CD Projekt Red just showcased the gangs of Cyberpunk 2077 in its latest episode of Night City Wire. Prior to airing, we got the chance to talk to quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz for a deep dive into that very same subject. So pop on your cyber-eyes, inject yourself with a combat stimulant, and jack yourself in – we’re heading to cyber(punk)space.
TG: I noticed in the Night City Wire video that you’ve got Haitian gangs, you’ve got Mexican gangs. I was wondering, what measures have you taken to ensure you’re being sensitive when depicting gangs from different cultural backgrounds?
Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz: For some of them we had consultants. For some, we had a broad discussion within the studio. We are a multicultural studio – we have people from different countries. Some of them are from the US, some are from all across Europe – all across the world, really. We also have our localisation partners who are based in specific countries. For example, one of our localisation managers is living in Japan, and it’s not only localisation in terms of the text and the voiceovers and so on, but he’s also helping us a lot with consulting [on] different things. I think, from this perspective, we’re trying to get as many opinions from different sources, and to incorporate this into our designs and the way we worked on the gangs.
Okay. Each gang seems to have a specific rival. I know you can’t join a gang because you said so in the video, but will you be forced to choose a side in those conflicts?
Like I mentioned in the video, you will sometimes get jobs that were given to a fixer by some gang members. So you kind of do dabble in this dynamic between them, but you won’t really push sides – it’s more doing gigs that will change some local bands of power, rather than shifting the huge bands of power in the entire city. Of course, you will encounter them a lot when you explore the city. Some of them do fight each other over territory or some gang business and stuff like that. I guess that covers it without going too much into the spoiler area.
You said that they have conflicts with each other – is that systemic, does that happen naturally in the world as you are exploring as well as during the story?
To be honest, most of our content is hand-crafted. It’s mostly tailored. We don’t really go into systemic, generated solutions that would generate some random conflicts across the city. Most of the stuff you see as you travel through Night City – like in The Witcher 3 – is hand-crafted and custom made by us.
I wanted to talk a bit about The Mox – they’re a gang of sex workers, right?
How does Cyberpunk 2077 depict sex work?
I think what’s interesting about Moxes is, it’s like – I think saying it’s a gang of sex workers is a bit of a simplification. It’s like a group that was composed of people that were working for the gangs in the past, right? A lot of sex workers were working for the gangs, but they wanted to become independent, so to speak. I like to think of them as a workers’ union, basically, who can protect their own, and they have their own territory and so on. A lot of different gangs dabble with having, like, doll houses, for example.
Doll houses are this concept that is quite interesting, in terms of the Cyberpunk world. Imagine you have people who have specific cyberware that allows them to attune to the client. And after the job is done, it allows them to forget what they were doing during the session. Imagine that the sex worker – the doll – attuned to you, and they can realise your fantasies, deeply hidden desires, and things that are pushed into your subconscious – maybe you don’t even think about them too much. Some of them are also part of the Moxes, and they are gathering different kinds of sex workers throughout the city.
Are there any sex-based augmentations and stims?
Yes, there are two that I think were even present in the old Cyberpunk 2020. I’m not one hundred percent sure that that’s the case, but they are called, I think, Mrs. Midnight is the version for women – it’s like vagina replacement cyberware. Also, there’s breasts and all that. And then, I think the male counterpart is Mr. Stud, I think, which is also genital replacement.
I wanted to ask about how Lifepaths tie in with gangs. Because obviously a Street Kid will understand the underworld a bit more and, presumably, a Nomad will understand the Badlands gangs. So will Corpos be completely out of their depth when it comes to gangs?
So we have three Lifepaths, right? Each of them will have their own advantages with the different groups you will encounter throughout the city and outside of the city. Like you mentioned, of course the Nomads roam the Badlands around the city, so if you are a Nomad you will have an advantage in these situations when you encounter them. As a Street Kid, you’re very familiar with the gangs of Night City – you have a lot of street knowledge and street smarts. As a Corpo, of course, you know how all the corporations of Night City work. They are one of the biggest powers in Night City – they kind of rule it. But of course, again, like I mentioned in the video, the gangs rule the streets.
The corporations, gangs, and even the Nomads are all part of this one system of co-dependencies. You can imagine, for example, that sometimes a corporation wants some job done on the streets – maybe some sabotage on the other corporations – but they don’t want to do it openly. They might work with a gang. They might supply them with weapons in exchange for some services. With Nomads, it might be similar because Nomads transport things between the states. They might smuggle things that the corporations don’t want to be on the books. So even though these groups are quite distinct, I think as a Nomad, Corpo, and Street Kid, you will find yourself having some advantages even in situations outside of that specific group.
How do the cops fit into that, then? Are some of them corrupt and work with the gangs?
The Night City Police Department is pretty corrupt. One of our designers always referred to them as another one of the gangs of Night City because they kind of operate that way. Although, of course, they operate within the law that is established in Night City. But the law of Night City is dictated by the corporations and for the interests of the corporations. So their prime interest is to secure the corporate interest within the richer districts. Of course, they will intervene when called by some poorer districts, but not as effectively, so to speak, and with less zeal, maybe. At the same time, a lot of them are corrupt and they do look the other way when the gangs do their thing – especially the gangs that are in bed with corporations. Although we would like to make a point that, even though that’s the state of things in Night City, there are some good people there too – there are some characters that you will meet that are a little bit different in that regard – but they are like exceptions to the rule.
What about 6th Street? They seem like a parody of Trump supporters. Is that intentional?
I don’t think so, to be honest. I think they were meant mostly as an idea playing on like a gathering of veterans. The idea is that they started off as a militia who are trying to protect the neighbourhood from the gangs. The further they delved into this area, they became more and more like an actual gang. They still consider themselves a militia because they’re a gathering of war veterans from different corporate wars, maybe some NUSA patriots – the New United States. Night City is actually a free state – well, a free city – so they are not part of the United States, and not everyone in Night City agrees with that. So actually 6th Street are strong supporters of the federal government and all that. So I think this is the general gist we were going towards with them. I wouldn’t say it translates one-to-one with the current political situation.
What about the Voodoo Boys – they want to breach the Blackwall. What is the Blackwall and why do they want to do that?
PR interjects: Be careful of spoilers here, Matti.
I’ll try! The Blackwall was… hmm… Imagine this program was devised to… No, sorry – I need to give you more background. What happened in the old stories in this setting is this event called the data crash, which basically ruined the old web. There was the legendary hacker who released Demons, we call them, but they are basically like malware. They released that into the web and it basically paralysed the whole web for the corporations and for normal users as well. It was really unusable at that point. So NetWatch, this independent organisation meant to protect the web, they devised this program called the Blackwall. The idea was basically to contain the old web, to separate it out, and to create a new network for users that will be safe. It will be slower and it won’t be as huge as the old thing was, but they were unable to shut down the old web – there were too many servers across the world and all that. So basically they decided to contain it, and the Blackwall is the thing that separates the old net from the new net.
The Voodoo Boys – again, without going into too much detail – aim to see what’s on the other side, because there is a lot of data there, and there are also artifacts in terms of old programs and stuff like that. And there are also a lot of wild AIs – AIs that NetWatch is not able to control or contain. Nobody really knows how advanced they are because they were operating there without any checks or controls for many, many years. So it’s this weird dark side of the web that nobody really knows a lot about because nobody really returns from there – no Netrunner who tried to breach the Blackwall ever returned to tell what they saw.
When you say they never returned, do they have to send their subconscious into that realm?
Aside from a normal interface that you might use when you navigate the web in Cyberpunk, there is also a way to go directly into the matrix, so to speak. This is something we showed in one of our demos with the Voodoo Boys. You connect yourself to the net by cyberware and your subconscious basically renders a visual for you. It’s not really how it looks – because it is a gathering of data, of course – but your brain has to somehow normalise this landscape for you so you can traverse it. Actually, every person that goes there sees it a little bit differently because it’s based on their own background, the symbols they know of, and so on.
And you can fry your brain if you’re not careful?
Yes, you can definitely fry your brain if you’re not careful. Actually, a lot of Netrunners die when they try to do this. Going to the Black Wall is like suicide, really. Nobody does this… almost. That’s why the Voodoo Boys are so respected in Night City – they are some of the most skilled and brave Netrunners.
Are the Voodoo Boys the most sophisticated gang, then?
I would say they are one of the most sophisticated, for sure. They are very elusive. Other gangs will mostly use brutish power and weaponry and cyberware to fight over territory. They will delve into drug trafficking and other illegal activities. The Voodoo Boys are more elusive because they care mostly about the net and the Black Wall. So they will do operations in the city using their hacking abilities, but they don’t really fight over territory that much. They are mostly located in Pacifica and, as you know, it’s this district of Night City that was never finished, so other gangs don’t really have much interest in going there. So they don’t really need to fortify or have huge military power to hold it.
That makes sense. Are the Maelstrom the most relentless gang, then, because the trailer says something about them “killing a kid for shits and giggles”?
The Maelstrom are very unpredictable and dangerous. It’s very difficult to tell what they want and what they will do at any point when they meet you. They modify their bodies with cyberware and sometimes it brings them to the brink of cyber-psychosis. Sometimes they will, for example, torture people for fun with that in mind – they will turn people into machines, so to speak. Cyberware against their will and stuff like that. They are very dangerous and most people try to stay away from them.
What if you end up crossing a gang through the story – do them dirty – will they then start shooting you on sight from that point on?
It depends on the situation, I would say. I don’t want to go into the spoilers area, but it’s not the case that if you start fighting with a gang you will be unable to do a job for them. Although some of them might remember what you did and they will actually hold a grudge, so to speak. It really depends. Like I mentioned before, most of our content is custom-made, it’s hand-tailored, so it really depends on a specific quest and situation.
You mentioned before that the gangs are kind of localised and the choices you make won’t affect the whole city, but do any of those choices that you make with the gangs come and bite you in the ass in the wider story later on?
It’s possible… [laughs].
I’m just trying to get a grasp on how wide reaching the choices that you make with the gangs are, that’s all.
What we usually try to do with our games, and we did the same with The Witcher, is to try to incorporate short-term consequences and long-term consequences of the choices. So sometimes it might be the case that you did some choice and it resulted in combat, for example. This is the obvious, immediate consequence. But later on, when you don’t expect it, you might have some long-lasting consequence in some other place entirely somewhere else in the game. We do this on purpose because we want to kind of have people question their choices all of the time, right? On purpose, we never go into obvious systemic solutions that you will see, ‘OK, I did this and so this will happen’. We want it to be difficult to predict.
Cyberpunk 2077 is releasing for PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC on November 19.
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