What if—and this is purely hypothetical, just throwing this scenario out there—the most highly anticipated game of the year ended up being a both critical and technical disaster? That sure would be rotten for everyone involved. Customers would feel ripped off, media outlets would look foolish for perpetuating all those years of marketing hype, and the developers would have nothing to show for their roughly seven years of hard work other than a tarnished reputation. The version that most console players intended to pick up might even be so unplayable that the developer would offer full refunds, and the console manufacturer would outright de-list it from their online store. Gosh, could you even imagine?

We apologize for opening old wounds, but even seven months removed from that historically unprecedented debacle, the reality of what Cyberpunk 2077 turned out to be still stings. As of this writing, CD Projekt RED are still trying to pick up the pieces of their reputation by fixing as many bugs as they can while also working on the additional content that they intended to deliver. For the vast majority of players though, the painful experiences of the single-player open-world action RPG at launch can never be patched out of their memories. So, allow us to make a humble suggestion to CDPR: let go of the past, and make use of the best aspects of the world you’ve created to offer a completely different, yet uniquely compelling experience that will satisfy the nearly 14 million people who bought into the premise.

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A World as Dense and Vibrant as Night City Shouldn’t Go to Waste

Screenshot from Cyberpunk 2077

Image via CD Projekt Red

Put your bitter feelings towards Cyberpunk aside for now. Something we can all agree on is that “cyberpunk,” the science-fiction genre itself and all the cybernetic aesthetics and anti-corporate spirit that come with it, is just plain cool. By extension, the best part of Cyberpunk 2077 is Night City itself. We don’t exactly have a segment-by-segment report of how the Cyberpunk sausage was made, but you can easily spend any amount of time exploring that city and think to yourself, “Oh yeah, I can see why this took seven years.” What it lacks in raw square mileage, it more than makes up for in detail, and the desert outskirts are not without value either. As video game worlds meant to feel alive and immersive, it would be one of the greatest of all time… if not for all the lifeless NPCs with questionable AI routines. What if we could replace most of those NPCs with player-controlled characters instead?

Part of the disappointment collectively felt by those who were looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 was seeing all the pre-release footage and letting their minds wander with the endless possibilities of what that city had to offer. Turns out, there’s not much other than combat-oriented side missions. “Living” in Night City isn’t really an option. If the narrative and dialogue that CD Projekt RED wrote didn’t grab you (which is entirely possible given how relentlessly edgy every character feels compelled to be at all times), the game just doesn’t offer compelling, alternative ways to spend your time. If they give us the keys to the kingdom, we can start unlocking some of that possibility we all saw.

Role-Playing in Grand Theft Auto V Is Still Dominating Twitch

A screenshot of Cyberpunk 2077

“Dominating” is not hyperbole, either. On most days, you can find GTAV as the most-viewed game category period, and they aren’t watching the story mode missions or any of the Rockstar-authored GTA Online content. The ‘NoPixel’ role-playing server grabbed the attention of several huge streamers a couple of years ago, and once they realized just how much of a gold mine for content it was, the Twitch audience has never looked back. Giving people the tools to play whatever character they want alongside other players, limited only by their imaginations, is a much more compelling proposition than just playing a video game by the book.

CD Projekt RED would be foolish to see those viewer numbers and not at least consider the possibilities of what free-form role-playing could do to reinvigorate the world they’ve created. Hell, forget viewer numbers; living out your fantasies in a gritty, futuristic dystopia was part of the appeal of the original tabletop game that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on. How can you not crack a smile at the thought of thousands of people role-playing as cops chasing down thousands of other wannabe criminals as they attempt to escape arrest by any means necessary? Or someone acting the part of an incoherent drug junkie whose sole objective is to get a laugh out of everyone around them? Working at a nightclub as a straight-laced bouncer? How about a sex trafficer? When all mixed together, there’s endless amounts of appeal in taking on roles other than the main protagonist.

From a programming and user-experience (UX) perspective, the gears in their heads should be turning about all sorts of things: how to implement the mechanics, how to maintain a persistent world state, private server options, anti-griefing measures, the logistics of crossplay, and so forth. We aren’t saying it would be easy—especially in the network engineering department, which CD Projekt RED has no track record of, much less a good one—but ambition and scope have never intimidated this team of artists and programmers before.

What We Know About Multiplayer Plans Already

In the months leading up to release, CD Projekt RED were on record about some sort of multiplayer component arriving eventually after other post-launch DLC for the single-player RPG, but at the risk of sounding trite, CD Projekt RED said a lot of things. Plus, even before Fall 2020 when optimism was still an emotion capable of being experienced with regards to Cyberpunk, their most conservative estimate for a multiplayer mode was 2022, and they had no concrete details about how it would work. Pretty safe to assume it was still in the planning stages and hadn’t begun full production yet. Some preliminary data mining gave credence to the idea that “deathmatch” and “heist” modes were in the works, indicating they were leaning towards the GTA Online approach.

Needless to say, the fallout from the game’s launch last December forced a lot of internal plans to be changed. A video on their official YouTube channel this past March revealed that the original plans for a Cyberpunk multiplayer game were being “reconsidered” in favor of “bringing online into all of our franchises one day.”

The native PS5 and Xbox Series X versions are slated for later this year, and while there’s no chance of anything multiplayer-related arriving alongside them, you can easily imagine them treating these as the “only” console versions going forward, so they can put the PS4 nightmare behind them and begin laying the groundwork for Cyberpunk as a thriving platform. Remember: No Man’s Sky is the exception, not the rule. You don’t come back from a widespread public thrashing like that without years of passion, hard work and shows of good faith. Embracing the strongest aspects of the open world they’ve created in the form of online role-playing sounds like a much more sensible road to redemption than just just fixing bugs and knocking out the checklist of missing features.

KEEP READING: ‘Cyberpunk 2077’: Co-Founder of CD Projekt Gives Lengthy Cyber-Apology

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