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How are CD Projekt's side quests so good? Cyberpunk quest designer says they reject 'over 90%' of their pitches

 Ciri in Cyberpunk.
Ciri in Cyberpunk.

CD Projekt Red's two biggest RPG hits, The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, are both known for big main quests and engaging characters, but more than anything you'll hear people consistently bring up the little adventures they have between other stories. In an interview with PC Gamer at GDC this past week, Cyberpunk 2077 lead quest designer Pawel Sasko said that's mostly because they're thinking of lots of ideas and only using the best ones.

"A good designer has an acceptance ratio of their ideas of between five to 10%," said Sasko, "If someone has 10%, this is probably one of the best people we have in the team." "

Sasko emphasized that for CD Projekt the key to weeding out the bad ideas was in the process of having quest designers pitch all of their ideas to the team so that the best ones stood out.

"So what I do with our designers, I'm like, okay here's the list of genres. Here's a list of the themes that I want you to work with—list of topics. Write me pitches. And then they write, yeah, five, 10, 20 a day. Basically, an excellent pitch is like four sentences of like: That's the pitch," Sasko said.

Sasko was clear that his opinion is that even the best people have a ton of bad ideas and have to choose just the best to pursue.

"No one, no artist has only great ideas. We all have shit ideas and tons of them, we pick just a top 5%," he said.

Sasko also wanted to be clear that you can execute most ideas for side quests without breaking the budget.

"I just searched for like, articles about, you know, best quests in cyberpunk or phantom liberty just to see," he said, in order to check out what players perceived to be the best quests. Many of the articles on those lists, says Sasko, are "the quest that had one of the smallest budgets."

"You can make so many amazing things with clever ideas, with working with limitations," he said.

For more developer interviews and coverage, check out PC Gamer's GDC 2024 page.