Countdown to the Dark Future: Lisa Pondsmith
Each day this year, we have celebrated the impending arrival of the real year 2020 with a fact about the Cyberpunk universe. We call it Countdown to the Dark Future.
Cyberpunk 2020. Actual 2020. Get it?
What started off as something of a lark has grown into a beautiful thing, with fans of our original tabletop game of the Dark Future remembering nuggets of lore from sourcebooks they haven’t looked at in years and new fans coming to us from the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 video game learning the background of the world they’re already beginning to love. And we’ve loved every day along the way.
To finish off Countdown to the Dark Future, for the last nine days we are posting the memories and thoughts of fans, historians, critics, and the creators of Cyberpunk, past and present. Sometimes, being writers, they gave us more words than we could comfortably fit in the Countdown format. In those cases, we’ll be posting their full essay here.
Today is day 358 of the Countdown to the Dark Future and Lisa Pondsmith, the R. Talsorian business manager and writer in her own right shares her thoughts on the Cyberpunk phenomenon. Her full essay is below and well worth a read. After all, she’s been there from the beginning and her contributions to the game are countless.
The other night I watched the Cyberpunk 2077 music preview on the Video Game Awards. OMG, of all the things that have happened in the last crazy seven years this was the one that hit the hardest. This was, oh my gosh, that thing that my husband was working on at his desk in our house in Aptos, California thirty-some years ago is now World Wide. I remember his saying “This is the coming thing.” And me thinking “That is really dark. Are people going to want to play this?” I started eating those words in about 1991 and still do right up to the present. What is happening is Overwhelming. I think we got used to all the letters and emails down the years. There were the police, and the veterans saying “Keep it up. This is deadly but it’s true. People have to know that when you get shot in the chest without armor you probably die.” There were the couples that found each other playing Cyberpunk. There were the people who were having a tough time and Cyberpunk gave them a place to go to get away. It felt really good to hear from and reach out to this enormous net of people. After Cyberpunk and Castle Falkenstein, much like most designers I suppose, people would come up at conventions. “You’re Mike Pondsmith, you wrote my favorite game!” Michael said he was happy being a little bit famous.
Then there was CDPR.
I think a lot of people know the story by now. I got an email from CDPR saying “We’re a Polish video game company and we want to do a Cyberpunk video game. We played the paper game in high school and love the property.” At the time, Polish Video Game Company was not something you expected to hear. I looked up Witcher 1 and it seemed interesting. I went to Michael and said “These guys seem to be real and they really like our stuff. You should take a look.” Somehow we found the one company that really cared about the property, who would collaborate with us to make Cyberpunk one consistent thing, who would be a company we could respect and be proud to be associated with. And they are really nice people. We pinched ourselves and each other several times over those first years. And then there was 2018, when CDPR highjacked E3, when people really got to see some of what was coming. I was personally packing the mail orders then. I sat in a restaurant in Los Angeles looking at the Cyberpunk orders coming in and was terrified! Orders poured in and they didn’t stop. It slowed a little just before we released Witcher. I just about had a mental breakdown when I tried to keep up with the orders. Our lives had changed. CDPR incorporated Michael into their design and marketing so we got to hear about what was happening. We visited them in Poland and watched the progress. They’ve done a masterful job of keeping people hyped for the game. Much like Talsorian, they won’t release the game until they’re really happy with it, and that’s just fine with us. It seems every day on the internet there is new fan cosplay, new art, new ideas. It never really leaves our heads now. Michael gets recognized in restaurants, and airports and drugstores. We never expected this even when we knew there would be a video game. It’s a wild ride and we never know what’s going to happen next.
What about The Witcher TRPG?
The focus with Countdown to the Dark Future is Cyberpunk! Certainly, there will be more Witcher content coming.
“I just about had a mental breakdown when I tried to keep up with the orders.” Good it all ended well. At last Cyberpunk will have the form that I can really be chipped to. Personally I have always percieved original CP2020 a little bit to cheesy and old school, both in style – too Gibson like, some 80’s weird hairstyles or clothes – and tech. It was the same for other people I’ve played with. Animes like Akira and Ghost in the Shell were already on Polish market, making it even worse. And when you add broken netrunning system to it… Well, we played only few sessions. But when CDPR announced in 2013 that they are making 2077 reaction was instant. “I’m buying this!” I hope you will release official 2077 sourcebook. The setting, changes made by the team, like new Voodoo Boys, are just great. Not some silly white guys selling drugs, but real black people, with their own dialect and this wicked techno/NET religion. Things like that can put a soul to something such silly like a plain rpg game. Just don’t forget that with Red you opened Gates of Hell, as there will be a tons of new books to be written. Cheers from Poland! PS. As a side note. There is a Slavic bestiary called “Bestiariusz słowiański. Część pierwsza i druga” – Slavic bestiary. Part one and two (one book). It was made by Paweł Zych and Witold Vargas It’s very well made. Has a green cover, as separate books are in brown and orange colours. I know it’s in Polish, but it can be helpfull for Cody with his work on monsters books for The Witcher. Each bies (in old Polish demon, which could be good, neutral or evil) has its own picture. So it is a very good resource as authors made a lot of work with reading old stuff, not only of Polish origin, but Belarusian, Ukrainian, or Czech or Slovakian as well.