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“Story goes first with everything”, but CD Projekt never had combat designers until Cyberpunk 2077

Traditionally in triple-A game development, a story was simply a thing to wrap around a series of events. In games such as Uncharted, the story would tie the set-pieces together. As our medium evolves, this is becoming an archaic way of working and writers are embedded on projects from the outset.

At The Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt Red, story is king. That’s how it was for The Witcher and that’s how it’s been for Cyberpunk 2077 as well.

“In our game, in our company, always story design, so the story goes first with everything,” lead quest designer Pawel Sasko explained during our E3 chat. “So the thing is that the quest designer and writer, they together figure out the story, the scenario. The quest designer writes the scenario, and then based on that we implement it.

“When it's implemented our writers write the first dialogues and cinematic designers start making first scenes and so on. And we work together - quest designers, cinematic designers - to implement and make it perfect.”

From here a new key part of CD Projekt Red takes over: encounter and combat designers. These roles didn’t even exist at the Polish studio during development of The Witcher 3.

“In this game all those awesome playstyle sequences that we have seen, they're mainly done by the encounter design team, and by the combat design team, so they're looking into it - this is something we didn't have to do in The Witcher, we didn't even have the budget and the team and so on to do so,” Sasko said.

“Right now we have a separate team, a small one, that we're working together with and they're just adding ideas, implementing things, iterating, reviewing that part, just make sure that the combat feels good, that everything that happens just has correct rhythm and so on, because honestly it's super easy to screw it up.”

Cyberpunk 2077 releases April 16, 2020. Cyberpunk 2077 will feature multiple endings, and you’ll be able to see the full extended E3 demo at PAX West. The entire game can be finished without killing anyone.

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