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How Cyberpunk 2077 Found The Sound Of The Future

CD Projekt Red discusses making the music for Cyberpunk 2077, how 2012's Dredd was an influence, and why they avoided synthwave.

The music of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 helps to set the mood and establish the atmosphere of the setting of Night City. Along with a soundtrack featuring guest artists like Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, and Grimes, it also has an original score headed up by Marcin Przybyłowicz, who previously worked on The Witcher III, along with other composers from games and film.

Prior to the recent Night City Wire episode, which announced the release of the Cyberpunk 2077 EP, I had the chance to speak with the music composers P.T. Adamczyk (Gwent, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales) and Paul Leonard-Morgan (Limitless, Dredd, and Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War III) about crafting the sounds of Night City. Along with breaking down the creative process of making music for the game, they explained what new influences they drew from and what types of music they steered clear from to build the game's unique score. We also had the chance to get another round of hands-on time with the game, so check out our latest impressions from playing 16 hours of the full game.

So firstly, there's a lot of anticipation with Cyberpunk 2077 ahead of its release. Can you both talk about just your experience working on this game, especially one of this scale?

P.T. Adamczyk: Well, when I started working on the game, which was in 2017, the game was obviously well underway. It didn't have the hype that it has right now because it was all shrouded in mystery. The first trailer went out in 2013, so people have been chatting about this game, figuring out what it could be, but there wasn't a gameplay trailer or any footage. So when I started working on it, it actually felt fairly normal, just like any other game or project. The one thing that was actually different is it's a brand-new IP. No one scored it before. Obviously, there were many cyberpunk-related films or games and stuff like that, but never a game or a movie from our universe. So that was definitely an interesting challenge and a fun challenge, it seemed like.

But then, all hell broke loose after the E3 2018 trailer debuted. That's when it really became like a "Okay, we're actually doing this" moment. We could actually see the reaction to our work, to our music direction, and all that stuff. I think that worked sort of to our advantage. Of course, it was still pretty early, but we just felt like we had a more clear idea of where we wanted to take things. Ever since the 2018 showing, we've been just trying to nail it, basically.

Paul Leonard-Morgan: Yeah, so I came on board with these guys about the start of 2018, that's when we had our first chat about it. Basically, we were at CDPR for six months before that. Of course, the killer thing about games is that you can never actually say that you're working on them until about one day before it's released. So I went to E3 2018 to go and check it out. I had a lanyard, so I have to turn it over so my name's not visible. I actually had to wear a hat and I was ushered into the room so I could see a little trailer. I asked if they could point me in the direction of the Cyberpunk booth, and they're just like, "That'll be the one with the line just going off for a mile before it." But it was really cool seeing that for the first time, because you said, P.T., seeing the sheer scale of it and suddenly realizing how keen people were, the enthusiasm for that was exciting.

So P.T., you actually have quite a history with CD Projekt Red. You previously worked on Gwent and Thronebreaker, but this is obviously the biggest game you've worked on. What was that like being thrust into this?

Adamczyk: Well, I really love that CDPR has those two IPs [The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077] and you can just basically go from one thing to another. Especially in 2019 when we were really writing a lot of music, implementing a lot of music and we were deep down in the Cyberpunk world. Every two or three months, I had a request from the Gwent team, "Can you do the trailer? Can you make a new track for this expansion?" It was really like a breath of fresh air because you can work so much with the synthesizers and try to be edgy all the time, but then again, you get to break the tune, for example, and do some string arrangements. So that combination works really well. It keeps you sane.

Of course it requires a different approach and different techniques and composer tricks you can use, but I think it will be way more difficult to do two Cyberpunks in a row or two Gwents in a row. Those two games, although they're very different types of fantasy, kind of feed into each other in the most positive way.

For Paul, you actually had some previous experience with cyberpunk-fiction. You actually did the music for Dredd, the 2012 Judge Dredd film.

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