RPGFan had a chance to fire off a few questions at Tomasz Gop, Senior Producer on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, slated for release in May. What's new from the developers in Poland? Find out below!
RPGFan: A lot of our readers are fans of the Japanese RPG and haven't played a lot of Western titles. What would you tell them about The Witcher 2 to get them interested?
Tomasz Gop: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a non-linear RPG with a huge open world, great visuals, and an unusual, highly charismatic main character. Geralt is a professional beast slayer, the protagonist in a best-selling series of books by internationally-acclaimed Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, whose works have been translated into over a dozen languages. The game is aimed at a mature audience, and is all about making choices that have real meaning. They lead to consequences that touch the whole world, not just the hero.
RPGFan: It's safe to say that The Witcher was in development for a long time - we saw it at E3 2006 in Kentia Hall in playable form, and it didn't see release until late 2007. Has the second title received that same care? How has the development team size changed, as well?
TG: We put our hearts and souls into both games. It’s been around four years now since we started working on The Witcher 2, which is bigger than the first part of the saga in pretty much every possible way. Despite this, we are confident that the players will see we have put even more care into this project to make sure they receive the kind of experience they deserve.
Our team has grown considerably since 2006, with increased head counts in every major department.
RPGFan: What aspects of the original game did you think needed fixing/refinement/improvement? How have you tried to implement those changes?
TG: We have always paid a lot of attention to our fans. Their opinions are extremely important to us. Based on their feedback, we’ve changed many things, and even totally redesigned others. Our engine, for example, is brand new technology. The fact that we built it completely in-house to be used exclusively on The Witcher 2 gave us the ability to implement many features and improvements we weren’t able to last time.
RPGFan: Do you feel that the possibility of a console version has influenced any of your design decisions? For example, the original Dragon Age was developed with PCs in mind and then ported to console, whereas the sequel was developed with consoles in mind and then ported to PC, and it showed in the design of the game. You did show off controller support for the game at E3...
TG: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was designed with only one platform in mind, the PC, which is our first and foremost focus here at CD Projekt Red. Therefore, we didn’t cripple or even compromise the interface or any other aspect of the game for consoles. We realize some players prefer gamepads, so we do support them.
RPGFan: In the original game, a big part of your design philosophy was that decisions shouldn't be 'good' and 'bad,' but that they should be morally ambiguous or totally amoral. Other developers make this same claim, but their "choice" really has no impact beyond changing some dialogue and a potential quest chain later in the game. Do you think you succeeded in this regard with the first game? What are you doing in the second game to "up the ante" in that area?
TG: It was extremely important to us to stay absolutely true to this core design philosophy. We believe that choices should not be good or bad, but should be as you described them and as they are in the real world: more complex. The consequences of major decisions should be appropriately large and significant, affecting the entire gameworld, not just some NPCs’ attitudes towards our character. I think we’ve pretty much achieved our goal, but the players who go out and buy The Witcher 2 starting on May 17th will be the ultimate judges.
RPGFan: The original Witcher was running on the BioWare Aurora engine and suffered from significant framerate issues on lesser machines. Will users not running top-of-the-line machines run into any issues with the new engine?
TG: Our new REDengine takes full advantage of the latest advances in PC technology. We’ve optimized the game to be fully playable on older two-core machines, and with more cores and/or hyper-threading, you’ll see a visible difference. Of course, if you want to experience The Witcher 2 in its full glory, you’ll want to have a newer, appropriately powerful rig.
RPGFan: CD Projekt is providing The Witcher 2 for release on its own GOG.com, a platform known for its lack of DRM. Do you think this is going out on a limb in regards to piracy?
TG: We’re pleased that having GOG.com as our sister company lets us offer RPG fans who have been waiting for The Witcher 2 an additional way to buy it. Those who prefer to avoid issues they associate with copy protection can go to GOG.com for a digital DRM-free version that will completely address their concerns.
RPGFan: Many western RPGs give players a large amount of customization when it comes to the main character, but Geralt is Geralt. What kind of advantages does this give you in storytelling?
TG: The primary advantage is that Geralt is a very strong, highly distinctive character. Since he is described in detail by Andrzej Sapkowski in the entire Witcher series, we obviously had to stay true to that. So, our goal was to show him the way we imagined him when we read the books. You can’t customize how he looks, but you can get to know him in depth – his personality, his character. Everything about Geralt is unique; he’s definitely not your generic poster boy from a typical RPG.
RPGFan would like to thank Tomasz and CD Projekt RED for taking the time to answer our questions. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings will be available on May 17, both as a retail release and via digital distribution.
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