The Witcher 2 Developer Diary Interview

January 18, 2011

By Jimmy Thang

Following the recent release of The Witcher 2’s video developer diary on character design, we were able to conduct a follow-up interview with the game’s senior producer Tomasz Gop to go more in-depth with CD Projekt RED’s design philosophy.

In this exclusive Q&A, Gop addresses the fantasy RPG’s Tolkien-esque comparisons, accuracy to its source material, and explains the team’s reasoning for paralleling The Witcher 2’s evil factions to real-life groups like The Third Reich.

For those unfamiliar with the highly-anticipated game, The Witcher 2 is a sequel to 2007’s well-received The Witcher. The over-the-shoulder action RPGs are based on the works of esteemed Polish writer Andrezej Sapkowski and have gamers playing as Witcher “Geralt of Rivia.” Witchers are people who’ve had their bodies modified with supernatural abilities to battle monsters. As fantastical as these tales may be, the mature stories often touch upon dark issues such as oppression and discrimination. Are all the locations in The Witcher 2 based on actual locations from Andrezej Sapkowski’s books?

Tomasz Gop: Pretty much, yeah. All of them have been tweaked towards adapting it for a computer game. Some others have been enriched with places and features that give us possibilities to tell the story and/or give some extra exploration to the players. But basically, that's still Sapkowski's world.

On that same note, are all the factions in The Witcher 2 accurate to the books?

Definitely, all the kingdoms have already been described, all the political situation, even when changing, still is bound by rules created by the author. That's just a comfortable situation for us, to base the game upon a non-generic world.

Witcher 2

Who comes up with the character designs? The graphic artists? The writers? A combination of multiple people?

Combination, for sure. At first, the story writers come up with the idea that we actually will use some faction in the game, or some particular character. There are even characters completely created by us. Then the rest of the work is up to artists (of course, with designers' and writers' feedback). If some character or faction has already been present in our game previously, the job is easy, because we already know the overall look, but if it's someone new, we definitely need brainstorms.

In designing the look of the characters, did you guys go by some descriptions set forth by Sapkowski or did you have to do some interpreting?

Not everything is described in the books with enough level of detail. There's always field for interpretation, and additionally some of the characters that we've used have been mentioned in the books really briefly.

Games that are developed for American audiences that don’t use American voice actors are sometimes frowned upon if executed poorly. As a Polish game developer, how important is vocal localization for CD Projekt RED Studio?

Probably, as for most RPG games, dialogues and voices are the key factor towards good perception. I think we've already proven with The Witcher (especially the Enhanced Edition) that it can be done. And we haven't forgotten how. :)

This developer diary makes references The Lord of the Rings franchise many times. How big of an impact did Tolkein’s fantasy epic have on the development of The Witcher 2?

I'd say it's rather a contrary type of reference... Sapkowski did fantasy for sure, but it seems like anything but Tolkien's kind. Tolkien isn't worse in any aspect, it's just different. That's why comparisons to Tolkien are used to show what might be unexpected for everyone who's used to seeing fantasy world as Tolkien described... or have not heard about Sapkowski whatsoever.

This developer diary mentions the conquistadors and The Third Reich. Does CD Projekt RED Studio feel like by drawing parallels to real-life groups makes for a more meaningful and impactful narrative?

It's more of bringing the process of creating game closer to the players. I always believed that it's a good idea to give examples on what inspired people that did what they did. In this case, especially for people who don't really dig 'all that fairytale fantasy stuff', describing things closer to what's familiar to them is more... communicative.

The developer diary mentions that The Witcher 2 will introduce characters not featured in the books. Was this a scary decision?

Not at all. For starters, it's a game, not the books, so we need characters that would not always fit the books. Other thing is the creativity - there are just so many ideas, all we need to care about is to make sure it's all consistent. For example, character called Vernon Roche - a royal spy of Temerian's king Foltest. He's not from the books but from the feedback we have from media and fans it seems, people bought it.

Additionally, did CD Projekt RED Studio ever have to deviate or re-interpret characters from the book series to fit the mold of the game?

No, but I guess there are people who think we did. As mentioned before, consistency is always very important for us. We just know that things worked well in Sapkowski's books so the world is though out right. We always base what we do on how it initially got invented.

In the video, you guys say you hope The Witcher author Andrezej Sapkowski will like the sequel. Did he ever play the first one? If so, what did he think?

He didn't play the first one himself, but yes - he saw the game (even in our studio) and he liked it. This last part of a movie was probably more of a hope that one day he'll try playing The Witcher (or the sequel). Even though he's not a gamer himself.

Thank you for your time.