I’ve always been a big fan of the Witcher series. Its depth of story, beautiful environments, attention to detail, and the amazing support from its developer, CD Projekt Red, kept me hopelessly hooked. When I saw some of the footage and interviews from E3 about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I was left with many questions about the world, the story, and how the game would fare on the PC. So I took my questions directly to CD Projekt Red for an exclusive Structure Gaming interview.
Jay Couture: The Witcher 2 was developed for the PC first, and then ported over to the Xbox 360 later. What are the plans for The Witcher 3? Will it be solely developed for the PC first, and then ported over to the next-gen consoles, or optimized for next-gen consoles, and ported directly to the PC?
Dominika Gonsierowska, Lead Producer: All versions are being developed simultaneously and will be released at the same time. Without going into too much detail, developing for the PC and the new consoles is much easier in this new generation than in the previous one, mainly because of certain similarities in architecture. We didn’t have to dedicate separate teams to take care of optimization, which has let us concentrate our firepower and will ultimately lead to a more polished game. Moreover, we’re extremely excited about developing The Witcher 3 for the next-gen platforms, as they are extremely capable and constitute a huge step forward in comparison to the previous generation. Keep in mind, though, that we’re already taking the specific features of each platform into account and we’re examining to what extent they might impact gameplay or improve the experience.
Delivering content to as many players as possible is also crucial for us. We’ve created a sophisticated story based in a vast, open world and we want to make sure that gamers can access it without worrying about whether The Witcher 3 will appear on their console of choice or not.
JC: With The Witcher and The Witcher 2, the enhanced content was released to gamers free of charge, as well as all subsequent DLC. With most developers & publishers moving towards “Day 1” DLC, as well as considerable amounts of post-release DLC, will CD Projekt continue to offer extended content free of charge, or will we see paid DLC in the future?
DG: “Some things never change, some things do” – wise words from a great film, and also quite applicable here: this is one of the former. We didn’t build a close relationship with our fans just to abandon it now – our policy concerning the release of additional content has become a part of who we are. I mean, we simply don’t understand how someone could expect payment for adding two new swords and some shiny armor to a game. That would be totally against our DNA.
We plan on continuing this trend in the case of The Witcher 3. Having said that, as of now, we still don’t have all the details on how the new consoles will tackle these issues. We’ll try our best to stay true to our traditions on these platforms. Fortunately on the PC we’re free to do as we choose in this matter.
JC: REDkit was one of the most anticipated post-release additions to The Witcher 2, offering players the ability to create their own modifications to the game. Will we see something similar for The Witcher 3?
DG: REDkit has only been out for something like a month a half, plus it’s still in the open beta phase. Although it’s already fully functional, we’re still working on making it an even better tool, in part by incorporating feedback from our fans. We’ve already seen some extraordinary mods created by truly gifted people and we can’t wait to see more. Moreover, an official mod was released lately, designed by one of our gameplay programmers – it strives to rebalance combat in The Witcher 2.
What all that means is it’s way too early to plan on releasing REDkit with REDengine 3 compatibility. We already have our hands full developing The Witcher 3 while providing support for the current version of our modding tools.
JC: The PC version of The Witcher 2 offered an absolutely crazy option to turn on “Uber Sampling,” which created the best anti-aliasing effects ever created in a game, and brought even the most powerful PCs to their knees. Can we expect new technology that will do the same? What are some of the new graphics technologies being explored and developed for the game?
DG: We’ve taken the phrase “next generation” very seriously and the level of visuals in The Witcher 3 will reflect that. The new installment will feature a fully open world, and in order to maintain immersion we had to raise the bar yet again and squeeze every ounce of graphics power possible out of the new machines.
When it comes to specific technologies, we’re exploring the capabilities of DirectX 11. Some of them have already made The Witcher 3 look pretty impressive – did you see the fire in our gameplay trailer?! There’s still a lot of time before the game’s release, and so a lot of the current technology will get updated and developed even further.
JC: The Witcher 2 allowed players to import their Witcher 1 saves into the game. Will this option be available in The Witcher 3? If so, can we expect the storyline to change based on decisions made in The Witcher 2 (such as sticking with Roche instead of Iorveth)?
DG: PC players will indeed be able to import saves from The Witcher 2. However, we can’t confirm anything yet regarding the consoles – the proper technology will need to be in place in order to make that happen.
Let me stress one thing, though. Newcomers to the Witcher series won’t lose anything because of the lack of saves from previous games. It’s rather us exploring ways to provide veteran players with some icing on the cake – some details that will put smiles on their faces.
JC: The Witcher series has always been known for its intense swordplay action. Will we see new moves added to Geralt’s repertoire? Will new swordplay animations be hand-modeled, or done using motion capture technology?
DG: The Witcher 3 will feature a new, completely revamped combat system that puts responsiveness and realism as its top priority. That’s why we had no choice but to expand the pool of combat animations available. We ended up with as many as 96 separate sequences, which will ensure that encounters don’t ever feel repetitive. Every single one of these animations was done in our motion capture studio.
JC: For those who have never experienced either of the Witcher games, how does the development team plan to present the backstory and bring new gamers up to speed?
DG: The thing is that our story has gone full circle and Geralt is back to the “good old days” of being a full-time witcher. He’ll travel around the realm and look for monster-hunting contracts. In The Witcher 3, he’s his own master, having taken a step back from the geopolitics of his world. This change in tone felt natural for two reasons. First of all, he already meddled in the high-profile affairs of the land in the second installment; secondly, Nilfgaard’s invasion and the events that ended The Witcher 2 have led to a sort of clean slate – the war looming on the horizon in the Northern Kingdoms has changed everything. Moreover, Geralt has entered a new phase in his life and some of his priorities have shifted. That’s why players who are newcomers to the Witcher series won’t need to brush up on the previous games.
On the other hand, we want them to feel immersed in Geralt’s character as soon as possible and to that end we’ll include a beautiful, informative cinematic that will provide an thorough backdrop to the story.
JC: It has been announced that we will be able to use horses to explore the world in The Witcher 3. Will we be able to fight from horseback, or must we dismount entirely to engage in combat? What customization options will exist for horses, such as different breeds, armor, etc.?
DG: Horses are first and foremost a means of travel in The Witcher 3. Players will be able to knock opponents out of their saddles with the Aard sign, or wound them with Igni, but we’re still brainstorming ideas about horseback combat. You see, we’re in a bit of a tight spot here, because Geralt swinging his sword while remaining in his saddle wouldn’t be canonical with the books. We’ll provide more information on that in the future.
JC: With The Witcher 3, how long can we expect the game to last for those looking to complete all the quests?
DG: Players will spend approximately 50 hours on the main storyline and will have around another 50 hours they can spend on side-quests, which makes for a total of over 100 hours. Keep in mind, though, that we’ve avoided including generic or repetitive side-quests and have carefully designed even the smallest missions Geralt can take on. This way, these 100 hours will be very fulfilling.
JC: Will mini-games such as dice-poker and fighting be a part of The Witcher 3? Will there be any new mini-games included?
DG: We don’t want to reveal too much about mini-games yet. There will be some – that’s for sure. But here’s a small teaser – Geralt will have to do a bit of practice on his axe work.
JC: Approximately how large is the open-world in The Witcher 3?
DG: It’s 35 times larger than that of The Witcher 2, so it’s safe to say it’s enormous. However, we’re not creating this vast, open world just for the sake of it being large. We want to include a lot of content and we simply need a huge space to fit it all in. We’ve sprinkled the world with points of interest – places that catch players’ interest in various ways and offer side-quests or unique beasts to slay.
JC: Character development in The Witcher 2 was done through 4 different skill trees. How will character development progress in The Witcher 3? Will it be much the same, or will the game employ a new method?
Andrzej Kwiatkowski, Gameplay Designer: We’re keeping the development paths in much the same form as in The Witcher 2. Just as in previous games, players will have access to swordsmanship skills, witcher Signs and alchemy. Skills will be more thematic and customizable, with mutagens playing a much bigger role in character development. We’re currently focusing on the quality of the skills – we figure it’s much better to end up with skills that have real impact, rather than a mass of abilities that aren’t really worth building towards. The Witcher setting is limiting in that matter, however, as we cannot simply come up with generic high fantasy spells or give Geralt bow, shield or hammer skills. Witchers are neither mages nor your typical RPG warrior archetype.
JC: How has alchemy changed since The Witcher 2? Will we see more recipes and new types of herbs to harvest?
Tomasz Kozera, Gameplay Designer: We’re refreshing the alchemy so that it will meet fans’ expectations. Drawing heavily on the previous Witcher games, we’re aiming to make the system clearer, while maintaining its complexity. The amount of items you are able to create is similar to that in The Witcher 2, but the creation process is much more rewarding. We’ve also added some new solutions to alchemy, but I’m afraid it’s too early to delve into details.
JC: Will The Witcher 3 maintain its adult rating? Will nudity, excessive violence and strong language still be a major part of the game? Will it be softened up for the next-gen consoles to cater to a larger player-base?
DG: Stories in the Witcher games have always touched upon mature themes and we’re sticking to that tradition in the latest installment of Geralt’s adventures. These elements are inherited from the books and the universe that Andrzej Sapkowski has so skillfully created. We can’t change course just to cater to a larger player base – that would go against all we’ve stood for over the years.
JC: The Nilfgaardian Empire has been compared to the Roman Empire of old, dominating most of the world. Can one Witcher truly make a difference against their assault on the Northern Kingdoms? Will it be just Geralt alone, or will we see other witchers at his side, or even possibly a return of Triss Merigold?
DG: Answering this question in full would require delving into the plot details of The Witcher 3 and I can’t do that, not just yet. All I can say for now: when you think of the story in our new game, don’t assume that Geralt will be a sort of sole savior of the world or an archetypical hero. The story, thanks to a sophisticated, branching narrative and the many choices players can make, will instead have him set certain cogs into motion which will then impact events in different ways.
I would like to personally thank CD Projekt Red for taking the time to answer all of my questions. For more information on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, head over to the official website. Stay locked to Structure Gaming for the latest and greatest news from the gaming world.