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    The Witcher 3: Matthew Steinke, Lead Technical Designer Speak About The Game

    The Witcher 3 was supposed to have been out by now but was pushed back to May for quality assurance. Given that you could keep polishing indefinitely, how do you determine whether or not the game’s “good enough” for release? 

    A work of art is never finished, only abandoned. While Leonardo may have been the first say this, it’s still true today. Creation, by nature, is never complete. Like any work of art, our game is a living accumulation of creative decisions, where each change is only an iteration of the existing work. As a result, it’s never perfectly clear when a game is ‘good enough for release’ because, like you say, we could continue to add and polish features indefinitely.

    Still, there has to be a point when we’re satisfied with the quality of the experience and decide to present our game for the players to enjoy! That decision is the sum of multiple factors and every studio has their own set of criteria. For CD Projekt Red, a game is ready for release when the environment represents the artistic vision we set out to achieve, the performance has reached a consistent level of quality, and the gameplay is challenging, balanced and most importantly, fun to return to.  

    One thing we haven’t heard a lot about is The Witcher 3’s dialogue system. Could you tell us a little bit about how dialogue in the game works and what distinguishes it from dialogue systems in other RPGs?  

    The Witcher 3 dialogue system creates a truly immersive, cinematic experience by presenting the player with a set of interactions during in-game cutscenes using the power of our proprietary game engine, REDengine 3. To progress through the story, you must choose from a dynamic set of branching plots that determine the direction of the storyline. What choices are made available is based on characteristics like your reputation and the previous choices you’ve made. Additionally, the player may choose to influence those around them using the Witcher’s Sign abilities. Combining all of these options, the player may acquire new information, discover ancient lore, open alternative paths and unlock new quests. [In other words: it’s a branching dialogue system. – Ed]

    The Witcher’s mature treatment of morality is one of the franchise’s distinguishing characteristics. How have you approached the design of moral dilemmas in The Witcher 3?

    Moral ambiguity is one of the aspects of Wild Hunt we’re most proud of. As the Witcher, you decide the fate of those around you, and not only through dialogue. Throughout your adventure, you will experience innocents being victimized, travelers held captive and villagers mobbed by gangs of renegades. At each encounter, you must choose to make a stand or continue on your journey.

    The open, living world design has been built around this core of non-linear mechanics meaning any life you encounter may later be revealed to be a key character in a quest, an influential member of a struggling community or perhaps a witch that was being punished for her crimes. While saving a life may appear to be the right thing to do, sparing an evil life may lead to even more unfortunate circumstances. Every decision you make impacts the world around you.
    Could you give us a breakdown of the kinds of tactical options that will be available to the player in combat? If I were fighting a werewolf, for example, what would I need to take into account before battle and what kinds of options would be available to me in the thick of combat? 

    During the 35-minute demo we released earlier this year, we watched Geralt track and hunt down a werewolf that was terrorizing the countryside. One of the many tactical options Geralt has available to him, and another great example the living world’s direct effect on gameplay, is the cycle of the Moon. Remember that a werewolf is at the height of its ability during a full moon, so by timing your attack, it’s possible to gain a tactical advantage over the creature when it’s weakest. Also, a werewolf has tremendous regenerative capabilities that must be overcome.

    In addition to the Witcher’s preparation, weapon augmentation can be used to strengthen your attack. Upgrading your sword with runes, or crafting a fragmentation petard that covers the creature with silver as it explodes, are both examples of options the player might choose to inhibit regeneration. As the player progresses through the game, they will gather this type of knowledge and be able to use it to overcome more powerful creatures.

    How much scope is there for the player to determine the conclusion of Geralt’s story? Will there be multiple endings, for example?

    The storyline features multiple endings where each branch is determined by the choices you make during the game. As an avid gamer, what I like most is the gritty nature of the decisions Geralt must make. Some choices are very heavy, and lead you well into the gray side of morality. Some choices, even indecision, will create outcomes that may not be evident at first, but will come back to haunt you later in the game. I can’t say too much without spoiling the game, but there is variety of possibilities and each will have an impact on the potential outcome of the story. 

    Could you tell us a little about how the game’s “living economy” functions and how it interacts with the ecology and hunting systems?

    For the living economy, every item has a different value based on the type of merchant the player is interacting with and the state of the world around them. This rewards our more ambitious players who might travel to distant lands to trade items at favorable rates. For example, in Skellige, a land where the villagers are hearty and well fed, grain and meat can be purchased at reasonably low prices. Travelling to No Man’s Land, a region ravaged by war and famine, the player can trade these same goods for a large profit on their investment. There are many more ‘tricks of the trade’ like this one, but we’re not going to spoil all of the surprises The Witcher 3 has in store.

    It seems like The Witcher 3 is set to win a lot of new fans to the franchise. How will newcomers be brought up to speed, storywise?

    The script has been carefully crafted to ensure that long-time fans will experience a natural continuation of the Witcher saga, while new players will be able enjoy it as a standalone adventure. As The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt opens, roughly six months have passed since The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and the Nilfgaard army launched their attack on the North. No longer caught in the grip of politics, we find Geralt focusing on his own agenda. And this time, it’s very personal as he begins his search for the ones he loves.
    Like this one, for example: “The Witcher has never been coy in its presentation of sex and sexuality. Has the recent furore over Gamergate, Anita Sarkeesian, and gender in gaming impacted how CDP approaches the subject of sex and the depiction of women?”

    Given the controversy over the first Witcher’s naked collector cards and then the whole fiasco with the barely-clad fembot in the Cyberpunk trailer, you’d think CDP would have something to say on this issue. Apparently not. A pity.

    In the real world, the Wild Hunt is a widespread and ancient folk myth describing a band of spectral huntsman and/or soldiers racing across the sky in furious pursuit of unseen prey. The details vary across cultures but in most places the arrival of the Wild Hunt signifies imminent catastrophe, usually plague or war. It’s a harbinger of doom, in other words. Leaders of the hunt also vary from region to region and typically reflect local views of the Hunt itself.  In Britain, wise and honourable King Arthur (of Camelot) takes front and centre, whereas in Spain it’s a hated bloodthirsty psycho named Count Amau.

    The Wild Hunt is a ghostly harbinger of doom in The Witcher as well and, until about half-way through The Witcher 2, seems mostly identical to the one from myth. But then and this is a MASSIVE SPOILER for the Witcher 2, so be warned it turns out the Wild Hunt isn’t a bunch of ghosts after all but actually an interdimensional hunting party of astrally projected elves. For the moment, its goals are inscrutable: all we know for sure is that it’s taken a keen interest in one of Geralt’s allies, obliging him to confront it directly for the first time. Should be an interesting fight.

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