The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Exclusive Interview with Marek Ziemak, Gameplay Producer

The developer talks about story, combat design and mature themes

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most exciting games of 2014 and Marek Ziemak, gameplay producer at CD Projekt RED, agreed to answer some of our questions about the title.

Softpedia: The Witcher 3 is the third game in the series. Is there a feeling that the team is too familiar with Geralt and his adventures? How do you keep your perspective fresh?

Marek Ziemak: The Witcher series was always planned as a trilogy so we knew the third part would come. Some of us grew up with Geralt, as Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels are really popular in Poland – some call him the Polish Tolkien, and even some favor him more than JRR. So you can’t get bored with Geralt.

Another thing is that the story in The Witcher 3 is about a fresh beginning. War swept through the Northern Kingdoms and forces, once mighty, now are in ruin. Those who tried to use Geralt may be gone, but others appear in their place. So the stage is set for new events – this gives us a lot of creative freedom, of course.

It’s a separate tale from the others, but some old friends will reappear. We hope that this won’t feel like an intrusion for new players and most of them will even not notice the subtle nudges towards the collective history.

Softpedia: Will The Witcher 3 close all narrative threads for the series or will mystery persist in some instances?

Marek Ziemak: You’re asking us about the ending of the game. That’s called a major spoiler. We can just tell you that there are 36 different possible world states at the conclusion The Witcher 3. These endings are preceded by 3 different epilogue sequences.

Softpedia: The game is supposed to be more open than ever. How big will the consequences be for player choices?

Marek Ziemak: The game world is open – you can go anywhere you want from the beginning. In scale it will be 35 times bigger than the whole Witcher 2.

As for consequences, creating choices which result in world-changing events were always our focus. This won’t change in an open world. Every action the player takes will have its consequences and the world will not be a dead one but an interactive place in which you will be able to affect everyone and everything.

Softpedia: Will Geralt have any constant companion in The Witcher 3 or will he mostly go on adventures on his own?

Marek Ziemak: He’ll have Roach (don’t confuse with Vernon Roche from the Assassins of Kings) – his faithful horse. That’s the only companion we can confirm.

For those of you who are unaware of this bit, Geralt has had many horses, but he gave them all the same name.

Softpedia: Are there any big changes planned for the combat system? Is rhythm still important or will players have to worry more about positioning and tactics?

Marek Ziemak: Both are very important. Simple button mashing won’t take you anywhere in The Witcher 3. The combat system has changed when compared with The Witcher 2, but its core characteristics remain the same – it’s still real time, dynamic and tactical.

What we’ve wanted to achieve in this installment is more dueling and an intimate approach to combat. We want to give the player full control over Geralt and his swords. This meant remastering the combat from the second game. Now one button press is one blow, and all strikes within the same combat style take a similar amount of time to execute. Also defense has changed. We’ve added new moves like the pirouette, and these can interrupt any attack if the situation changes.

Also you will be able to use the environment to your advantage. The AI will be more intelligent and dangerous. We’ve changed the magic signs systems so now one sign has two versions. You will still have to drink potions before combat, but you will be able to activate their effects any time you want, as witchers can control their metabolism.

Softpedia: Will The Witcher 3 integrate any of the decisions that players have made, in regard to the world or the character, during previous series games?

Marek Ziemak: Player decisions will still be important. As for importing previous save games, we will have this feature if it’s technically possible.

Choices and consequences have always been our trademark. The open world environment hasn’t changed that, as we will still demonstrate how your actions affect communities, NPCs and the game world.

Our technology, the REDengine 3, allows us to easily implement such changes and gives us full control over the game world.

Softpedia: Is it a challenge to continue introducing mature themes in the Witcher, as the audience for the series increases?

Marek Ziemak: The themes we introduce come from the real world. Greed, racism, lust and violence are out there, just behind your window. We just give them a fantasy setting. People don’t have to be introduced to those themes, because they know them. We just present them in a medium which doesn’t do that very often and seldom makes you wonder about those things. The growth of our audience hearing about these problems in a game doesn’t change the nature of the issue in any way, nor how we approach it. We can assure that we will not take an easy way and we will remain thought-provoking.

Softpedia: Will the game universe be used for spin-offs when Geralt is finally retired?

Marek Ziemak: We will see. Let’s wait for the upcoming game, and not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Softpedia: How will the game deal with those who are newcomers to the series and lack the lore info that veterans discovered in the first two titles in the series?

Marek Ziemak: The Wild Hunt is a separate tale and doesn’t require the player to be familiar with previous installments of the franchise or the books. Veterans will mostly find some old friends, but newcomers won’t feel alienated by these reunions. We’re also working on a new tutorial system that will allow all new players to more smoothly immerse themselves into the games world. This will definitely change the learning curve so all new players will enjoy the game from the very beginning, slowly learning all the basics and more advanced options.

Softpedia: Any plans to create some sort of cross-promotion or shared content between The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, despite their thematic and stylistic differences?

Marek Ziemak: It’s too early now to talk marketing of the both games. I can assure you, however, that we won’t have any elements that would spoil the players’ immersion into the game world.

Softpedia: Considering the modding tools that were offered for The Witcher 2, do you plan to have a similar suite of programs ready to launch alongside Wild Hunt?

Marek Ziemak: Modders are always active members of the community and I hope we will have a lot of new adventures for The Witcher 2. The closed beta is coming to an end soon, so the toolset will go public. We want a similar set of tools released with future releases for sure.

Softpedia: How has the PlayStation 4 influenced the core mechanics of The Witcher 3? Will there be any elements of the game exclusive to the PC?

Marek Ziemak: We want to give each platform a version of the game that uses the maximum potential of that hardware. We have designed the game so the user interface is unique for every platform the game will be available on.

Softpedia: You recently suggested that multiplayer might be introduced in Wild Hunt. Do you plan cooperative or competitive modes?

Marek Ziemak: Designing the game is a complex process. We take many elements into consideration including multiplayer, but ultimately an uninterrupted solo gaming experience is a priority and will always come first. The Witcher has always been about experiencing your own, unique adventure and this is the most important part of The Wild Hunt.

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