Presumably, CD Projekt RED are still hard at work on the 16 free DLC packs they’re currently releasing for The Witcher 3 on a weekly basis, because getting a hold of them for a Skype interview proved tougher than a two-dollar steak, as they say in the Americas. So tough, in fact, that it didn’t happen at all.
Nevertheless, we were, eventually, able to get answers to a few questions from Stan Just – Art Producer. In particular he looked after concepts, characters, cinematics and the audio teams, but is also responsible for the post-release free DLCs and production on Hearts of Stone – the first expansion for the game which promises a new 10-hour adventure taking Geralt through an area called “No Man’s Land” and deep into the nooks and crannies of Oxenfurt.
PC Invasion: There was a lot of controversy about how the game finally looked on PC. It’s still a good looking game, but a lot of gamers felt they were led to expect more, particularly from the earlier footage. What happened with that?
Stan Just: We wanted the game to run on at least 30fps on every platform and look relatively the same on comparable settings. We’re still working on patches that will make the game even better in this regard.
PCI: The game contains a lot more actual “witchering” than Witcher 2, as in, investigating and hunting down strange demons and magical creatures. That’s gone down pretty well. How did you know that was the right decision to make?
SJ: In a way, you never know that until the game hits the shelves. You do have to have a vision. If you don’t have any design ‘pillars’, the game will be average and unclear — it won’t have a strong and distinctive personality that it could be recognized by.
PCI: Some of the other big CRPGs which have come out recently have been criticised for having a lot of running about herb gathering. The Witcher 3 avoided this with replenishable master items. What’s the process at CD Projekt RED for making those iterations?
SJ: All usability improvements are the result of our internal tests and discussions with gameplay department. For example, I proposed a mechanic and suggested button mapping for quick sign switching without entering the circle menu on a gamepad. The team considered my request, accepted it, and it later landed in the game. I guess the openness to other opinions is what helped us improve this game so much.
The keys to ensuring quality were, most importantly, very rigid reviews from the Studio’s Head, Game Director and all Team Leads. Those reviews were the source of changes that allowed us to improve everything that was improved already hundred times. That’s how you make a 90+ game. You iterate and iterate, and iterate, and ask for more time.
PCI: What’s the thing you personally found most challenging in development?
SJ: My biggest challenge was to organize the Cinematics Department so we could do even more cool things than before. It took a lot of effort and modifying production pipelines, but I’ll spare you the details. Long story short, what you see in the game was worth every moment of hard work!
PCI: Combat had a big overhaul and improved significantly in Witcher 3. What was the thinking behind that?
SJ: It was of course very difficult to balance and we put a lot of effort into it. The main inspiration was the previous part of the game, which we overhauled in an effort to make it snappy and fresh. At the same time, we wanted to give hardcore gamers more space for a challenge. I think the combination we ended up with is very entertaining, and I hope you think so, too.
PCI: Who was your favourite character to develop?
SJ: Mine (and I guess many others’) favourite character was Ciri. Her growth and character development required a lot of attention but it definitely paid off. Starting from a feisty little girl to later evolve into a mature and powerful warrior – she’s a pretty unique character and I like that in her very much.
PCI: Purely speculatively, will we see any more games involving Geralt after this?
SJ: Wild Hunt is the conclusion of his adventures, so I’d send him for a well-earned vacation – he’s slain so many monsters he deserves a rest.
PCI: What games do you play yourself? Where does your inspiration come from?
SJ: Most often I play various AAA series like Batman, Far Cry, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Mortal Kombat or some unique, new IP’s like Evolve or Titanfall. But I also like interesting indie games like This War of Mine, Prison Architect or Don’t Starve. While playing, I like to analyse mechanisms and usability solutions that can be applied to games, apps and web pages.