The Witcher 2 Deep-Dive Roundtable Interview Part 2

May 17, 2011

By Jimmy Thang

Note: This is part two in a three part Witcher 2 deep-dive interview. For information on the game's improved gameplay mechanics, story, and world, click here. For information on the game's new graphics engine and how it aims to be the best-looking RPG you've ever seen, click here.

Back in the 1990s, the PC used to be a hotbed for exclusive RPGs. With game engines becoming much more multiplatform-friendly over recent years, it's been hard enough finding an exclusive PC RPG, much less a good one. So when an unknown polish developer known as CD Projekt RED STUDIO released their critically-acclaimed The Witcher RPG in 2007, the game delightfully shocked the PC world. Based on the fantastical fiction established by esteemed Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, the game was praised for its presentation, mature themes, deep storyline, and wonderfully realized world. With the game's follow-up, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, CD Projekt RED STUDIO aims to make the experience bigger, better, and more polished than ever. had the opportunity to conduct a deep-dive interview with a host of the company's developers including Producer Tomasz Gop, Level Designer Marek Ziemak, Graphics Programmer Bartłomiej Wroński and Technical Producer Grzegorz Rdzany to see how they went about achieving these goals.

In part two of our three-part discussion, the team talks about their humble beginnings of being an unknown Polish developer, critical reception regarding their original Witcher game, why they've decided to stay a PC-centric developer, and how it feels to be called the leaders of the PC gaming movement. With the success of RPGs like Oblivion and Dragon Age on consoles, why did you guys decide to develop an exclusive RPG for the PC?

Tomasz Gop: We started way back with the Witcher one, it was a PC-only game and then, as you might remember, we had an experience with trying to do a console game which was "Rise of the White Wolf," a console remake of The Witcher one. For many reasons, this project failed. That's why we definitely wanted to work with the Witcher 2 on PC. If we will be capable of doing a console version maybe later, we just wanted to be extra careful about it. We felt confident about doing a PC game. That's why we did it and the other thing is that PC games are not dead and we think we're good enough to deliver a good PC game.

The Witcher 2 aims to improve everything about the original including graphics, length, depth, intricacy of choices, and combat.

So are there any plans to do a console port?

Tomasz Gop: We're not a studio that can do multiple projects at a time so when we launch The Witcher 2 on the PC we'll make plans to do schedules and everything. Then we will know when, how, and whether we can release the console version of the Witcher 2. Now we're focusing on the PC. It’s the only project we're strictly developing at the moment.

Being a relatively small Polish developer coming into the launch of the original Witcher, did you think there would be a stigma against the RPG considering it wasn't being published by the likes of big names like EA or Activision?

Tomasz Gop: It was tough. Especially in the beginning when we had to knock on every door and then say to the huge public and media outlets, "Hey! We're from Poland! We have a really nice game that you've never heard about! Please let us show it to you!" It was hard in the beginning, but all we had to do actually was to have a strong belief that it's going to work and to focus on it and in the end, it paid off. So it was just, it was only tough at the beginning, right now we do not even have problems with believing that we're doing good stuff.

So in regards to the first game, in your opinion, how was it received both commercially and critically?

Tomasz Gop: I never liked to say that we were, how do you call it, totally surprised by this success of The Witcher one. We always dreamed for this. We always hoped for this. It came out with good results. …One misconception people think, and a lot of people think, some people told us that we did not succeed with The Witcher one because we did not earn three times as much money as we actually invested in our title. It wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to make a brand and right now, with an established brand, we can say to anybody in the world that we're doing The Witcher 2 and they know what the game is. So, to answer your question, it was a great success because we especially achieved what we aimed for with that project. It did really well.

In 2008, CD Projekt RED STUDIO released an enhanced edition of The Witcher. This version featured numerous fixes including new animations, expanded dialogue, a redesigned inventory system, and reduced load times.

Not many developers spend a lot of time releasing an "enhanced edition" of their games. What spurred that move?

Tomasz Gop: Once again, belief. We are devoted to our fans as much as they are to us and you know, it's actually good that you mention that because not everybody realizes how much money it took to develop what most of the people get for free, but in the end, it turns out that after the enhanced version of The Witcher one, a lot of people bought the game for the full price. It was as many people as the game bought before the enhanced version. Once again, it proved that it was worth it. Even though it was not aimed towards [getting] a Ferrari for everyone of us.

I think that move and the fact that you guys are a fervent PC developer has garnered you guys an almost cult-like support among the community. How does that make you guys feel?

Tomasz Gop: It's a huge responsibility. That’s what I can tell you; because a lot of people…I mean, you’ve earned a lot of things doing a game like The Witcher one. We were so scared to show the people the results of what we've been working on with The Witcher 2... When people have seen new places, or [main protagonist Geralt's] ponytail, it was like "Jesus! Are they going to accept it!?" I mean, in the end, they did. These followers are not only like blind fanboys. They have their own opinions. We always have to make up for this and you know, and have it in mind.

The Witcher 2 isn't aiming to compete with Skyrim (pictured) or Dragon age, but just to be a better experience than the first game.

Do you guys feel like you are at the forefront of the PC gaming movement?

Tomasz Gop: We do not think ourselves in this way. We are not guys that will lead the rebellion or lead an uprising of anything. No. We're just pretty confident with thinking we know how to do PC games and we know what we're doing and we're focusing on making our lives easier with doing better and better games. The main competition for us is not Dragon Age, not Skyrim, it’s The Witcher one. We're just trying to do a better game than previously. This is our main goal. So if you put us on a front page or on a front row of any marching community, it's not willingly that we're there. It just so happens.

For part three of our in-depth interview where we will move onto discuss the graphical benefits of The Witcher 2's new RED Engine, click here.