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Mike Pondsmith on Cyberpunk’s journey from paper to prominence


May 24, 2023
Mike Pondsmith on Cyberpunk's journey from paper to prominence


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If there’s one lesson Mike Pondsmith can teach, it’s that creators need to bring authenticity to everything. The Cyberpunk creator and Incredible Dream’s Jane Chung Hoffacker sat down to talk Cyberpunk and more at the GamesBeat Summit.

Pondsmith is, in a word, prolific. Though people these days know Cyberpunk through Cyberpunk 2077 and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, it’s got deep roots in the pen and paper scene. Pondsmith has been creating in that space for over four decades; starting with 1984’s Mekton and running all the way to 2020’s Cyberpunk Red.

He stays relevant pretty simply. Pondsmith plans everything out and does loads of research upfront. He figures out how players are going to both want and need to interact with his creations. Most importantly, he makes sure his creations have an internal logical consistency.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What are people doing, not just in the city but how do they use the city?’ What elements are going to be important to them,” Pondsmith explained. “When I first built Night City, I particularly aimed to make it non-functional. It. Should. Not. Work. Because it was a broken city.”


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It adds that touch of authenticity to the end product. On a personal note, it’s one of the big reasons I’ve played Cyberpunk 2077 all the way through at least half a dozen times since launch. Despite the fantastic elements, the cyberware, the over-the-top-ness … it feels authentic.

“Night City is one of the major characters of that world,” said Pondsmith. “I just had to make it work.”

Beyond that, he works with people who know and live the things he wants to write about and create around. It’s a big part of his company, R. Talsorian Games.

“We try not to write about anything until we know something about it and have researched and learned it, or done it.” said Pondsmith. “We’ve done books about parts of the world of Cyberpunk, larger than Night City. We always get people who live in those locales. If I wanna write about Japan, I’m gonna get a bunch of people from Japan to write these sections. I may be there but I don’t know it like the guy who lives there.”

It makes total sense. You’re supposed to write what you know. If you don’t know something you want to write about? Get someone who knows it.

Mike Pondsmith knows cyberpunk, the genre. He trailblazed the way to where the genre sits in modern times. If he keeps writing what he knows, and working how he knows how to work? The next thing he makes is sure to be as incredible as the rest of his body of work.

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