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Cyberpunk 2077 Dev Says CDPR Should Learn From Dishonored's Non-Linear Levels

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CD Projekt Red's developer has explained why the non-linear level design in Cyberpunk 2077 didn't seem to work, and what lessons the company should learn from it for the upcoming sequel. The designer gave an example of the Dishonored Games, and how they make players feel special, regardless of their playstyle.

At GDC 2023, CDPR's lead level designer, Miles Tost, discussed what Cyberpunk 2077 could've done better in terms of its non-linear levels and how they reward the players for exploration (via IGN). According to Tost, the Game struggled to marry a strong narrative with the Gameplay freedom that was never available in the company's previous titles. Unlike The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be equally interesting to play for those who rely on either stealth, hacking, or brute force.

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When approaching the levels of Cyberpunk 2077, the developers had strived to offer several paths for the players, however, one of them was always intentionally made obvious, for those who just played the game for the sake of the story and don't want to miss anything important. Such branches usually came with unique interactions or story dialogue. “We pride ourselves on being storytellers, and we didn't want to stop a player's lack of foresight from enjoying the narrative," Tost said.

Cyberpunk 2077 Night City Streets

Such an approach, however, resulted in other additional paths feeling unrewarding, as they contain few unique scenes. Without any significant bonuses available on different routes, the majority of players simply took the path of the least resistance and left with the sense that none of their choices really matter.

Miles Tost pointed to Dishonored and Dishonored 2 as Games that did a better job of rewarding their players for thinking outside the box and experimenting with the environment. The designer hopes to use Arkane's expertise in CDPR's future Games, including the already announced Cyberpunk 2077 sequel. "We need to treat paths as special, this is what creates value in the choices players make,” he said.

After Cyberpunk 2077's troubled launch, the company tried to analyze every mistake it made, Tost said. For his part, the designer created a bunch of basic principles for the level design team. Hopefully, this will result in CDPR's future Games feeling less restricted and more rewarding, without compromising the studio's signature storytelling.

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