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All grown up: how CD Projekt RED treats gamers as people

Thursday, 9 August 2012 08:29 GMT By Dave Cook

Many companies claim to put gamers first, but CD Projekt’s mature stories and DLC strategies put it ahead of the pack. Konrad Tomaszkiewicz tells Dave Cook why Poland is pointing the way.

CD Projekt

Before rising to international prominence, polish company CD Projekt was well known in Eastern Europe as a key distributor.

Launched a digital distribution service, Good Old Games, now rebranded as GOG after expanding to new and indie titles. The service is well respected for equitable international pricing, dedicated technical support, and a huge catalogue of classic PC games.

Also birthed an in-house development studio, CD Projekt RED. Its debut title, The Witcher, brought a popular Polish fantasy series to international recognition. It and its sequel were critically well received and generated over 4 million sales worldwide.

CD Projekt RED’s next offering will be Cyberpunk, a dystopian future RPG.

VG247: It’s been one hell of a year for CD Projekt, with the success of Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360, the continual success of GOG and the announcement of Cyberpunk. What factors do you attribute all of this success to, and how can other independent studios learn from what you’ve done? Can anyone do it?

Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, CD Projekt RED: There are many indie studios out there who manage to achieve success. I think the key elements are passion and staying true to your ideals. Our dev studio has a clear vision of what we want to achieve in our games i.e. creating mature and complex RPGs. We also want to treat gamers in a way we would like to be treated ourselves, which sometimes means being rebels in the industry. That’s why our games – both developed or sold on GOG.com – have no DRM, we take much care about our customers long after the release. Those are our ideals and staying true to them is the best way to acquire great and faithful fans.

VG247: There are a lot of fantasy games out there on consoles, but none quite as dark as Witcher 2. Were you always confident of the game’s success on the Xbox 360? What did the experience teach you about the console audience today?

Before the release we were often asked about console audiences being different from the PC community. We always believed that you can find a large group of people , who want ambitious entertainment on the Xbox 360. Even on PC The witcher 2 wasn’t for the average player – we always targeted a large, but specific group of people, who seek more ambitious ways of experiencing games. After the Xbox 360 release I can say that we were right. Console gamers and critics praise the game’s depth and immersive gameplay. The game found its fans on the new platform. We are really looking forward to bringing it to Mac Computers later this year – this way even more people will be able to become Geralt of Rivia.

VG247: Like Valve and Steam, CD Projekt Red enjoys great success in digital distribution through GOG. How can you see the role of digital storefronts changing as we go into the next generation of console hardware, and PC tech continues to grow rapidly?

Digital distribution is the future. That’s for sure. At the studio we can imagine that games will go completely digital and retail will consist only of collector’s editions for the greatest fans. I think this scenario is possible within a decade or even less.

We have to wait to see what next-gens have to offer in the terms of digital distribution, but PC retail games are almost sure to go completely to the web.

VG247: CD Projekt Red recently suggested that DLC should be free. What is your view of on-disc DLC that is there from day one and overpriced content? How would you see the method of DLC delivery handled – theoretically – if you had total power over it?

CD Projekt RED is keen on consequential player
choice. This video demonstrates how choice
is reflected even in the game’s environments in
the Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2:
Assassins of Kings.

Not recently. We’ve always believed in free DLCs. The thing is that we consider DLCs as a normal post sale service, which shouldn’t be priced. Back when retail games were dominant, we had expansion packs. These were really large chunks of content, which were worth their price. If today’s DLCs offered the same amount of content, they would be worth paying for, but in most cases players think they are overcharged for what they receive. That’s why we offer expansions to our game for free. This is also a way of saying “thank you” to the people who decided to buy our game instead of copying it from an unauthorised source.

VG247: The free content market is growing rapidly however. What is your view on the free to play market and is this an area CD Projekt Red might explore further down the line. What positives and negatives do you currently see in this market?

You must remember that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. Game devs have to earn a living and if a game is free to play, they have different options to get the money: micropayments, ads and so on. In general players are aware of this and I think as long as this doesn’t spoil their gameplay experience it’s OK. I can’t imagine pop out ads in a game where you have to immerse completely into the game world, but less serious titles can cope with that. That’s why I think that the “free” gaming model is not suited for all types of games. Every product should have its own way to earn money without tampering with the player’s experience.

VG247: Recently you announced the sci-fi RPG Cyberpunk. Without prying too much, how will your experience with the Witcher series fuel your direction with this game? Are you in contact with Mike Pondsmith in regards to development?

The choice of the game universe was easy. We still wanted to create games designed for the grown-up gamer, and Cyberpunk is the perfect setting which allows us to touch other important themes than those in The Witcher, because of its fantasy setting. What you can expect from Cyberpunk is that it will be as mature as The Witcher and set in a realistic and brutal world.
Mike Pondsmith likes our vision of the game and he cooperates with the Cyberpunk team a lot. Not so long ago, we answered some questions of our Witcher community about the new project. You can find the answers here.

“Don’t get too preachy and let gamers judge what’s going on the screen for themselves. Let’s treat gamers like grown-ups and let them use their own moral judgments.”

VG247: You also posted a job listing for a multiplayer role – although I am respectful of the fact that this is purely a R&D role to explore new options – but how important is it for any studio to keep its options open in this way, and to seek out new potential? Is this process becoming harder as the industry gets more competitive?

Well we are always open to new options and experiment all the time. Sometimes it requires new R&D staff, but with the world moving forward so fast, we have to keep our minds open and try out new ideas. Some gameplay elements get old and players quickly get used to innovations. Sure, not all the new features get into the game, but research is very important and always has a positive impact on the final products quality.

VG247: Finally, we’ve seen a lot of games recently push the boundaries of taste in order to become more ‘mature’, but largely failing. Witcher 2 handled this perfectly. Why do you feel many studios keep on stumbling when trying to tackle mature themes? What are the secrets to getting this correct?

Don’t get too preachy and let gamers judge what’s going on the screen for themselves. Look at The Witcher 2 – we give the gamers unclear moral choices, but they have to decide which one they will take. Let’s treat gamers like grown-ups and let them use their own moral judgments.

Also mature themes can’t feel artificial. It’s easy to put a brutally wrecked corpse or a naked woman into the game, but it’s tricky to do it in a way that serves the narration you want to tell. This has to be done with taste and be a tool in achieving your goal, not the goal itself.

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15 Comments

  1. Edo

    Great article Dave,really good stuff,can’t wait to hear more about Cyberpunk.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Old MacDonald

    I liked GOG better when it was Good Old Games.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Sini

    Very boring interview, maybe 2 questions were worth asking.
    As oppose to
    Q1: Do you laugh when you see Dragon Age awkward sex animations? What do you think is Bioware problem?
    Q2: As Dragon Age 2 is by far considered trash and worse triple A budget rpg of the last decade, do you have any suggestion for them?
    or
    Q3: Why did collector edition of Witcher did not include a set of cards with nude ladies on them?
    I can keep going and going.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @1 Thanks man, that means a lot :)

    @3 This was an email interview. There is no way they would have even acknowledged questions like that. They wouldn’t have even answered them in person.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. viralshag

    CDPR really do seem to have their heads screwed on right. I think a lot of the time, gamers like them because they bring you great games without all the fluff and BS you get from others.

    As it stands now I can happily say I will buy Cyberpunk day one. I have total confidence in them to bring something great to the market again.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Connor

    @4 Dave that was a great interview keep up the good work.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @6 thanks man, I really appreciate that :)

    #7 3 years ago
  8. DSB

    Good stuff. CDPR are really one of very few developers who give games a fair chance to be taken seriously outside of the gaming scene itself.

    Their developer blog is really a mess though. The guy writing it seems to struggle with english quite a bit. Shame, I would’ve liked to get a look behind the scenes.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. viralshag

    @Dave, Sorry, I also meant to say great interview. :)

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Da Man

    Meh, they can keep their mature mouse wanking exercise to themselves. It’s too hardcore.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. viralshag

    @ Da Man, If it makes any difference… I play the Witcher 2 with a pad… on the PC. I know… blasphemous, right? ;)

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Da Man

    It’s a boring wanking exercise. In regards to teh story and the such it’s too hardcore, I don’t know why I should put so much time into passionately relating to some polish written bullshit. If it was more enjoyable to play then perhaps I would be able to just ignore all that.

    I can’ t feel like spending hours on an Xbla game, let alone helping teh medium getting to teh new heights (and in a dull way at that).

    #12 3 years ago
  13. viralshag

    @12, Fair enough. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Which they do kinda admit to in the interview.

    I can’t say I’m as hooked on it as some people… which most hardcore fans of the series could probably tell by my hours logged on Steam but I do appreciate why people like it and for the most part, I do enjoy it a lot when I do play.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. TheWulf

    What? No. No you don’t, CDPR. For the reasons I stated in the more recent news article. Please don’t insult my intelligence by claiming that you do. If you want to treat me like a person, lower the quotient of boobies and violence in your game, make killing option, and give me a storyline based more around ethics, philosophy, and feels.

    To the Moon, whilst being made from 8-bit sprites, is a game that treats people with more respect than The Witcher games do. Not to mention that you pander to the wrong sort of people with your boobies, violence, and your changing of Geralt just to suit superficial people.

    You don’t treat gamers like people, you treat gamers like very young children. The sentiment isn’t lost on me, believe me.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. jhanalore

    The game is beautiful.

    #15 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Pillars of Eternity, which still stands as the second most-funded video game on Kickstarter, finally releases today. It’s also getting some rather positive reviews scores, which we’ve rounded up for you. The isometric, party-based RPG from Obsidian Entertainment was one of the first video game projects to take to Kickstarter, and hit its $1.1 million […]

  • Take an in-depth look at Evolve’s Behemoth monster and four new hunters

    Evolve’s fourth monster, the Behemoth, as well as the four new hunters are shown off in new gameplay video. Evolve’s latest gameplay trailer gives everyone a good look at each of the four new hunters and the massive Behemoth monster. The hunters can be bought either separately or though the hunting pass, while the monster […]

  • PS4 firmware update 2.50 causing issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall

    The suspend/resume feature in PlayStation 4′s 2.50 firmware update is causing some issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla has said that the game is experiencing some issues in some instance where the suspend/resume feature is used. The timing of when players put the game in suspend mode does have an effect, […]

  • Bungie on Destiny matchmaking: “We believe there’s no substitute for a pre-made team”

    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]

  • Bloodborne works with suspend/resume, but only offline

    PlayStation 4′s newly-added suspend/resume feature works with Bloodborne as you’d expect, but only while offline. PlayStation 4 received the long-awaited suspend/resume feature today as part of firmware 2.50, and people are starting to test it out with various games. Bloodborne does work with the feature, but only if you play offline. Playing online is arguably […]

  • This is what Crossy Road looks like in first-person

    Crossy Road is fun and addictive. But in first-person, it’s mostly frightening. YouTube user Andy Front Films likes Crossy Road so much he decided to show off what it would look like in first-person. If crossing roads quickly and watching around for cars and trains, all of this as the camera chases you felt intense […]

  • Take a small behind-the-scenes peek at Mass Effect 4

    BioWare cinematic director Ken Thain has given us a very slim look behind the scenes at some motion capture work from the upcoming Mass Effect game. The upcoming Mass Effect game, whether it ends up being called Mass Effect 4 or not, will most definitely incorporate some form of motion capture work. How do we […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8GB day one patch on PS4, 16GB on Xbox One

    Day one patches for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection are pretty hefty. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection require players to download lots of gigabytes to make the experience as smooth as possible. The PlayStation 4 version has an 8.31GB day one patch. The Xbox One version however has […]

  • Get a PlayStation 4 with Bloodborne and The Last of Us for $435

    If you’ve been waiting for the perfect game to get to buy a PlayStation 4, there’s no better time than the present. Amazon is offering a good PlayStation 4 bundle at the moment. For $434.99, you get a PlayStation 4 console, The Last of Us, and Bloodborne. The Last of Us is of course the […]

  • Upcoming Battlefield Hardline patch to nerf the K10, buff battle rifles

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch will focus on weapon balance and a few changes have been proposed. Battlefield Hardline lead multiplayer designer Thaddeus Sasser posted a few of the balance changes that the team is considering for the next patch. K10: reduce bullet damage to 33 Saiga and PTR: reduce recoil to bring more in line […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and a new Resident Evil game coming this year, according to research firm

    According to digital games analyst SuperData, a new Resident Evil game is due this fall and that this year’s Call of Duty is Black Ops 3. In its latest report on digital console games, research and analytics firm SuperData revealed that a new Resident Evil is coming this fall. “We anticipate this month’s downturn to […]

  • Bloodborne: you can add gestures to your messages

    As players get deeper into Bloodborne, they keep uncovering so many of its little new additions, including this one. Bloodborne, like all of the Souls games before it, allows players to leave messages for other players. These messages could be used to point players towards impending doom, treasure, or just be sarcastic and witty. What […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 is now live

    PlayStation 4 firmware update version 2.50 has started rolling out. Reports are coming in saying that Yukimura, PlayStation 4′s firmware 2.50 has been made available to download. The update is clocking in at just 245mb, so get downloading. 2.50 brings with it many new additions, including the suspend/resume feature, backup and restore, accessibility options and […]

  • Harley Quinn DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight is a prequel

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s Harley Quinn pre-order DLC is set before the events of the main game, according to Amazon’s description. Today we learned a few details about the pre-order DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight, namely the Harley Quinn one. According to the description on Amazon, the DLC takes place in the lead-up to the events […]

  • Bloodborne Vicar Amelia summon mystery solved

    Bloodborne players unable to summon near Vicar Amelia: here’s your solution. Bloodborne’s secrets are unfolding by the hour as clever players piece together From Software’s cunning design. Yesterday we reported problems summoning in the Cathedral Ward, before the Vicar Amelia boss fight. It turns out this isn’t a bug – or if it is, it’s […]

  • Steven Spielberg will direct film adaption of Ready Player One

    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]

  • Broken Age releasing on PS4 and Vita same day as Act 2 on PC

    Double Fine Productions has announced it will release Broken Age on the PlayStation Store next month. Act 2 will also be released on PC. The full Broken Age adventure will release on PlayStation 4 and Vita on April 28 in North America and April 29 in Europe. It features cross-buy and cross-save. Broken Age Act […]

  • Star Citizen earned another $1 million within two weeks – total hits $76 million

    Star Citizen continues its funding streak with backers pumping another $1 million into the game’s development in the last two weeks. The total earned for the space sim has now reached $76 million ($76,015,532 to be exact) with 851,395 backers contributing to the staggering figure. Star Citizen’s latest update was version 1.1 which included two […]

  • Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline top Media Create charts

    Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Battlefield: Hardline were the big ticket debuts during the March 16-2 period in Japan, with each game claiming the top three slots on the Media Create charts, respectively. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD moved 92,094 on PlayStation 4, while Resident Evil Revelations 2 moved 73,373 units on […]

  • You can now learn English or Spanish on Xbox One with the Rosetta App

    Want to learn English or Spanish? Rosetta Stone has an App for that on Xbox One. According to the language teaching firm, Rosetta Stone’s Discover Languages, the new application teaches English and Spanish by way of immersive simulation. Users will virtually travel to learn vocabulary and grammar “necessary for real-world interactions.” Here’s how it works: […]

  • PayDay 2 and PayDay: The Heist have sold over 9 million units combined

    The PayDay franchise is a lucrative IP for Starbreeze and Overkill, as both games combined have sold over 9 million copies as of November 2014. The company has also sold over 8 million paid DLC packages since PayDay 2 was released in 2013 (via NeoGAF). In its Q2 half year report issued in February, net […]

  • Nintendo wants to “surprise” customers with NX, not expand upon existing hardware

    Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has firm wants to “surprise” players with its new NX system. Speaking in an interview with Nikkei, translated by Kotaku, Iwata wouldn’t go into details on the new system, but stated expanding on a current gaming system would be “dull.” “In the past few years, the idea of what [encompasses] a […]

  • Kojima Station show suspended

    In another episode in the the ongoing kerfuffle between Hideo Kojima and Konami, the publisher has suspended the Kojima Station web show. Recent tweets from the newly created Japanese Metal Gear Solid account confirm that Kojima Station will not be broadcast tomorrow, but would not provide a date for the next episode. The Tweets were […]

  • Watch Battle Royale for free this weekend on Xbox Live

    Square Enix is celebrating the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD by offering Xbox Live members in the UK a free rental of Battle Royale. Starting Saturday, March 28 and through Sunday, March 29, Xbox Live members in the UK will be able to rent Battle Royale through the Xbox Video Store, for free. The […]

  • Bloodborne journal, part 1: managing anxiety on the path to the Cleric Beast

    Bloodborne is both like and unlike the Souls games. Brenna descends into Yharnam with reluctance and trepidation. Need help succeeding in Bloodborne? You need our Bloodborne walkthrough and boss guide. Bloodborne isn’t Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls. Let’s get that out of the way right off. I enjoyed both Dark Souls games, but it was […]

  • PS Store Easter sale discounts MGS: Ground Zeroes, Far Cry 4, more

    The Easter Sale is live on the EU PS Store, with Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes for less than £10, FIFA 15 Deluxe Edition for £30 and other savings. Some of the PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita discounts are valid through April 8, other through April 15. PlayStation Plus members can also take an […]