After The Witcher 3 has won almost all awards the gaming world has to offer, including the FFA GOTY Award, we decided to do a short interview with Polish craftmen. The answers were provided by CDPR’s Environment Artist, Kacper Niepokólczycki.
FFA: When and how did you decide to make The Witcher 3 not only an open world game, but also a game that is oriented towards a strong story and relationships between the characters?
Since the beginning of the series, The Witcher was always a story-driven game with a lot of emphasis on characters and the interactions between them. We wanted the games to be an open world experience early on, too, but we did not have enough expertise to make it happen with the quality we’re known for. Mind you, the first game was not released on consoles, the second one was released for Xbox 360 only after some time we launched on PC. Wild Hunt was launched on every major platform on the same day. It took us some time, but we’ve managed to deliver some quality open world RPG gaming.
FFA: Did you use detailed and absolutely incredible side quest to connect the open world wandering and following the main story?
Side quests in our game were always designed to bring something extra to the table. Sometimes you’ll hear gossip about general events going on that are connected to the main story arc (politics, the war, etc.), and sometimes you’ll just have fun because you forget about the main story arc for a second. And that was the point, to give gamers the choice to do stuff they want to do and not what the game forces them to. One of our main design principles was focused around avoiding repetitive fetch-quests. That’s why we don’t require you to bring 10 wolf pelts to receive a magic key. We treat gamers seriously and that’s what I think makes so many of the quests so gripping.
FFA: Was it hard to develop your own engine and publish the game on all three platforms at the same time? Do you remember any specific problems or interesting situations?
It was definitely hard, because it’s a bit like making 3 different games at the same time. Each platform has its own specific quirks and we had to get to know them them and make the game run as smooth as possible. In the end, we’ve managed to deliver the same experience across all of them and that makes me really proud.
FFA: Many consider the Witcher franchise as an excellent example of healthy evolution and progress. It is a franchise whose every installment changed its looks and gameplay. Would you agree with this statement when you look back and compare the first Witcher and Wild Hunt?
Yes, definitely. It has a lot to do with your first question actually. We’ve always dreamed and planned grand things, but took small steps to achieve them. The first game was a real challenge for us because we were actually learning how to make games back then. Then, there was The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings — bigger and better, with a great story and a great combat system. And finally, with all the experiences accumulated, we’ve created Wild Hunt — an open world game spinning a riveting tale of a monster hunter searching for his long lost daughter.
FFA: What about Cyberpunk 2077? Will that game be rich with content, just like The Witcher 3, or can we dare to expect even larger game?
Can’t talk about Cyberpunk 2077, sorry!
FFA: Have you considered introducing Gwent online PvP mode? Gwent is exceptionally popular and it will be interesting to see a possibility to play against other players. For example, you enter a casino in Novigrad and there is a particular NPC which would be “responsible” for matchmaking.
Gwent was designed in a way that allows players to be overpowered and have an invincible deck. As you progress in the game, so does Geralt and the power of your cards. Balancing that, making it work in a PvP environment, that would be a lot of additional work for something we envisioned to be a past time within an already huge game.
FFA: The world of Witcher is really impressive and interesting. If you had to choose the most interesting location, what would you choose?
There’s a ton of places I love in the game — from the shady back alleys of Novigrad (which can be very scary at night) to secluded huts hidden deep in the lush forests. However, what I like the most is the feeling of being on the road, travelling. I can’t count the times I just darted in one direction to discover some hidden secret cave or hut, and there was always a quest there, or some treasure. This is what makes The Witcher great for me.
FFA: Witcher 2 is recently published for Xbox One via Backwards Compatibility option and the game is very popular. We believe that you are focused on the development of the second expansion for Wild Hunt, as well as Cyberpunk 2077, but is there a possibility that we will see a port of Witcher 2 for Xbox One and PS4, because the third installment shows excellent results when we are talking about sales?
As far as I know there are no such plans.
FFA: What was it like to work with excellent Charles Dance and other actors? How hard was it to introduce so much variety in voice acting in such big world? I think that actors had a tough job not to repeat themselves.
This isn’t exactly my department, but I heard that working with Mr. Dance was pure pleasure for the team. The entire cast of the game was amazing, putting a lot of heart into the roles they played.
FFA: After so many years of hard labor, how do you feel when you look at Witcher’s success, many GOTY awards, excellent critics and a status of an RPG classic that will easily mark this generation of games?
We’re very proud of what we’ve managed to do. But I think it’s the sort of pride that empowers you to try even harder next time. Just look at Hearts of Stone — the expansion was very much different from Wild Hunt, the pacing, the comic relief (the entire wedding is a prime example), the way Geralt is not in control… We’re now working on Blood and Wine, the final expansion to the game and I can promise that aside from the stuff you know and love, you’ll see a lot of fresh things. After all, it’s 20 hours of new adventures, places and mechanics.