The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was announced officially to support next-gen game consoles (and PC) by Polish game developer CD Projekt Red at the recent E3 2013 conference. The highly ambitious project takes the world of The Witcher into a full blown open world RPG, purportedly to be 35 times the size of the previous Witcher game. Set for release in 2014 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Witcher 3 will be the third and final installment of the franchise.
During an in-person behind-the-scenes demo at E3, the folks at CD Projekt Red and specifically Game Director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz took time to talk to Executive Editor Sean Gibson and Associate Editor Ben Sheene about how big The Witcher 3 will be, what elements will set it apart from previous games in the genre and what fans can expect when the title finally releases. If you haven’t read it already, be sure to check out our official news piece about The Witcher 3 being announced for Xbox One.
Sean: Sean Gibson, E3 2013. I’m here at the CD Projekt Red booth and we just saw the The Witcher 3, I’m joined by Associate Editor Ben Sheene.
Sean: I am here with Konrad, could you introduce yourself and your role with The Witcher 3 team?
Konrad: Yes of course, my name is Konrad Tomaszkiewicz I am game director of The Witcher 3.
Sean: The Witcher 2 was one of the highest rated RPG games back when it was released. When you take that leap to Next-Gen there is always a concern from the fans to see if your team is up for the task. With The Witcher 3 you’ve announced that you are making a game 35 times bigger than the previous one, so when is so much, too much?
Konrad: The most important thing is to know is what you are allowed to do and to know the borders of your skills. We have talked about doing open world back from The Witcher and we love open world games. We don’t want to play another open world game which would be empty and just open, because there is no point to do that. That’s why we are learning how to create this storyline which [greatly] involve [players].
It will give you the feeling that it’s real, which will create emotions [for players] with the world. We will give you choices and the consequences which will be not in black and white but shades of both. I can say that we learned how to do this in the first and second Witcher. Now that we know this part of the game, we want to add something to it and in my opinion the perfect RPG is one which will combine those two elements – an open word game and a story-driven game.
For me it’s very important because I got this dream that if we will do this and show it to people and people will love it, we will change the industry. I also want to play games like this. I don’t want games where there is an open world where I can run and so on and so on. I’m not emotionally involved with the events and with characters. It is very important for me to guard this story because I don’t know maybe I am only one kind of player but I need the story to feel special when I finish the game.
It’s like watching a cool movie, but in this case you can change this movie. It’s cool and in my opinion it’s not only on a Next-Gen game but it will be Next-Gen entertainment. I think it’s cool because games are something more – it’s not passive entertainment. You need to think what you are doing, you need to have some skills to play and it involves you in some way. I am very happy that it’s going this way.
Sean: I think the biggest thing I learned about The Witcher 3 from watching the presentation is how ambitious this project is, that you have a ton of story coming from great source material that you are going off of. You have incredible graphics and you are going to be going to Next-Gen systems, and on top of that I have been hearing approximately 100 hours of game play with 50 of that dedicated to the core main storyline. Talk a little bit about the story development and just how immersed it is … You touched on this already a little bit. How do you balance being able to put in great side quest with great mainline story?
Konrad: It’s really, really hard and putting it in an open world; it’s even harder. Because the main challenge is that you need to make intensity in the storyline. In the open world it’s harder because you got bigger disturbances and you can forget what you need to do from point to point. That’s why we put in quests that are longer and placed in smaller areas.
When we are telling players to move from point to point, through some other location or other area in the world, and you are going there, we are going to put points of interest in your way. We don’t want players to be bored, it’s not good when you’ve got an open world game with nothing between the points of destination. We’ve got these points of interest and these points are created to use a player’s inner motivation.
In the second Witcher we just give you a quest. We told you you need to go ‘there’ and do something. In The Witcher 3, you will be rewarded if you will explore the world. Every time you will go to this point, I think directly you will find relevant contact, quests, monster hunting events or other activities. Everything is handcrafted, which means that it will be connected to the world and will get a meaning. Regarding this feature we looked to the storybooks, the animated movies in this world, which help you remember what you’ve done in the storyline and what you need to do next.
It’s very, very good because you can, after some exploration or after some fight scenes, simply look back to the main storyline and know where you are. I think this is the main idea.
Sean: One of the most fun elements of The Witcher franchise is combat and that’s always one thing that’s really separated Witcher from some of the other action RPG series. We saw a little bit of the advanced combat system and taking on four or five enemies at one time, especially with a boss monster or even an ultimate monster. There are some advanced dynamics that you are able to tap into I imagine because of the Next-Gen hardware?
Konrad: Yes, first of all we use much more animations we used in the The Witcher 2. Second of all we got a really genius designer who is only developing the combat. Now we’ve got a main defensive system between the The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3. In The Witcher 2 we had sequences [where] one attack was a sequence of an animation. It worked for two, three or four moves. It was cool, it looked cool but it wasn’t as responsive as you want it to be.
You cannot break [the attack] or do stuff like you wanted to do in the game. Now one animation is one attack, and that means that every animation has got the same timing, less than one second. That means that you can break the sequence in every moment and do other stuff or attack someone who is behind you or trying to surround you. The other thing is that you’ve got directional attack. That means that you’ve got different animations if you’ve got enemies around you.
We have a new combat camera which is more intelligent than the one in The Witcher 2 as we try to show you every enemy at the proper magnitude. Now it’s harder for NPCs to surround you and jump on your back and you always can attack him with the animations and target to him. We also fixed the targeting system and in the future we will introduce new abilities.
Also we will enhance the development to revise capabilities which will use stamina but give you some advantage in combat like a group attack or going on the back on the enemy. Of course if you are going on the back of enemy you make a bigger damage to him and other stuff. It’s quite complex but it’s easy to learn in the beginning and you master it [over] time.
Ben: I know in The Witcher 1 combat was more tactical, more focused, you had fast style, strong style, group style. In the second, I think it evolved more to help out with consoles, press a button you attack strong. Do you think you’ve evolved the combat perfectly in this game?
Konrad: Yes I hope so, we try to combine these two approaches, from the first and second games and now you’ve got these tactical abilities which allow you to control the fight [depending] on which monster you fight. If the monster is very fast you need to use fast style because you will not hit him. If you’ve got huge monster you can wait for the [right] moment and give him more damage with strong style.
We’ve got another feature we are introducing in the future, we call it the Witcher Sense System and you saw in the monster hunting demo but it’s got another use in combat. It’s used because Geralt is a monster hunter, a mutated human who got better eyes, ears and so on.
Also it will give you information about a monster’s weak points. If you have knowledge about him you know which muscle you need to hit or how to hit the sensitive spot. You can weaken him and the whole fight will be easier.
Ben: One of my favorite parts in the original was you would read books, you would talk to NPCs and they would tell you about certain plans like alchemy ingredients, or tell you certain things about monsters. It’s like uncovering this big secret, like going on this almost mini-quest to take down a difficult enemy.
Konrad: Every monster has their own background and their own abilities. It is going to give you a feeling that you are a real monster hunter. It’s very important for us to take monster hunting to the highest level. Because I think that the uniqueness of the character is that he is a monster slayer, that he is a Witcher, a mutant. We need to show it fully in this game, because this is the last game [in the series].
Sean: A couple of quick final questions here. In our demo it said pre-alpha but I will be honest it looked pretty good. It doesn’t seem like you guys are too far off.
Konrad: It’s like that because we knew that we need to do some presentations for E3 and we chose one [specific] quest from the game. It’s working very well because our programmers are really cool and very good. We got plenty of time to finish the game. We are still maybe in the half of the alpha.
Sean: A lot of Witcher fans out there very excited for 2014, what message would you like your company to give to them based off of what you are showing at E3?
Konrad: Support us and we will give you the best game possible and for sure we care about you, especially now that we got a cool huge game. Everyone knows it. We still remember all our fans, we will continue our work and after releasing The Witcher 3 give you enhancements to the game. If your choice is to play on the consoles you can buy the game and play on it, it’s your choice. We really appreciated your support because we are gamers and we love the games and we want to make games which give real entertainment.
Sean: All right, Konrad, thank you for joining us.
Konrad: Thank you very much.