For seasoned fans of The Witcher, the many talents and hobbies of the game's hero are well-known. Though Geralt of Rivia may be most famous for his fighting abilities, make no mistake: he's a lover as well. The many romantic partners and encounters made possible in the series' open world have become one of the mature, morally grey game world's trademarks. But for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the developers at CD Projekt Red are using it to pursue another goal.
It may not be every RPG fan's idea of 'refining' storytelling methods, and the developers' justifications for the amount of sexual content in Wild Hunt may not convince every skeptic. But with the team committed to releasing the game only when it lives up to their internal standards, it seems no aspect of the game is being given a free pass in the name of keeping the status quo.
To say that the studio's approach to sexual trysts and relationships in The Witcher series has matured since the first game would be an understatement. And knowing just how massive and open-ended the game's world looks to be, perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear from The Guardian that Wild Hunt features sex scenes "constructed from over 16 hours of motion capture data." That doesn't necessarily mean 16 hours of in-game sex scenes, but it's a staggering number all the same.
That amount obviously raises some questions, and senior game designer Damien Monhier offered an explanation of why the immediate assumptions will miss the point - especially when the game opens on one such scene:
"People might think we’re putting sex into the opening scene for no good reason... No, no, no. We are establishing that your character was intimate with this woman recently in order to plant in your mind that, at very least, he must enjoy her company.
"Through sex we have shown that this is a person who Geralt would be compelled to chase after if she went missing... Sex is the quickest way in which to establish the relationship and provide a justification for the player to pursue this woman. We couldn’t just tell you to go find someone you don’t know or care about. It wouldn’t work."
Without giving too much away, the scene in question looks to involve both Geralt and Yennefer, a sorceress. Though players of The Witcher 2 will be most familiar with the relationship shared between Geralt and Triss Merigold - another sorceress and former friend of Yennefer's - it is the former who bears the title of Geralt's 'true love.' So when Yennefer emerges in pursuit of the girl both she and Geralt helped raise (the newly playable character Ciri), players can expect a few different forms of conflict.
It's interesting to hear Monhier discuss romance in such practical terms; while BioWare continues to take the stand that romance and sex are pivotal elements in player investment, its emphasis on plot is minimal at best. But even Witcher fans may not be well-versed in the novels and source material that the developers are drawing from - enough of a problem for games not attempting to bring in first-time players.
CD Projekt may release trailers to help get players up to date, but showing that Geralt not only sleeps with women in the story, but genuinely cares for them may help players focus their efforts in a game world filled with distractions:
"For example, we tell the player that Geralt’s lover Yennefer was recently seen in the area and that you should look for clues. This framing gives the player permission to take on other quests while still feeling a vague pressure to continue the search. It’s a writing challenge that is almost unique to video games."
What do you think of these comments? Do you see the team's thinking in using sex to imply, confirm, and remind players of Geralt's investment in other characters, or will you reserve judgement until you've seen the finished product?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt releases May 19, 2015 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Source: The Guardian