The Witcher 2. Interview with Tomasz Gop, CD Projekt RED

The Witcher 2 tells a new story about the exciting adventures of famous fantasy hero – Geralt of Rivia. When creating a sequel, its developers tried not only to keep a familiar style for the fans, but also were willling to introduce some great new options, while attentively listening to the community wishes.

Looking at the example of two in-game levels, the Lead Producer of the Project, Tomasz Gop, from a Polish studio, CD Projekt RED, has told us about the core features, their role in the game and shared some really interesting details about the development process of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, which took several years to finish. Read on to find out more.

- Greetings! Please, introduce yourself.

Tomasz Gop (CD Projekt RED)- Hello! My name is Tomasz Gop, and I’m the Senior Producer of The Witcher 2 project.

- What are the main features of the sequel?

- The original Witcher was a story-driven game, and the story was staying in the focus being the main feature of the game. The same happens to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. We have scripted a non-linear story in a new way, while utilizing our own engine. There are three optional openings right now, and you can also import the your saved data from the first game to the second one, where you can reach one of the 16 different endings.

- When you visited Moscow in the end of last year, what gameplay footage did you show?

- That Press Demo Version showed a part of the story, where I played through one of the quests underlining various choices you could make during your walkthrough. The second part of it featured a huge battlefield presenting some epic scale stuff.

- What is special about the Prison quest shown at the presentation?

- It was not a beginning of an in-game Chapter in The Witcher 2. It is just a part depending on it. The story places us into a Prison, but we already know, how to get out of it. Someone has just helped our hero with the shackles with this being a part of the story I won’t spoil for you. We could do it right now, if we wanted to, but the clever way to do it would be a trying to provoke the guards, so they could come in without their weapons letting us fight them in an easier way.

There is one important thing: you will not always have to kill your opponents in the game. You can draw your sword and fight, or if you don’t want to or don’t have one, you can just fist fight them in certain sequences. There are QTE-events in the sequel as well. The defeated enemies will stay alive, what might change a story. When you get out of a Prison cell, you would need to take a key and get out of that Prison itself.

That’s actually just a beginning of this quest, where you can also pick-up a sword of one careless guard, and it is a good chance to show our character’s customization options. In The Witcher you used to have like 3 full-body armours, while in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings you can customize everything. All the slots will allow you to change parts of your clothes and weapons, and the graphics will reflect your decisions. There are slots allowing to improve your gear, and also you can craft new items.

For example, if you possess a sword, you can upgrade it with Runes or various Gems. You will be able to see these Runes right on the sword. There are hundreds of various items you can find with some of them being rare or unique. That’s one more change for the sequel.

- What options does non-linearity offer in the game?

- When you walk out of a Prison cell in The Witcher 2, you can encounter two non-linear paths. Depending on what choices you make in the game, you will meet different people and uncover certain parts of the story. You could see some of it in our trailers. There is also a specific approach to a level you could choose: doing it in a sneaky way or just rushing in killing everyone.

If I try to use a sneaky approach on that presentation level following like a Ninja style, then it gets me more experience. It is cool to face more difficult challenges in the game. Firstly, we need to put out the torches, because otherwise guards can see us. Then you can come closer and ambush one of the guards from behind.

There are different pathways you could go to in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, for example, to the left or to the right. Depending on a road you choose, you will have to use suitable tactics. If I try to go right, for example, I can meet one more guard, but it is possible neither kill him, nor ambush him. You can just wait, till he walks away, and then just try to sneak through.

One of the other guys at the level is flirting with a female prisoner. He is kind of romantic and also possesses a key, which can open an alternative path. The story and the place can change depending on your actions. If you get the key, you can open the basement and meet new people.

This single Prison quest in The Witcher 2 can be completed in 4 different ways. You could see a few of them in a trailer. Of course, with a mighty Witcher, a guy, who is skilled enough, we can also jump over obstacles, but not everywhere.

You could see in trailers that it is possible to save or a guy or a woman at a certain story points. Earlier in this game we had to fight a very important NPC, and you might kill him or not. Depending on your decision, you can meet him again or not. In the game shown at the presentation, we killed that person beforehand, and that’s why we won’t see him again in the basement. That’s basically how changing the story works in the sequel.

You can save a woman being tortured keeping up with that sneaky approach. You might see that in the trailer, but you couldn’t see there some cool things about the guard, who serves as a Torturer. He is a strong opponent in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. You can block his strikes during a fight and then counterattack. Then you need to be gentle and to let the saved girl dress up.

Afterwards she will mention that we killed her son earlier. Normally, she would not, if we didn’t. There are many more things like that changing the story, and you will learn, how the Geralt’s place can change during your walkthrough. For example, we don’t have to save that woman, but, if we do, she will help us.

After a following conversation in The Witcher 2, you will get really close to the exit, but there would be just one more corridor to pass through. Normally, it could be difficult, since many guards would be there, but this time the guards will be distracted allowing us to get out of the Prison even without killing anyone else. You still can stay sneaky and see a guy helping us.

- What are the ways to improve the main character?

- Ok, aside from the story you also have character’s development options letting you to improve your Witcher. Firstly, there are 3 development paths available here: for a swordsman, for a magician being able to improve his magic strength or for an alchemist. The main idea is either to enhance your combat with a sword, but then you will not be that strong with handling magic. Like if you are performing an insane combo and use a magic sign or a potion, it can break your combo, because your hero isn’t that good in combining magic with melee fighting.

Secondly, our character’s development is connected with the story of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. If you want to level up your hero and find unique abilities and skills, you definitely have to do a lot of side-quests, because some of them provide you with certain ingredients or items. That is how you can access some new abilities as well.

There are also character’s customization options. Everything is stats-related, and you can change the whole outfit of The Witcher including trousers, gloves and jacket. Everything is customizable. If you find a jacket, you can take it to a craftsman and upgrade it improving its defensive statistics. You can also enhance offensive statistics of the damage done by your sword and so on. You can find schematics of in-game weapons. You can create new weapon out of them, and it is like crafting.

- What can you say about the Fantasy setting style in the sequel?

- It features the same style, since we are still based on the world of the books of Andrzej Sapkowski from where drew a lot. Many characters you will meet in The Witcher 2 can also be found in the books, but some of them didn’t appear in the original game. We got back to connecting the game and the books. Also, what’s important we went deeper into Geralt’s memory this time, unlike it was in The Witcher. In the sequel he is going to remember a lot more and find out much more about his parents and so on. All the important points of the story of the books will take its place in the game.

There are different ways allowing you to alter the storyline of the game. Some of them let you choose alliances, make political or emotional decisions. Others depend on where you go. One of the most important aspects is how The Witcher develops his own profession. You learn as a Witcher, trying to expand your knowledge. That’s how you get deeper to The Witcher story as well.

- Was Andrzej Sapkowski personally involved in the game’s development?

- It was like for the first game. He wasn’t writing a story or supervising our game – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. I mean, he is not a gamer, so he is not that interested in games’ development. At a certain level, while we were making The Witcher, we asked him to come to our studio and see the game. We asked him a lot of questions about the world’s map, the name of the monsters and characters. He came in and told us that our results were really good.

It is our own story and our own game. We have all the necessary licenses, and we can do a lot in terms of freedom, but we always show respect to him and his works. We are basing a game on his world and take into account its important events to stay consistent with the books. So we always try to consult him, when we get a chance, but he isn’t supervising our development.

- Can you name some changes made to the combat mechanics from the first game?

- Yeah, sure. The original title was kind of a turn-based, where you had to click at the right moment. Right now you can perform fight combinations in The Witcher 2. You aren’t even bound to picking any fighting styles. In the previous game, when battling a strong opponent, you had to use a strong fighting style against him. Here strong strikes are still effective against strong opponents, but if you perform a combo, especially integrating a light one and a strong one together, it could be a take down hit to an enemy. If you use advance tactics on higher difficulty level of the game, it will be even more fun.

- Is this approach reflected in enemies AI behavior?

- At the very end, it turns out that a lot depends on how you play in the sequel, whether you kill someone or just sneak through. It not only gives you more experiences, but also forms up an opinion about you in various communities and societies. Your Witcher can look as a real killer, or as a guy, who tries to solve things peacefully.

In The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings People will treat you in different ways because of that depending on your own behavior. If a certain guard is not very smart, you can sneak behind him, but if he is smart, you can still outsmart him. If you don’t pay attention to it, guards can see you, and you will actually have to fight them. Sometimes you can get surrounded by the enemies having to react.

- Describe the capabilities of an in-game graphics engine.

- Well, in the second part of the presentation you could see more special effects on the battlefield. The main reason for our making of a new engine was a wish to create an exciting and non-linear story also expanding RPG-elements of the first game. In The Witcher we used Bioware’s Aurora engine, and there a lot depended on alliances presenting three major storylines. In the new game you get more tactical options: where to go, what to do and how to treat people.

Of course, when writing a new engine for The Witcher 2 we faced the challenges of creating a new Renderer showing really good performance. The battle I showed is one of the huge events in the game. By the way, our projects feature three really big battles. Each one is located at the end of certain in-game Chapters. In total, there are 5 Chapters including the Prologue and Epilogue episodes.

The battle presented was connected with one of the possible endings for our of the Chapters in the sequel. On the cursed battlefield a lot of ghosts are fighting. Most of them do not attack you and do not fight back. What is also cool with a new engine is that you can see hundreds of characters fighting on screen and any given moment, and the graphics are really nice.

It is better to use strong strikes against strong opponents in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Normally, you would have to fight a lot in the game. You will also meet bosses, who possess not only regular, but tactical attacks as well. At that particular battlefield, the commander can order his archers to shoot at us. They are positioned behind the hills, and you need to avoid their arrows.

With his next attack, he can turn into a tornado chasing us and trying to sweep our hero away. During this boss can destroy various parts of the location and also take parts of the location and throw them at his enemy, so you will have to stay away from these hits. There are many other intriguing attacks this commander can use against you in the game.

- Have the in-game camera management options changed?

- In The Witcher, you were able to choose your camera view yourself, and there were three major views at present. In the sequel, we have done it in a different way. You don’t manually choose the camera’s perspective, and now in The Witcher 2 it makes adjustments depending on the current situation. There is a pre-defined camera for combat, and it is somewhat different from other cameras designed for dialogues, exploration and for a lot of other things. In the second game, you will find more camera types, but you will not have to handle it yourself.

- The soundtrack for the first Witcher was great…

- We have got a lot awards for it as well!

- Yes, and who composed the music for the sequel?

- The guy, who made the music for The Witcher, his name is Adam Skorupa, and he returned to score the second game. You will listen to a lot of his music including many new tracks. Since we have been extending everything, the soundtrack of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has also got some new flavors making it more orchestral and cinematic. The sound style will be familiar to the fans.

- Thank you, Tomasz!

- You are welcome!

Read More: Interview with Marek Ziemak (Level Designer).

Autographed by Tomasz Gop (CD Projekt RED)

Tomasz Gop's Autograph (CD Projekt RED)

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16.05.2011 | Features | Alex "Jace" Ivanchenko

Features » 1

Tomasz Gop (CD Projekt RED)
The Witcher 2 tells a new story about the life of Geralt of Rivia. Looking at the example of two in-game levels, the Lead Producer of the Project, Tomasz Gop, from a Polish studio, CD Projekt RED, has told us about the core features and their role in the game. More »
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