After a lengthy presentation of the game at E3, which you can read more about in our preview, we spoke to lead producer on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Piotr Krzywonosiuk.
He offered an insightful look into what they’re doing to extend the game to newcomers, telling us the basic parts of the story, and even discussing the fact that this was the first title in the series on PlayStation. Further down the line, we discussed the challenges they’ve faced and the freedom of the open world found in the game.
TSA: What can you tell us about the plot of Wild Hunt? Does it follow on directly from The Witcher 2 or is it a separate story?
Piotr: The game starts roughly six or so months after the events of The Witcher 2, and basically that’s all I can tell you…
Not without spoiling it, anyway… this time it’s small, close and personal, and all about Geralt. In The Witcher 2 it was all about events, war was about to happen, and that’s basically how we leave the game. And in Wild Hunt it’s more about Geralt and his personal story, about the search for his loved ones.
TSA: And this takes place on the backdrop of war, which is ravaging this land?
Piotr: That’s right.
TSA: This is the first time you’ll be on PlayStation, so have you felt the need to keep things simple for those people for whom this will be the first game in the series?
Piotr: Absolutely. The Witcher 3 is the game to start your adventure with the series if you haven’t played before. It doesn’t require any knowledge of the previous games, but if you’ve played the previous titles, that’s better because you will understand some of the nuances of the universe, but it’s not necessary.
So basically, this is a really good moment for the PlayStation players to start with the series, hell, maybe if they loved the game, they’ll go back to the previous ones on different platforms.
TSA: On that topic, is there perhaps a chance that there will be re-releases of The Witcher 1 & 2 down the line? Or is that not something that’s on the cards?
Piotr: I’m not sure if I can comment on this… probably not.
TSA: With the PS4 and Xbox One, how is performance coming along on these new consoles? It must be difficult to get up to speed.
Piotr: It’s a challenge, of course. We’ve always been good with storytelling, that’s what The Witcher 1 & 2 were about – the immersive story – and with Wild Hunt, we want to take it to the next level, and merge our experience of story with an open world, to create the ultimate RPG.
So in terms of the question, it’s obviously a challenge. We are right now at a point where we are trying to optimise the game, on all platforms, but so far so good. And hopefully it’s going to be a great game on all platforms.
TSA: Is the world going to be fully open world – no load times?
Piotr: No load times when you’re travelling normally.
TSA: So no barriers, nothing?
Piotr: That’s what we’re working on right now, it’s again a challenge, but that’s the foundation of our open world: no barriers, no loading times and so on.
TSA: Part of the presentation we saw was centred on a new sense of freedom with getting around the world. Is it literally a case of anywhere you see you can go?
Piotr: Basically, yes. You can climb mountains, you can jump on things if it makes sense for you, horse riding, sailing boats, swimming, diving as well – that’s it.
TSA: All of these possibilities for getting around must’ve helped you lace every part of the game with lots of content, lots of side details, all of this sort of stuff. How does that affect the story progression, because you might get distracted by these side quests, or go off on a completely different tangent, is that something you have to consider?
Piotr: I’m probably going to abuse the word challenge here [laughs]… but that’s what it is! I mean, the scale of the game is tremendous. And it’s especially interesting from my perspective – I’m lead producer so I’m responsible for the entire project as a whole. But yes, the huge world needs to be filled with content, and while the main storyline is happening in that world, the side quests are more or less connected to it.
There’s a ton of monster hunting: like at the Microsoft conference, that was a sample of a monster hunt quest where Geralt was chasing a Griffin. Treasure finding, random encounters… it’s obviously important to us that we make sure there’s an adventure around every corner.
TSA: With the story, it seems as though there is a lot of grey areas – there’s an element of a branching storyline where you can make certain decisions. You’re staying away from this clear-cut hero/bad guy morality system, then?
Piotr: Yes. Geralt is not a good guy, he’s not a bad guy. Right? But he’s got his motivations, he knows what he wants to achieve. As we take players through his adventures, they will get to know him, in a way we know him. Or in a way some fans know him from different media – I’m not sure if you know, but the games are based on a series of novels.
So it’s a sort of guide for us, but basically creatively we’re free to make our own game. The thing that’s really interesting, and I hope players appreciate it, is that you’ve actually got to make those choices in the game that really matter – it’s not a fake choice like “go here or go here and end up in the same place”.
No, the consequences will change the state of the world when you finish the game. There’s a certain amount of endings to the game.
TSA: So it will actually branch the overall game’s storyline as you play?
Piotr: It will go to some conclusion, but there are different epilogues, endings. And there’s several dozens of states of the world that will be within that ending. It will be based on what you did, things will have an affect, and we’ll have a nice summary, where players will actually understand what they did and what happened. It’s often like “did I do the right thing?” or not. It leaves you wondering, and I think that’s really cool.
TSA: With regards to the combat and character progression, how have you advanced these elements compared to The Witcher 2?
Piotr: Combat in general, basically we’ve learned our lesson from The Witcher 2. We’ve tried to make combat more smooth and intuitive, but at the same time tactical. Geralt has a lot of shit in his inventory, but we want to provide a means to kill monsters and enemies – we want to make sure that players are able to use them in a meaningful way.
You have two swords, one which is useful against human opponents and the other one magical monsters – there’s a crossbow, which is really good against flying creatures but can also have usage in other types of combat. We have five Signs, each of them use magic, and all of them are upgradable like in any RPG. You can make mixtures, bombs – all those things you can craft. So that gives you a lot of things.
TSA: So it’s another grey area, where you can kind of play how you want – you don’t have to conform to any kind of play style?
TSA: Finally, I think, the world is so much bigger in this game, have you had to bulk up as a studio and get more people on in order to be able to tackle this much bigger undertaking?
Piotr: Absolutely, there’s over 200 people working at CD Projekt Red now, we have a significant amount of expatriates from different parts of the world. And yes, we’re attracting talent because it’s, again, a huge challenge to make this kind of game.
TSA: How many people worked on the first game?
Piotr: For comparison, The Witcher 1 peaked to about 50, then about 80 with The Witcher 2, and now it’s 200.
TSA: So literally twice the size? That is huge.
We’d like to thank Piotr for taking his time to speak to us about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.