoped it would have a similar arc that the Cyberpunk TTRPG did when Pondsmith released V3. V3’s core rulebook literally begins with a forward by him acknowledging that times have changed, and his game and the themes and concepts within have to change with it. V3 is wildly better about things like transhumanism, drug use, and gender than 2020. Not perfect, but better.

CP2077, so far, feels regressive to me within the context of its own franchise. Of course this is all speculation and it feels a little foolish to even be speculating when the game isn’t out till next year, and I’m happy these changes to character creation are being made.

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The fact that I’d put money on this not having been a consideration for CDPR until people started giving them shit for it means that it probably won’t be well-implemented at all.

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I know the game isn’t out yet or anything but this could easily be a review pull quote from the future.

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we have two voices, one that’s male sounding, one is female sounding

My longest exhausted sigh ever (15 hours)
At this point I’d rather they didn’t so I don’t have to sit through game of the year discussions talking about how Inclusive this game is. They first “announced” (read: gave a wishy-washy half-promise) this when they got busted for that transphobic in-game poster, and the announcement already did it’s job of cleaning up the discourse around cp2077 and trans people - this is butt-covering PR by people who continue to prove that they don’t understand the people they’re using as tools to sell their game. Just my opinion and I get that it’s harsh but I’m done with this game.

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I for one can’t wait to get yelled at by dozens of gamers on Twitter any time I say anything even remotely critical of this game after it comes out

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I guess this is a positive step forward, but ultimately this game seems to not want to take any definitive statement on anything. It’s more a concession than an actual statement of what the devs want out of this game or even how such trans identities positively build towards the game’s themes. “Here’s another brick in the box of legos where you can do whatever and we aren’t gonna judge.”

I know that the ultimate point of the whole Western-style tradition of RPGs is this kind of simulation “do what you want, be who you want”, freedom, choice, etc. etc. thing, but ultimately what I loved about The Witcher 3 is that you didn’t have that choice to just be anybody.

Maybe there were some decisions (and I don’t want to know the people who thought supporting King Radovid was the right idea), but ultimately you were Geralt and you had to play according to what you felt was his moral code. And it all hang on a truly inspiring and beautiful relationship with his daughter. So The Witcher isn’t just some box of legos where CD Projekt Red dumped in your lap and said “whatever you make is not our responsibility”, it actually had a structure you needed to stick to, and that kept it memorable.

Now that you’re just any asshole who can seemingly do “anything” for any reason, that’s not as interesting to me, at all. CD Projekt Red already wants to just say nothing in this game is their fault, they won’t defend any of it as meaningful or to a greater purpose. Is there one? And if there isn’t one, why should I play?

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This bit in the interview has me pretty skeptical about how gender will be handled:

GC: Are the sexual and self-identity issues something you tackle directly through missions and story or are they more just implied by the character creation tools?

MJ: We do tackle a lot of… complicated subjects, I’d say. Because we wanted to create a very believable cyberpunk world. Cyberpunk 2020 was also a world that had a very dark side and we are also showing this in Cyberpunk 2077, but we paint a picture and we let the player interpret it. We leave it up to the player to see what they think of the situations and how they would handle it.

So we’re trying to create a sort of realistic world, we’re trying not to shy away from cyberpunk themes. But at the same time we’re giving the freedom to the player to approach the situations how they want to.

“We leave it up to the player” makes it sound like your character will be able to be transphobic or something. Aside from that, this is a pretty non-committal answer to how they’ll handle gender and sexuality.

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“We arent handling touchy subject but we sure as hell are making a dark world for players to do what they want” is the most backward ass nonsense.

This is why I bounce off western RPGs more than most western gamers. It’s all fake choice. Its illusion of self. Its self constrained by the developers very narrow ideas of who a player would want to be. I honestly feel I’m able to roleplay more as Link or silent hero in DQXI or even no name dude in skyrim because of the restrictions to self. Western choose your own adventure RPGs give you these “important chocies” moments but so often very obvious answers don’t show up. You can’t do little things like say to Krem “me too, mate.” (That hurt my feelings more than almost any of bioware’s shitty bad writing choices over the years). Cyberpunk is going to offer me all the freedom to be who they want me to be. They’ve proven they have no ability to deal with race and gender in a respectful and empowering way. I know I won’t be able to do whatever I want in this game, because the things I want are things CDPR have shown literally no inclination to even acknowledge exists.

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I don’t think this entirely true. WRPGs really clicked for me when I realized they’re basically choose your own adventure stories played out in a more complex manner, and the work best when the world is fleshed out to the point that you don’t feel like the center of the universe (even if you are mechanically).

This is why I genuinely think that, despite its difficulty problems, Dragon Age Origins is one of the most rewarding games to play in Bioware’s library. You can piss off your party so bad that they’ll not just leave your party, but even try to kill you, and what decides this is a surprisingly well thought out internal logic and belief system for each party member, not a morality meter. They feel like characters independent from you.

The Shadowrun games I never stop talking about benefit from being text based, so the developers can cram in more options for each scenario. Some Obsidian games do this too, particularly Pillars of Eternity, and Fallout New Vegas benefits from this as well (its weakest aspects mostly stem from the lazy Bethesda sandbox foundation).

I honestly like that Obsidian’s strategy is based mostly around unexpected causes and effects rather than do whatever you want. They don’t always pull it off, but sometimes you get an Alpha Protocol, a game of such surprising complexity that the final mission has dozens of possible scenarios you can create based on your previous decisions, and they’re all huge surprises.

The best WRPGs are not Bethesda ones, where freedom is expressed mechanically, but in really well fleshed out narrative choice based ones, where you get a ton of options to experiment with or a bunch of different solutions to a problem with unintended side effects. They’re satisfying in ways more linear RPGs I’ve played quite aren’t.

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Ok. Western RPG was too broad, but the specific dialogue choicey ‘you inhabit this character fully,’ fully voice acted big production games are what I bounce off of. Origins is my favorite bioware game despite the (to me) abhorrent romance mechanic. I still felt like on my first playthrough the game was going out of its way to let me know the character wasn’t me. Somehow my black dwarf’s whole family was white and I never saw another black dwarf ever again. (And I restarted Dragon Age II about five times before finding out you absolutely have to be white at the beginning of the game because that is the default for all fantasy).
Text based games typically are much better, but I still end up being sort of violently shaken out of the illusion that I’m making choices because it feels like they never imagined someone like me playing the game.
Maybe I just haven’t found the narrative for me yet and that’s why I gravitate to freedom of movement over story expression. In Breath of the Wild Link is happy climbing because I’m happy climbing. We can just wake up in the morning and climb. There’s no disconnect between us spiritually in those moments. He offers me nothing more and I ask for nothing more.
I look at what cyberpunk 2077 has shown off and I just know that game has no interest in the variance of black humanity in this future. But the game is offering me this view of a world where I can have some say in how the nature of reality works, even though the voice never matches what my character looks like. It’s throwing out this bone that I can actually choose my gender, but nothing says I get to choose how I actually express that and how the world will react to that expression.
And the more these games open up, the more things they allow me to do, the more freedom they allow me to have in crafting the story, the more disappointed I get that it is so obvious these games aren’t for me. Because I keep playing them. I keep wanting to be invested. I see people who swear by andraste and have fallout tattoos and I’m absurdly jealous that they feel so welcome there. Maybe it’s just me though. Maybe I’m just bad at role playing.

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I was writing a short, one-scene play back in high school, and one of the things I was trying to do is keep the details of these character’s experiences and lives as vague as possible, thinking that this would allow the audience to connect more with the characters because they could project further.

It didn’t work at all. The reality is that those character experiences and traits are what allow us to empathize and connect with them.

When a video game wants you to step in the shoes of their main character, they make a lot of decisions for you. In a lot of games, you’re playing as a character pre-existing, Link, Bayonetta, et cetera. The disjunct we feel between ourselves and the character doesn’t feel as strong because we know we aren’t being as expressed through the character. You’re not the character, you’re just playing as them.

But when you create your own character, this disjunct can creep through. This is because your choices, which are the expression of identity, are necessarily constrained by the designers. Not only your choices but your history. There is a very specific framework of identity and that is narratively and mechanically recognized in these games.

Fallout is a great example. As much as I enjoyed New Vegas, it’s pretty limited in its scope on US history and culture. There’s probably never going to be a Fallout game that has Black Panthers, or Indigenous movements, or queer communities. That is just not within the purviews of Fallout. It’s not going to explore those things.

My Fallout character’s identity is constrained by those purviews. There’s no affordance for expression outside of them. This isn’t an intrinsically evil thing by any stretch. I would argue it’s just a natural constraint of the medium. But so few games provide the playspace to express marginalized aspects of the self due to their pre-existing framework of expression. Hell, most games only let you express whether or not you want to act out violence and onto whom.

As a counterpoint, I think Prey does something interesting. There’s something really cool about how it handles the player’s identity. Minor spoilers: You are playing as Morgan devoid of history and memory. Major spoilers for Prey: At the very end of the game, it’s revealed that you are Typhon-hybrid clone-thing of Morgan. You aren’t playing as Morgan, you are playing as something roleplaying as Morgan. The result is that the identity of Morgan is defined by your in-game actions, and not by their past.

I think there’s a similarity here with “movement” and mechanical based expression that you were talking about, Blacksentai. I’m able to connect further because my preferences and thoughts are expressed solely through the game’s systems, and importantly, they are expressions about the systems, and not any broader realm of morality, ethics, identity, love, personhood, or anything else.

This has all been lofty, and too wordy, and way too long, and I’m risking major derailing, so let me ground it. I feel this deeply. Most games that allow you to create a character are (quite literally) only skin deep. You can change the appearance of who they are, how they sound, maybe even tinker with ancillary parts of their past. But you can’t really make a lot of meaningful expression and customization in their personality and identity. And the experience of playing the game is similarly limited. There are just kinds of people you can’t be, and kinds of lives you can’t lead. You can try to find ways to represent them, but they usually won’t really take shape. They’re devoid of those personal lives, oddly flat, gesturing at a greater level of humanity, like the characters in my sophomoric play.

So… as for Cyberpunk 2077, while being able to change voices, pronouns, and so on is a step in the right direction, the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is constrained by the perspectives of the creators. And as a result, so is the range of expression within the game. There are going to be choices, lifestyles, identities that are just simply unavailable. There might be a huge range of backgrounds and identities that are represented in the world of Night City, but that range is not infinite. That’s how these games are. That’s a pill we’ve got to swallow. But what’s important is to be conscious, as players, critics, and designers alike, is that these systems have those blind spots. That the lives we express through these systems aren’t universal. And that we can do better.

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I still 1: dont have a lot of faith that CDPR will actually handle the concept of transhumanism all that well when they had someone at the Stadia thing saying “are you still human if you replace your body with metal!?”, which, to me, feels like a solved question in cyberpunk (not that I think it’s impossible to be interesting in that space, but c’mon, you don’t lead with that like it’s a new thing)

Yep. I always wonder, why so many authors of science-fiction stories (especially cyperpunk) seem to be so fixated on the weird, abstract almost metaphysical component of transhumanism (at best also the ethics involved). Instead, what I consider much more interesting when it comes to transhumanism is the social component. I want to explore what it would/could mean for all kinds of social relations (Class, Gender, Race etc.) in our contemporary society, because I think it’s pretty clear that materially and ideologically, the dangers as well as the possibilities are enormous.

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