CDProjekt is certainly turning a lot of heads with the upcoming console release of The Witcher 2. Not only does the Xbox 360 edition come with all the content that the PC version does, but it also contains some bonus missions and other extra material.
Not to feel left out though, the studio has ensured that this ?Enhanced Edition? package will be made available to PC owners of the original game via a free patch.
We were able to sit down and chat with the game?s level artist, Mark Ziemak, about the nuances of Microsoft?s home console compared to high-end PC development - as well as whether games like Mass Effect
have had an impact on the RPG genre. Read on...
SPOnG: Pushed game forward as action-focused, pure-blooded RPG. What?s your view of RPGs this generation - do you feel they have lost their way, and do you feel The Witcher series is bringing it back?
Yeah, we actually do feel that RPGs have lost their way a little bit, because I think the genre is changing a lot. RPGs used to be really hardcore, really big - the choices were meaningful. Then they were starting to change a little bit more into action games.
I think that?s come back a lot with The Witcher
and The Witcher 2
. We?ve really focused on the plot, on storytelling, on choices and consequences. So I think it?s a little bit of an old-school RPG, but on the other hand it?s still very accessible to all the newcomers, and people who didn?t play those games back in the day.
SPOnG: This is quite a hardcore RPG and previously it?s only been available to a PC audience. How do you feel a console audience will react to the game, given that the range of players is probably much broader?
First of all, we are aware that there are some casual players on console, but on the other hand I think people are educated enough and ready for quite a... maybe not a ?hardcore? experience, but more of a ?true? RPG. It?s not like The Witcher
is going to be hard to start playing for anyone. You don?t need to be a master at games to get into it.
Sure, the game may not be very easy, but you have the Easy setting that will allow you to enjoy the storyline and make choices and consequences. So we?re not really afraid. I think people will enjoy it. There are games like Demon?s Souls
which are really challenging, and still have their audience. So I think we will satisfy a lot of players.
SPOnG: You guys have been very pro-active in issuing all of these free patches and DLC for the PC version. But are you intending to continue with that - and if so, how do you intend to do that with Microsoft, who are pretty notorious for not allowing much in the way of free DLC?
That?s a tricky question, because I don?t know yet. We knew that we might have a... problem, or that this sort of thing might not be allowed, which is why we decided to launch all the DLCs that were created for the PC and all the extra content right away on the console game disc. That way, there is no problem. As for the future - I don?t know, we?ll have to think of something a little later on maybe. I?m not sure if we already have a solution yet. But of course, we would like to keep up the good work.
On the other hand, maybe... it?s a really defined and rounded version of the game, the console edition. So perhaps we won?t have to create new improvements. Maybe it?s already close to being perfect (laughs).
SPOnG: You talked at length about the extra content that?s going to be on the Xbox 360 version, but what sacrifices have you had to make, and how hard was it to cram all that stuff that would test a high-level PC into the Xbox 360?
While creating the adaptation, we didn?t want to make any compromises. We weren?t allowed, and we really didn?t want to cut any content out of the game. That was a definite. So that was the core idea. We had to keep everything that we already had from the PC version and just move it to the Xbox and make sure it feels really good.
But obviously, the machine isn?t as powerful as a PC, so there are things like lower resolution because of the screen and stuff like that. There?s also some low resolution textures, because there?s not enough memory to pack it all in like there is on the PC. Anyway, we?re really happy with the effect. We?re satisfied, and we believe the game looks really good if you compare it to other console games. So... not really many sacrifices, just lowering the visual quality of the game a little bit. But that?s obvious nowadays - PCs are constantly upgraded, and the Xbox 360 was released several years ago.
SPOnG: Why Xbox 360? Is it something to do with the similarity of the architecture?
Yeah, I think that?s a big part of it. It makes things a bit easier for us. We also have a little bit more experience in developing Xbox 360 games, so it was probably a business decision and a staff decision.
SPOnG: I noticed, when playing the Prologue - as interesting as it is - that the action was very directed and focused. For an old-school style RPG, that?s a bold direction to take. Will the game open up after this section of the game? And the focus on tight direction and cinematics - was there any inspiration from BioWare on that front, or are you going in a different direction with this?
I think we?re going in a totally different direction. We?re all about telling stories and having this really well-defined character in a quite open world with a complex combat system and character development.
To answer the first question, the prologue is different to the rest of the game. And there are reasons for that - we wanted to capture players, show them as much of the storyline before we give them freedom. We want them to understand - especially if they didn?t play the first game - what is actually going on. They get all the background on the story and gameplay elements, and when they are ready in Act 1 they will be getting this total freedom.
It?s not going to be like Skyrim
or anything - it?s not going to completely open up as much as that, because we have a well-defined plot. But it?s going to be much more open than the prologue. It?s certainly more open than The Witcher 1.
SPOnG: Thank you very much for your time.