Design Diary #4: Single-Player Experience

Hello, everybody! Francesco Rugerfred Sedda here today to talk about Single-Player Mode in Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City.

As a huge solo board game player, I proposed to the rest of the design team a Single-Player Mode as I knew that would be a big plus for the game. I consider a mode like this to be a useful experience for when I want to learn a game to be able to better explain it to my friends, but also a nice, personal challenge.

When brainstorming the single-player mode for Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City, an idea started taking form. Since we as players control the city gangs, what if we’re put in front of the biggest danger that the video game presents to them: V?

As the video game protagonist, V has a multitude of approaches due to the enormous customization and tactical approach that the video game offers. You enter hideouts and easily destroy entire groups of gang members.

As the board game presents a different point of view in the world, I loved the idea of facing against this incredibly dangerous Edgerunner, presenting a tough and truly menacing challenge for you to face. After a conflict where V/Johnny has the most firepower, they do a tabula rasa in that District, killing every gang member in it.

Behavior-wise, I wanted V to be unpredictable yet not act in a totally random manner. I was inspired by some of my favorite analogic AIs in boardgames, analyzing AIs such as the ones in some GMT games like Cuba Libre and Navajo Wars. There, you have the feeling that the AI opponent has context for what’s happening in the game even without an app controlling them. They achieve this using complex diagrams and having the AI check the situation while keeping track of the bigger goal. However, I knew that this game had to be simpler and more streamlined than your regular GMT game.

The standard goal in Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City is simple: try to reach or surpass 25 Street Cred. This goal can be applied to V too, since they gain Street Cred in the video game as well. I also didn’t want to give the player complex diagrams to check step-by-step like the ones you can find in most COIN games, since they tend to sacrifice smoothness in favor of simulationism.

In the end, we ended up with a simple behavior that kept track of what’s happening on the board. V/Johnny moves to a random District and checks what’s happening there, gaining points/affecting the game status depending on what they find. You’re not in that district? They spend time claiming the available opportunities and gaining Street Cred for themselves. Your units are there? A minor inconvenience. V/Johnny will fight you with their arsenal of weapons, cyberware, and quickhacks. If they have more firepower than you, well, they will gain an enormous amount of Street Cred. You better be ready for them, as they will come for you sooner or later. Trying to spread out across the city to gain better resources during your Reclaim turn? Well, this increases the chances of having V/Johnny bring devastation to a District where you have presence.


During the first iteration and tests, we noticed that V/Johnny was a threat but there was too much space for you since V/Johnny works alone. We attempted to introduce a similar analogic AI to opposite gangs and it worked like a charm. They behave differently and are not as dangerous as V/Johnny but will spread out around the city and fight you for Dominance. They also interact with the Opportunities and Edgerunners. In addition, we created a unique approach for gang recruitment and a personal ability that interacts with you. For example, you may expect Maelstrom to recruit as many Solo units as possible and you may expect the Voodoo Boys to have their Netrunners creating problems for you in the Net.

Timing-wise, I tried many iterations with different approaches regarding when V/Johnny and the opposite gang take their turns. In the final version, V/Johnny acts after every Activate turn you take, moving into a District and checking what’s inside. The gang is slower to act but covers more territory. They activate after your Reclaim turn in 3 different Districts, recruiting a Unit in each one of them and then checking what’s inside each of these Districts in order. You are also responsible for keeping their Units under control. If they need to recruit but have all their Units in play, they start gaining Street Cred automatically. So, you better start fighting them hard before it’s too late.

We truly believe we ended up with an intriguing and challenging single-player mode. One where you will probably be defeated the first time you play and that might feel impossible when you first approach it. You will learn to deal with V/Johnny, though, and sooner or later you’ll have your first victory and it will feel amazing.

The Kickstarter campaign for Cyberpunk: Gangs of Night City is live until July 6th, 2022! Make sure to check it out here.

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