The Witcher Interview

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:CD Projekt RED
Release Date:2007-10-30
  • Action,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric,Third-Person
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It would be very difficult to track down anyone who wasn't extremely happy with what they saw of CDProjekt's The Witcher when the small development studio revealed the RPG at last year's E3. Not only does the game use BioWare's impressive Aurora Engine, but it also has the RPG behemoth's support, with the company even closing off a section of their E3 booth just for CDProjekt's private showings. We've been watching this title very closely since we saw it firsthand in May, and even recently had the opportunity to quiz the team about some of the game's finer details - and get an exclusive look at the RPG's day & night cycles. Our questions and their answers to follow:

GB: Can you elaborate a bit about the character creation and advancement system? How do such systems compare or contrast to other RPGs?

CDProjekt: We wanted to merge the game's story with the truly unique world of Sapkowski's novels, so we decided to use a well-known existing hero to start with. Although the main character is predefined at the beginning, players will be free to change him later on depending on their choices and actions. Especially for our game we designed an exceptional and easy to comprehend rules system, with straightforward and open character development. We concentrate on '˜quality' not '˜quantity', so each level-up will bring something extra - new special attacks, witcher's magical powers or attribute modifiers. The system is designed in such a way that both inexperienced players and hardcore cRPG fans will find it enjoyable. Thanks to user-friendly interface and intuitive step-by-step tutorial, players will find the system easy to grasp in all its depth.

GB: What types of environments will the player travel through during their journey? Any particular favorite locations you can discuss?

CDProjekt: Outdoor locations and environments are both varied and unique players will visit unreachable mountain peaks, picturesque lakes, living towns, and many others. There are of course also many different interior locations - like deserted dungeons, cursed catacombs, smelly sewers, ruined castles and secret laboratories. The game makes use of advanced weather mechanics, as well as an extraordinary day & night lighting system players will be able to admire torch-lit nights in Vyzime, or spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the lake. You can catch a glimpse of the day and night effects in the exclusive screenshots included with this interview.

One of the most remarkable and important locations is Vyzime the capital city of Temerian kingdom. It's situated on a bank of a large lake, full of sailing merchant ships and fisher boats. The city consists of the ruined old town connected by a bascule bridge with the new flourishing district that surrounds the king's castle. On the lake there is a rocky island with a spooky ruined stronghold haunted by monsters. Vyzime is a living city and changes constantly in broad daylight it is full of people, action and sound - but at night, when the citizens go to sleep, it becomes a realm of thieves, murderers and even monsters.

GB: Tell us a bit about the magic system and how players will acquire spells. Are there a couple of the more powerful spells you can talk about?

CDProjekt: Just like with character development we prefer '˜quality' before quantity' - which is also true for Sapkowski's novels, where witchers have access to a limited number of spells. There are just a few Gestures (special kind of witchers' magic), but all of them can be used in different ways enriching gameplay offensive, defensive or simply buffing. For instance, the Aard Sign - a strong telekinetic burst of energy knocks enemies back, puts flames out, throws light objects into air, and destroys fragile items in vicinity. But with a little practice it can be also used for more delicate manipulations or some powerful effects like switching buttons at distances or smashing locked doors.

Still in the world of The Witcher there are powerful magic users - friends and enemies of our hero, who can cast some powerful spells.

GB: How important will equipment be to the character and will equipment found or purchased be static or random from game to game?

CDProjekt: There are lots of weapons (maces, axes, bows), but we want players to concentrate mostly on various kinds of swords, which are inherent witchers' weapons. All witchers are master swordsmen, trained in different aspects of sword combat. They usually use two swords silver one for killing monsters - and a normal sword for humans. Most of ordinary equipment will be created randomly during gameplay, but all rare and quest items are pre-generated, and can be either found, given or purchased in fixed locations.

GB: How many different magic items are you planning on implementing into the game?

CDProjekt: The world of The Witcher is not a place where every thug has an enchanted weapon. Magic is a very powerful, but uncommon and mysterious thing every magic item is somehow unique and individual, and is not meant to be just another bonus to stats.

The most important magic items in the game are witchers' pendants, which are good example of how we enchanted items in general. Most people in the game world think they are just guild symbols, but there are some who know that they allow to detect magic, enhance witcher's senses and have many other exceptional powers, which only witchers can use. In the game - like in Sapkowski's novels pendant is an identifying mark of the hero and we want to emphasize this element, for example in the GUI design.

GB: Can you give us a couple examples of some of the more powerful weapons and armor?

CDProjekt: Very good examples of such special weapons are sihils almost legendary dwarven swords of extraordinary quality. Thanks to high technology (in terms of the game world) of their production, and enhancing them with powerful charms, they are almost indestructible, razor sharp weapons, capable both of cutting stones in half and deflecting hostile spells. Some of them have also magical runes inscribed on their blades, with an old and very effective dwarven curse - roughly translated as (Die, you bloody bastards).

GB: When we saw the game at this year's E3, you showed us how the player will encounter NPCs that don't fit traditional fantasy stereotypes - such as a good-natured Necromancer who only dabbles in the art to try and resurrect his dead wife. Can we expect other aspects of the game to deviate from traditional RPGs?

CDProjekt: The world of The Witcher is a creation of a best selling Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski. It has features common to most fantasy worlds magic, different races and monsters but is completely unique in breaking all stereotypes. There is no abstract idea of good and evil all characters have their own human motivations, needs, habits and emotions. We can't tell what exactly will happen in the game, but we are trying to be as close as possible to showing all the world features.

For example in the novels elves can be viewed both as ruthless terrorists or idealistic freedom fighters in the world dominated by humans. Another example of deviating from stereotypes is when the hero encounters a party of brave and charming warriors who defend poor women and children. Soon it turns out that they also kill rich merchants for money without any hesitation. Moreover, one of the best friends of our monster slayer is. a very ancient and powerful vampire. In the same way we want the game to stand out against stereotypical fantasy.

GB: Will the game be split into multiple Acts/Chapters, or will the player have access to the entire world at all times? Also, do you plan on having cutscenes in the game to help narrate the storyline?

CDProjekt: During the process of bringing the vast and rich world of the novels into the game, we had to decide which parts of it would be available for the player. As we have chosen locations that are quite far away from each other, we have put them into different Chapters. However it still will be possible to freely travel back to previously visited locations.

Travel between locations and generally world exploration is solved in the way similar to that of Baldur's Gate saga. While traveling around, players will discover new places that will appear on the map screen and will be freely accessible from there.

Recently we have finished implementing a complex and very advanced scripting editor, which allows us to produce movie-like quality cut-scenes.

GB: Have you set any goals in terms of the enemy AI in the game? Are there any particular strategies that monsters will be using against the player?

CDProjekt: Monster AI is a crucial part of our game each creature will fight in its own way and players' task will be to find their weaknesses in order to defeat them. It's not only limited to mere combat - monsters AI will also behave in different ways depending on their habits, aggression level and even the day/night cycle.

As far as human NPCs are concerned, they will behave as naturally as possible, which means defending each other when attacked, going to sleep at night, and reacting accordingly to hero's reputation. The player will interact with NPCs, but they will also have their own dealings they can talk, trade, or even steal stuff from other NPCs. For example it will be possible to watch everyday life in the city - usual activities of the citizens, and some more unusual as well. The player will be able to observe a thief stealing something from a merchant, and then track him alone or ask city guard for help. He might also follow him, waiting until the thief has stolen more goods, and then defeat him claiming a big prize.

We'd like to issue our thanks to everyone at CDProjekt, especially Michal Kicinski and Michal Madej, for taking the time to answer our questions! While you're here, don't forget to check out our exclusive day/night cycle article for the game as well.