The Witcher 3 Interview
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt writer Jakub Szamalek discusses setting the standard for next-gen role-playing games
We had that in mind because we brought the Witcher 2 to Xbox 360, which was at the time already 6 years old. That was everything we could squeeze out of the console. We needed to take the next step, we want to have more possibilities and the better hardware would allow more space to do things. Everybody knew more or less how far the new consoles were in development and we took that into consideration.
You’ve previously spoken of how the studio has developed its storytelling voice over the last decade. With that in mind, how CD Projekt RED approach The Witcher 3 from a narrative perspective?
We’re trying to go down the same path but developing it further. We still have mature themes when we design quests and the storyline, and we make sure there are not any good or bad decisions. The player always has to make a choice and face the consequences. This is a very important element of our games and we’re focusing on that but it’s also a more personal story and we’re really trying to make something that is considered nasty. There will be some parts that will make you go ‘Oh fuck. What have I done? I would have never imagined my decisions would result in something like that.’ Like in real life, we can’t always predict everything. We can’t always have wings for a good decision and horns for a bad decision. We’re avoiding that and sticking to this grey area. It’s really exciting because it allows us to develop this story in interesting and not so cliché way.
Will that result in multiple endings?
It will lead to multiple endings. We also want to show the players the smaller consequences to each decision and how they influence the world. We had that a little bit in The Witcher 2 already, so we want to stick to that and illustrate the impact the player’s actions had on different locations and characters.
Has this inflated the gameplay hours compared to The Witcher 2?
We’re aiming at this point at over 100 hours. Basically, it’s a little bit different to Witcher 2 since it’s an open world. You’ll have the main storyline, which is the most important element, and then we have the side quests. The bigger ones you’ve seen, but the smaller ones involve random encounters and monster hunting quests. All in all it should add up to over 100 hours.
With The Witcher 3 arriving on Sony and Microsoft’s new hardware, are you utilising the DualShock 4 or Kinect at all?
We’re looking at them. We’re exploring different ideas, how we can use them for The Witcher 3. It’s a story-driven RPG, so definitely we wont have players having to running in front of the television and fighting with the sword, but there are some possibilities to implement some nice stuff for the players as well. It’s not settled yet but we’re definitely exploring the possibilities.
The Witcher 3 is being more broadly recognised than its predecessor. Are you making concessions for newcomers?
What we’re trying to achieve is trying to have both groups of people being pleased with the game. On the one hand it’s the continuation of the story – even the continuation of the books, so if someone has read the books will know more about the story – so we basically want to close the story, answer some questions that weren’t answered in the first two parts. On the other hand this whole thing of the Nilfgaard attack in the Northern Kingdom at the end of The Witcher 2 resulted in the powers of the world shifting. We essentially restructured the world. Everything is still there but for people who didn’t play the old games they’ll feel it’s a separate adventure from beginning to end. They don’t need to play the previous game but if they do they’ll get some extra experience from it.
It also appears a much more mechanically refined game?
It wouldn’t make sense to have a horse in The Witcher 2 because the world was too small. In Witcher 3 it’s a natural thing to do because the world is over 35 times bigger and the new means of transport – the boat and the horse – are a result of it. We try to avoid having invisible barriers, so we have some jumping – not parkour – but Geralt can jump a little bit and swim. You can’t swim from one island to another because it’s the sea and he’ll drown, but he can in some smaller lakes. It’s not like you’ll go into the water and discover an invisible wall, it will be limited by the stamina and so on but you feel like you could go further…or drown.
The open-world world games have really expanded in the last few years. Do you think there’s a limit to the size of open-world titles?
I think that depends on funding and how much time you have. It’s also limited by the abilities of the hardware – the consoles and PC systems. Maybe in a couple of years we’ll have even bigger worlds, but developers need to sell their games and earn something out of it, so you need to balance whether the longer development time reflects the income afterwards. If you don’t look at it the company will drown very fast. However, if some crazy billionaire decides to give me a billion dollars and says ‘Make me a great earth-like open-world’ then why not? When you consider how the games looked like 15 years ago it’s hard to predict what games will look like in 15 years time.