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The Witcher interview

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The Witcher interview

Interview - posted by Ausir on Tue 7 December 2004, 03:28:55

Tags: CD Projekt; Witcher, The

The interview is with Michal Kicinski, Piotr Panasewicz, and Michal Madej of CD Projekt, the developers of The Witcher.

1. Tell us a little about CDProjekt and Red Studio. What are your previous experiences with computer games?

CDProjekt was founded by two classmates fascinated with computer games. It was over 10 years ago. In the meantime, the company has become one of the biggest players in the Polish gaming market. I think that we are one of the most recognizable companies among young Poles, and, which is even more important, we are liked and respected by the gamers. It is probably so because our passion and our respect towards our clients is visible in our work.

CDProjekt RED was created to fulfill our dream to make our own computer games. For many years we have been, for the most part, a publisher. We were mostly involved in searching for interesting games, localizing them, coming up with marketing campaigns and selling the games. But for the whole time we also dreamed of creating game. And finally the time has come to make our dream come true!

2. Why did you decide to make a game based on Sapkowski's books?

For us, it was such a natural choice that it is hard to say what we'd do if Sapkowski's works never existed:). Since the very beginning we knew that this is exactly what we were after. The world, the characters, the dialog, more mature themes – it was the best material for a game we could possibly imagine. Hmmm, I've just noticed that we're doing fairly well with making our dreams come true;).

3. Why have you decided to work with BioWare? Why did you use the Aurora engine instead of your own one?

Our cooperation with BioWare has a long history. It has all started with our publishing of their game "Shattered Steel" in Poland. Then we got to know each other better while localizing Baldur's Gate, which was by the way one of the best selling games in the history of Polish game industry.

As for choosing Aurora, it started in the E3 trade show i 2003. We visited the BioWare booth to see their new games, and although we were already looking for available engines, we didn't come up with asking BioWare. And then we med Diarmid, which told us that they're thinking of licensing Aurora. Two months later we were testing 4 engines, including Aurora.

The choice was much easier than we thought. The biggest advantage of Aurora was the amount of tools for creating cRPGs, and this was the most important feature to us. Spectacular graphics were not as important. We knew that we would have to practically make the graphics engine from scratch anyway to make it fit our vision of the game. I hope it's visible in the screenshots that our modifying of Aurora is going smoothly. We also achieved the graphics quality comparable to FPP games, and The Witcher uses an isometric camera view! We went so far with our modifications that it turned out that there are few games with graphics as detailed and immersive as ours, and we are of course very happy about it.

Choosing Aurora also gave us another chance of working with BioWare, the maker of the best RPGs!

4. Tell us a bit about The Witcher's setting. What makes it different from other fantasy worlds?

What is different about The Witcher's setting is that it discards many old fantasy clichés which accompanied fantasy literature since the times of Tolkien (like the simplified division between Good and Evil), and that it has quite a lot of black humor, erotica and some modern elements.

5. How much NPC interaction will we find in The Witcher? Are you using dialogue trees or a different dialogue system (like Morrowind)? Do NPCs have any daily routines or do they stay in one place all the time?

We're trying to make the surrounding world as lively as possible. We have a spectacular, dynamic day/night cycle system as well as a weather system. The guards will walk around the streets and react to the fights of drunken people who wander the city during the night. We will also encounter women washing their clothes in front of their houses or fishermen fishing by the river. In the evening, most of them will rest in their homes. The night is also a dangerous time. While in the cities the guards maintain order, outside of them various beasts and monsters roam the land. That's of course also awhy the witcher will have to take care of some of his business by night ;).

Inns will also be interesting places, where a lot of people will gather in the evening. You'll also be able to have fun and drink some stronger stuff.

6. What is your character system? How many stats and skills are there?

We have created our own game mechanics including the character system, which was designed to reflect the unique abilities of the witcher while simplifying stats which are less important. The player character is described by three statistics (Strength, Agility and Endurance) and by the combat skill and magic skill. But the greatest potential lies in the complex special abilities system. There will be several dozen secret blows, withcher signs and their combinations – attacks with the use of magic.

7. How big is the game's world? How many locations can we expect? How does travel between locations look like?

The world is quite big. It includes two very big cities, villages, strongholds, large dungeons and many other places. Their number won't tell you much, as they very much vary in size. The world is constructed to be as big and diverse as possible to give you several dozen hours of fun.

Because some locations are far away from each other, the travel between them takes place "at the world map", but we move between adjacent areas almost immediately.

8. What kind of experience system is used in the game? Is it level-based? Is more experience points given for killing the enemies or for quests?

Character development is based on classic 'levels'. There will most likely be about 20 of them. Each character level requires you to earn more experience. At each level the player is given a certain number of character points, which can be used to increase stats or to buy new special abilities. Experience will be given both for combat and for quests. A novelty is that combat experience depends not only on defeating the opponents, but also on the quality of the combat sequence – the more accurately the blows were performed, the more experience you get.

10. We already know that only Geralt will be controlled by the player. Will other characters also join him in his journeys? Will they be useful outside combat?

Some NPCs will indeed join our witcher from time to time and support him both in combat and in quests, some quest will even be hard to finish without them. However, the witchers are mostly loners and other people will join Geralt to help him very rarely.

11. Why did you decide to make combat in The Witcher real-time? What are some of the most interesting things you can do during combat?

Combat in The Witcher is based on several factors which are important for good gameplay – we wanted to create a combat system which would be dynamic, spectacular, immersive, and at the same time would require concentration and be based on the description of the witchers in the books. Therefore preparation for fighting a monster is very important – one has to know his strong and weak points, and then use that knowledge to prepare proper combat tactics. The player's aim is setting up such sequence of special blows to, on one hand, take advantage of the weak points and, on the other, not let him use his strong ones. Perfect timing will result in fully satisfying effects. This is an element of The Witcher which depends on the player's reflexes.

12. In The Witcher there won't be a clear distinction between Good and Evil. Could you give an example of a morally ambiguous situation from your game?

The whole world of The Witcher functions without the clichéd simplification of Good vs. Evil conflicts – therefore we will encounter moral dilemmas all the time. Sometimes there is no doubt that finishing a profitable quest will require us to violate law, the witcher code, or just your own idea of what is right. Most people can't distinguish between a monster slayer and an assassin, and will often request someone to be murdered. Sometimes while working on a quest you'll realize that you were cheated, and what you're actually doing is wrong – the quest of rescuing a princess turns out to be actually about kidnapping her for ransom. Some of them will require choosing one side of the conflict, where everyone is equally vicious and wicked. A classic example is racial hatred – in revenge for pogroms, the persecuted elves answer with acts of terror and murdering innocent people. Which side will our hero choose?

13. How do the witcher signs work? Will any new ones be added to the ones known from Sapkowski's books?

There are 6 witcher signs available in the game, all of which come from are from Sapkowski’s books, like Aard or Igni. Aard allows us to throw opponents away and to move items such as mugs, plates or chairs. Criterion’s Karma engine is responsible for the game’s physics. The Aard sign can also be used, for example, to put out torches. Combined with Geralt’s ability to see in the dark it gives us additional tactical advantages. For example: we are in a cave, where the only light source are torches on the walls, and we are attacked by a group of bandits. We put the torches out with Aard, and thanks to our night vision ability we easily defeat the blinded enemies. Doesn’t it sound great?

14. Is the story linear? Is it divided into chapters or can we freely travel around the world and discover new locations and threads of the story?

The Witcher tells the story of a man who, trying to discover his own identity and to rescue the heritage of his brotherhood, becomes involved in events of global scale. The game’s world is alive – the kings start new wars, the spies plan new coup d'états, and most of these events cannot be influenced by the hero at all. Of course, some decisions of the player will have consequences in the longer run, but they will mostly involve only Geralt himself – he can return to places he already visited whenever he wants, choose sides in conflicts and decide on his own future.

15. What is the planned release date? Have you already found a publisher/publishers for The Witcher outside Poland?

We intend to finish the game next year. For now, we haven't officially offered The Witcher to any publisher, but it's going to change soon. We plan to start actively looking for companies interested in publishing our game this December.

To finish, we'd like to thank you for reading this interview. We also encourage you to visit our website at for more information about our game.

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