At the recent Eurogamer Expo 2010, we were lucky enough to sit down with Tomasz Gop and Marek Ziemak, both of CD Projekt Red, about their upcoming title, The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. We were part of a roundtable, so not of all the questions below came from Game Rant; unless specified with ‘GR:’, assume the question came from our friends over at DealsPwn. You can find the first half of this interview right here. And now, without further ado, the second half…
GR: You’ve said before that some of the decisions you’ve made in the first game will affect the second game, similar to the Bioware titles; what would you say differentiates The Witcher 2 from, say, Dragon Age, or another high-fantasy RPG?
Tomasz Gop: Oh, that is tough. I mean, um…
GR: Because, obviously, they’re very well-regarded games, and you will naturally want yours to be even better.
TG: I want to start off with a sidenote: we’re not afraid of either competition or drawing inspiration, because there are not too many RPGs on the market. It’s not like the shooter market, where everyone fights with everyone to get better guns or whatever, no. If someone likes RPGs, he will buy all of them. I mean, there’s like one or two deep RPGs coming out every year, so seriously, this is not an issue for us. But, we are different in many aspects because… for example, we don’t have a generic fantasy world. Our world has been described in books; Andrzej Sapkowski is a writer who spent a huge part of his life inventing the world, and that makes this a comfortable situation for us because we can draw from that world. A lot of things that happen in the game are really ‘easier’ this way: easier for people who read the books, and also for the ones that didn’t. Also, for our designers who are working on the game, because they can think “Ok, let’s introduce someone from Nelvegarde, a bad guy”. In a generic fantasy world, four designers sitting around a table; one of them will think “Ok, this will be a guy on a horse”, another will think “This will be a guy with wings, on a dragon”, and another… In our world, that doesn’t happen because Nelvegarde is a clear situation, and everyone knows what Nelvegarde is. So it’s easier for us to implement the game, and we have a more solid, more consistent view of everything. And if you read the books, there’s even an added value which is cool. But of course, it’s not obligatory to read the books to be able to play through the game, which we definitely take care of.
Did that answer your question?
TG: That’s good, I almost got lost! *Laughs*
GR: So, as you’ve mentioned, this is based on the book series ‘The Witcher’…
TG: The world is, the storyline isn’t.
GR: Are there any inspirations from any other literary texts? I’ve read that you’ve mentioned Slavic folklore in regards to the story…
TG: Yeah. It’s not a strong inspiration, like doing any complete books from our Polish heritage, it’s more like winking an eye to the player. There are small tastes and small spaces where you could find things that make you go “Ahhhh, I know what they’re trying to say!”
Marek Ziemak: In the history [of the world], but also in the visual aspect of the game, sometimes. Of course, it’s easier for us to get some Polish references into the game, but then again it fits the world perfectly because Sapkowski was also Polish and he was thinking about all those things while creating his books, so… yeah. It’s there, it’s a little bit there.
Q: With EA and other companies stepping up and trying to create mature RPGs; obviously Dragon Age, despite throwing a bucket-load of gore at everything, was a mature title. How are you taking the maturity from The Witcher and giving that same experience to the gamers in The Witcher 2?
TG: I partly addressed that earlier; we’ve had a huge amount of feedback, we’ve got around one million registered users in the community, which means that so many things got back to us, after we released the game. We had, like, a list a thousand items long of what we wanted to think about while doing the second game. Some things were positive feedback, so we thought “Ok, let’s improve on that, let’s invest in these”, and the others “Ok, let’s try and re-implement some of the things that people liked less”.
With regards to the mature story: we personally believe that a mature story is not about showing breasts, or showing ‘buckets of gore’, as you said, it’s more about the choices that you make. For example, in The Witcher and The Witcher 2, if a player is 13 years old and in front of a choice whether he should help this guy, or kill him, it’s not about whether I want to be good or bad. It’s about the future consequences, thinking about whether he’s more of a political guy or an emotional guy, and that’s not suitable for really young people. It’s really something that mature adults think about, and this is the way we’re trying to approach The Witcher 2.
MZ: It’s more about the way of thinking, rather than what we exactly put in the game. So, you know, we didn’t put gore and sex in the game because we wanted to make it more ‘mature’, but it’s only in there if we need it. So, it’s not like “Ok, we need sex right here”, we just do it. It’s not like “It’s a game for kids so we have to get rid of it”, no. We’re mature people, we’re making a game for a mature audience, and we’re just putting everything we need inside of it.
TG: Sex is a good example. If we want two people to have romance, Geralt with any woman, we’re definitely trying to build up a story around that. Heavy Rain is a good example; there was a sex scene which was done because two people spent some time together, it was not about *Clicks fingers*
MZ: It definitely wasn’t “We need boobs, right now!”
Q: In the industry right now, there’s a lot of sensationalism, for example the Mass Effect sex scene a couple years back. Do you worry at all about censorship? Do you worry that people will ignore the deeper mature themes, and simply see the violence, see the sex and cry out “This is terrible!” Do you worry about that at all, and does it bother you?
TG: It always does. Censorship means more work! It always does. I mean, we had to do it with The Witcher.
MZ: You’ll always get the people who don’t ‘understand’, or don’t want to understand what we’re trying to say. Gore, sex… it’s everywhere. I’m not talking like we’re doing a porn movie, but then again, it’s in books, it’s in movies, and so why not in games? We have a deep story, but it’s hard to convey that in a natural way sometimes… but that’s exactly the reason why it’s there; it’s natural.
GR: Different parts of the world have different censorship guidelines, whether it’s more sensitive in America or in Europe, is there a chance that, say, if you’re selling it in America, you may need to block out boobs or make it less violent? For example, the original No More Heroes, in America it had blood shooting out of the enemies, but when it came over to the UK, it was placed with sprites, and there was no blood. Are there going to be any censorship differences between the territories? Or will it be the same game everywhere you buy it?
TG: Well, we’re aiming for the same game everywhere. But, we were aiming the same with The Witcher, so you never know until you actually submit the game. I mean, we have to get ready to potentially censor stuff; it was the same case with our recent trailer, the Prison Break trailer that we released on the net, it had to be censored in the United States. We had to blur out the breasts… but somehow Gametrailers uploaded the wrong one, without censorship, which was really funny! *Laughs* And nobody even noticed!
MZ: Yeah, it was natural. *Laughs*
GR: Looking to the future now, I know that The Witcher 2 isn’t out yet, but do you have any plans for DLC? Any multiplayer aspects?
TG: We’re not announcing anything yet, but it is a natural way to expand the story. It’s something we’re thinking about.
MZ: Especially in an RPG game.
TG: There’s so much story to be told, come on!
Q: When making The Witcher, you’ve just said that you were already thinking of The Witcher 2. With that in mind, could you potentially see a Witcher 3, or a Witcher 4?
TG: *Laughs* You will have to wait for the outro of The Witcher 2. Come on! Don’t make me spoil it for you!
GR: So that’s a yes, right?
TG: *Laughs* Not yes, not no! It’s like, you definitely want to find out. But, I can promise you that, if we are thinking about The Witcher 3, there will be a hint.
GR: Stepping away from The Witcher for a moment, are there any other games that you guys are developing that are using the new engine, or are you outsourcing it to any other companies?
TG: Right now, there’s only one project at CD Projekt Red, which is The Witcher 2, and outsourcing the engine? Pretty much like DLC, it sounds like a good idea, but in this case, we’d definitely like to make one game with the engine first, prove that it works, and then think about outsourcing. And if it works, which I’m pretty sure it will, then Ok, let’s talk, let’s think about franchising the engine.
Q: One question that I’m asking everyone today; What is, in your opinion, the most awesome, kickass thing, in The Witcher 2?
GR: You’re asking everyone about The Witcher 2?!
Q: Haha, no; so what do you guys think is the best thing you’ve implemented in your game?
MZ: Well, it’s a hard question… but I think it is the story. It always was and, for me, it still is.
TG: We (the two of us) didn’t write the story of The Witcher 2, so we can say that it’s way better than The Witcher. We’re really fans of the story.
MZ: It’s where it all begins right? There’s the story, and everything else is cool, it supports the story, but that’s what really sucks you into the game and makes you want to play more.
TG: I personally like the epicness. We have, like, three huge epic encounters including a castle seige, fighting with really, really huge monsters, a hundred characters on screen and so on, so that’s my favorite feature.
We were then shown the recent ‘Prison Break‘ trailer, and I felt I had to ask one last question.
GR: So, within this trailer, you see the story change as it’s being told by the two different characters. How does that work in the final game? Is it like Prince of Persia where someone says ‘No, that’s not how it happened!’ and everything changes?
TG: No, no, no! It’s all about choices; this is just our concept. It’s not like someone tells you that the story has changed; rather, you make the choices and you play through the possible outcomes.
GR: And so these are the two possibilities for this playthrough, yes?
TG: These are two possibilities of this quest. Only two of the four possible playthroughs.
And so, half an hour after we’d started, our interview was over. Thanks again to CD Projekt Red for taking the time to chat with us, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did, Ranters!