The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Interview – Talking Design, DLC and The Delay
Last week, PSLS’s Dan Oravasaari got to go hands-on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and speak with CD Projekt RED’s Level Designer Miles Tost and VP of Global Marketing Tomasz Jarzbowski about how the game has been coming along, and what PlayStation gamers can expect for their first time with the series. On top of that, they openly talk about some of the current issues that have caused the game to be delayed till May 19th.
PlayStation LifeStyle: Were there any challenges you faced bringing The Witcher 3 to consoles?
Miles Tost: Not really, well, we always like to go bigger, but at some point you have to go, well, maybe bigger isn’t better in this case. But, no we haven’t had any issues with developing for next-gen or high-end PCs. It certainly has been challenging, because we are bringing this to the PlayStation for the first time, but our experiences from The Witcher 2 on Xbox had helped us develop now on the currently next-gen, or current gen (laughs). Ultimately, this is going to help us do a simultaneous release for it as well.
PSLS: How early in development was it known that The Witcher 3 would be released on consoles?
M: Yeah, for us that was always our ambition. We always want to be able to bring our games to as many people as possible, its our baby and we want people to play it. But, we were a really small studio and now we have grown quite a bit, so it was that and a budget issue. Now we are finally able to do it right, so we are doing it.
PSLS: Given that this is the first time that PlayStation gamers will be able to experience The Witcher series, why hasn’t the series been on the platform in the past?
M: Well, I cannot answer that question. It is just a business question that is beyond me.
PSLS: Will there be a demo released before the full title release?
M: I have no clue. That is again, a business decision. It is a very heavily story driven game, so it might end up spoiling things and be a difficult thing to make into a flowing experience.
PSLS: With the performance differences between the Xbox One and PS4, will there be any differences between the two releases?
M: No, we plan on having them being equal. But, I do think that there will be some small resolution differences. But, I don’t want to lean myself too far out of the window. I think we have been saying is that Xbox is 900p upscaled to 1080p, and the PS4 is just 1080p, with both of them at 30 frames per second. But, you do hardly see a difference, as they both look gorgeous.
PSLS: Will there be any added features to use the touch-pad on the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4?
M: No, I think we are just using it as a button. The touch-pad itself, I don’t think we are using in anyway at the moment, but we are still experimenting with that since we still have some time. Ultimately, we don’t want to just do something for the sake of just doing it, just because it is there. If it works, it works. But just by touching the button you open up the inventory.
PSLS: Has the studio tried developing anything for Sony’s VR Headset, Project Morpheus?
M: No. But, who knows we are very focused on Wild Hunt right now. What the future holds, we might, maybe. It isn’t something we need to do, but if it allows for itself, maybe.
PSLS: Have you considered bringing out the original Witcher titles on the PS4 or Xbox One in an HD remaster?
M: Currently, we don’t have any plans for that.
PSLS: The Witcher 3 comes with a compendium, could explain a bit more about what that is?
M: It’s basically one of the things we use to help players find themselves comfortable and at home in The Witcher world, as gritty and uncomfortable as it might be. We are really trying to allow people to find themselves in the world…actually [calls in VP of Global Marketing Tomasz Jarzbowski and repeats the question].
Tomasz Jarzbowski: We know that not everybody is worried about the world of The Witcher, but we wanted to let them understand it somehow. For the US, it might also be worth mentioning that in the past we called the game The Witcher 3, but what does that mean. For you, or some of our new American gamers who haven’t played a Witcher title, the number 3 might be a barrier. There is that question mark. Is this the third part of the game? Does that mean I need to play the first and second? And, as a PS4 user, how can I play those? But, you won’t need to have played those. We have a new starting point, we wanted a new chapter and to start from the beginning in terms of PS4 and on.
M: To go back to your question. Yeah, that is one of the ways that we introduce the many new players, and that they can come play our game, even without understanding the first parts. But, we do offer all of these things that help you find yourself in the world, because we have the recap video — which is at the beginning of the game. Once you start it up, you are presented with it and then you have the compendium, and the prologue experience — where players will actually learn a lot about how the game world works, what your part in the world is and how people view Witchers. So, it will be a very smooth experience for newcomers.
[Conversation about what kind of games I play breaks out and my experience with the game so far]
T: We wanted to explain the game as easily as possible, just because of the new consumers who are mainly main stream gamers. For them it is may be easy to pick up, probably they are very skilled and very well oriented, so we wanted to have as easy access as possible and we are still going in that direction and wanted some feedback about if this is OK or too difficult for new users. We appreciate the feedback.
Dan Oravasaari: Everything was fantastic. The sword play is simple, but deep. Even though things are broken down to either the normal or heavy attack it never felt overly simplified, leaving me to be able to focus on footwork while still being able to mix up my attacking style. The only major issue that I really think will be a problem in the future would be the horse. The collision with objects in the environment stop it from being useful.
M: Yes! We are very aware of that. We are working on that. We have a way of fixing it, but it is just a bunch of tech trivia, so we don’t have to talk about that. T: This is something we are going to work on. It is an ongoing process. Everything will be polished and fixed by launch.
M: This is essentially why we delayed the release. Actually, it is pretty cool for us, as it isn’t a complaint that the story sucks. That would be really hard to fix. This, this is very manageable for us.
PSLS: With the branching dialogs, will there be multiple endings? And, if so, how many will there be?
M: Yeah, there will be plenty of endings. Actually, that is a pretty cool thing. I think we have been saying something like 36 states that the game world can end in. It is cool because it can allow for endings that are deeply unique to what you did. It is like YOUR ending for the whole story, so you get a good connection to the ending. We hope that you will be satisfied, I think they are really cool.
PSLS: Given the multiple endings, how does The Witcher 3 fall within the works of the original lore by Andrzej Sapkowski?
M: Well, the games take place after the books basically finish. So, we have a good amount of creative freedom when it comes to actually designing that stuff. In terms of how that ties into the lore. Well, at some point you have to think that we are making a game, which is interactive and completely yours. We are big on the choice and consequence, and consequences result in different things happening to you and your character. So, there is a sort of line that you have to draw to make it more appealing to the players. If you knew how it ended, it might be kind of bland.
T: As an example of what Miles said, Andrej Sapkowski fully believed in terms of what we were going to deliver. We own the space, but of course we are trying to keep things as close to the lore as possible. But, on the other hand, Sapkowski believes, and he has full confidence in us and how we are going to use that. He knows that we are not going to extend this world into nonsense, so with some balance we are trying to keep on a proper level actually. He’s fine with that, consumers and fans are fine with that as well and I think that the things we are going to deliver to the game will be appreciated by everyone.
M: For the record, he is the writer of the books, not the game.
T: He’s actually pretty far away from the game. He has said that he really admires what we did in that world actually. He’s not played, he’s not a gamer, but he does understand what is going on on our end. Just because of the game, he discovers something completely new, something completely unique in terms of The Witcher approach. It was only a book in the past, and now it is a game that is getting bigger and bigger just because we are trying to expand to other countries and continents as well. So, to him is a completely unique approach, through the game he is reaching a completely new audience.
M: They co-exist really nicely.
T: A lot of things are also happening from a marketing perspective as well. We are going to release the mobile game very very soon, which is set up in The Witcher world, but is a different type of game. We have a board game, we have merchandise, we are trying to do as much to appeal to people from different perspectives.
PSLS: Have there been any specific titles that have influenced the evolution of the series since we last say a Witcher title?
M: It really depends on who you ask. Because we are all big gamers and everyone has their own games that they draw inspiration from. Personally, there are a couple RPGs from last year, but more importantly from way back, like Boulder’s Gate and those guys that influenced how we want to play or portray our story and what kind of game we want to make. Ultimately, its not only games, it is other materials like books, films and all of that stuff.
T: Just to put you in the right context, we have approximately 300 people working on The Witcher. Even though we are a Polish company, in a Polish city, like Miles, Like Damien, who came here today, we are multiple people from Hungary, France, England, Germany, US, Sweden, Holland, so we have a very international team with varied backgrounds. Each person is bringing something unique, some sort of flavor, feelings or interests. I think we benefit from that very, very much because we aren’t just a Polish company. If you want to expand, if you want to be global, you need to grab as much as possible from different aspects, and like it very much.
PSLS: With a number of people already comparing The Witcher 3 to Dragon Age: Inquisition, what would you say differentiates it?
M: I think, we are a completely different kind of fantasy. Like Dragon Age is more kind of high fantasy, like dragons and spells, and The Witcher is more grounded, fantasy may be a part of the world, but it isn’t the main thing. There is magic in the world, but only a few people are able to cast it, and it is anchored to a certain view that people have towards it. It is much more about the people living in the world, and it just so happens to have all of these kinds of monster roaming around. Fantasy gives us more of a kind of freedom as well to design the world with.
T: We fully admire what Dragon Age has achieved with a couple game of the year awards and it is really nice. I played that game and I really enjoyed it, but we are approaching a slightly different kind of experience, which is a very very deep type of story telling. I think that if you go into The Witcher world very heavily, you will discover just how many things you can discover.
PSLS: Given the amount of optional side-quests available, how are you approaching them so that they do not become repetitive?
M: The cool thing about how we design quests is that you would think that there would be a team for main-quest and a team for side-quest, but that is totally not the case. We spend equal amount of time and effort on making the side-quests as we do making the main-quests, they get the same treatment, they are not lower or anything. That also applies to quests that are much smaller than you average side-quest, we have them on all scales. So, none of them feel repetitive. If you think about it, its not like we came up with a huge world and then decided that we needed to fill it with content and half way through decided that that we are really done now, but we still have this part of the world left and we need to fill it.
No, basically, what happened was that we made the story and the quest and everything, and that basically dictated the size of the world. So, the size that we have in the game is really out of necessity, this is how large we wanted it to be. So, you shouldn’t find a lot of repetition, but what you do find is something different, while it may sound like a weakness, it really is a strength. You may find quests that do start out as something you may recognize from other games, like where you go ‘oh yeah, this is a typical fetch quest, I have to find this guy’s hidden treasure’, but when you do it, it kind of takes this twist and something absolutely different happens. At the end of it you may get to make some morally ambivalent choices, where you are unclear as to how it manifests.
PSLS: How close will the PS4’s visuals be in comparison to the PC’s ultra setting?
M: We have them here, so you can take a look. But, you will see that they all look really awesome. I can’t really pinpoint how close they are, they are all really close. There are some differences, like for the PC’s we have the Nvidia HairTech, which obviously works on Nvidia cards, and can’t work for consoles which are all AMD based. Obviously, you can pimp you PC and make a real monster out of it, and there are no frame rate limits on PC, so there’s that. But other than that, you shouldn’t notice huge differences. This isn’t to say that the PC version looks worse, it just that it equally great.
T: I will say that, from my perspective, I’m a huge console gamer and so for me, having a chance to play the game a console it is slightly better. This is because I don’t have to worry about being able to run the game, or any problems with the graphic cards, so having a comparable quality on console and PC, I can benefit from that. So, our end goal was to deliver as good of a game as possible.
M: We didn’t want to punish someone depending on what console they chose.
PSLS: Could you talk about what kind of DLC or post-launch content you have planned?
T: Yes, so everybody who buys the game will receive a special program from us, which is 16 DLCs. It will be 16 bundles, if I remember correctly, every single week we are going to deliver a new DLC bundle that wil be like a new armory, a new outfit for your horse, a new hairstyle. We are going to keep delivering something new, for the consumers, for everyone who has purchased the game on day one and on-going. So, we are not going to charge anything for that, this is kind of a thank you message for everyone who supports the game. Through the 16 weeks we are going to deliver something new, something fresh, to help benefit their experience with the game.
PSLS: Will these mainly be smaller items like the horse armor, or will they contain quests and such?
T: Mostly yes, so most of the items will somehow upgrade your character, such as a new outfit for the Witcher or for a different character. That is all we have announced so far.
A special thank you to everyone at CD Projekt RED and especially Miles Tost and Tomasz Jarzbowski for not only speaking with us, but for also being very frank and open about how the project is coming along. For more information about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, make sure to check out our Hands-on preview.