RPGamer Feature - The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition Interview
The Witcher 2: EE
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date:

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The Witcher 2: The Assassins of Kings was released in 2011 on PC to critical acclaim, even winning RPGamer's Best Graphics award. Those who shun PC gaming or were not able to run this graphical powerhouse now get a chance to try it out for the Xbox 360 with the Enhanced Edition releasing on April 17, 2012 (PC owners of TW2 are getting the upgrade for free). We would like to welcome Lead Combat Designer Maciej Szczesnik from CD Projekt RED as we dig deeper into the Enhanced Edition.

RPGamer Staff (edited by Michael A. Cunningham): Many on the RPGamer staff still tend to be console gamers over PC gamers, so despite the raving of our PC staff many of us have yet to play The Witcher 2. How do you feel the game fits within the current explosion of major Western RPGs such as Skyrim and Mass Effect 3?
Maciej Szczesnik (Lead Combat Designer, CD Projekt RED): We are very happy that RPGs are popular and reach a broad audience. It's great that more and more gamers on all platforms are attracted to this genre. If you enjoyed the two games you mentioned you'll enjoy The Witcher 2.

The atmosphere of the game can be compared to Skyrim. We, however, present a darker fantasy setting, while Skyrim is so called "high fantasy." In both games you will find dragons, elves and so on – but the development approach we've chosen is different from Skyrim, so the gaming experience is as well. Our game world has very strong character and feel. It's impolite and really rough – this world will not hold your hand, although you'll want to completely immerse into it. The setting is based on the best-selling novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, so we could make it very detailed in most aspects.

While Skyrim is a sandbox game in many respects, The Witcher 2 is storydriven – in this aspect we're a little bit more like Mass Effect. Choosing your path in the storyline is one of the major themes in The Witcher. What we can be really proud of is one of the most complex and intriguing stories ever told in a game. What is most unique for our game is that decisions don't just have game mechanic consequences like a karma meter. Here, your decisions shape the entire game world and the story. We created whole areas, characters and quests the player will see only if he made a certain choice. This is something not many developers do, because it requires a lot of effort.

The other unique aspect of our game is the hero. His past, background, and character are all based on the novels. Our game really allows you to be Geralt of Rivia. As this person, you are neither a knight in a shiny armor nor scum. This makes playing as the witcher a unique and epic experience, because he is no clichι fantasy super hero. In this way we move to the core of RPGs – playing a role of someone, in this case it's not just anyone, it is Geralt.

I think fans of both Skyrim and Mass Effect will find something for themselves in The Witcher and will appreciate what the game has to offer itself. From the deep and ambitious story, through the spectacular combat system to the breath-taking visuals - The Witcher 2 should appeal to all RPGamers.

RPG: The Witcher 2 appeared to be a great success on PC, what is the main reason for putting forth the effort to create a console version?
MS: Well, console audiences haven't had a chance to experience the RPG greatness we have to offer. People often ask us did we have to censor anything for the 360 – the answer is no. But the questions arise, because people are not used to certain types of mature titles on their consoles and are surprised with what we are doing. The Witcher 2 treats the player seriously. We are not addressing a broad audience, but a specific group. A group of people who want ambitious entertainment – that's our target.

I think consoles lacked a title like The Witcher, and we thought that there are some players who would like to get their hands on something that treats you as an adult, and gives you food for thought. You turn off the game and start to wonder about the choices you made. Our game often reaches into a morally grey area, where you have to choose the lesser of two evils. This really can get you thinking was the path you've chosen the right one.

Decisions in The Witcher 2 could have dire consequences, but they are time delayed and actually change the world. From the single quest to the whole acts of the game – every choice matters and shapes the environment.

RPG: For console gamers who missed out on the original title, what efforts are being made to bring players up to speed on the story? Any new details on why the console version of the first Witcher was canned?
MS: First of all the story of the sequel is separate from the events of The Witcher 1. If you played the first game you will find some little details, which connect the two titles – but there is no necessity to have played the first game.

Even so, we don't call this the Enhanced Edition for nothing. We added two 3 minute recap movies. One of them tells the story of the witchers – who they are. For those of you who don't know – they are professional monster slayers, raised by other witchers they undergo intensive training and mutations. One might say that they are the ultimate killing machines in this world. When it comes to The Witcher 1, the second recap movie explains what happened there.

As I said before, in the game you play a specific character with his past. But the game is constructed in a way that you can easily immerse in to the game world and the shoes of the hero – Geralt of Rivia.

RPG: Most companies exist to make money, so why do you keep offering DLC for free to PC gamers? Not that we mind, but it goes against what all the other big studios are doing. We're not going to get free DLC on the 360 version, are we?
MS: All companies exist to make money – and so do we. We never started a CD Projekt Charity branch. Giving DLCs for free is just treating your customer seriously. Gamers shouldn't pay for small add-ons. This is just a normal post-sale service. This is our approach, we will see how it will work on the other platform.

RPG: The graphics in The Witcher 2 sport some of the most detailed and best-looking textures we've seen. How were you able to create such a high level of detail on the 360?
MS: First of all, we didn't simply port the game. We've rewritten it so it feels native to the console. There are big hardware differences between high-end PCs and the 360, but we put a lot of effort to make the game feel smooth and polished. I think we did it. There was no quality compromise when it comes to what we prepared for the Xbox players. What I can say is that I strongly recommend installing the game on the Xbox hard drive so you achieve the optimal performance. And prepare yourself for a real graphical treat, because the game is one of the most beautiful games on consoles today.

RPG: What are some of the biggest restrictions (technical or otherwise) in moving over to the Xbox 360?
MS: The Xbox is an 6 year old platform and so, for example, has only 512 MB of RAM. The hardest part was making the game feel as good as on the PC with these hardware limitations. The game doesn't look as good as it is on the best PC settings but still I think what we did is astonishing.

RPG: The Witcher 2 was known for being a mature title and even contained a fair bit of nudity. Is any of that mature content going to be removed from the 360 version? Just to be blunt, will we see bush on the 360?
MS: As I said before no content was deleted or censored. But let's not beat around the bush. The maturity of The Witcher really does not come from us showing naked women. We're not children here getting excited over a nipple. Our audience has to be grown-up to appreciate the subtleties of the moral choices in the game.

We really created an ambitious game and we didn't want to limit our artistic expression. Nudity is considered normal in the best TV shows nowadays, especially when it serves the story – so why should gamers be treated like children? The sex themes in The Witcher 2 are deeply rooted in the story, and they are not there just to show off. They are the part of the history we want to tell and the game world. I think we integrated them into the game with taste.

RPG: With new questlines being added into the Enhanced Edition, where will they fit in terms of the game's structure?
MS: We've extended the final chapter of the game. Gamers told us that this act was too short, that's why we decided to add the content here. So you will receive 4 hours of additional gameplay – which gives over 40 hours in total. There are also 3 new major characters and new locations we prepared for you.

The new adventures will close loose ends in the story. This chapter has also the most of the new cut-scenes. Our idea was to make an even more epic ending to our game, so that's what we did. I hope you enjoy, what we've prepared.

It's rare among developers to spend almost a year to polish the things in a way their community wanted, but that's what we did and I'm glad that The Witcher 2 will hit Xbox in its most bountiful version – this means that the arcade arena mode and tutorials we introduced earlier to the game are also a part of it.

RPG: Since the Enhanced Edition is also coming to PC, will the Xbox 360 controls be made available on the PC version?
MS: The game always supported the Xbox pad. We didn't rearrange the controller setup for the PC, because many users were used to it already.

RPG: How does the story content of the Enhanced Edition set the stage for The Witcher 3, DLC, or other future titles?
MS: Right now it's too early to announce anything. But follow our webpage and social media for the latest news from CD Projekt RED. That's the fastest way to know something about our plans for the future.

RPG: Looking back on the development of the PC and console versions of The Witcher 2, what have you learned about designing action combat systems for role-playing games?
MS: Oh, we've learned a lot. First, we had to learn how to work with stuntmen, how to design all the moves, how to record them and build a unique witcher combat style from those animations. That was quite challenging, but the real challenge is as always balancing the whole thing. This is a RPG, so you have to have a lot of different tactics, character traits and special items. Managing all that without having an auto-balancing system is pretty hard and you can end with too steep of a learning curve. We had to tweak our game balance two or three times after the PC release to finally make it right. I really hope console players will be happy with what we will present.

RPG: Going forward, will development still take place on PC first and then move over to consoles or does it now make more sense to develop both versions in tandem from now on?
MS: In November we announced that the next major titles we'll be working on will be released simultaneously for at least two platforms. Unfortunately that's all I can say now.

I'd like to thank you for this interview and also thank the readers for their time. If you have any questions concerning the game just ask on our official forum, the Enhanced Edition is an example of that we listen to your feedback.

We would once again like to thank Maciej Szczesnik and the entire PR team behind The Witcher 2 for this interview. The Witcher 2: The Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition will be available for Xbox 360 on April 17, 2012 and the free upgrade for current owners of the PC version will be available then as well.

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