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Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Interview: Charles Dance, Next Gen and Canon
I recently got to see the Witcher 3 at a behind closed doors showing. After having seen the amazing visuals and a truly interesting mission from the game, I was able to get a quick interview with the producer of the game, Mikołaj Szwed (image below). What followed was an interview full of information and slyly trying to get some more juicy pieces. Here it is in full below:
1 – The game looked brilliant. Great graphics and an all round good looking next generation game. In an interview previously with another outlet, Konrad [Tomaszkiewicz] had said that you were “working to get the max out of the hardware and thinking how one can creatively use the technology “ In terms of next generation hardware, how close is this from maxed out, it is hard to see much room for improvement!
That’s a very tricky question to answer. Think of maxing out hardware in terms of… the trunk in your car and the space it offers. Consoles have a defined performance budget – you can’t expand the memory or replace CPU/GPUs. This means you have to be very creative with how you use what you have. And this is where the tricky stuff starts. You can randomly stuff the luggage in the trunk and max out the space in no time or you can methodically place specially prepared cases to get every inch of space out of what you have. Experience shows that both the “casing technology” and the skill in packing them rises the further we are in the console’s lifecycle. Learning all the tricks takes time – that’s why maxing out hardware is possible on day 1 right when the next-gen hardware launches, yet the games near the end of the console’s life cycle always look the best.
2 – The next generation hardware has been vilified by many developers who have been calling out for a next generation platform for a while. Does this step up affect your goal of conveying emotions to the player, making sure that their actions make an impact? Or would you have been able to achieve this regardless?
I think that you can convey emotions regardless of the platform and its horsepower. Truth be told, games have been doing it for a long time, well before the era of super-realistic computer graphics. You can evoke emotions with visuals, sure, but I believe the core of the effort lies within the story. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” – a mere six words can pack a real punch!
3 – What is the best feature you have found in the next gen hardware? I personally like the ability to stream my game so that if a friend sees I am in trouble, they could watch and give me pointers. I think that is really helpful.
Definitely the social features of the consoles. As you mentioned, streaming videos is something very cool and I really look forward to seeing what gamers will do with it. Also, the different ways gamers can share their in-game progress status and, in general, experience games together – social interaction on this scale is really something!
4 – Many games claim to have a choice system in place where there is a variety of different outcomes. However, many end up like Mass Effect 3 with specific endings regardless of your choices throughout. Will every action in the game that is not so black and white result in a slightly different ending for your character? Or will it just be what you see in the game that gets affected, resulting in an ending that feels like it has a canon of sorts?
We will have a couple of different, main endings to the game, strictly connected to the “big” choices you’ve made during the game. Apart from that, we will also have a number of smaller scenes depicting the different changes that you affected in the world by making various smaller choices throughout the game, showing how your actions actually shaped the world and individual characters.
5- Many people talk of story driven games and open world games separately and you guys have been touting this game as one and the same. In many open world games, the player can lose sight of the story due to the overwhelming availability of missions and side quests and collectibles etc. How will Wild Hunt combat this feeling?
The Witcher 3 is not like most open world games in this regard. We put a lot of effort into making the game’s pacing just right, as we think it’s key to avoiding the sort of feeling you describe. In The Witcher 3, two mechanisms will battle it out to determine what you’ll ultimately do – the urge to explore will compete with your need to know what happens next plot-wise. We can control the intensity of each feeling by introducing new stuff (plot and gameplay-wise) along the way, so you should never feel like there’s a million of things to do and only one Geralt.
6 –Talking of canon, the second game had many different endings. Will the 3rd pick up from whichever one is “canon” (is there a canon?), or will it be where the game asks you a series of questions in the intro/import save data and pick up where you left off?
All of the endings are canonical. Making only one “count” would really depreciate all the choices gamers made during the previous game. That’s why we decided to find one common connection and start The Witcher 3 from there. This “common denominator” is the Nilfgaardian invasion that we see at the end of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Nilfgaard is advancing into the Northern Kingdoms and Geralt is now free from all the political intrigue he’s been so tangled up in. As for the choices gamers made during the previous game, we can confirm save game importing on the PC and we’re heavily exploring various solutions for consoles.
7 – If some main characters from the books should appear in TW3 they shall be consistent with their roots or they shall be adapted by force changing theirs personality by the decisions taken in TW2?
I see what you’re trying to do here! On a more serious note though, for now, we don’t comment on the appearance of characters other than those we’ve revealed so far.
8 – I know you either must be sick of hearing about the more “adult” nature of the games or must be proud that you handled it so successfully that people actually took it seriously and didn’t blast the game, but The Witcher 2 was praised for handling adult sexuality and romance in a mature manner that contrasted greatly with the first game’s sex cards. We know that the cards are out, but how will The Witcher 3 handle relationship dynamics? Do we get a choice between Triss, Yennefer and other women? Or is this choice out of the player’s control?
We want to continue in the vein of TW2, though I can’t tell you anything specific about the female companions that will appear in The Witcher 3 yet. We want to shape the relationships Geralt will have with various women in a mature way, that the player can feel a natural flow to the relation and at the same time still have different choices on how to approach this or that specific character. The romances will definitely not be linear.
9 – Charles Dance will be the Nilfgaardian emperor in the game. How did that come about? What traits did he bring to the game that another actor may not have been able to? Are there many Game of Thrones fans on the team?
When we were doing research on potential candidates to voice Emhyr var Emreis, Mr. Dance was always someone who came to mind. Each group of people that was consulted on the matter somehow ended up saying that we should try to reach out to him. So… we did. And he agreed to lend us his voice. As for the specific traits of his voice, what I personally like is its commanding tone. You hear a sentence and you immediately treat it as an order. This and the beautiful accent make him a splendid Emhyr! As for Game of Thrones, it’s a great show and it has a lot of fans in the studio.
10 – Have any games or films influenced the design of this new world? Skyrim has been mentioned as a similar game but the choices in that game were essentially irrelevant in the end and while it had various regions like Wild Hunt, it never felt quite as alive as what I have seen in the trailers. Maybe that is just a well put together trailer?
Please mind that The Witcher is based on a series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski so it’s not like we had to invent the wheel for the second time. On one hand, Mr. Sapkowski leaves many blanks as for how things look like or behave, on the other, he provides a solid framework we use to keep everything together and deliver a very consistent and coherent world. Regarding the former, it’s very fortunate that he chose to do so as we have a lot of creative freedom as to how we choose to portray different monsters or locations. Also, we put a lot of Slavic heart into the game – I can’t be very specific since it would spoil the game but we’ll have some really unique moments that are deeply connected with mythologies unknown to many gamers. Other influences? Sure! Ranging from Conan the Barbarian to Game of Thrones, it’s hard not to compare yourself to things that leave a mark on you and that you really like.
11 – Lastly, can you tell us ANYTHING about Cyberpunk 2077. I mean, at all? Pretty please?
I’d love to, but that could anger the Psycho Squad representative pointing a gun at my back.
That Cyberpunk question was worth a try! The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is releasing for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One some time next year.
Thanks to CD PROJEKT RED for the opportunity and Producer Mikołaj Szwed for his participation.