And Now For An Architectural Criticism Of Cyberpunk 2077

Illustration for article titled And Now For An Architectural Criticism Of iCyberpunk 2077/i
Screenshot: Kotaku

One of the darkest corners of my wheelhouse is the point where architecture and video games meet, so it’s great getting the chance—like I did today—to read some thoughts on the subject from someone who architecturally knows what they’re talking about.

In a piece for The Architect’s Newspaper, Extra Office’s Ryan Scavnicky has written a great piece called “Cyberpunk 2077 is an architecture critique with nothing to say, examining the way the game’s buildings don’t just reflect a dystopian and chaotic future, but Cyberpunk’s own development issues as well.

Advertisement

My own initial impressions of the game’s architecture were jarring, in that the game felt less like a living city and more like an elaborate diorama made up entirely of homages. Scavnicky is able to dig a lot deeper, finding issues with both the game’s architectural efforts and the sloppy way so much of it was hurriedly applied to the game world:

Among the various design disciplines in Cyberpunk, advertising, automotive, and transhumanist fashion are paid a lot more attention than architecture.

This resulted in a disappointing confrontation at the Konpeki Plaza Hotel. Introduced as a premier waterfront hotel in Night City owned by the monolithic Arasaka Corporation, the hotel is an antagonist in and of itself during a significant mission in the early storyline. Yet, it looks like a 3D model purchased on Fiverr. The hotel sports a poorly supported trellis structure out front which ends up making an appearance inside of the rooms themselves as a floating ceiling crowned by a single uncomfortable can light. The lobby is organized around a strong linear demarcation on the floor which moves toward the rear of the space and goes up the wall and out a window. Yet to my dismay, the continuity of this most important line in the building is ignored as it turns up the wall—the panels are incompetently misaligned.

You can—and if you’re into this kind of stuff at all probably should--read the piece here.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Wraithfighter

It’s an interesting article, but there was this one bit that really struck me as kinda missing a point (cutting the bit to ribbons because it’s a loooooong paragraph):

This apartment feels way too large for a few reasons. I took some measurements and clocked the unit at 1,350 square feet on a low estimate. ... Not only is the size unrealistic for V’s outset as a lowly street mercenary, I couldn’t help but think how pleasing it would be to experience the cramped living spaces seen by Deckard in Blade Runner.  

Like architecture, video games struggle to make provocative criticisms of contemporary life. Both disciplines are tethered to an inescapable responsibility—video games to entertainment and architecture to service.

I get that the apartment’s too large, but, well, yeah, stuff needs to happen in it. It’s like the “Friends Apartment” trope when it comes to TV Sitcoms: People on TV have houses and apartments much larger than they should be able to afford for the practical reasons of filming and staging.

Video Games (particularly ones where jogging is the default speed) need larger locations and sets in order to be useable spaces for the game. Doubly so since, well, no one moves an in-game character in first person mode with the same dexterity that they move their own bodies, use commands are frequently contextual so spacing the interactable objects out can help prevent control frustrations...

...and, oh yeah, it’s a stage that’s going to be used for a number of different scenes.

It could’ve been more cramped, and the gun room probably could’ve been ditched entirely, but a set that’s to be used for over a dozen scenes of differing tones, styles, manners and such is frequently going to have to be bigger than what it’d normally be.

Still, an interesting read!

(btw: the location of Night City is basically “What if Morro Bay had been as heavily developed as San Francisco”, which makes it SoCal, not NorCal. Minor distinction, but still a fun fact!)