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GB: Since we haven't spoken with you for several months, can you give us an update on how development is coming along on The Witcher? Have you ran into any unforseen obstacles or reached any major milestones lately? Any plans for a release date yet?
CD Projekt: The development process goes smoothly and effectively. Lately, we've been working on the E3 version of the game, which we'll present during the Expo. Quite a number of new locations and features are actually finished and are being polished at the moment. As far as milestones are concerned, we're glad to say that the E3 version will be one of them, and will include nearly every feature we intend to implement into the final product. At the same time, we are constantly increasing the number of our crew, which by now comprises a group of over 40! Thus the development process proceeds faster than planned.
The large crew allows us to realize the most ambitious plans and ideas and avoid obstacles quickly and efficiently. Nonetheless, there's still loads of work ahead, that is why we'd rather keep the release a secret.
Another important achievement was surely the implementation of various Aurora modifications. The graphics produced by '˜our' Aurora are unbelievably atmospheric and realistic. They are in fact indescribable, one has to see the game to understand what I mean. :)
GB: Do you keep in touch with BioWare on a regular basis on the progress of The Witcher, or is their involvement with the game (other than the engine) been very minimal? Will they play any part in publishing or distributing the game?
CD Projekt: We're constantly in touch with BioWare. And they have supported us greatly with their knowledge and experience since the very beginning. We've received numerous hints and suggestions concerning not only the Aurora Engine, but also the most vital issues concerning the mechanics of an RPG design process. Whenever we appear at BioWare which by the way does not happen too often, due to a 28-hour-long flight several people comment on our work, providing us with precious ideas and advice. The help we receive is priceless and the longer our co-operation lasts, the more convinced we are, that one can create a powerful development company basing on friendship and other basic virtues.
As far as BioWare's involvement in The Witcher's publishing or distribution goes, I am unable to reveal any of the information. The business matters take time and are not to be rushed. Soon a time will come for further announcements.
GB: How much focus has there been on the story-telling aspect of The Witcher? Can we expect to see lengthy amounts of dialogue with each major NPC and perhaps information about the storyline provided through in-game books or manuals?
CD Projekt: The storyline is a crucial element of the gameplay. It divides into two separate levels. One of them, the epic one revolves around the history of the Kingdom of Temeria, struggle for power, intrigues and mysterious plots. It is strongly interwoven into the history of the lands, where numerous forces collide. The other one surrounds the main character, concentrating on the pursuit of ones identity, complicated interpersonal relations and finding one's way in the never-ending conflict between the worlds forces and political powers. Geralt the protagonist is a renown and mighty warrior, therefore, his role in the whirl of events is often crucial. Especially, that everyone would gladly see him by their side.
The game is filled with crucial and peripheral NPC's providing us with loads of intriguing and involving conversations, bursting with humor and allowing the player to dive into the ambience of the world. On the other hand, we're far from flooding the players with thick volumes and thousands of pages of no greater significance. Instead, we'd rather have the players (e.g.) visit haunted, long-forgotten battlefields and talk to the ghosts of the once-gallant warriors. It is them, who know the history of the lands better than anyone else, and they are to present us with it in a most profound way.
GB: Since the game takes place in the setting created by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, how much involvement has he had with the game? Do you consult with him on a regular basis on the direction you're taking the game?
CD Projekt: Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski accepted the storyline of our game. Additionally, we consult with him on a regular basis whenever any concerns about the scenario and the plot arise. Not so long ago our Senior Designer contacted Mr. Sapkwoski to debate on various ideas, not only the crucial ones, but some background ones too. For example, and this was one of our questions, how old can a character be, who only once appeared in the novel. or. is there a chance that some of the characters could have gotten married? Funny thing is, we foresaw the master's intentions perfectly, so it did not take long before he let us marry the aforementioned charactersJ. As you can see, the meticulous analysis of the novel lets us create a game faithful to the books, their ideas and specific atmosphere.
GB: Tell us about the game's cities, such as Vyzime and Maribor. Will such cities be filled with NPCs to converse with, including merchants to purchase and sell equipment? Will the character be able to enter some/most/all of the city's buildings, perhaps even for thieving purposes?
CD Projekt: The cities in our game will be crowded and full of life, well. apart maybe from the Old Vyzime decimated by the plague ;). During our travels we'll have a chance to meet lots of NPC's, varying from common townsfolk, guardsmen, thugs, burglars to members of aristocratic families. The player will have an opportunity to interact with all of them, though not every inhabitant of the world will be willing to talk. Thus, from time to time, we'll be. forced to use less verbal ways of communication :). Regarding the buildings, the player will be able to enter and visit most of them and take the things he'll find, yet not without consequence. Once you're caught red-handed, the townsfolk will be glad to tip off the guards. On various occasions the player will have to inquire about certain people or their whereabouts. The main factor restraining us from entering all the buildings is the storyline, therefore, some places will only be accessible at a certain point and time.
I think the crucial thing is that we've managed to create a flesh-and-bone, realistic world teeming with life. Knowing the habits of certain individuals in the game, we will be able to plan our actions. Why, for example, not break into somebody's apartment while they're having fun in the nearest tavern?
GB: What effect will the day and night cycles have on the game? For example, will fatigue set in after a certain time or will it become more dangerous to travel during the night?
CD Projekt: The day and night cycles will influence the gameplay greatly. First of all, some of the quests will only be achievable at night, e.g. slaying the monster, who appears only after the darkness has spread over the lands. Such quests will be numerous. Nights will generally be the time of dangers, even in the cities, where all kinds of scum, be it burglars or even murderers, wander the streets after the sunset. When tipsy, the player should also watch his back, for the city guards patrol the streets, canning every suspicious individual. Obviously, outside the city walls one can expect various beasts to appear. The NPC's will as well act accordingly with the day and night cycles, following their daily routines during the day, and resting after dusk.
GB: Will most of the game take place on the surface, or will we be spending a lot of time exploring crypts, catacombs, and other dungeons? Care to give us an example of such a dungeon?
CD Projekt: The underground' locations make about 30% of the game's world, so most of our travels will be across the surface. This however, does not mean that towns, villages or forests are safer than caves and ancient catacombs. At night they too, may pose a grave threat to our hero. One of most terrifying and dangerous locations is far from being under ground. I mean the Swamps spreading around the Old Vyzime. The route that leads through them has been closed by the king, due to various dangers and threats it posed. Thus, one of the villages remains cut off from the civilized land, and the villagers are forced to use boats only to get to the city.
GB: How many different magic items will be available throughout the game, and will most of these be found via exploration or from merchants? Any favorite weapons or armor that you can share the statistics and/or background to?
CD Projekt: In the world of The Witcher magic, and magical items are not as common as in a typical fantasy world. Each of the magical items will have its history and meaning. a legend behind, that will explain its origins and unique powers magically interwoven into its structure. Two most important of them are of course the Witcher's Wolf Amulet and a silver sword, indispensable attributes of a monster-slayer. Without his amulet, the Wicher would be unable to use high-level magical powers and detect magic. The silver sword may occur the only efficient anti-monster blade.
GB: Since The Witcher is known as a swordsman, will we be using a sword through most of the game, or will other weapon types be available? If other types are useable, will The Witcher be as proficient with them as he is with the sword?
CD Projekt: There will be a wide range of weapons available in The Witcher apart from various swords, the main character will be able to use axes, knives and torches, not to mention the self-made '˜bombs'. Many weapons possess features effective in certain situations, though of course the Witcher will not be as skilled with a hammer, as he would be with a sword. It's naturally much easier to stun your enemy with a cudgel. And the axes increase the opportunity of acquiring monsters' intestines - used in potion production.
GB: Tell us a bit about the monster AI in the game. Will some of the smarter opponents utilize any types of strategies against the player?
CD Projekt: There will be basically two categories of opponents In the game monsters and people (or rather humanoids, including dwarves and elves). Not only do they differ in certain attributes, but also in strategies and tactics used during combat. Some of the opponents are swift and agile, they try to keep the threat at bay and counterattack abruptly, pouncing around. Others are slow, yet attack with immense power, not to mention they're resistant to hits and injuries. Then there are of course swarms of beasts (and groups of people) using team tactics, and supporting each other with backline ranged weapons and spells.
GB: We've seen quite a few RPGs lately that have a "good" and "evil" route that influences many aspects of the game. Will The Witcher incorporate such alternate routes and choices? If so, what effect will such choices have on NPC interaction or even the character's abilities?
CD Projekt: You should not expect a clear division between .ood' and .vil' in The Witcher. In other words, the possible ways to completing many quests base rather on personal choices and alliances of powers. It is of course up to the players, whether they chose to take sides, decide what's right or wrong, or simply despise what and whom they wish. Nonetheless, no choice will ever be a question of .ood' and .vil'. '˜light' and '˜darkness'.
GB: Will there be multiple endings to The Witcher, perhaps influenced by some of the choices the player has made earlier in the game?
CD Projekt: Very much so. At the moment we're planning three different endings. The ending we'll see will be entirely dependant on the deeds and actions we decided to take in the game. We are sure this will be the reason, many of the gamers will gladly return to The Witcher, a cause of its tilt and longevity. Many will be curious to see whether the things they'd done could have happened differently if (at a certain time) decided or planned otherwise. I myself (playing the test version) was hell-curious of my choices and the events they'd trigger :).
GB: Once you've finished development on The Witcher, what is next for CD Projekt RED? Do you intend on furthering development of The Witcher, perhaps with an expansion or sequel, or do you think you'll move on to an all-new project?
CD Projekt: At the moment we're so much concentrated on The Witcher, that it's hard to plan ahead. To put it hmm. quite intuitively and unofficially, I would not be surprised if we decided to continue tinkling with the world of The Witcher. We have already put so much heart and work into the project. It would simply be difficult to abandon the idea just like that. During our work we've come up with a bunch of crazy ideas concerning the world of The Witcher, some of them I am sure would be much rewarding if introduced into being!
Meanwhile, I'd like to thank you for reading, support and interest in our game.
Thanks for answering our questions, guys! For more information about The Witcher, keep your eyes on our very own subsite dedicated to the game and CD Projekt's official website.