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gamescom 2013: Exclusive The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt interview discusses setting, combat refinements

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During gamescom I had the great pleasure of interviewing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt producer, Mikołaj Szwed, after attending a presentation for the game which you can read about in my recent preview.

As a massive fan of the RPG genre, I thoroughly enjoyed The Witcher 2 and couldn’t be more excited to get my hands on the final game in the trilogy when it releases next year due to its focus on open-world exploration, choice, consequence and a non-linear, branching storyline.

Here’s the full interview I conducted with Mikołaj discussing a variety of topics regarding The Witcher 3, as well as what’s next for the Witcher team at CD Projekt RED:

Tom:

What’s your role on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt?

Mikołaj:

I’m the story and quest designer for The Witcher 3.

Tom:

How many of you are there on the quest design team?

Mikołaj:

I’m the producer so I’m helping out the story team and the quest design team – the quest design team is now eight people while the story team is now five people.

Tom:

In terms of the quests – The Witcher 2 was very good in the way that the side quests were fully fleshed out compared to the main quest. Can we expect the same kind of thing in The Witcher 3?

Mikołaj:

Yeah, of course. Even the quest that you saw now [during the presentation] is one of the many side quests – the story side quests we’ll have. And of course since we’ve got this open world now we will have the main quest and the story side quests, then we’ll have the smaller side quests and then we’ll have the monster hunting side quests, as well as random encounters like monsters or bandits or something.

Tom:

In The Witcher 2 the story really diverges quite early on in the game - whether you go with the elf or whether you go with the human. I’m wondering if there is such a divergence this time around?

Mikołaj:

There will be choices and consequences so the story will branch out but it will be through another way than in The Witcher 2. So basically those choices will affect the storyline but not in the same way as in The Witcher 2, but I can’t reveal any more.

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Tom:

In The Witcher 2 there were the dwarves, the elves, the humans and the witchers – are there any new races being thrown in for this one?

Mikołaj:

Actually the whole world comes from the books so basically there were some other races, and actually in The Witcher 3 there will be some other creatures like sapient creatures.

Tom:

With it being a multi-region, open world – what does this mean? Is it a set of islands or a big landmass – are there very different locations?

Mikołaj:

At this point I can tell you that there will be three regions in The Witcher 3, so basically there are the Skellige islands – the location you actually saw in the presentation – this has a Nordic/Celtic feel to it so this is an archipelago – a couple of islands. And you’ll have Novigrad which is the biggest city in The Witcher world with its surroundings – it’s inspired by medieval Amsterdam and has a similar role to Venice during the 15th and 16th century. So it’s a very powerful, free city – richer and stronger than many of the kingdoms in the south. Then we’ll have Vellin – also called the No Man’s Land. So basically this is the area where the Nilfgaard clashed with the northern kingdoms and the front went north and south, and north and south, and what lies between is a desolate, destroyed land. People were killed, raped and hung there – everything that’s worst – that’s Vellin, that’s No Man’s Land.

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Tom:

Over what time period does the game’s story take place? In other words, will we see changing seasons in the game?

Mikołaj:

I don’t think so. I think it will be more that the regions will have their characteristics so if you travel somewhere. It will also be story connected. For example, the regions will change, the weather will change so the climate will change as well. But we will definitely have this dynamic weather system so basically you will be travelling across the world and you will see how the weather changes. You know, rain for example, storms, clouds or just a sunny day – so that’s what we’ll have.

Tom:

Triss was quite a central character in The Witcher 2. Is she making a return in The Witcher 3 – is she coming back?

Mikołaj:

I can’t really spoil much about the characters in The Witcher 3. I can only tell you that Crach an Craite, yarl of Skellige, will be present there – so he’s a character from the books and he was in the presentation. So he is the one you were talking to in the presentation. You will also have the Nilfgaarding who will actually be voiced by Charles Dance – so this is the actor who plays Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones. So these characters will return and when it comes to female characters from the books I can tell you that Roach will be there – Roach is Geralt’s horse, so every horse of Geralt’s is called Roach – but Roach will not be a romance option. So there will be some romance options but I can’t give you any names at this point.

Tom:

What about the combat system? What sort of refinements have you made – how has it evolved from The Witcher 2?

Mikołaj:

Basically we redesigned the system – we wanted to keep those elements that were the best from The Witcher 2 and to make it a little bit different. We also listened to the feedback of our fans because we got some very detailed feedback. So some of the elements we wanted to produce in the new fighting system – we want to connect this traditional RPG fighting with the speed and precision of a fighting game – we want to make sure that the player has the feeling that he’s always in control of Geralt, like he has full control of Geralt and his abilities.

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Tom:

I noticed just from the presentation that it seems like there’s a greater focus now on hunting beasts?

Mikołaj:

Monster hunting was always a very important element of the Witcher games – it was already present in the Witcher 1 – in The Witcher 2 not so much but there were still side quests where you had to hunt the Endregas or the Nekkers or the Harpies. So basically we wanted to give it a more prominent place in The Witcher 3, so basically now that we have an open-world game there will be far more places to put all this stuff there. We also have this new system – like these Witcher senses – which will be used to investigate both cases connected with monsters as well as not. So basically you’ll be able to track the tracks of the monsters in the forest – not only visual tracks but also you’ll be able to listen to sounds. And there will be different types of monster hunting – for example, sometimes you’ll be able to come across a monster yourself without even knowing that there’s a side quest for this monster – you can kill it and then take the trophy and then it turns out that someone will pay for your trophy. In other situations you’ll have to, for example, gather information from witnesses about the monsters, so actually you’ll get to know what monster type it is and ferret it out just like the Leshen. So basically you have to know what the monster is in order to lure it out because some of the monsters – it won’t be possible to find them until you get to know how to lure them out from their lairs.

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Tom:

Are there any sea-based monsters like Krakens?

Mikołaj:

We’re still exploring the possibilities to add different gameplay on the sea but no decisions have been made yet.

Tom:

And what about missions related to the sea? Maybe travelling out to a small island and meeting someone there?

Mikołaj:

Yeah, definitely – we have this dedicated level design team. So basically their work is to shape the world in a way that the players will always have something interesting to do – so basically you’ll always have some points of interests on your screen and of course on Skellige islands – small islands will also be present so there will be places. So basically you’ll be able to sail to those islands and explore them – maybe find some monsters, maybe find some treasure, maybe find someone, so you never know.

Tom:

Are there upgrades for your boat? Can you get a bigger boat? Different types of boats? Anything like that?

Mikołaj:

I don’t know the details about the customisation of the boat at this point because it’s a very gameplay related question, but they’re probably exploring those ideas as well.

Tom:

The last question I’ve got for you is that this is now the last game in The Witcher series – can you tell me if The Witcher team is going to work on Cyberpunk [2077] or if there’s something else in the pipeline that you can talk about?

Mikołaj:

Well actually it’s exciting because we don’t know it ourselves. Basically we’re concentrating now on The Witcher 3, and then I hope we’ll be able to go on a longer vacation and then when we get back we can sit down and just talk about some future plans about what we want to do next. Maybe some of the people will go to Cyberpunk for example, just to help out, some people maybe just to stay there, so yeah – everything’s open. I don’t know – I don’t really know so I’m excited about this as well but at this point The Witcher 3 is the main focus.

Tom:

The Witcher series is based on a collection of popular Polish short stories and novels. Are there any other pieces of Polish literature or something Polish that you guys are interested in adapting next?

Mikołaj:

This is difficult – choosing a new IP to make a game is a very difficult process and there are many discussions about it so I don’t know – you know this is a question we always ask those people who apply to us to be writers because this shows the inspirations they have – different inspirations, but I don’t know nothing about it right now but if it comes to that – if we decide that we want to go with a new IP – we’ll definitely have to sit down and gather those proposals from different people and think of what should be the best.


Thank you to Mikołaj for taking time out of his busy gamescom schedule to talk to me!

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One sometime in 2014. Head over here for El33tonline’s previous coverage of this hugely ambitious action RPG from CD Projekt RED.


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