Cyberpunk 2077

My own theories on the AI of Night City’s inhabitants, based on my Game Dev experience

So I put about 200 hours into Cyberpunk since it came out and spent hours dissecting pre-release demos and it became very clear very quickly that the AI for all the NPCs is more or less a place holder. A work around to make it to the release date and submit it for manufacturing. It reminded me of my graduation project and how my team and I had to cut corners in our game in order to make the deadline.

Our game was essentially a survival RTS where you had to use the environment to survive 72 days in a snowy mountain. You had to build a shelter, find food and stay warm. The gameplay loop essentially revolved around these pillars. You were given an axe and a flashlight to start. One mechanic was tree cutting. Originally, we wanted to program the activity of tree cutting to be interactive by using the collision of the tool pixels with the tree pixels. Our first problem was using a 3D game engine to make a 2D game. We figured making 2D art instead of 3D models would save us a lot of time, and it indeed did but we then had to deal with the atrocious task of programming the engine to promptly handle 2D interactivity. We wanted to create a minigame to keep the player engaged in the act of tree cutting.

The original idea was a health bar for the tree. The collision of the axe pixels with the tree pixels would drain the "health" of the tree. Each swing would be a minigame, and each successful minigame "win" would drain the tree's "health" faster. We ran into the problem of the amount of functions we'd need JUST to have the engine register pixel collision, not to mention that the engine we were using had a TERRIBLE resource manager. We went through a few iterations, testing all the way through until we had to compromise and scrap the whole idea. Had to replace it with an illusion, however. Not as engaging, but would preserve the loop. A timer and an animation. The axe was not really "cutting" down the tree. The simple loop of the animation of the player swinging the axe had a countdown, and when it reached zero, you'd have the resource wood. I'm obviously leaving out a lot of technical details because most wont find them interesting.

When I look at Night City's Civilians, they're obviously not finite state machines. They have behavioral trees and a path. You can see them walking, stopping at a vending machine and getting a drink, sitting down at a bench, leaning on a railing, looking at their phone, taking a smoke, a drink, a snack. The problem is that it's incomplete. There's no "loop back", so to speak. They keep walking till they despawn or till they turn around and walk back.

Police AI is no different. Them spawning behind you is so jarringly obvious, that it is insane for me to think devs saw this and thought it was okay. They needed a wanted a system, but the one they were working on was likely NOT going to be ready by release date, so they had to work around it. A simple spawn out of the player's zone of sight. Inside a building, out in the desert. No testing was done. Just a placeholder illusion to say "Okay, the system is there, at least". It's a very watered down iteration.

All in all, I'm still sad about the state of the game and how it was received when it came out. Please, refrain from hating on devs here. We all know who's culpable, so lets not turn it into a circle jerk of whose fault it was, or laziness or incompetence. Finally, keep in mind, we'll probably never have a fully accurate account of what happened. I was merely theorizing based on my experience.


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