With CD Projekt having now formally announced The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – along with nice assets to back it up – we grabbed some time with senior producer Tomasz Gop to chat about the game’s new engine, what’s going on with The Witcher on consoles and what to expect from Geralt’s sophomore release.
Interview by Stephany Nunneley.
If one were to say that The Witcher 2 was one of the most anticipated RPGs in recent years, one would be right on the money.
The first game sold over 1.2 million copies within a year on the market, earning its place as one of the best-selling PC titles of all time.
It became a darling of the public and critics alike despite a few patching issues, receiving an overall Metacritic rating of 86, and it was nominated by the AIAS as a contender for RPG of the year in 2008.
It is now 2010, and despite financial issues, the cancellation of both the console version, the dropping of an unnamed IP in the series, and a leaked video while shopping The Witcher 2 around to publishers, CD Projekt has proved you just can’t keep a professional monster-slayer down.
Geralt of Rivia is back. His world has been given a new lease of life with a newly-built engine and from all we’ve seen and heard so far it looks and sounds fantastic: we honestly cannot wait for 2011 to hit.
Giddy fangirl mode off: here’s Tomasz.
VG247: Tell us a bit about the updated engine? What technological limitations did you come across the last time out, and how did you push through those with Witcher 2?
Tomasz Gop: The Witcher 2 works on brand new engine created by CD Projekt RED, so it is not updated version of Aurora.
Previous technology limitations were mostly connected with the RPG core of the game. Dialogues, cutscenes, character interactions, scripting the storyline and so on. We’ve removed a lot of limitations, some of which were pretty obvious (the infamous obstacles you couldn’t leap over), and some closer to the production pipeline. Lots of things are now easier for designers, animators and artists to do without programmers’ help.
That’s one of the reasons the game looks so good a year before release. In one word, rewriting the engine was a mainly RPG-related challenge for us.
What can you tell us about the storyline this time around?
Tomasz Gop: For a start, the order in Temeria Kingdom has been pretty much restored. The Order of The Flaming Rose is no more. There’s pretty much one last place where King needs to go – La Valette Baron and her castle where she has claimed “independence from the king”.
Anyways, Foltest asks Geralt to accompany him, and since you don’t say “no” to a king, this is exactly where you start your adventure in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Geralt is not too happy about not being able to follow the thread of the assassin, but he’ll definitely get back to it in the game. This is the main plot.
What more can I say? The scale is bigger, people are more powerful, emotion, politics – all stronger. No spoilers, right?
When did you decide that you wanted to make a sequel? Was it while the first was being developed or after its critical and commercial success?
Tomasz Gop: We already had ideas for a sequel while writing the first game; the ending of The Witcher teases it. Production of The Witcher 2 started right after we released the first one. The decision was not really about whether to do it, but how.
Writing our own engine took us some time and that was when the vision was polished, and all the features prototyped.
Is the team leading the development on PC or are there teams for both PC and the console versions of The Witcher 2?
Tomasz Gop: It’s too early to comment on this one right now.
Last year, it was announced that the console version of the original game was canceled due to the economic conditions – yet once in a while we still hear rumblings around the internet that it is still being considered. Any plans to take up where you guys left off on The Witcher 1 for consoles?
Tomasz Gop: It definitely is considered. No particular plans though. The project is frozen – lies on a shelf awaiting the right moment. The only thing I could state for sure is that we’d love to pick this project up again.
What about the “unannounced Witcher IP” that was also rumored to be canceled? Can you tell us anything about that?
Tomasz Gop: I’d love to but I don’t really know anything about it.
Do you plan to release a PC version digitally through other distribution sites other than your own as well as through retail – like on Steam, D2D or Impulse per chance?
Tomasz Gop: Nothing has been announced in this matter yet. We’re still a year ahead of the street date.
Any plans for future downloadable content like adventure packs? What about a demo? Any plans for one? If so, will one come to consoles?
Tomasz Gop: As for DLC nothing has been announced again, but we’re definitely thinking about this one. A lot of ideas, and new possibilities with the new tech. We’d like to make sure we do the game first though.
So far, the game is slated for Q1 2011 on PC, 360, and PS3. Any chance it could come earlier or later?
Tomasz Gop: We’re releasing The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in Q1 2011 and it’s coming out on PC. Regarding any other platforms nothing has been announced yet. Nothing has been promised yet. Nothing has been shown yet. But everything is kept well secret and planned for.
What made you decide to give Geralt a ponytail this time around?
Tomasz Gop: We’ve redesigned a lot of Geralt’s attributes. His clothes, some of his weapons, and so on. The ponytail was one of the things that fit the overall view this time. It’s not like we did it on purpose. Besides, fighting monsters might be wiser with your hair fastened – just in case you needed a more gameplay-related explanation.
Geralt is pretty much the Captain Kirk of the medieval world. Will he have just as many female conquests this time around or will he decide to settle down with one gal?
Tomasz Gop: What Would Kirk Do? Geralt has always been sort of womanizer, so you might expect relations this time as well. It was important for us to rethink and redesign the presentational aspect of sex, nudity and romance in The Witcher 2. We focused on this being more bound to the story, and less “collectible”.
You could expect that this time sex means actually two people getting close to each other.
Will there be both an unedited and edited version released like with The Witcher 1?
Tomasz Gop: That’s probably more of a question for the ESRB than CD Projekt. The US release of The Witcher was the only edited version worldwide. Or was Chinese one edited as well? I can’t recall.
We’re not trying to achieve the “we showed full frontal nudity in US” trophy, we’re just reaching for a mature audience. The Witcher 2 will probably end up with the same ratings as The Witcher, and hopefully this time we will not cut down any content.
I remember that before release of The Witcher we got an opinion from ESRB saying that “the game contains really little violence compared to the amount of sex”, while at the same time PEGI was like “hey, the mature content in your game is so teen, you could easily spice it up a bit if you’d like”.
Thanks, Tomasz .