Shortly after Horizon: Zero Dawn was released back in 2017, developer Guerilla Games revealed a trick behind the stunning apocalyptic world. It turned out the game was streaming out the landscape that wasn't in Aloy's peripheral vision, so as to not waste any memory generating terrain that you wouldn't see. Cyberpunk 2077 is also employing this trick, but it might be taking streaming a step further.
"This is one of the old developer tricks," CD Projekt and Cyberpunk 2077 producer Richard Borzymowski tells me at Gamescom. "In order to maximise the visual quality you are getting on screen, you are basically loading out all the things that are not on the screen. If you were to load everything then everything would be at a way lower quality."
Reflecting on The Witcher 3, Borzymowski says that the 2015 blockbuster RPG had "lots of very flat landscapes." However this all changes with Cyberpunk 2077, where skyscrapers tower above you, where flying police interceptors race around Night City at a hundred miles an hour. If The Witcher 3 was a generally horizontal game, Cyberpunk 2077 adds a new element of verticality.
"Here we have vertical streaming as well," Borzymowski continues. "Because when you look up you might stream out something below, whereas if you look down you might stream out something above you." I'll admit, it's certainly something I didn't consider. Horizon: Zero Dawn is generally a pretty horizontal game, and as you can see at the 18:16 mark in the documentary below, streaming is used horizontally to cut out terrain and characters to either side of Aloy.
So with Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt is constantly having to stream out objects both above and below V, the player character. As Borzymowski says, rendering every building, item, and character into the game at once would result in a drastically lower quality than the flashy looking demos for Cyberpunk 2077 that we see at events like E3 and Gamescom.
Cyberpunk 2077 will release on April 16, 2020, for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One. For everything we know about the game so far, head over to our Cyberpunk 2077 guide.