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Not a Bug: Cyberpunk Deletes Idling Cars, Scared Crowds

Cyberpunk 2077 ultra quality preset
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Cyberpunk 2077’s now been out to the public for five days, and while we still maintain that PC performance is generally positive, the game’s console ports have been filled with enough bugs and graphical downgrades that CD Projekt Red has issued a public apology encouraging disappointed players to seek refunds.

We’ve covered the game’s console bugs before, but as players get more familiar with Cyberpunk’s workings, it’s becoming easier to track when to expect certain bugs and what some of the most common issues are. And we’re sad to report that the game’s unreactive AI, one of the more apparent problems we saw with the game on release, is likely not a bug, but an intended 'feature.' 

Let’s back up. On December 10th, we reported on, among other issues, a video of a Cyberpunk player causing a massive traffic jam in the game just by parking in the middle of a road. Cars stopped around the player, with traffic jams stretching into the horizon, rather than just driving around. And while we thought this might have been a bug at the time, it’s now clear that this is just how cars in the game work. But what’s more remarkable is CD Projekt Red’s apparent fix for the situation, which also looks like a bug at first glance.

On December 15th, Critic and Game Developer Gareth Damian Martin (who runs a site dedicated to worlds in video games) posted a thread to Twitter where he speculated that, to prevent traffic jams in the game’s world, CD Projekt Red simply deletes any stopped cars when the player looks away for long enough. He then demonstrates this in a video where he parks in front of a few cars and walks back and forth between them, with one or two cars disappearing every time he looks away.

“CDPR have made every stopped car disappear if you look away,” he writes. “That way the cars keep following their path and blockages are cleared up. This is NOT a bug.”

Essentially, he alleges that the cars in Cyberpunk 2077 have driving AI so primitive that many mistook it for a bug at first. To the game’s credit, we didn’t encounter this issue when playing on PC (Martin was playing on PS5), but Redditor's are pointing to similar problems. And even in our testing, Martin's other point was present across platforms.
 

That point being that the same Houdini act holds true for crowds when you shoot at them. While human NPCs will run away when shot at rather than just standing still, these running NPCs also disappear from the world when you look away.

We also tested this on PC, and had similar results to Martin, with the exception that the scant few NPCs who had swapped from running to crouching stayed in the world after we turned around.

So, while these issues could be chalked up to bugs, they are repeatable and at least one occurs across platforms, which makes it seem like this is just how Night City handles NPCs and potentially vehicles that break from their standard patrol routes. By deleting them, sometimes very shortly after the player looks away.

This is remarkably primitive AI for a big-budget open world game, and isn’t something you’ll find in Watch Dogs: Legion or Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which also came out this year. And while cars aren’t exactly a thing in CD Projekt Red’s last open-world game, The Witcher 3, we also tested that. And we can say with certainty that NPCs who you threaten with your sword don’t just disappear after running away in that game either.

So, given Cyberpunk's contemporaries, it’s easy to understand why some mistook this for a bug at first. But regardless of your platform, this appears to be Cyberpunk 2077 working as intended. It’s also possible that cars stuck around longer on our PC simply because the PC has more GPU and memory to render them longer. They might have eventually disappeared if we had turned away long enough.

The disappearing crowd issue, meanwhile, is prevalent enough that we’ve even seen some suggesting that players can purposefully shoot at crowds to make them disappear as a way to improve performance. We’d recommend just lowering the crowd density in the settings, instead.

It’s possible that this is something CD Projekt Red might address in patches, though we have no way to be certain. But as our Cyberpunk reviewer Jarred Walton explained to me over Slack, NPCs in the game right now are basically “cardboard cutouts.”

“They add to the ambiance, but there’s zero intelligence to them.” 

  • ThatMouse
    A bummer for those playing this for its "open world."
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    So, given Cyberpunk's contemporaries, it’s easy to understand why some mistook this for a bug at first.
    I would say that a crude, quickly thrown-together workaround for a bug, that still breaks immersion, can clearly be considered a bug itself. I'm sure that's not how the game's designers planned for NPCs to behave, as it looks clearly wrong, so the behavior is still "buggy", just in a different way from before.
    Reply
  • Jim90
    Welcome to the world of game development. Unfortunately, this is yet another indication that the developers have released the game in a significantly un-optimised state, though not sure if this behaviour is on all platforms...PC? That, or this rather crude and highly visible entity cull method was deliberate.
    Reply
  • escksu
    Jim90 said:
    Welcome to the world of game development. Unfortunately, this is yet another indication that the developers have released the game in a significantly un-optimised state, though not sure if this behaviour is on all platforms...PC? That, or this rather crude and highly visible entity cull method was deliberate.

    Hmm... Considering how long this game has been delayed, i am not sure what is the developer doing exactly...
    Reply
  • geogan
    Yeah, its not great is it. You look away or come back to same place and all people look different but are in same place doing the same thing. They could dedicate an entire CPU core or thread just to run some seperate AI program to handle background crowds and traffic properly - just hire an AI college graduate to do it as in independent project.

    Does anyone else find also that the way the main character walks on PC is not natural? Its too fast, like he is doing a quick walking marathon or something. When some of the game characters are walking in front of him and tell you to follow them, it's hard to do, as he keeps walking faster and bumping into them. I keep having to "tap" the W key instead of holding it down to walk slowly and naturally. Did anyone test/tune this on PC keyboard controls at all? Any way to slow down the walk speed?
    Reply
  • cbruscato
    It's important to remember that a bug being widespread, or the bug having large impact on gameplay systems, does not make it intended. A recent example was that Alien: Isolation had completely disabled AI pathing, when a 1 was inadvertently flipped to a 0 in the games configuration. It is entirely possible that many things have been tuned or turned down to limit the processing power needed, because of how unoptimized its current state is. I've heard now from several games outlets that fixing bugs won't fix this game. That patches can't fix the stupid AI, driving physics, near silent NPCs, or teleporting cops. None of that is true, in fact, there may be voice lines for NPCs, or gameplay systems around NPCs, similar to Watch Dogs - that were disabled at the last minute. I've also heard people accuse them of not being able to playtest, when they were fully aware of most of the bugs out there, when the game shipped. Developers don't control release. Somewhere there is a backlog of bugs, long enough to justify 3 months of work, and 2 Patches, and they knew about that, the day the executives decided to ship it.
    Reply
  • rluker5
    I think the drivers are more realistic than GTAV. I see idiots like them on the road all of the time. The completely aware driver that lets the speeder through is the exception to the rule, most of the time they will block you and will totally stop if you ding their car. And lines like that build up all of the time with an open lane right next to it. Stupid, but true. You just have to drive more like in real life :( Guy stopped in front on his phone or something should put on his flashers though.

    And the bulk of npcs haver always been filler in every game. They aren't online multiplayers or anything.
    Reply
  • AtrociKitty
    cbruscato said:
    I've also heard people accuse them of not being able to playtest, when they were fully aware of most of the bugs out there, when the game shipped. Developers don't control release. Somewhere there is a backlog of bugs, long enough to justify 3 months of work, and 2 Patches, and they knew about that, the day the executives decided to ship it.
    This might fly as an excuse for other games, but not for one that has been in development for at least 7 years.
    Reply
  • thepersonwithaface45
    AtrociKitty said:
    This might fly as an excuse for other games, but not for one that has been in development for at least 7 years.
    why not?
    Reply
  • kyzarvs
    thepersonwithaface45 said:
    why not?

    Because simple stuff like the crowd and driver AI was done better in San Andreas, let alone GTA5?
    Reply