The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Interview

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published an interview with CD Projekt RED developers Jakub Rokosz and Michał Platkow-Gilewski obviously focused on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Why Geralt is now sporting a beard, a new interesting and Gothic-reminiscent surrender system for enemies, why they went open world and even more is all in the piece:
RPS: In other interviews, you've noted that you're paying close attention to the strengths and weaknesses of worlds like Skyrim. How so, though? Where do you think Bethesda and others most need to improve?

Michał Platkow-Gilewski: It's hard not to mention Skyrim, but I believe that our approach to our game is totally different. What they created was an open-world RPG. What we're doing is a story-driven RPG set in an open-world environment. For us, the most important aspect of the game is always the story. And by (story) I mean not only what's happening, but also the choices and consequences, the moral gray areas, the good or bad characteristics of the NPCs that make them believable. After you meet them, you'll remember who they are and why they do what they do. All that is the most important thing for us.

But this time we wanted to put all of that in an open world. It's a big challenge, but we've identified all the tricky parts of it, and we're working hard to give a great storytelling experience in this open world. As far as asking what will be the consequences of your actions, there will be a lot of them. You know Witcher 2. We want to bring all of our experience in this field and put it in an open-world environment. Bigger and smaller actions will all bring you to small or huge consequences.

It's enough to tell you that we're preparing three totally different epilogues depending on how you finish the game, with different choices somewhere in the middle. There will be 36 different states you can leave the world in. By states, I mean more significant changes, not every single change you're involved in.


RPS: You've said that the characters around the world are going to react to you, who you are, and what you've accomplished. One of the things that struck me about that is that Skyrim also did it. It was sort of an immersion killer for me sometimes. At one point I became the head of The Companions, and then I fast-traveled to the other side of the world and some random guard immediately knew who I was. There's no way they could've known that quickly. How are you executing that?

Jakub Rokosz: First of all, you're the Witcher. People who live in the Witcher's world, they know who the Witchers are.

Michał Platkow-Gilewski: Yeah. Basically, people react like that to the Witcher. This is the basic way they will react to you. As far as the consequences of your actions and the fast-travel thing, like you said. This is pretty tricky. You have to ask yourself a question. Do people care about a guild master from the other side of the world? I don't really know if this is even possible in this setup that we have.

What we prefer to do is an approach from micro to macro. Local communities, the most important thing to them is, do they have a potato on their plate? Do monsters eat their children every night or not? This is the important part of being a Witcher. This is what we want to focus on, the experience of being the Witcher. Of course you do have big things. You can do absolutely awesome things that you get recognition for. But the recognition is always justified, in my opinion.

RPS: Tech and resource limitations aren't exactly kind to open-world NPCs, though. They add flavor, certainly, but only up to a point. I mean, does the phrase (I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee) ring any bells? Because I'll probably go to my grave remembering it better than most of my childhood.

Michał Platkow-Gilewski: You could even see that in Witcher 2, to some extent. You have to re-use some assets. You can't get away with anything else, because otherwise your budget would just kill you. The difference is, how do you use them and how often do you use them? As you said, the arrow to the knee got overused to a point where it just became a meme, a funny thing on the internet.

But to be honest, I don't know how to answer the question. We are trying not to do that. We always try to make our characters and our world believable. But one day you'll have to judge whether we've done enough work on that or not. I believe that the guys from Bethesda weren't trying to create a meme there. It just happened. We aim to use that wisely. This is our goal, our approach we don't want anything to break the immersion in the game. Repetitive dialogue and text are a bit of an immersion breaker, so we try to minimize the damage.

RPS: What about unfriendly NPCs? Will they just be of the (Grrr, arrghh, murder, kill, whoops I died, oh god I'll never get to play violin again) variety? Or will there be a bit more to them?

Michał Platkow-Gilewski: While you're fighting with enemies, human enemies, they have a morale system. If you're strong enough and they feel like they're losing like if they outnumbered you at the beginning, but now there's only one of them still alive they'll start to go on defense. They'll be afraid of your swings. Then, ultimately, they'll surrender. When they surrender, you can either finish them or leave them alive. You can take their loot any time you want.