Marcin Iwiński describes the company’s journey from importing games to making one of the best RPGs in recent years.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, copyright law was introduced in Poland, and coming straight out of high school, would-be co-founders Iwiński and Kiciński, decided to import games for the Polish market, which is how the studio got its name.
“I started the company with a friend from high school, Michał Kiciński. We started as game distributors, but in all honesty, we weren’t very good at distribution. We were very good at games, at picking games and being the first to localize them for Poland.
“Initially, the big part of our motivation to start the company was that we would have access to new titles. It sounds super silly, but we were gods. We were the lords who were deciding what was being distributed in Poland and what was not.
“So we were getting access to all this stuff. I found one of the first ads that we placed in a Polish gaming mag, and our hours were from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And I scratched my head and thought, ‘What were we doing?’ Of course! We were closing early to play games.”
After landing the rights to distribute Warcraft 2 at their first CES, they began to localise games for the Polish market, before toying with the idea of making their own.
“We had the dream of making our own games. But we had no clue how to make games. It was more like passionate gamers who knew how to run a gamer-friendly publishing business starting to develop games, without any knowledge of how to develop games whatsoever. And that was Witcher 1.”
Talking about the ambiguity of morality in Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books, Iwiński says that’s what he loves about them, and that’s what they wanted to convey in the games.
“That’s straight from Sapkowski’s writing: no clear distinction between good and evil, and always think about your choices but you don’t know what the result will be. It’s like real life. That’s what we loved about it. I think it’s about deconstructing the hero and building a different version of a hero. [In] a lot of American games it’s clearer what is good.
“We started the company as two gamers distributing games in Poland. We were fascinated with RPGs. That’s how we met Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk from BioWare, who were our role models. We played all the Baldur’s Gate games. But it was always, like, there was this evil Sarevok and you go and find him and – [trumpet sound] – you won. We thought, hey, that’s great, but let’s add a new flavor to it: more ambiguous, more complex characters who are more real because they remind us of ourselves.
“We are not always happy with our life choices. Things get terribly complicated, sometimes, starting from a very simple situation. You make a certain choice that you think is good and then you’re like, ‘Oh, I fucked up big time, man. What’s happening with my life?’ That’s a little bit Witcher.”
Having played The Witcher 2 and 3, he’s not wrong. Wrestling with decisions and wondering if you made the right choice is par for the course in Witcher games.
For a couple of guys who were clueless about making video games, Iwiński and Kiciński have done a bang up job, with The Witcher 3 winning over 250 Game of the Year awards when it released back in 2015.
The full interview is a big one, but it’s an interesting read, and if you’re a fan of the game or the studio, you should give it a gander.