I never expected to see a gently jiggling penis so early on in Cyberpunk 2077. Later on, probably after a few Johnny Silverhand cocktails in Afterlife, sure. But before the credits have even rolled? Sounds like a ballsy (pun intended) move for CD Projekt Red. But, actually, it's not. That undulating penis is a huge part of just how inclusive the Cyberpunk 2077 character creation options are - or not so big, depending on your choices.
Possibly for the first time ever, CD Projekt Red has presented players with a character creation tool that manages to encapsulate more human identity and individuality than ever before seen in games. You're not choosing to be male or female anymore, but rather choosing a male or female body type, complete with the option to have a masculine or feminine voice on top of that, but from there, you have the freedom to decide exactly what your V will look like and eventually become.
"For us, it basically down to the global philosophy about how we make Cyberpunk, which is that we really want to give you as much freedom as possible – for people to basically inhabit this character in Night City," explains Philipp Weber, senior quest designer on Cyberpunk 2077. "And part of it, of course, was to give you as much freedom in how you create your character, and how your character looks like, and how your character sounds like, and how your character acts."
After deciding your voice and body type, there are more of the usual dials for skin tone and type, over 30 different hairstyles in various shades of the rainbow, eye shape and colour, different structural changes for things like your jawline, and even changes to your facially embedded cyberware, along with scars and tattoos.
The all-important pan
But it's the options after these more traditional sliders that really matter. Partnered with your option for a body type, there are several genitalia choices, ranging from a selection of penises (with adjustable sizes), a vagina or simply nothing at all. You can even decide to ditch your nipples or pick from a selection of various shapes and sizes that you think best reflects what areola size you think your V would have.
I was honestly surprised as the camera panned down to reveal a completely nude V in character creation, but as I scrolled through the options, it's clear that this is exactly where we need to be for in-game character creation tools. A giant step towards a true reflection of humanity.
"In Cyberpunk 2020, from 1990, in this pen-and-paper RPG – back then, when you created a character, you actually had this freedom as well, and it was part of a system. We thought that we would do it a disservice if we wouldn’t offer just as much freedom to basically inhabit the kind of character that you want to be, and give you freedom," explains Weber.
"Of course, you know, from us, from a story-side, it was also very important, because we want to tell many different stories that might fit many different player-characters."
Thankfully, this versatile character creation tool extends into the game too and is reflected in the romance options that you may or may not decide to pursue when the time comes - from one night stands to fully-fledge relationships.
"[The romance options] are somewhat tailored… specifically when it comes to how characters refer to you," adds Weber. "They do refer to you with male or female pronouns. It basically depends on the voice you choose."
"[Characters will] have different sexual preferences, and we just try to basically give them many different ones. But, for us it comes back to story, and it comes back to character. We also want to make that an important part of the romance."
No tick-list romances
Developing what came before with The Witcher 3, the romance options are just as complicated as you'd hope too. Like Geralt, V will meet plenty of characters in their adventures across Night City, and some of these may turn out to be more romantic in nature than others. But, in order to get a chance at romancing anyone, you're going to need to get to know them first.
"We don’t have a checklist for romance where you do these specific things to get the character to like you. We try to make this a more natural approach where it’s specifically things you say that we don’t tell you. We don’t raise a number or something. Specific things you say might make a character like you first. And maybe, then, a romance can blossom. Or maybe not. It’s depending on if you click or not."
"All of this stuff, we try to keep it natural and in the background. So you, as a player, don’t see the mechanics behind it. Because these kinds of things, these kinds of relationships, they’re not very mechanical in real life. So we also try to keep it like that in the game."
"When you make a choice, we don’t tell you if it’s a good choice or a bad choice."
"Something that, as an example, we did with The Witcher as well, is where we say: well, you know, the world is grey. Sometimes you might be able to do something that’s a little bit nicer but might have some negative consequences. Sometimes, you might say something crass or something terrible, but maybe in the long run that might actually get you a positive outcome, because you never know. There’s the butterfly effect."
"Of course, it adds a challenge for our writers, because our choices are usually shorter versions of what, then, the rest of the conversation is going to be. So we have to be on the line between being clear with what you’re going to say, but then still having an interesting conversation that’s not going in a direction where your character knows it’s something you don’t want to do."
2020 has been a lot of things, but it also feels like it's been a catalyst for change. The sheer diversity of V variants that will exist through the options offered in the Cyberpunk 2077 character creation tools are something the games industry should be proud of, and hopefully, in a few years, will be as commonplace as buff space marines and sexy female fighters once were.