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The Witcher interview

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The Witcher interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Wed 19 April 2006, 01:08:40

Tags: CD Projekt; Witcher, The

1. Let's talk about that "RPG Redefined" thing. What's it all about and why do you think that the genre should be redefined? Most importantly, why do you believe that your attempts to redefine it would actually improve the genre?

The best way to clarify this statement is to say that we don’t feel we are redefining the computer role-playing game genre, but changing the way that one achieves an overall role-playing experience. First, you had pen and paper games. At the heart of this was a great story, playing a role, and exploring a fantasy world through imagination. Then when computers arrived the experience simply transferred to a new medium, but instead of dice determining the next outcome you had the computer doing the computations. Then, with the advancements in computer technology we saw these worlds come alive with visual depth and amazing technology, but the focus on using numbers for advancement still remained. Our goal is to focus on delivering a great story within a rich fantasy world, taking on the role of this mysterious monster slayer, and introducing combat yet to be seen in PC RPGs. This is what we feel is the modern version of achieving a role-playing experience at the heart of what pen and paper RPGs did, but without the focus on numbers.

2. After much deliberation, you've decided that the "crucial elements of the game should be: the storyline, combat system, freedom and non-linearity, character equipping and development." So, let's follow each element and see what CD Projekt did with it. Combat system, we've heard about it from the action point of view, now tell us about it from the role-playing point of view.

Combat from a role-playing point of view is pretty exciting. The way you develop your character will ultimately determine how you can tactically defeat your opponent. If you’ve chosen to focus on signs and developing Geralt’s magic abilities over his agility you will have to make certain decisions during combat if you have a group of fast moving enemies; maybe to utilize a mixture of spells that may stun and freeze your opponents in order to take your time defeating them one by one. On the other hand, if you chose to develop Geralt’s strength and agility you may be able to use your group combat style to quickly eliminate the entire group with one amazing swipe of the sword. Ultimately how you choose to play the role determines how you tactically take part in combat.

3. You've mentioned before that you've "given up the turn-based system". What does that mean? Was turn-based system ever considered? What are your thoughts on the TB versus RT debate?

From the very beginning our goal was to create a fluid real-time combat system. A turn-based system was never considered. We consider our game more of a classic role-playing experience rather than the pure action RPGs you see today. Those classic RPGs had a strong emphasis on story, but mainly had turn-based combat. We want to return to the roots of classic role-playing by providing an interesting world to explore with a great story, but adding a modern touch to everything. Combat is one of those features we feel needs a drastic update from the classic style. We feel real-time provides us with more options to give the player control.

4. Freedom and non-linearity. How does The Witcher handle those concepts?

Freedom in our game is best characterized in the character development system. The Character development system in The Witcher is based on skills progression. There are over special skills you will be able to access and apply to Geralt. This type of freedom results in the player ultimately having his own version of Geralt.

A big focus from the beginning of our design was to make the game non-linear, both on the level of minor decisions and solving small problems, as well as on the global level. A good example of this first non-linearity is in obtaining the key to the house of the rich merchant. In order to do this, we can either get the merchants drunk and make him believe that his house is haunted, bribe the guard to give us the key to the house, or persuade the local thugs (whom we helped earlier) to take care of things for us.

Non-linearity in the global sense means that one can go through the entire game in several different ways; decisions that the player makes over the course of the game lead to one of several distinct conclusions. It is important that, unlike in other games, we do not take a single decision at the end, which determines the finale. Characters whom we have helped will assist us in turn, and those whom we have left in need will turn their backs on us. The conclusion is the sum of many decisions that we have made.

5. Character development. How can we develop Geralt, sword-wielding monster slayer, "the greatest and most famous of all the witchers", considering that his role is already clearly defined? Would one player's Geralt be different from another player's Geralt? Any examples?

The Character development system in The Witcher is based on skills progression. There are three main traits that categorize these skills. The first of the three are the player’s attributes. Attributes include agility, strength, endurance, and intelligence. The second is the player’s combat style, which consists of three types of style (fast, strong, and group). The third trait is the signs, of which there are five different types. Next, each of these three main traits (Attributes, Combat Style, and Signs) has a base set of skills that that you level up along with multiple upgrades for each level. The result is over 250 special skills you will be able to access.

However, what really makes the system cool is that you are rewarded with bronze, silver and gold talents throughout the game to apply to your character’s traits. But how much and when depends on how you play the game and what decisions you make along the way. The upgrades within each character level offer the little touches that really hardcore players will love.

Each player may develop his character in a different way. Depending on how we choose skills, we could create a witcher who is a soulless mutant, a witcher with magical powers almost equalling a sorcerer, or one who practically only uses the sword.

We may also create a character of balanced proportions, who can do everything, but perhaps not as well as he could if we had taken a more extreme path of development.

In addition, considering the large number of skills associated with sword-fighting, even two players who decide to concentrate on developing the skill of swordplay might get very different characters in the final effect. One will have a super fast witcher with extremely precise strikes, whilst the other will have one who cuts off the head of the largest monster with one powerful stroke.
For the first of these players, fights with large and resilient opponents will be a challenge; for the second, it will be fights with small and agile monsters.

6. Multiple solutions. The quest video showed a very impressive display of options. Should we expect to see multiple solutions for most quests? Can you give us another example?

Yes, as mentioned above non-linearity and multiple solutions to any problem or quest are a huge part of the game. Most quests will offer multiple solutions. Another example is a task in which the player must get to a mysterious tower amid inaccessible swamps. Several groups, all squabbling with each other, live in the area of the swamps. All of them may assist Geralt reach his goal, but none of them will do it for free. Typically for our game, the player can choose the simple solution; that is, to declare himself on the side of one of the groups and reach the goal as quickly as possible. However, in the long term, it turns out that it would be much better to try to solve the problem from a neutral position and to reconcile the divided inhabitants.

7. Choices & consequences. CD Projekt has mentioned previously that different paths have different consequences, and that there are no right or wrong choices. Can you elaborate on that?

Because we present a fantasy world that has no true distinction between good and evil there really isn’t a right or wrong choice. The Witcher is morally ambiguous. Within the story there’s a large political struggle occurring between the races and Geralt is struggling with his own existence. As a lone wolf you are not affiliated with any group, but your reputation, based on your previous actions and choices, has a major impact your future actions and choices.

We will perhaps not give away the main plot of the game (although our decisions influence the plot as well). Let us concentrate on the example from the previous question – the groups of the swamps. Each of them (woodcutters, bricklayers and druids), for various reasons, has a quarrel with the others. Unequivocal support for one of the sides may lead to the slaughter of the other faction. Each of the sides has its justifications; none of them are indisputably “evil” and their claims against each other are justifiable.
This is not a choice between “being good” and “being evil”. We listen to all of the sides and make a difficult decision – which of them we should help.

8. Why did you decide to make The Witcher an action RPG? Do you believe that more traditional RPGs are harder to sell? Any concerns that the action fans might be turned off by the non-action elements, and the RPG fans would hate timing attacks and stringing combos?

The Witcher is a modern version of the classic story and role-based RPG experience recreated with stunning real-time tactically deep combat. In comparison to other games on the market we fall between the heavy hack and slash Action RPGs and the old school Traditional turn-based RPGs. We think people will enjoy the balance we are achieving. It’s harder to sell a new IP with an Action RPG slant these days, as a lot of games are headed that way and so the competition is tough. There’s not a lot of traditional RPGs, meaning focusing on a story and truly experiencing a role, so our first goal is to cover that. Then we add our combat system and we feel we have a product that is quite unique in the market. We think both the purists of action and traditional RPGs will be satisfied. So overall our genre is role-playing rather than Action RPG.

9. Dialogues. What dialogue/social skills are in the game and are they as effective as combat skills?

Several methods exist for influencing characters during dialogues, through which we can find out things that the person (for various reasons) would not normally tell us.
The first form of influence over a character is bribery. In Sapkowski’s world, very few of the characters are honourable, flawless knights (and all the rest of the characters disdainfully dismiss them as harmless fools anyway). Most of them only look out for themselves and their own survival. After receiving a small bribe they will turn a blind eye and let us into the city after dark, or show us where their master keeps his valuable objects.

The second way of getting information from somebody is by making friends with him over a drink. However, this is only possible in the inns and a strong head is needed to encourage our companion to become more talkative. Otherwise we end up with a hangover the next morning and without the information we wanted.

The third method is to use one of the Witcher Signs to daze the character we are talking to. This is a risky method – the target is likely to figure out what happened to him afterwards.

For some of the characters, none of these approaches will work and it will simply be necessary to gain their trust by helping them in their present problems.

10. How do mini-games such as boxing, drinking, gambling improve gameplay?

There are actually three types of mini-games. The first are those you mentioned. Drinking, gambling and fighting are mini-choices. It may be just one of the solutions you have available to you and you won’t know the outcome of your choice until you make it. These improve gameplay because it provides the player with a choice to play the role that they wish.

The second type of mini-games are focused on your weapons. We will have a part of the game where you can forge your weapons on your own. By doing this yourself rather than taking them to a shop to save time, you are actually improving them more. You will cause more damage and you can actually see your handiwork.

The third is a simple collectible dice game. Each of them adds depth and variety to the overall gameplay experience.

11. Any joinable factions in the game? If yes, what do they offer Geralt?

Geralt is a witcher, a lone wolf. Therefore, he cannot join any faction in the literal sense; after all, he is a Witcher right from the start. Nonetheless, decisions that we make during the game associate us with certain factions and place us in opposition to others. As a result of this, we can obtain access to skills, such as weapons, information, etc, that we would not have if we played in a different way.
The very plot of the game is also dependent on the choice of faction. If we decide to help one of them, certain quests, and paths associated with these quests, open up before us. Unequivocally opting for one of the sides also has an influence on the conclusion of the game.

12. It's been mentioned that some NPCs would join Geralt briefly from time to time. How do party mechanics work? What do party members have to offer the main character?

Because the Geralt character and specifically, the emotional connection of the player with him are very important to us, we have decided to leave friendly characters outside of his direct control. Nonetheless, they will help us, both in combat and in completing some tasks.

Depending on the character, they may simply fight by our side or support us in another way (healing, handing over objects, increasing our skills).

However, such occasions are rare – as we mentioned earlier, witchers are loners, and most people would hinder them in combat rather than help them. This role is reserved only for characters who are very important to the plot.

13. "We ourselves would probably be the closest to calling The Witcher a ‘medieval’ version of Fallout, mainly due to two similarities – nonlinearity and a mature world full of violence and eroticism." Can you explain this statement further?

There’s been a lot of different comparisons of our game to others because we are doing a lot of things. We are putting a big focus on providing an experience where gamers truly become involved in the story and the detail of playing a role. Some comparisons here would be some of the games from the late 90’s in the D&D universe. We are also providing the player with a mature story and structure of non-linearity.

You will have multiple choices and outcomes to each situation. Games from the former Black Isle Studios share some similarities. The final major point of consideration is the evolution of the combat system. We feel we are truly breaking new ground here with the tactical and stunning combat. So overall, we are a modern version of a classic RPG.

With regards to Fallout, it presented the story in a non-linear fashion and its world was focused on violence to a degree. As mentioned above our story line is presented in a non-linear way and our game world is not your typical fantasy with the good guys and the bad guys. But overall, our game deals with modern issues we face today and Fallout addressed that to a degree. It also focused on delivering a strong storyline, just as we intend to do.

Above all, we’d like to thank you for your comments! We would like to invite you to visit our website at www.thewitcher.com, and we’d also like to invite you to The Witcher Week, starting on the 19th of April, when we plan to publish a whole load of materials – a small warm-up before The Electronic Entertainment Expo E3 :)

Thank you!

Thank you, Joanna, for your time, efforts, and the screens



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