The Witcher 3 – Interview With Gameplay Producer Marek Ziemak
After my time with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt I was able to grab hold of the upcoming epic’s Gameplay Producer Marek Ziemak and ask him all about the freedom of working with a novelist’s creation, why it’s no longer difficult to create high-calibre content, and their tireless dedication to their community.
As a whole, we have absolute freedom with what we are doing with the franchise and what we are doing with Geralt at this stage. We feel quite comfortable with it, but I guess we are controlling ourselves, we are not abusing the system because we believe that the books are really great, the storyline was impressive, the way Sapkowski was creating his world was really interesting, and we don’t want to change the shape of it too much.
There’s an incredible level of detail, even in the pre-alpha build. The man asking Geralt to stay and have a few drinks, with the fur on his shoulders you could see every single hair. How do you manage to fit in so much intricate detail without sending any computer or console screaming?
We are working hard on our brand new technology, REDengine 3, and it’s still not optimised, so I guess it’s going to be much better, both in terms of the quality and the speed it’s running on PC, but it’s hard to say. We’re just trying to do our job and get the best we can get out of a specific architecture and out of a specific machine, and it looks good. I guess we’re quite experienced at this stage!
You said you’re building a new engine, but I recently heard you’re giving the old engine away for free?
That’s right, we released some time ago REDkit 2, this is a development kit for The Witcher 2, and it allows you to deliver new extra modes or new extra adventures for Geralt, basically, but this was a previous version of the engine. At the moment we’re working on REDengine 3 for The Witcher 3, and maybe in the future we’ll think about releasing some modding tools for that as well.
No, it’s not going to be automatically there I guess, but I’m not absolutely sure how this decision will be made. It’s quite a big technical decision, but we really care about our community, that’s for sure, and we try to deliver all the elements they really need to have fun with the game and further increase and develop the game, but it’s not very easy. It’s a new engine after all, and it might be very hard for someone who is not working on it since the beginning. It takes some time to polish it to a stage where you can release it to all of the public.
There’s over a hundred hours of gameplay, how big do the scripts get when you’re in development?
I’d have no idea, it’d be really hard for me to give you an exact number of quests, because it’s just massive, I usually operate in numbers. The rough estimate right now is that we are delivering about fifty hours of main storyline and fifty hours of side-quests whilst exploring the world and all of those different events happening in the world.
It must be really difficult to keep a lot of variety in the quests when you’re aiming for such a large amount of content?
True, it might be difficult, but to be honest we’ve always had more ideas than we could develop, so this time when the world got bigger we had a chance to implement more of our ideas, I think we’re very creative in this case.
Yeah, but we refer to it as “the state of the world”, so at the end of the game the world can be in thirty-six different, meaningfully different states, and these are all reflective of your decisions and the consequences of the world that happen because of those choices.
One of the things I really like about the Witcher series is just how you handle the morality; even in the demo we just saw the decision we had to make was literally just down to how he worded what he said. How easy is it to develop the morality system in that way?
I think we’re used to it, it was something that was introduced in the novels already, that the world is not black and white and that everything is quite grey, and since we’ve been using this approach in The Witcher 1 and The Witcher 2, now we are developing in an even more mature way with The Witcher 3, and we are really comfortable with it, and it’s the right way to continue. It’s no longer difficult for us to be creating content like that.
With The Witcher 3, did you start developing it as soon as The Witcher 2 was done, or did you use the expansions and the Enhanced edition to test out new ideas for 3?
We started working on Witcher 3 once we’d released the console versions of Witcher 2, it was a smooth transition right away, I guess. A lot of it depends on the features, a many elements have been changed because we’re producing an open-world, and this means new content, like new movement systems or new ways to travel throughout the world, but some elements are quite different.
With the PC version you can always constantly iterate and upgrade it, how will that change for the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One? Especially because I know you like giving updates away free to the community, and Microsoft have a history of only giving you one free DLC and then making you charge for the rest.
It’s very hard to say at this stage, a lot of things are probably changing in Microsoft and Sony because of the new platforms. We don’t have full knowledge about it, but all I can promise is that we’ll do our best to deliver the same content to everyone. Our policy is basically to not charge players for small DLC, because we believe they’re just a a part of the game, and not to charge them for lots of mini expansions. We might one day come back to the concept of releasing a multi-hour extra expansion that might be paid because it’s going to be a massive improvement, or maybe not even an improvement, just basically a new part of the game, but we don’t want to charge anyone for small DLCs and we will do our best to have it on all platforms.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is due for release on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2014 through CD Projekt RED.
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