At PAX Australia 2015, Ewan sat down with Quest Writer, Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, to discuss The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the new Blood and Wine Expansion due in 2016.
Ewan: Firstly, congratulations on the success of Witcher 3 both commercially and critically – gotta be honest, my favourite game of the year so far.
Mateusz : Glad to hear it.
I wanted to ask, the Witcher is so darn packed full of stuff, as the Quest Writer, at which point did you decide to stop? At which point did you go, “okay we’ve got 200+ hours of gameplay, that’s probably enough”?
The thing is, that very late in the game, in the production process I mean, we realized that this game is much bigger than we had initially thought. And actually, we thought we had much more content than what shipped in the end, we cut out a lot of content because, at some point – and it wasn’t like we felt, “okay, we need to give players less hours of gameplay now” – it was more like we have too much content in terms of production, so we wouldn’t be able to polish all of it. We had to make some cuts and to be honest, by the end of the game we weren’t sure how many hours of gameplay we actually have [sic.], because the game’s amount of 100 hours that we were aiming for, some people were skeptical if we have [sic.] actually 100, some people were saying we had way over it, and I think these people were right because we went over 100 I think.
“…we cut out a lot of content because… [it was] too much content in terms of production, so we wouldn’t be able to polish all of it.”
Yeah I’m certainly in that camp.
So, I guess, it’s difficult to tell because early in production when the systems not final yet, the balance is not in yet, it’s hard to estimate and it depends on a specific play-style as well.
So, I mean, is there ever a point where you’re worried that some people aren’t going to see some missions at all?
We used to worry about things like this, but when we went open world it became clear to us that a lot of content is optional and a lot of content won’t be seen by people. So we stopped worrying about it, we said to ourselves, people who explore the world and look for the content, they will see it, the people that will focus only on the main story-line will see only that obviously. And so I think that it’s still worthwhile to do this content on high quality, like all of it, because I think many people explored the world and I think a lot of people not even finished the main story-line, they focused on side quests.
“…people who explore the world and look for the content, they will see it…”
Well I know for one, I got very much lost in the side quests and a large part of that was because the characters we all so strong, I was always intrigued by the characters and their backstories, how much does, when you’re making a side quests, how much is that a factor, like, “we’ve gotta have developed characters here”?
Ah, it’s very important because basically, our basic principles was that we wanted every side quest to be memorable, to have something that you would remember, and having strong characters is one of the ways of doing it. Another is that we tried to make those quests feel that, basically, they are not filler, they are not repetitive tasks you have to complete over and over again, and obviously there is a limited amount of things that you can do in the game, so you are repeating some activities, but we designed the quests in a way that you feel that it’s not a paper cutter quests that there is some meaning to it, that you somehow impact those characters, and events and the world in general.
“…we wanted every side quest to be memorable…”
Cool. And you spoke about memorable moments, there is one particular memorable moment for me, the Towerful of Mice side mission you do for Kiera. There’s this kind of brilliant moment at the end – I made the mistake of taking Annabelle’s bones back to the cabin – you remember what I’m talking about here?
Yeah. Yep. Yep.
And the quest-line finishes and you go outside – I discussed this all on the podcast, the Start Cast – and there’s a scream and I guess at that point I made the conscious decision like, “what was that scream?” And I went back to investigate and the quest-line starts back up. I loved that little bit of subtlety there, how much did you want to guide the players into these sort of moments and much did you want them to freely discover them for themselves?
Well, I think that in places where we had to tell the player some specific story, like, let’s say, main quests, we sometimes had to force things upon you and we couldn’t make it too subtle because we needed you to understand what the story is about. In terms of side quests, we had more freedom in being subtle, like this scene you mentioned. I think that when we felt we don’t have to force something upon you, like maybe we can guide you differently, like by sound in this case, it’s worth doing it because your experience is much stronger if you find it yourself, and felt motivated to go back, rather we would just give you an objective to go back and do something.
“In terms of side quests, we had more freedom in being subtle… we can guide you differently, like by sound…”
Well, it certainly worked for me. I was totally amazed by that.
Finally, we’ve got one more expansion to expect, Blood and Wine –
What more can you tell us about that?
“This land is untouched by war at this point of the story.”
Well, it takes place in a new location. You can expect a zone like Skellige. I’m not sure what the size will be in the end because it still changes. It will be in the land conquered by Nilfgaard so basically we’ll get to see the other side of the war. This land is untouched by war at this point of the story. You can expect more quests, than Hearts of Stone. You can expect new characters, and also, this new expansion will be like the first one, disconnected from the main story in terms of, obviously what’s happening is still the same, like the events that happened around it, but the story is separate. So you will meet new characters and you will see new plots.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released on 19th May, 2015 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Hearts of Stone Expansion Pack was released October 13, 2015 and the Blood and Wine due in early 2016.