Future Imperfect A Cyberpunk 2077 Primer
Fifteen years after the initial run of Cyberpunk 2020, Mike Pondsmith brought out Cyberpunk v.3, a fresh edition of this game that advanced the narrative and offered a substantially different experience compared to the last edition. Where the second variant dealt with how individual crews might build (and get disassembled), Cyberpunk v.3 appeared to pull its focus back on larger”altcults” (alternative cultures) and how they had been trying to make a spot for themselves on earth. As an experiment, it was interesting. As a commercial product, it was a dismal failure, so much so that it has basically been excised in the”official” Cyberpunk deadline. But some elements were later reworked into Cyberpunk RED.
A Funhouse Mirror
If you were a working for Militech, it was because you opted to work for Militech (and possibly could not leave due to booby trapped cyberwear). In the event that you have been a Fixer who helped various companies on the outskirts of the Combat Zone, it was because that was your business plan. Whatever role you chose, you and your fellow players were free to pursue your personal schemes. Matters changed with Cyberpunk v.3 and its focus on altcults. In one aspect, it helps give players a real cause worth fighting for, something clear cut and unambiguous, a noticeable shift in the murky and richly grey world of the second variant. But if the offered altcults do not necessarily catch one’s attention, there is no decent mechanics in place for freelancers.
“I don’t wanna be killed by rent-a-cops!”
There also appears to have been a narrowing of impacts in the third edition. Ostensibly, the designers wanted to simplify the setting, to try and make it accessible for players while giving veterans new directions to take their tales. Where the first two ran the gamut of classic cyberpunk media, Cyberpunk v. 3 seemed to draw from a really narrow type of pool. There was a more anime flavor to the third edition, and some of the altcults feel very much as though they were lifted out of the societies portrayed in Appleseed, Blue Submarine Number Six, along with Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex.There were still literary references, like the significance of accurate records for authorities located in George Alec Effinger’s”Budayeen” books, but they seem overshadowed by the larger cultural focus.
Formerly, In Night City…
What follows is a summary of events in the Firestorm arc on through the third edition.
The Fourth Corporate War began in 2022, and just like every major battle, it began with the tiniest of events: an attempted takeover of a failing submarine transport concern. When the typical dirty tricks of stock manipulation and data sabotage did not function, the participants chose to bring up the large guns. One facet hired Militech, an arms manufacturer and sometime PMC supplier. Another hired Militech’s arch-rival, Arasaka. The two Militech and Arasaka was itching to slug it out for decades, and now they had a perfectly good reason to do so. When the two largest arms makers in the world decide to select an extended period of product screening with the extra bonus destroying a hated rival, everybody has caught in the crossfire.
Probably the most high-profile casualty of the crossfire has been Rache Bartmoss, the half-dead elite Netrunner who had been (very) gradually dying in a concealed life support chamber someplace in Night City. Nobody was ever sure if it was dumb luck or carefully plotted targeting that eventually did him in, but the outcome was exactly the exact same either way. A mass driver projectile in the orbital platform smashed to Bartmoss’ apartment, ruining both the apartment and its occupant. But the projectile would do something far worse than kill an already perishing guy. It inadvertently destroyed the Web because most people understood it. Being both insanely paranoid and also an asshole, Bartmoss had an ace up his cargo tank, a virtual deadman’s switch which unleashed a simple computer virus named DataKrash. Rather than simply wipe information off the internet, it compiles info files, swapping file headers, sending copies of keys to those who had been intended victims of government or corporate hostility, and producing altered versions in countless permutations. In effect, it created the truth as it seemed on the Net entirely subjective.
As a last little”fuck you” to Netrunners and organizations he believed his enemies, Bartmoss also unleashed hunter-killer AIs known as”RABIDs” (Roving Autonomous Bartmoss Interface Drones). Being AIs, they learned and altered their programming, finally attacking and killing any Netrunner they caught up . The Internet’s security power, Netwatch, was made to pull the plug and the Web has been lost, save for a few points here and there which just the suicidally brave would dare try to explore.
With the DataKrash, an individual would think hardcopy records would become vitally important. An individual would be correct. An individual would also be fatally underestimating the head of the Arasaka Corporation, Saburo Arasaka. He had either correctly understood the implications of DataKrash long before anyone else and moved quickly to include the damage for his firm, or he had been at least as paranoid as Rache Bartmoss. Each file worth maintaining, every operational plan, every dirty secret Arasaka had been placed to the system and fenced in with powerful physical and electronic security measures, including a small two kiloton nuclear demolition charge. Compounding the shield was an offensive approach to make sure only Arasaka needed a lock on the truth, a bioengineered virus that did not damage living organisms, but destroyed the acid-free paper used for almost every hard copy record, textbook and physical ledger in existence since the 1970s.
In case Arasaka was feeling just like they’d won, the unruly Edgerunners of Night City were ready to spoil their victory celebration. An ad hoc assault team, led by Morgan Blackhand and Johnny Silverhand, intended to capture the Alpha Secure Database or destroy it if capture wasn’t possible. Their small satchel charge set off the considerably larger nuclear demolition bill under Arasaka Towers, ruining the core of Night City and forcing Arasaka to flee to Japan.
The Fourth Corporate War would rage for another two decades, with nuclear and brute weapon strikes catastrophic big portions of the globe, designer plagues ravaging inhabitants and biomes, and orbital infrastructure weaponized as rebellions spread across the a variety of colony platforms at the Lagrange points. It would observe the megacorporations finally broken and humbled, the U.S. amputated, along with the survivors using everything from genetic engineering to nanotechnology to attempt to make a place for themselves. The floating cities of Japan were cast adrift to create their own nation. Together with the Net gone, small intranets called DataPools have come to be the repositories of knowledge, tracked by a”veracity indicator” which tries to help separate the wheat from the chaff.
Following The Grateful Dead and Phish is a whole lot harder these days.
Perhaps one of the other big problems with Cyberpunk v.3 was the fact so many of the characters from the earlier editions were not there as an anchor. It’s a bit bizarre that none of the”old guard” survived. Obviously, life is cheap in a Cyberpunk match, so it’s somewhat clear if they’re just”overlooked.”
As opposed to following in her dad’s footsteps, she turned into a media personality. Ironically, Eurodyne is still writing music and rail at the increasingly screwed up character of the world, though touring isn’t necessarily feasible.
Alt Cunningham: Because Cunningham was a captive of Soulkiller as she had been its founder, she had been uniquely positioned to try and turn the tables from Arasaka, but did not seem to be making much headway. During the raid on Arasaka Towers, she had been rescued by a Netrunner called Spider Murphy, a friend of Rache Bartmoss. In the wake of the Fourth Corporate War, Cunningham found a place where DataKrash hadn’t trashed the regional servers and created an enclave for its personality matrices Soulkiller ripped away, in addition to anybody else that wished to depart meatspace behind to the promise of electronic immortality.
For real, this time.
Johnny Silverhand: One of the great mysteries of this”Night City Nuke” is the whereabouts of Johnny Silverhand. To listen to it from the survivors of this Arasaka Towers raid, Johnny Silverhand went outside like a fanatic, purchasing his compatriots time to escape at the cost of his own life. The collapse of the Towers more or less ensured that his own body would never be recovered. But for a guy who’d been flatlined over a few times in his lifetime, there is an aura of uncertainty, the form of mystique that follows real icons like Elvis or even Jim Morrison. A feeling he may have beaten the odds once more and is just laying low until the entire world needs him .
For each the mechanical and story fumbles Cyberpunk v.3 suffered from, it wasn’t a complete failure. Since William Gibson mentioned,”The street finds its own uses for things,” and as we’ll see in the last setup, Cyberpunk RED certain found its own uses for its immediate predecessor’s history.