Fishing in a Cyber Pond – Part 2July 18, 2018
The same year that saw the release of Cyberpunk v3.0, Mike Pondsmith entered the Matrix.
The Matrix led the vanguard of cinema style for the new millennium, combining elements of anime, comics, and cyberpunk that had simmered in pop culture for the previous two decades. Following two divisive and ultimately disappointing sequels, Warner Brothers by way of Monolith developed The Matrix Online, a massively multiplayer online RPG that promised to continue the story. Mike Pondsmith had helped pitch a Matrix game idea for Microsoft, but Warner Brothers eventually won the pitch war and Monolith offered Pondsmith an opportunity to work on the live team. He joined Monolith to work on mission design for MxO, but the game suffered from ever-shifting direction goals and shipped to mixed reviews. The game would survive four years and a sale to Sony Online Entertainment before it shut down due to low subscriber numbers.
Time developing the successor of cyberpunk and teaching game history at Digipen eventually led Pondsmith to renew R. Talsorian Games and revisit its properties. In 2013 he launched a Kickstarter for Mekton Zero, a reboot of his mecha action RPG series Mekton. The idea of giant robot combat was a harder sell in the ‘80s when Mekton was first published, but anime had proliferated pop culture since then and the concept was no longer foreign. The new version would focus on expanded roleplaying opportunities while updating and streamlining the setting and mechanics. Pondsmith asked for $20,000 and the Kickstarter funded in just three days. The campaign generated over $50,000 from excited backers.
R. Talsorian Games’ revival led to new opportunities from a colder clime.
CD Projekt Red approached Mike Pondsmith with hopes of developing a Cyberpunk game in 2012. They’d finished The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and their love for Cyberpunk made it a prime selection for their next series. Pondsmith was initially skeptical of the Polish developer, but after seeing CDPR’s production house and the quality of The Witcher 2 they entered contract negotiations. CDPR released a teaser trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 in January 2013, using it as a recruiting tool to staff up for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which would allow the developers to get the experience they needed for their RPG love letter.
While CDPR initially intended Cyberpunk 2077 to be a mere licensing deal, they asked Pondsmith to consult on the project after becoming aware of his background in video game development. The collaboration had other benefits, too; when CD Projekt wanted to stretch out into tabletop with a Witcher RPG, Mike turned their attention to his son, Cody, who jumped at the chance and pitched them on the project. The Witcher Role-Playing Game will be available at R. Talsorian Games’ GenCon booth this year, with PDF copies available soon after through DriveThruRPG. Pondsmith himself is also working on a new edition of Cyberpunk, working title Cyberpunk Red.
RTG’s future with CDPR looks bright, but other projects have fallen to the wayside.
GenCon for RTG may not be all wine and roses, however. The Mekton Zero Kickstarter met massive delays, and in June 2018 Pondsmith announced mandatory refunds for all backers while thanking them for their patience and reaffirming his commitment to the project. While Pondsmith pledged to fulfill all backer rewards, presumably for free, RTG plans to hold a Mekton seminar at GenCon for further discussion.
Copies of the currently out of print Cyberpunk 2020 shot up to over $300 on Amazon after E3, and now sit at just over $100. Meanwhile, the PDF at the time of this writing is $15 on DriveThruRPG.