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Broom slick – Witcher 2′s Tomasz Gop gears for launch

Tuesday, 15th February 2011 10:48 GMT By Patrick Garratt

With The Witcher 2′s May release fast approaching, producer Tomasz Gop speaks to VG247 on BioWare, a commitment to discs, recommended specs and not making a “crap” console version.

What is The Witcher 2?

Super-core dark fantasy RPG sequel.

Out May 17 for PC.

Developed by Polish firm CD Projekt RED.

Original released in 2007.

Official site.

The world of triple-A fantasy RPG development is a dangerous place. Gaining a foothold in a space so completely dominated by BioWare is as difficult aesthetically as it is financially; despite the popularity of the genre, startlingly few companies are prepared to even try.

Luckily for fans, Polish developer CD Projekt Red has balls as big as its ambitions. The Witcher, originally released in 2007, is universally applauded by the RPG core for its dark take on straight genre fantasy and epic plotline, which follows the silver-haired Geralt of Rivia.

An “Enhanced Edition” released a year later. A full sequel was announced last April, to run on new tech.

The original was built on a modified version of BioWare’s Aurora Engine, ironically so, as the big budget RPG genre is often seen as a straight-up shoot-out between CDPR and the EA super-studio. It’s an uncomfortable comparison for Witcher 2 producer Tomasz Gop.

“All be honest with you; it is a difficult question,” he says when asked how he feels the Witcher stands up against Dragon Age.

The dev diaries

Namco’s released four video diaries for The Witcher 2 so far. The first focuses on plot; the second on tech; and third sticks to the game’s characters; and the fourth details locations.

“I don’t even know what the answer is. We don’t compare ourselves. If anyone ever says that we’re better than Dragon Age in any aspect, then we’re happy. It’s impressive.”

Impressive it certainly is, and despite the fact many of the genre’s staunchest fans openly prefer the Witcher to Dragon Age, Gop is modest about the company’s achievements.

“I think Dragon Age is a really good game,” he adds, saying there are probably as many people that prefer Dragon Age over the Witcher.

“Comparing these two things is one of the most difficult parts of my job.”

Growing apart

While the first Dragon Age and Witcher games were closely aligned in terms of content, it seems the sequels will be more identifiable.

BioWare has unveiled a new, apparently less gritty look for Dragon Age II – which releases on March 8 in the US and March 11 in the EU – while the second Witcher title remained as hard as it is heavy.

Gop acknowledges there may be more distance between the newborns than with their parents, but is reserving final judgement for now.

“Before I play Dragon Age II for myself, I won’t be able to say for sure that they actually did it,” he says on the subject of Dragon Age II’s “cartoonification.”

“But for the Witcher, the story has always been the top feature, and the most distinctive feature about this feature is actually being dark and morally ambiguous. It wasn’t possible at all to change that aspect of the game: that’s what makes the Witcher the Witcher.

“That’s why I’m curious as to why BioWare changed that, if they did. Maybe it wasn’t the main feature of the game. In this case the games might get more disctinct than they were previously.”

Comparisons with DAII aside, The Witcher 2 will be considerably bigger than the original, thanks to a giant amount of fan feedback and new technical capabilities.

The Witcher 2′s new engine is a hodgepodge of bespoke code and middleware, which Gop says is necessary to fulfill the game’s meaty requirements. An off-the-shelf package, such as Unreal Engine, couldn’t do the job.

“Unreal engine is probably one of the safest engines on earth at this time, but it doesn’t have enough RPG features for us,” the developer says.

“I mean, we would have to write quite a lot of code ourselves anyway. That’s why it would be a tricky idea. On the other hand, we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel; we wanted a good start with physics and animations, interface and everything. We have a lot of features to write RPG-wise.

Witcher 2 3D will be “fully capable and working on day one”.

“I’m not saying anything wrong about Unreal, because it is a great engine, seriously, but it wouldn’t be enough for us.”

“Less linearity”

With bespoke tech and four years over the original Witcher release, Gop and his team are able to go bigger both in terms of footprint and narrative. Little is known of the plot as yet – although it does start directly after the first game and the strapline “Assassins of Kings” is a bit of a giveaway to anyone familiar with the story – but you can rest assured there’s going to be more grit.

Gop says the game will “definitely” be darker, and will benefit from “less linearity.”

He adds: “There are more aspects of how the game branches, and, actually, the decisions get more difficult, because the burden is on you this time, and it makes you think, ‘Oh gosh, if I make this choice many more things might change than in the Witcher 1.’”

While the Witcher 2 will pack a more involved plot, PC gaming is never just about the game itself. CD Projekt is beloved by the PC faithful for its commitment to the format. Bonus round: you’re getting 3D support out of the box.

“We’re implementing some features that make it sure that it’s going to be fully capable and working on day one,” says Gop.

With smart features come smarting price tags, though, and the developer is yet to go public with a recommended spec.

The minimum requirements were outed in a dev diary last December and have now been published on Steam: you’ll need at least a dual core 2.2 GHz CPU, 1Gb of RAM for Windows XP and 2Gb of RAM for Vista and Windows 7, and a GeForce 8800 512 MB or similar.

“These are not too high,” says Gop. “They’re OK. I think most people have at least computers like this.”

The video CDPR used to shop The Witcher 2 to
publishers was leaked in September 2009.

The producer wouldn’t confirm a recommended spec, however.

“With high-end machines? I don’t want to name detailed specs, but if you consider a high-end machine with at least one of the best, if not the best, graphics card or processor on the market, you will be able to play the game with full detail and full HD and is going to be smooth. At least, like, I don’t know that, 30fps.”

The console question

The conversation naturally leads onto unified tech and the ever-present question of a Witcher 2 console version.

CDPR said publicly in March 2010 that the game would release on consoles, before downgrading certainty to “potential” in October.

The subject never leaves the game’s side. The company added in the back half of last year that a console version is “doable” and that the entire project is being developed with “console in mind”.

A console version of the first game, White Wolf, was previously planned, with Widescreen doing the conversion work. The arrangement unraveled bitterly and publicly, with accusations of missed payments. Gop, understandably, is wary this time out.

“I definitely want to make sure that is doable and that it’s bound to happen, and then I will say that you can expect the game,” he says.

“Until we have anything solid to show or to say, I’d rather keep my mouth shut. But we’re doing everything we can, I can promise that.”

A console version will probably happen. Namco’s handling the PC version and is currently resurgent. The fact 360 and PS3 gamers are likely to be able to test-drive one of the most involved RPGs in existence is good news enough: better is the fact that, according to Gop, the game won’t take any kind of graphics hit.

Any Witcher 2 console version will contain no “visually noticeable” difference over the PC SKU.

“I wouldn’t say is going to be visually noticeable,” he says. “Of course, what I say can’t be too official, but from the tests that we’ve done so far it’s possible to do a game that looks as good as what you’ve seen on trailers, and it works on consoles smoothly.

“It’s doable to make a game that won’t be crap.”

Legal letter

While Gop and his team stick their toes into the world of console developer, however, the Witcher 2′s PC release is nearly upon us, as is the inevitable Torrent leak. In a November 2010 interview, CDPR said it was prepared to take pirates to court over illegal downloads, and there’s been no change in position.

“We’re working with legal companies that have capability, that have the legal means, to check if somebody downloads a game illegally from the internet, that he is doing it himself that is not as neighbour or anyone else,” says Gop.

The question over the validity of being able to specifically pinpoint a user for downloading a title has previously been raised, and Gop sounded unsure as to whether or not it’s going to be possible: note the “if”.

The three editions

The Witcher 2 will have three editions, none of which its developer describes as “standard”. The Premium Edition will cost £34.99, while the Collector’s Edition will set you back £79.99. The Digital Premium Edition costs £29.99.

“If it’s possible to prove that somebody did something that might be offensive – especially as by releasing the game without DRM, at least on GoG – it’s fair play for us. In that case, I think a lot of people could be aware of the possibility of a legal letter is quite real.”

You shouldn’t steal this game. Treat yourself and buy one of the pretty editions; there are three of them. In fact, there isn’t a standard edition. CD Projekt Red is a huge believer in discs.

“We come from a part of the world that is always believed in physical content,” says Gop. “Part of CD Project group is the CD project publishing company. We’ve been publishing games in Eastern Europe for 15 years now, and we have done a lot of editions of games. We know what makes players excited.

“These days, a lot of people prefer to have games not only on the shelves but on hard disks, so we wanted to allow them to choose a digital version of the game. We have that as well, but even more important is that there are still at least as many people that believe in buying the game in a box, and having a lot of cool, exclusive digital content. And that’s why we don’t have anything that you could call a standard edition.”

And for this company, at least, physical media isn’t something that’s going away any time soon.

“Almost all of us prefer buying games in a box.”

“As long as people like me and 90 percent of the people the work of CD Project Red believe in physical content, it’s going to happen. Almost all of us prefer buying games in a box.”

While Gop prefers his games on DVDs, though, he can’t ignore DLC. DLC comes down a pipe. People buy DLC. There’s an obvious question.

“I can’t say anything specific, I can’t promise anything for sure, but what I can say is that if at any point in the future we will be announcing and then releasing DLC for the Witcher 2, it’s definitely not going to be a sword pack or anything,” says Gop.

“If we’re ever going to do this it’s going to be something bigger, and if we want people to pay for this is going to be definitely worth the money. So, if it does happen in the future, it’s going to be more of a campaign.”

And when the extra content’s done, there’ll be the third game. Right? Gop laughs here.

“The outro from the Witcher 1 already showed you that there would be a Witcher 2,” he says. “Anybody that played the Witcher already knew what we had in mind from the very beginning. Wait and see the Witcher 2 at the very end. You will know whether or not the Witcher 3 might or might not happen, but I promise you that obviously we know that already.

“And if we’re going to do it, were already gathering ideas.”

The Witcher 2 releases for PC on May 17.

Latest

16 Comments

  1. thesamy

    im a pc gamer and i think is take a huge balls to bring a game like that to the pc only market.

    i hope it will sell a lot and thay will be rich but i still think what can happend… and i hope it wont.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Kalain

    I am looking forward to this game. The first one was epic in every aspect. I hope this does really well for them.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Zurtech

    “Impressive it certainly is, and despite the fact many of the genre’s staunchest fans openly prefer the Witcher to Dragon Age”

    I must be one of the odd ones out then, would go as far to say RPGs are easily my fave genre, but wasn’t keen on Witcher. CDP did a great job, but felt VERY much like it was aimed solely at a male target audience, hate the whole female conquest thing, didn’t like the lead character and felt far too restrictive to be classed as an RPG for me.

    Like I said tho won’t take away from their accomplishments it was a very good game for a smaller dev studio. Just felt more like an adventure game than an RPG for me.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Shubb9

    Very excited for this, The larger and more varied environments they promise will remedy my main complaint about the first game. Just hope they ditch the card conquest thing. Don’t have have to leave out sexual content, just don’t handle it like someone who reads the Daily Star.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. bobiroka

    I bought the first game day of release and loved every minute of it – even the questionable voice-acting didn’t bother me too much, I thought it gave the game an immense amount of character.

    I’m wary about getting the 2nd game on day 1 though. Not only is it just a week behind Rockstar’s LA Noire (which is sure to suck all the air out of the room around that time of year like Red Dead Redemption did last year), but I’m quite reluctant to upgrade my PC to play it.

    I think I meet the recommended spec cited above and my GFX card isn’t too old, but I like to play games like this in all their grandeur and it really kills me when I have to turn detail settings down.

    So please please please make a 360/PS3 version, because as soon as I hear it’s confirmed I’ll be pre-ordering it for sure!

    #5 4 years ago
  6. freedoms_stain

    Is that Geralt banging Triss in those shots? Ever the Cocksman that Geralt :p

    #6 4 years ago
  7. freedoms_stain

    @5, waitwaitwaitwaitwait

    “I think I meet the recommended spec cited above and my GFX card isn’t too old, but I like to play games like this in all their grandeur and it really kills me when I have to turn detail settings down.”

    How the hell does that gel with

    “So please please please make a 360/PS3 version, because as soon as I hear it’s confirmed I’ll be pre-ordering it for sure!”

    Even medium detail PC version would probably own the shit out of a console version. Not to mention be 25% cheaper.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. UuBuU

    Not bad, but this is still very much a story driven action game, and even if they don’t release it on console straight away it still strikes me as being more in the style of a console action game than a PC RPG. And I very much doubt it’ll come close to TES:V as far as RPGs are concerned this year.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Overdos3

    @1 i dont worry about what you’re talking about. Pc gamers support good developpers and it’s been proven that piracy doesnt really affect tje industry.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Gekidami

    ^ So i guess the first game wasnt great then? Because according to a hidden message in the first trailer for this. The devs say that they sold only 1.5 million copies of the first one. That trailer came out in 2010 and the first Witcher end 2007 so it sold that much in just over 2 years… Unimpressive to say the least, so where was the “support”?

    #10 4 years ago
  11. YoungZer0

    What are you talking about? 1.5 million is an impressive # for a completely new game that was released on one platform. Not a sequel. No hype. Totally new and different.

    The game received a shitload of new maps and quests from the community. Because the developers released some fantastic tools, which – as it seems – is getting pretty rare now.

    You should see them talk in the forums, millions of threads with no end in sight.

    The developer loved the support so much that they decided to give their fans something back. They released a gigantic patch, which killed nearly every bug, added new quests, reduced the loading times to nothing, hired new voiceactors, rewrote dialogs, rebuild the dialogsystem. And so on. That is a developer you can count on. Not like the guys from Bioware that weren’t even able to fix the ugly small-res face from Garrus in Mass Effect 1 on PC.

    And just look at the amazing jump they made from Witcher 1 to Witcher 2. They re-did everything. The absolutely started from Scratch. You could see how Bioware reused some of the animation from ME in ME2. You can see how some of the models from DA:O are being reused in DA2. You won’t see that in Witcher 2.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Dralen

    He considers 30 FPS as smooth!

    #12 4 years ago
  13. KrazyKraut

    Witcher 1 was for me like MGS on the PSX: a known genre, but totally different from the other games that you had to invent a new genre to even describe this game.
    MGS 1 was not a action-adventure, and Witcher 1 not only a simple RPG. Just awesome.
    I am a console gamer but already pre-ordered TW2 CE. And Homefront VoF Ed. This year is crazy. and it has just begun.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. KrazyKraut

    btw…nice article. Hope to see more pre-launch stuff on any other titles.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. ThulsaDoom

    1.5+ million copies, which probably doesn’t include the Steam version sales figures, is a success for a small Eastern European studio making their first game. Not every game needs to sell 10 million to be considered a success.

    Looking at all the previews, this looks to be the fantasy rpg of the year. DA2 has gone the Mass Effect route of streamlining for casual players, Skyrim will be great but I’ve read restaurant reviews more compelling than any Bethesda plot. Despite my criticisms of those games, I’ll still play them. It’s a great year for rpgs.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. bpcgos

    Nice to read your features, Pat! Salute to CD projekt for their PC support! Keep it On both of you!

    #16 4 years ago

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