The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Developer: CD Projekt RED
International Publisher: Atari
Russian Publisher: 1C-SoftClub
Russian Localization: Snowball Studios
Official Website: English
Genres: Action / RPG / Third Person
Platforms: PC
Release Date: 17.05.2011
Russian Release: 17.05.2011
PEGI Rating: 18+
System Requirements: Core 2 Duo 2.2, 1 GB RAM, 512 MB 3D Card, 8 GB HDD
Our Score:

The Witcher 2. Interview with Marek Ziemak, CD Projekt RED

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is one of the most expected RPG-games to be released in 2011. The sequel shows some major improvements in all the areas, while enforcing its strong points, which include an exciting non-linear story and entertaining, yet accessible gameplay. There is little time left till the game hits the stores, and some time ago we had a chance to sit down with Marek Ziemak from a Polish company, CD Projekt, developing and producing the game in its internal studio.

- Greetings! Please, introduce yourself.

Marek Ziemak (CD Projekt RED)- Hello! My name is Marek Ziemak, and I’m the Level Designer of The Witcher 2 project.

- Give us some background about your career in the game industry.

- I was a newbie before The Witcher (2007) project. I was studying Computer Science at a University. Later on I started working at CD Projekt with The Witcher. I had some opportunities to work not only with this game’s development, but also participated in promotional activities. After that I joined the team, and it allowed me to get my new big professional experience. In the meantime, I was working on some casual titles to develop my personal work skills. It helped to a certain degree, but still my major expertise comes from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings project and my career in CD Projekt.

- What impressions have you got about Russia during your last visit?

- It was my third time in Moscow, and in this case some things might look rather familiar. I think, it is quite similar to Warsaw in Poland, though Moscow, of course, is a much bigger city. I feel more at home in Moscow than in London, maybe because of the city’s appearance. Though I have problems with Russian, since I do not speak this language, and some people here don’t speak English.

- Could you tell us about your latest Russian promotional tour? Was it a worldwide event?

- No, in February, 2011 it was only for Russia. «1C-SoftClub» invited us to meet the Russian game press. So media representatives got a chance to see The Witcher 2, how it looks like, and make some opinions about it.

- How would you evaluate the journalists’ reception of the sequel and the franchise in general? Does it vary or have something in common in different countries?

- Yeah, we had a chance to show the project on Gamescom in Germany to many different journalists. The impressions were pretty positive. Many people did like original The Witcher released in 2007, and they already have some kind of respect to this franchise. It was the first game of the studio located somewhere in Poland.

Marek Ziemak (CD Projekt RED)When it reached the market, it became a strong and well-known RPG-game. I like it a lot myself. I think, many journalists are aware of our line-up history. Surely, they want to see, how The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings performs, but even then they will keep in mind The Witcher, which was a really good game title.

- As a gamer who played The Witcher, what would you like to see changed in the sequel?

- I was one of the people designing the sequel in terms of its code. There were a couple of things I’d like to re-design or re-implement. One of them was the Combat System, which was recreated in the sequel from scratch. Definitely, now it is much more dynamic and visually stunning. I really liked the atmosphere, dialogues and the story of The Witcher. That’s something not really changing, but rather taken to the next level in the upcoming game.

The story in The Witcher 2 is more intense and non-linear this time, but it is still has its good taste like the original game. During some recent months we were working on the levels of the sequel, and it also a huge difference for me, since I represent the role of the Level Designer in the team. The visual quality of the game became really impressive.

When I look at it, and see some locations made by my friends and colleagues, who I do not get to see every day, I’m really impressed with how good the game looks. I believe, the gamers would get the same feeling, when they see it for the first time noticing many beautiful aspects including the characters and their models, which look excellent.

- We have seen your walkthrough of an intriguing side-quest. Could you comment on its linearity?

- Non-linearity is one of the most important features in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Of course, it is presented in the main storyline. It is very intense forcing you to make choices and facing the consequences. You will visit various locations in different acts, and the game world will be changing according to the decisions you make.

We offer gamers choices to give them more freedom. We have to set some things for the story, but you still can make some influential decisions, what makes the game more real. We tried to put as many decision points into the sequel as possible, though, of course, it was kind of difficult for the development, requiring the evaluation of various possible approaches to fulfilling any task.

With all the technologies we possess right now, and thanks to our team’s experience, we managed to make a lot of non-linear content for The Witcher 2. Now getting back to your question, yes, that side quest is non-linear in the game as well. During the presentation, we finished it at the point, where you could decide, whether you don’t want to look anymore for clues and just punish the monster you have seen, or you could try to dig a little deeper to get some extra details, to uncover some new elements, and maybe find out that something else is going around as well. So the players get a lot of freedom, when deciding, how they would like to finish this particular side-quest.

Marek Ziemak (CD Projekt RED)- Is it possible to fail a quest completely?

- It is impossible to fail a quest in the main storyline, because if you do, it would mean that you are taking an alternative path. We do not want you to see the failure sign forcing you load the game, if you failed the mission. You just take on a different approach. As long as you stay alive, while being on a quest, you will get a chance to finish it in one way or another. Though, yes, you could fail a side-quest, where some extra freedom is presented. It is pretty nice.

Let’s look at the example of the side-quest you have already seen. It is possible not to find it, what is a kind of failure already. Secondly, you can forget about in the middle of it, when traveling to somewhere else in the game world losing contact with people you knew before. Sometimes even inside such quests in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings you will be given just one opportunity to successfully complete it. Since it is just a side mission, you can break it, and then you can keep on and go to another place to do some new things.

There are other certain conditions tied to particular side-quests. I can’t give you a good example of it, but I guess there can be time limitations in place, when you have to finish something, before something else happens. The players will be acknowledged and aware about this, not punished without a reason. It was very important for us to give the gamers all the required information, so they won’t get disappointed with the lack of information.

- What was the main challenge for you as for a Level Designer of The Witcher 2 project?

- I think, the main challenge was to achieve the good quality of the levels, because my friends and colleagues, Level Artists and other Level Designers, are truly professionals making great and perfect things for the game. When doing my job, I was trying to do it as good as possible as well, to match the overall high quality of our title to keep up our visual standards. That was the biggest challenge, because I consider all of the places in The Witcher 2 are visually stunning, and it is important to make any new location on par with that.

- We have seen a couple of mini-games during the presentation event. Please, tell us more about them and the rewards they can bring in.

- Sure. We have a couple of mini-games in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Fist-Fighting like in the original The Witcher game, Dice Poker, Arm Wrestling and Knife Throwing. There are many different options letting you play. First of all, you can play them just to earn some money this way by finding an opponent willing to compete with Dice, for example. Then you choose the bet as an amount of money you are ready to put on the table and go to the match, where you can lose or win. That’s a good way to get some extra money out of someone.

Another way of playing a mini-game is becoming a part of a huge Tournament. You can have a quest, say in poker, and you need to challenge different players all over the game world. If you win the competition, you can get additional items and prizes. That isn’t just fun, but also will let you to access some unique trophies for the whole game.

Marek Ziemak's Autograph (CD Projekt RED)- What’s the learning curve in The Witcher 2 like?

- Of course, we implemented various difficulty levels. We have many types of players willing to play The Witcher 2. One of them enjoy challenging play with difficult battles and strong enemies using all their skills and whatever is possible to move forward. The other part of them including guys and girls would like to just enjoy the story and its dialogues, cutscenes and events happening in the game world.

They do not want to struggle too much with the monsters, all those things running around, and that’s why they will probably choose an Easy difficulty level. It will still feature some combat, but it will not be as challenging as on higher levels.

We believe that the learning curve for the game will be shorter than for the first The Witcher, which was a little bit complicated in terms of its combat system. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings allows more combat options at the same time being more intuitive and, therefore, easier to master. Though we offer more possibilities this time, but they are presented in a more accessible way.

You will not have to worry about having to learn things too fast, since in the beginning of the game you will have enough extra time to discover many possible options and find out, how to use them properly. I think, it is going to be very entertaining.

- How does the AI adapt to the player’s preferred fighting style?

- It is a rather difficult question. It is more about predefined enemy skills assessing, what is Geralt doing in a certain moment. Let’s say, there is a guy with a shield in The Witcher 2. Maybe he will not be adapting to what Geralt is doing in real-time with his strategy, but still he carries a shield being able to dodge and parry all the fast attacks or even some strong attacks coming from Geralt.

So a player’s task is to think of the way to get behind an enemy’s back, trying to roll from sideways and hit him from aside or from behind, or try to set him on fire, so he would drop the shield and couldn’t use it anymore. All the enemies have groups of various skills, which are meant to protect them from different attacks, while considering their unique personality.

- It means that all the in-game battle opponents possess their own strengths and weaknesses, right?

- Exactly! The same thing happens, of course, to Geralt’s skills. Each attack in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is good against certain enemies and can be weaker, when used with different targets.

- Now it’s time for our short survey. What are your favorite video games?

- It’s always a difficult question for me, because I’m a little bit of a crazy player not having just one favorite genre. On the one hand, I do like RPG-games and play them lot. I really enjoyed The Elder Scrolls (1994-2007) saga, especially its Morrowind (2002) and Oblivion (2007) episodes. Later on I liked to play Fallout 3 (2009) and Fallout: New Vegas (2010).

On the other hand, I do like racing games. Here I like the Colin McRae Rally (1998-2009) and Gran Turismo (1997-2010) series, which are terrific for me. I enjoy flight simulations games and I can’t forget a fabulous Uncharted (2007-2009) line-up. I can’t wait to play Uncharted 3 (2011), when it is released. So it shows that I can play everything, I consider being worth playing.

- What picture do you have on your desktop?

- At home it is some kind of an abstraction. It is made in a somewhat industrial style featuring orange colors calming the mood. At work it is The Witcher wallpaper. I installed on, when I was meeting some journalists in the office. It looks really nice. I like our concept art a lot, so this thing looks great on my desktop.

- Name a few things you associate with Russia.

- Prime-minister of Russia – Vladimir Putin

- That’s the most original answer, we’ve ever got for this question!

- [Smiles]. Ok. We have got a lot common moments in our history, so the next one would probably be The Red Army. There is so much: Asia, Europe, Moscow, of course, and Siberia as well, which I would love to visit some day, since it is such a great part of Earth alongside with the Lake Baikal. I want to see it a lot, and I think there are people of really interesting nationalities living there following their intriguing traditions and social customs. These are the things I think of in regards to Russia.

- What would you like to wish to all The Witcher series fans in Russia, who are looking forward to play Assassins of Kings since the 17th of May, 2011?

- Thank you all for playing the first part of the game. I hope you are really waiting for the sequel, because it is going to be a great title, and I’m sure that you will enjoy it at a lot. When The Witcher 2 is released feel free to leave some comments on our official Forums. It is very important for us. Just like after the original game came out, we found a lot of cool ideas coming from guys and girls. We hope to see the same thing happening with The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings!

- Thanks for this Interview, Marek!

- Thank you for your questions!

Read More: Interview with Tomasz Gop (Senior Producer).

Greetings from Marek Ziemak (CD Projekt RED)

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13.05.2011 | Features | Alex "Jace" Ivanchenko

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The Witcher 2: Assasins of Kings

The second instalment in the RPG saga about the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, features a thoroughly engrossing, mature storyline defining new standards for thought-provoking, non-linear game narration. In addition to an epic story, the game features an original, brutal combat system that uniquely combines tactical elements with dynamic action. A new, modern game engine, responsible both for beautiful visuals and sophisticated game mechanics puts players in a lively and believable world in this RPG-game.

Game Features:

  • Advanced new customization mechanics vastly increased the possibilities for you to modify your weapons, armor and spells;
  • Enhanced RPG Experience for deeper story and role-playing: extensive non-linearity, unique inter-connected quest-lines and greatly enhanced character development;
  • An engrossing, mature storyline defining new standards for realistic, non-linear game narration: the continued adventures of Geralt of Rivia draw on events from The Witcher (2007), while proving even more captivating, epic and full of surprises;
  • New system of Mutagens gives you the ability to modify the effects of particular skills: you could, for example, enhance and modify the way your spells work, by multiplying the damage – be it greater amount, or dealing with more enemies at the same time.
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