The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings 2.0 Changelog and Interview

We have good news to report for fans of CD Projekt RED's The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. First of all, CD Projekt has release on their official website the changelog for the "new & improved version 2.0" of the title. It's a fair share of fixes and new features, some of which, like the new Arena Mode and Dark Mode difficulty level have already been described at length, so here's a snippet:
Corrections and improvements to combat:

1. Numerous improvements have been made in the targeting system.
2. Parrying is now unlimited (even when Vigor is completely depleted), though parries no longer cancel all damage (maximum 50% reduction once the relevant ability has been acquired).
3. Responsiveness of game controls has been improved. This includes but is not limited to casting Signs, parrying, and attacking immediately after evading an opponent'Ÿs assault.
4. Geralt'Ÿs attacks are no longer interrupted by attacking opponents. Attacks are now contiguous and foes cannot interrupt Geralt'Ÿs attacks by landing a blow.
5. Assorted fixes now prevent opponents from incessantly attacking Geralt after he has been knocked down. Geralt can no longer be knocked down repeatedly in quick succession. Also, he rises quickly while evading subsequent attacks.
6. Geralt no longer attacks opponents located behind other opponents positioned nearer to him.
7. The target locking system has been improved. Preference is now given to previously highlighted targets.
8. Target selection has been improved. Priority is now given to foes affected by a critical effect facilitating the completion of a finishing move.
9. The additional two steps Geralt took after mounting an attack with the W, S, A or D key depressed have been eliminated.
10. Attacks can now be continued even when a key controlling Geralt'Ÿs movement (e.g. W, S, A, D) is depressed.
11. Attacks can now be continued if the attack key is depressed immediately after the final strike of an attack animation sequence.
12. Geralt can now pivot 180 degrees immediately after completing an attack.
13. Assorted problems with key responsiveness have been resolved. Keys no longer need to be depressed twice or more to trigger a given action.
14. A distance attack problem has been resolved. Geralt now mounts distance attacks (lunge with sword in hand in the Fast style) when opponents were located at a suitable distance from him.

In addition to that, Rock, Paper, Shotgun chatted with development director Adam Badowski, the principal subject being the release of the 2.0 patch and what it brings to the table for players. This is an extremely good and informative read, so if you have time, do yourself a favor and check it out. Here's a snippet:
RPS: What was the mood in the studio like once The Witcher 2 had shipped? Was it relief at having shipped, or a feeling that there was more work to do? A mix of both?

I'd say it was a mix of both. We were very pleased with the final shape of the game, but at the same time we knew there were things that could be improved. So, even before the release, we decided that we would continue working hard to make the game even better after release. Once the game was released, we slowed down, but not by much. Instead of working nearly 24/7, we went to working, say, 12/6. That's still quite a lot. Of course, some team members took time off after working extremely hard for many months, but most of the team continued to work. That's why we were able to release several patches so soon after the release and in relatively quick succession almost one after the other, in fact. And that is why we will soon be releasing version 2.0, which is very big update of the game and here we are just 4 months after release!

Actually, this crazy pace of ours has had one rather negative side effect. Namely, some people think the game was really buggy or unfinished. They got this impression when they saw the number of improvements we implemented after release. Some (game industry experts) even suggested that we should produce fewer patches, or at least refrain from mentioning all the corrections and changes in the readme files, as this creates the impression that the game was unfinished. That's just the wrong way of thinking to me, and it goes against our company values. Hiding facts? Taking a manipulative stance towards our customers? Come on that's pure bullshit!

Of course, the game wasn't perfect. It had its strengths and weaknesses. Yet even with the version as initially released, I'm confident in saying that we achieved a level of quality well above the average we see coming from the games industry these days. I think it's important that we reacted so quickly to all the comments. There were things that needed improvement, and I'd say that 80% of them have already been, or will be improved with version 2.0. So, we're getting closer and closer to a really super polished gaming experience, and that's not a common beast in our industry.

There was one thing that proved a huge thorn in our side at release. It was the Internet architecture put in place to support online registration. The external company that provided all that proved to be insufficiently prepared. We had to react very quickly servers were replaced and the first patch was released. We severed relations with the third party provider and adopted a different solution, relying more heavily on internal resources. Also, we simplified the installation process by removing DRM with our first patch (the fallout from this has included being sued by our publisher in French court, but I remain confident that we made the right decision).

To summarize, we're happy with our success. The original Witcher retains a Metacritic average of around 81, The Witcher 2 has a score of 87. Of course, it would be nice to have even higher scores, but it's also good to have room for improvement. And constantly raising the bar is one of our goals.

On another note, we're still learning one very important thing: Producing better games is not just about knowing what constitutes a better game. It's also about creating a business set up which makes that possible, a set up in which, for example, quarterly or annual financial results are not a key factor in determining a release date. None of that is easy, because under current standard set ups, developers have little to say. Publishers remain masters of the situation, and their decisions are quite often driven by corporate priorities that may actually be harmful to the development process. That's why we would rather rely on our own financial resources, and why our model for cooperating with publishers has been slowly evolving from a publishing to a distribution arrangement under which we retain sole responsibility for key decisions. I'm pretty sure this will help us make even better games in the future and avoid being sued for decisions that favor our customers (two of the three charges made by our publisher relate to this: removal of DRM and of obligatory IP geolocation on