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The Witcher 2 Interview with Tomasz Gop
Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 29 April 2011, 19:35:05Tags: CD Projekt; The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Tomasz Gop, Senior Producer at CD Projekt RED was kind enough to answer me a couple of questions regarding their upcoming action-Adventure cRPG The Witcher 2. I got these answers a month ago to be honest, but I had some follow-up questions and wanted to wait until I received those answers before I'd publish the interview. Unfortunately the CDProjekt guys seem to be too busy to respond and with the release date drawing near I decided to show you now what I have. I'll also take this opportunity to show off some huge ass screenshots which might or might not have been already shown elsewhere. I even created a Witcher 2 screenshot gallery. Of course I had to downsize those images because, frankly, the Codex is too l33t for images bigger than 1,444 444 bytes. The whole point of this screenshot business is obviously to make the interview appear more meaty than it actually is.
Well, let's immediately come to the meat of it - the character system. In The Witcher there was little room to deviate from a pre-set course of developing Geralts abilities, due to the manner in which the game would present you with talent points. Could you describe the changes that have been made to the character system and the reasoning behind the changes?
You can specialize in The Witcher 2. Don’t have to, though – if you mix your skills from all kinds, you’ll do just fine. Still, if you’re fan of magic, for example, you can find really unique skills and, at the very end of magical character development tree, there’s a new sixth magical sign, not obtainable any other way. There are separate trees for magic, sword and alchemy. I wouldn’t call it a revolution, but it should be a handy improvement.
Are there any non-combat skills, social skills perhaps, to influence non-combat gameplay?
Definitely. Though they’re not a core of the game, the player will find skills that allow him to turn around the result of some dialogues, or excel in mini-games.
I've heard there will be a stealth system. How is that working specifically? Is it tied to a skill or are stealth sequences more like QTEs? Is stealth a viable approach to solve quests or does a stealth solution happen once or twice in the game as some sort of gimmick?
You can sneak in designated areas. It’s pretty much a mode you enter whenever it’s possible to walk through parts of the game in a non-lethal way. Locations are specifically designed for this. There is a skill-based feel to it, but it’s never obligatory. All areas of the game can also be walked through in an old-fashioned butchery way if you want it. There are no character development points assigned to it. I wouldn’t call it a gimmick, but on the other hand, we’ve never stressed it to be a vital part of the game. Same for quick-time events, mini-games, etc.
A dwarven tavern means enough dwarf cock for everyone!
I suppose there will be a lot of combat in The Witcher 2, so let's talk about the combat system. In The Witcher it was all about clicking every X seconds to chain attacks into combos. That wasn't too exciting but at the very least it didn't require mad mouse & keyboard skills. Now I've read that with The Witcher 2 you're going the button-mashing route. Is that true? So, how do I have to imagine combat in The Witcher 2 - maybe in comparison to some other game it draws inspiration from - and what changes have been made?
The first and most important change was aimed exactly towards players who thought that combat in The Witcher had somewhat high entering threshold. With the fully real-time combat in The Witcher 2, depending on what difficulty setting you choose at the beginning, your experience will vary drastically. I recommend easy difficulty settings for guys who don’t need that “uber-micro” skills sewn into each one of their fingers. The Easy mode in The Witcher 2 means pretty much that combat is nowhere close to being a big deal. You can defeat most of your opponents without really thinking about the pace at which you press buttons, and you won’t have to be particularly cautious about when you use strong or fast strikes of your sword – you’ll deal damage anyways.
Then, the next thing we’ve changed is getting rid of that turn-based feeling and keeping the complexity and difficulty for those seeking challenge. I mean, we’re not Demon’s Souls, but if people will feel comfortable with walking through The Witcher 2 on Hard Mode, there still will be one more difficulty setting to unlock. It’s called Insane, and it not only makes enemies tougher than ever, it also gives them new tactical abilities. So, there you go – we wanted to be perfectly sure that both hardcore and casual players will be able to enjoy The Witcher 2. And there’s a reward for both of them.
Geralt is still kicking monster ass.
I've heard there will be an ironman mode. In what ways will this mode differ from other difficulty modes? What about the save-system? To give an example, the last game I played ironman was Knights of the Chalice. In that game your savegame would be deleted after you loaded it, then, before quitting the game, you had to save manually. Should you forget to save or should the game crash you were out of luck and your ironman game was gone. Contrary to that in the old Goldbox games your old save was only deleted when you created a new save, which could be exploited by intentionally crashing the game if things went awry. How do you handle it?
To start with – people who play games on ironman-style are hardcore. They know what they’re asking for and there are no handicaps, no help, tons of obstacles. That’s actually where they find fun. So yeah, we did it like this:
To unlock Insane difficulty you have to finish the game on Hard. Insane not only raises stats, but there will be new attacks and tactics opponents will gain, so anybody who masters the game on Hard shouldn’t feel too confident! The game regularly saves your progress, but once you die, the game deletes all current savegames, and it knows they should be gone. There won’t be easy exploits this time. If you finish the game on Insane, you’re obviously one uber-awesome individual!
I liked the alchemy system in TW. It wasn't really necessary to delve into it too deeply because the game wasn't that hard, but it was fun to tinker around with anyways. You did some overhaul here as well, I presume? Can you unveal some specifics?
We did not revolutionize that feature, just made a few tweaks and improvements. You can meditate almost anywhere and anytime right now. You won’t be able to spam potions during combat – that’s only for preparation. And the biggest change – alchemy has become one of the character development trees now, so there are a lot of skills that will allow players to become somewhat of an alchemical junkie, who gets less intoxicated from potions, deals more damage, and even unlocks a special fury-like skill. Oh and obviously, we made sure that on Hard Mode sword and magic won’t be enough this time. Players will simply have to use alchemy.
Yes, the graphics do look good.
Another change I’ve read about is that it won’t be possible to consume potions during combat. Why? Was there some problem with using potions during fights I’m not aware of? Furthermore, do situations where gulping down a potion is desperately required, due to an effect like bleeding or because the duration of the regeneration potion has expired, not occur in The Witcher 2?
There were surprisingly many people who complained about the ease to spam potions in The Witcher. I have to admit that it actually can kill the fun for some people. So that’s gone, but on the other hand, investing into alchemical character development will give players the possibility to greatly extend the effects of potions, so in that case, as you wrote, it just won’t be necessary.
Another detail that bothered me in The Witcher was the inventory. It’s a well known fact that RPGs are about killing all hostiles and then selling their loot to buy even better loot. But somehow Geralt wasn’t able to carry more than 1 additional weapon so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he was in dire need of more gold most of the time…
Long story slightly shorter, did you make changes to the inventory, will we be able to sell off the looted weapons of enemies or is this “no loot agenda” part of a Witcher-specific philosophy?
You’ll have way more space in inventory. You will be able to carry more weapons, and you will be able to sell them, yes. Oh, and there’s never been any hidden agenda behind it, of course! ;)))
Speaking of weapons, while there was a small number of different weapons, basically anything not usable with Witcher skills was useless and might as well not have been there. Is that still the case in TW2 or did you go for a bit more variety in that regard, maybe even ranged weaponry? Are there skills that govern more than just steel and silver sword?
Yup, we’ve indeed added some ranged weapons so you can throw daggers, bombs and such. You can also use axes and hammers. I wouldn’t expect bows though…
Dialogues. In The Witcher many dialogues would play out in a cutscene-like sequence of lines the moment you talked to someone with little to no input on the player’s part. That’s something one can easily improve upon one might think. Can you give a rundown of the improvements you’ve made to the dialogue system?
Characters move more. They interact, exchange items and sometimes even fight. There are sometimes huge numbers of dialogue participants and these numbers might even change within the dialogue. Hidden dialogue options (unlockable via social skills) are also in…. Well, there’s a lot that’s changed.
You’re advertising The Witcher 2 as being less linear than the original, in what way is it more non-linear? There are no bite-sized chapters this time?
In The Witcher there were pretty much three main paths you could have taken throughout the game storyline. Interconnecting, yes, but still three paths and three different endings. In The Witcher 2 you can load up a savegame from the previous game’s end and start in three different ways. And you can also end up with one of the sixteen endings. You not only decide in dialogues, but you chose your allies, you chose locations where you go (there are locations that some players will only see after a second playthrough). And with the new engine, we can script the storyline in more unique ways. Interactive retrospective sequences for example… damn was that a spoiler?!
Finally, concerning another buzzword these day, choices and consequences. In The Witcher it turned out that the choices you were able to make weren’t all that significant, whereas choices you would have liked to make were just denied to you (http://www.rpgcodex.net/images/screenshots/codex2008review/sigfried_choice.jpg). Care to share a convincing - not yet known - example of Choices & Consequences in The Witcher 2?
I know I’ll sound like a PR guy here, but it’s a story-driven game. I know that many people would like that story to turn out differently, but then, it would have to be more of a sandbox game. By the way, did you know that after some surveys we’ve done across our community, one of the most desired choice in The Witcher would be the possibility to… kill Alvin? As a developer, we constantly struggle between where we tell the story, and where players shape it. In The Witcher 2, there are more branches and more factors that differentiate the storyline. I can only hope that you will be satisfied, though I hope you can understand that we aren’t really able to share much of the story as an example. Again, you have sixteen different endings to the game based on what you do throughout, and one good example we’ve shown recently is the Dwarven city of Vergen – depending on your choices in the game, you may not see that location at all!
Thanks to Tomek Gop for the answers and to Tom Ohle for playing the messenger!