Ossian Studios Interview

GB: Before working on The Shadow Sun and somewhere between Darkness over Daggerford and Mysteries of Westgate, you also worked on an expansion pack for the original The Witcher called Scars of Betrayal. How did that project come about, exactly? Did CD Projekt RED approach you to develop the add-on?

Alan: Working on The Witcher franchise with CDPR was a great experience - they are such down-to-earth and passionate people. How it came about was that we were demoing Darkness over Daggerford at GDC 2007 because we'd won the Best RPG Mod award for our mod at the IGF, and Marcin Iwiński walked up to me to introduce himself. He said that BioWare had recommended Ossian Studios as a good developer to make post-release content for RPG games. Marcin was interested in creating additional content for The Witcher (a game that wouldn't be released for another 7 months), in the same way that the Premium Mods were made for NWN. We were excited about the idea and by the end of 2007 we had entered full production for Scars of Betrayal.

GB: What was its overall premise of The Witcher: Scars of Betrayal and what was Geralt's role to play in the storyline?

Alan: Scars of Betrayal (SoB) was a stand-alone story that didn't tie in with the main story of the original game. It was very much like one of the many monster-hunting adventures that Geralt had pursued in his extensive travels in Andrzej Sapkowski's books. As reference, Marcin sent me a book of Witcher short stories entitled The Last Wish, and these are what inspired me to write SoB's story.

Set in the Mahakam Mountains, to the east of Vizima, Geralt arrives in the small village of Kurcova, where trouble is afoot and not all is as it seems. This wasn't going to be a simplistic plot of (go to the cave to find and kill the monster) - Geralt was to be caught in a web of intertwined intrigue and complex interpersonal relationships, with tough choices to make. I wanted to give it the same flavour as the best of The Last Wish short stories and stay faithful to the lore. CDPR was very pleased with our story, and suffice it to say it involved werewolves. :)

GB: Was the add-on going to be set up primarily as additional post-completion content, or would it have added items, alchemical recipes, skills, and other elements to the base game upon a restart?

Alan: The expansion's focus was purely on the story and adventure, so we weren't adding in new kinds of recipes or skills. CDPR's aim was to give additional content for gamers to play after finishing the main game.

GB: Were you aware of the fact that there was a The Witcher: Outcast expansion also in development at the time that you were working on Scars of Betrayal? If so, were there any considerations you had to make in your add-on to accommodate for possible tie-ins or content overlap?

Alan: Yes, we were aware of it, but it factored very little into our development. I believe Roxidy (the devs of Outcast) had approached CDP about doing an expansion shortly after The Witcher's release in October 2007. But I'm pretty sure we had been the first developer CDPR reached out to for post-release content, with them even flying to Vancouver to show me the game in the Spring of 2007. So our expansion seemed to have been given first choice on story setting, monsters, etc.

GB: Why was Scars of Betrayal ultimately cancelled and how far was the project from completion at the time of cancellation? Was Outcast cancelled during the same timeframe, and was it closer or further away from completion in comparison to SoB?

Alan: In August 2008, Ossian and CDPR were gearing up to show Scars of Betrayal at Gamescom, and then I got *the* call out of the blue. The call was from Witcher producer, Tomasz Gop, regretfully informing me that they were cancelling all external Witcher development, including SoB and Outcast (which hadn't yet left pre-production, I was told). I was stunned.

The Witcher's lead designer actually disagreed with the decision, feeling that development of SoB was so far along (60% complete), it only made sense to take a few more months to finish it because release of The Witcher 2 would be years away. Yet what happened had nothing to do with SoB or Ossian but with CDP itself, as I found out a short while later that they were going through some very tough times and had even laid off a large number of their employees. This was the start of a difficult period for CDP, leading up to what's detailed in Eurogamer's article (Seeing Red,) about how CDP nearly collapsed in 2009. And so to this day, I don't blame CDP for what happened, but feel very sad that nobody will ever play Scars of Betrayal, which we felt was going to be awesome for Witcher fans.

GB: What's next for Ossian Studios? Now that you've made a name for yourself on the role-playing landscape and have a handful of titles under your belt, have you considered pursuing a crowd-funded title?

Alan: With The Shadow Sun released, things are looking more positive than they have in previous years. Gazing back along the rocky road Ossian has travelled, first with the cancellation of Darkness over Daggerford, then with Mysteries of Westgate being shelved for 19 months until April 2009, and then with Scars of Betrayal being cancelled, it almost feels like we were being guided towards making a game on our own with our own IP. I think we've established a great new fantasy setting in The Shadow Sun, reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian with Lovecraftian undertones, along with an excellent set of tools using the Unity engine, so this is something we'll definitely continue to pursue. And maybe crowd-funding will be in the cards.

GB: Thanks for your time, Alan! And readers, don't forget to check out the exclusive piece of concept art in our image gallery for the expansion!