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
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
With The Witcher already having hit store shelves in Europe last week and just making its way into North American stores this week, we sat down with chief designer Michal Madej to get his last-minute thoughts about the team's debut title. Read on:

GB: You've devoted over five years to The Witcher.  How does it feel to finally finish it and get it into gamers' hands?

Michal: I can only speak for myself, however I think the same feelings apply to most of our team members. We're certainly relieved that it's finally finished and on shelves. On the other hand, we a bit apprehensive of so many things will gamers like the story and graphics, or will they find some bugs we unfortunately somehow missed? We are also still working; the game is finished but we have a lot of plans for The Witcher and there are a lot of things to do now. We're really eager to see reactions in North America and around the world -- it's really important for us.

GB: Looking back, is there anything about the game's development hat you would have liked to change?  Were you forced to remove features or cut any content due to cost or time constraints?

Michal: As with all major games, we had to cut some of what was optimistically planned at the beginning of development we wanted to have even better graphics, a more advanced engine, bigger world, more cut-scenes, etc. From one point of view it's sad, but on the other hand, we have something to do in the future. I'd personally choose to give more freedom in world exploration, because while the engine and the control scheme we inherited with it may be intuitive and easy to learn, they are slightly limited.

GB: On the flip side, what aspects of The Witcher are you most proud of?  What do you feel are the game's greatest strengths?

Michal: I think that we can be proud of almost every aspect we have a charismatic hero, stunning visuals, great music, exciting combat, deep character development and a captivating storyline. However what I find most important and what I think is the game's greatest strength, is that it's a fresh, modern and sometimes surprising approach to traditional fantasy role-playing that is still familiar and not confusing. It's like your favorite dish you've love since childhood, served with a new spice that makes it taste slightly different, but still delicious. I hope people will like The Witcher, as it's definitely a traditional role-playing game, and that they will appreciate that it's not another typical clone of some old classic.

GB: Which games would you say influenced and/or inspired you the most during development of The Witcher?

Michal: We were inspired by all classical RPGs with great stories, like Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, KotOR and the quite underestimated Vampire: Bloodlines. We were greatly influenced by the Gothic series, especially the feeling of a living world, freedom of choice and the realistic fantasy theme. But as it comes to combat, we realized we are much closer to console action-adventure games like God of War with exciting, spectacular and fast-paced battles, rather than turn-based combat or mindless clicking. Finally we always wanted to achieve user-friendliness and intuitiveness of great Blizzard titles like Diablo. We also were tracking some mistakes made in other games, just to be sure we will avoid them.

GB: How difficult was it to come up with a unique combat system that worked, kept the player's interest, and looked realistic all at the same time?

Michal: It was difficult, as we didn't have any example in a role-playing game of how to make it. Honestly, there isn't any other RPG that has a combat system which combines excitement, fast-paced action and tactical choices, and is which is easy to use at the same time. It took almost a year and a half to create the prototype, and even then it was tweaked almost till the end of development. The last major change was done a few weeks before the final beta version, and was based on focus tests done in USA. However we are sure we achieved success with the combat design, as we've had a lot of positive feedback, and gamers have reported it to be even (addictive). Nothing more to say.

GB: The Witcher takes place in an unforgiving world with a lot of mature-themed content, including prostitution, political corruption, racism, and an abundance of violence.  Did Atari or anyone else ever express any concern over such content during the game's development?  Or were you given total freedom to do justice to the world depicted in Sapkowski's novels?

Michal: One of the reasons we decided to work with ATARI was their full understanding of the game idea and theme. They never insisted on any changes of the mature-themed content, and they were very encouraging throughout development. Nowadays, the average American gamer is over 30 years old, and we developers should stop treating customers as stupid kids; they naturally deserve mature and intelligent games! Most publishers still think with stereotypes - before signing contract with ATARI we spoke with almost all major publishers in USA and Europe, and some of them even wanted to make Geralt a sexy Elvish girl!

GB: How much impact did BioWare have on the final product and what role will they play going forward?  As part of your licensing agreement for the Aurora Engine, will they be helping with promotion, patch optimizations, or anything of that nature?

Michal: One of the reasons we decided to use the BioWare Aurora Engine was our close relations with guys from BioWare. We had a long-lasting cooperation, we published their games in Central Europe, and Baldur's Gate was the first fully localized game in Poland. During development we sent them our code changes in the engine, and at the beginning of the development they also positively reviewed some early design documents, which gave us confidence to carry on that way. They really helped us to understand some basic rules of game development, market and publishing in US. As for the future, we are still in close contact, but no decisions have been made officially what will be next. I think that now we are more an equal to them than we were four years before, and it also requires different model of cooperation.

GB: The Polish special edition version of The Witcher features a soundtrack containing several songs written by popular Polish bands (including Vader's "Sword of the Witcher").  How did this collaboration come about?  Are there any plans to bring the soundtrack to North America or elsewhere?

Michal: It was quite easy The Witcher has a huge number of fans in Poland, so it's not too strange that several really great bands wanted to make music inspired by the books and the game. Even the guys in Vader are dedicated gamers, and they were really happy to work with The Witcher song. It was just matter of selecting the best songs for the soundtrack. As for North America and other territories we are not a publisher there to have any plans about that. If ATARI or some other company wants to publish the soundtrack we are ready to cooperate.

GB: What are your plans for supporting The Witcher over the short-term and long-term?  Aside from fixing any bugs that creep up, is there a possibility that we might see any free or fee-based downloadable content for the game?

Michal: The Witcher is on shops' shelves, but we didn't stop working on it. I can't say anything right now just be patient, and you won't be disappointed. The Witcher story is not over and we will do our best to keep it alive.

GB: Where would you like to take The Witcher franchise moving forward?  Assuming the game meets your sales goals, is there a good chance we'll see an expansion pack and/or sequel?

Michal: We are still working, but I can't give you any details right now. The game can offer hundreds of hours of gameplay, with different paths, character specializations and endings. Until you experience everything possible in The Witcher, there is no reason to tell about future plans. Just enjoy the game right now!

Thanks Michal, we will!