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We have the opportunity to talk with the CD Projekt PR Manager Lukasz Mach about the highly anticipated RPG The Witcher.
Hi Lukas, first of all, tell us something about you, about CD Projekt RED and something about your previous projects.
CD Projekt Red is a game developing studio, created by founders of the biggest game publishing company in Poland – CD Projekt. At the moment there are more than 50 people working in the team: programmers, 3D and graphical artists, designers, a composer, sound engineer and a director. Very interesting group of people, quite well known for their previous individual works in Polish gaming/fantasy “business”. The Witcher is actually the first project of the studio, but we are positive of a successful debut!
Why did you choose Sapkowski’s Wiedzmin as an inspiration for your next game? Did you have more options or was Wiedzmin your first choice?
Well, a simple reason for that. Andrzej Sapkowski created one of the best fantasy worlds ever, different from any used as a computer game background before. With large bestiary of Slavic monsters and characters, intriguing political situation, racial conflicts and of course the unique main hero and his guild of the witchers. We immediately decided that this would be great for a role playing game, that is about to bring something new to the genre :).
Can I skip this one :)? Just kidding. Well same, as the writer, fans, and probably everyone who saw this title, we are not very enthusiastic. It was badly produced, and we didn’t use it as a source of inspiration in any way.
Lets talk about game itself. Will you describe it as action game with RPG elements or rather as RPG combined with heavy action?
Definitely RPG combined with heavy action. The idea of a game was to tell a great story, and allow player to empathize with main character. Quests can be completed in different ways, and the story is quite non-linear. As you probably know, quests are designed not to allow a simple good or bad solutions. That increases the importance of making a choice.
As for the character development system, it is based on abilities and skills. Many improvements give a visual effect, for example when you upgrade a fighting technique with new feat, you get an additional blow in your sequence of combat moves. There are many different paths for development, and you can never use all skills available, so if playing the game again after once finished, you can create a new witcher with other specializations.
RPG elements are very important and are the essence of The Witcher, but we didn’t want to neglect combat at the same time. We've always considered real-time combat, not turn-based one, an ideal solution for our game. Combat will really engage players, and although it requires manual skills it is easy to master :).
We know that Witcher is inspired on excelent fantasy world (one of my favourites), with many „never seen before“ atributes, like serious racism issues between traditional fantasy races or main character, which does not act „cool“ all the time. Do you plan to integrate some of this features into the game?
Yes, the game is coherent with the assumptions of novels. You begin your adventure five years after the events from saga. The world is dark, and cruel, and humans are the strongest, dominant race, other races suffer from common prejudice. Elves dwell in the forests and attempt guerrilla attacks against humans. Dwarves are officially subjected to humans, live in the poorest districts of their towns. Roads and routes are dangerous - swarming with monsters, wild animals, bandits, rogues and starving peasants. This is the world of The Witcher.
As for the main hero and his guild, witcher skills are result of heavy training and mutations, that completely changed their bodies. Witchers are not popular amongst human habitants of the world, who neglect everything that is different and unnatural. That’s why player can expect negative attitude from almost every character in the game.
The game is bloody, but realistic, not a complete gore :). Geralt is a natural born killer, specializing in monster slaying, and although he is never looking forward for starting a pointless fight, he is ready to eliminate any other being acting hazardous too. It is easier if you’ll understand his occupation – what’s the point in risking your life, if you won’t be paid good for that ? Geralt is an extremely skilled sword fighter, and much stronger than normal people. He is able to perform plenty attacks that will bring fatal ending for his enemies. So it happens that some limbs get chopped of, this is just a very effective way to ensure that the opponent won’t be causing further problems :).
Will be the main quest line somehow connected to any of Sapkovski’s book? Which of other well known characters (besides Geralt of course) will we meet during our journey?
It is a continuation of the book, although designed not to raise confusions to people that are not familiar with novel. If you know the books - good for you, you’ll notice lots of references to the stories, and get a feeling that you have a knowledge on the game background. On the other hand if you never heard of Sapkowskis stories, you’ll have no problem getting into the plot easily. The book wasn’t published in all countries, for example English-speaking, and we couldn’t construct the game for players worldwide that would require any lore of the novels plotline.
What about side quests? (how many side quest, something about rewards – maybe unique items?)
Side quests are about 10 % of the game. Witchers are master swordsmen, and they do not prefer other weapons (but of course they can use any). You can upgrade your witcher sword, and minor upgrades are for example a reward for completing a side quest. You can also receive some alchemy tips, some ingredients, items and many more! There is a special sort of side quests – contracts to kill monsters. This is every witchers usual day at work :). This one mostly profits with financial benefits.
Well, we decided not to divide player’s choices between good and evil, and leave the moral aspect to the player. You saw the presentation, so you know the general idea and it’s examples. Player’s choice is not only important for further quest results, but also is an effect of player’s actual feelings about the things that happen. That’s very engaging, when every decision is subjective and brings a different solution with following consequences. Also, the most important choices have their effect much further in the gameplay, just to avoid loading the game to check the alternative way out. You’ll also notice a butterfly effect sometimes, when banal situations can cause quite important consequences in the story. We’re on the opinion that thanks to those features we got very close to the atmosphere of the book, which we hope players also will feel.
Any clue, how many hours will the player take to finish the main quest?
It will take approximately 40 hours to complete the main plotline.
Every RPG game is based on gaining experience and enhancing PRG attributes. How will this system work in Witcher? Is there any similar game, wich Witcher can be compared with?
The system in The Witcher is a complex character description, designed to allow unique character development path in a quite intuitive way. By accomplishing the tasks, your character gains experience, improves his skills, learns new combat techniques and magical Signs. We decided to give up the number and digit-based system. It will be very easy to notice without studying complicated tables and statistics, how Geralt becomes stronger and more skilled in fighting techniques and in magic. The system itself is tree based. Skills are grouped in branches. After earning enough exp. points that will allow to advance to the next level, player receives several Talent points that can be spent on new skills. There are three types of Talents and relatively three types of Skills: bronze (basic), silver (advanced), gold (elite). There will be almost 250 skills to gain, so there is a huge variety of possible options for advancing. Player will have lot of fun, creating his own individual witcher.
You don’t have to be Rachmaninoff’s successor, or buy a new mouse device to play The Witcher :). It is not a hack and slash game. Although there is no doubt that combat is a very important feature. We didn’t want it to be boring and simple, like it is in many RPG titles. We goaled to achieve maximum engagement from the player, and since combat, and sword mastery are witcher’s profession main attributes, we couldn’t just reduce their meaning. So, this is a real-time combat, with active pause option, for changing style or having a different view on the duel for example. You pick an enemy, target him (her, or it :). You have to stay focused on your target, because the manual element comes in – when necessary you must click the enemy again to proceed a following attack. It is not difficult, but requires concentration. That’s the way you build a complete combat sequence leading to a deadly finisher. Worth to mention that all those actions are also fully visualized, we have motion captured more than 200 animations performed by professional fighters for combat purposes. You will not be able to take your eyes off the screen for a long time!
If there is a sword, there must be a mage stuff - thats the way how it is (in all fantasy games). We already know that magic in Witcher will be based on 5 different „marks“. How will these marks affect gameplay?
Magic spells known to members of the witcher guild are called The Signs. As you said there are five sorts of them: telekinetic Aard, offensive fire spell Igni, Quen for protection, Axii for messing your enemies minds, and a ward sign Yrden. All signs can be developed, similarly to combat skills, and there are plenty upgrades affecting usability for them. You can use those spells for:
- Aard, pushing back creatures and objects (or even destroying them), knocking down enemies, and extinguishing fire.
- Igni for an offensive actions, setting fire on flammable objects and creatures. You’ll also scare the hell out of every lesser enemy. :)
- Quen, for casting a protection sphere on the character to avoid physical damage. It’ll save your life couple of times for sure :).
- Axii, to charm than harm :) , frighten, or even stun the targets.
- Yrden for setting an invisible trap on the ground, that will bring unpleasant consequences to your enemies and give you an advantage.
All the spells can be additionally boosted up if you’ll take a moment for it. This feature will provide adequate bonus to a final effect.
Final requirements will be announced soon.
Witcher is clearly designed as a game for one player. Anyway, do you intend to include at least some basic multiplayer modes? If yes, describe them a little bit.
There will be no multiplayer mode. As I said the idea for the game was to tell a story, and that excludes a multiplayer option.
How modding-friendly is Witcher‘s engine? Will players be able to create their own buildings, weapons, armors or even a complete new adventures?
We created our own toolset. It is named Djinni. It will be added with The Witcher. You can modify everything in the game using it, although some things would require 3D graphic programs and lots of plugins. Also some programming knowledge would come in handy.
You’ll be able to easily modify all the statistics, preferences, characters, etc. It will be possible to create new quests, although building locations from the beginning won’t be that easy. But you can always use and modify existing ones.
It took a long time of programmers work to apply all the changes we wanted to make in the engine. Of course it was necessary for the game that will be published in 2007 :), all the latest visual and sound features. And so there is a completely new DirectX 9 compatible renderer (normal mapping, realistic water, spectacular spell effects, shaders on monsters, soft shadows, volumetric fog, etc.), new game mechanics, SpeedTree flora, full day cycle, weather effects, realistic physics, and large variety of full screen effects. That’s what is generally hidden behind the sentence “heavily modified Aurora” :).
As for the BioWare coders, they were very enthusiastic about the job we’ve done. We met during E3, where we were showing our game, and guys agreed that we have the best combat system ever created in PC Role Playing Game. This is quite a recommendation, I have to say :).
Thanks for your time.
Update: On request of Atari the interview has been edited in the part where we discuss with developers the future and the potential of the Witcher universe.
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Atari /CD Projekt / CD Projekt Red
dátum vydania 26.10. 2007
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