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Marcin Iwiński, the co-founder of CD Projekt RED, has recently taken a trip down memory lane in an extensive interview with Glixel. His company - which is now worth more than a billion dollars - started as just two friends pushing CDs on the Polish gray market. Due to some combination of financial prowess and luck, the two of the company's founders later graduated to being the official distributors of Warcraft II and Baldur's Gate in Poland, and the rest, as they say, is history. You can read all about how that happened, the Post-Soviet Poland of the 1990s and its gaming market, the reasons why The Witcher games are the way they are, and much more in this interview. Here's a snippet:
Going from The Witcher to The Witcher 2 to The Witcher 3, each game is more ambitious and more sophisticated.
Witcher 1 is very much – I don't like this word, but let's use it – a hardcore RPG, with a hard interface, with a lot of tough mechanics. I think it's a deep game on the story level, but still, if I were to have to play it from the beginning right now, I would probably have a hard time. Because I expect something else.
And so with The Witcher 2, we wanted to make it more cinematic. Having said that, when we shipped it, the PC version was extremely difficult, to put it lightly. I still remember one of the reviews in the U.S. where the journalist died in the prologue 50 times. And I was like, "Hmmm, I think we should rebalance it." It was a lesson learned.
With The Witcher 3, we really paid a lot of attention to immersion. This is really what we expect from games these days. Where we come from, Poland and Eastern Europe – and Germany, in a certain way as well – players have had always had a certain tolerance for hardcoreness, for clunkiness in interface. Let's say you have a game and you have to play with your hands crossed. "That's fine, I'm a tough guy. I'm smart. I'll play like that." And then, after you play like that for six hours, you think playing like that is cool.
While in the U.S., which we had to learn the hard way, it's: "If it's like that, then I'm not playing it; see you, thanks." It's like the way the country is constructed. It's user friendly. It's easily approachable. I totally agree with that, but it was a long way to get to this understanding. When I sit right now and watch a TV series or play a game, I have limited time. I have a family. I have three kids. I don't have time to learn the world for 10 hours in order to have another 20 hours of fun. I'm not talking about simplifying things. I'm talking about smart introductions and flawless immersion. That's what we are very much after in games. And I think Witcher 3 was a very important step in this direction. The commercial success proves it.