After seeing a breathtaking 45 minute presentation for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at E3 (of which you can expect a write-up soon), I was able to catch up with gameplay producer Marek Ziemak for a juicy interview about the game. Topics included load times, multiple endings, the game going multi-platform and the voice acting process, among others. Sharpen your swords as we dive in.
Q: Firstly, the loading times… how prevalent will those be? Do you have any idea how long they’ll be and how often you’ll encounter them?
A: Thanks to new technology on RedEngine3, we were actually able to create a world without loading screens as you travel across the world. This should answer your question. *laughs*
Q: I did see a few framerate issues during the presentation. It was from a pre-alpha version, though, so I imagine those will be ironed out in the full release.
A: Yeah, definitely. We didn’t have everything fully optimized. It’s still very much a work-in-progress, so many elements, such as streaming, are still being created.
Q: Did you get the previous games’ voice actors back to reprise their roles?
A: Yes, of course. The actors are very important for us, since we want to have a feeling of continuity for the story between games, and that includes voices. So yes, in many cases we’re working with the same actors.
Q: Do the writers often collaborate with the actors?
A: The people responsible for dialogue on our side, who write and create dialogue, are often directing the actors during their sessions. So yes, they work together and guide each other. That’s why [the dialogue] comes out so cool and interesting.
Q: In terms of combat, did you introduce any new abilities for Geralt? Any new spells, dodge maneuvers and such?
A: Sure. You have new ways to dodge enemies and parry their blows. But also, for each magical sign, you can use two versions of it. One is extended. For example, the Igni sign has a constant flamethrower thing whereas there’s also single, more destructive blow of fire. This is one of the new elements. We’re also introducing new alchemical potions, and other minor elements that will change the experience.
Q: In terms of the save system, will you a retain a quicksave or ‘save anywhere you want’ feature, or is it checkpoint-based? I imagine you’re going with the former.
A: Oh my God. This is actually a difficult question. I’m not sure if we made a decision on this…
*turns to another developer across the room and asks him*
Yeah, so basically, you’ll be able to save your game whenever you want to.
Q: Will that be the case on consoles as well?
A: Probably. That’s our target. But, you know, it’s still a pre-alpha version. This is our design approach for now, and what we’re experimenting with. But it might change if it’s gonna be impossible somehow.
Q: Did you encounter any massive difficulties so far in porting the game to next-gen consoles? Fitting this huge world onto a console can’t be easy.
A: Well, we’re not actually porting the game. We were doing it multi-platform since the very beginning. Sure, it’s challenging, especially since the technology is quite new, but we were thinking about it since the beginning. It’s a bit more ‘interesting.’ It’s challenging, but it’s very much possible.
Q: All three version will release at the same time, right?
A: Yeah. Our target is to release on all three platforms at the same time.
Q: In terms of fast-travelling, you can only do that once you’ve visited a place, right? You can’t just warp to anywhere you want right off the bat.
A: Sure. That’s our target. We want to force people to actually explore and visit those places in a conventional way before they can fast-travel there.
Q: Will you able to find sidequests just by talking to people? Random strangers that you can find in the world?
A: Well, we have a huge variety of sidequets. Basically, they will be started in many different ways. Sometimes you’ll encounter a cool situation. You may find a beast and gain some information from hunting it. Sometimes NPCs will approach you, or you’ll approach them. There’s a lot of start points.
Q: The Wild Hunt… these supernatural riders. When they come around, will that be story-based and initiated at certain points, or will these be randomized events?
A: Well, The Wild Hunt is a very important element in The Witcher 3 now. It’s mostly connected to the main story… mostly. The majority of your interactions with those guys will be connected to the main storyline.
Q: Will they always arrive in that giant, flying ship we saw in the demo?
A: I’m sure not. It’s not like you always see the ship before something happens. It’s just their way of appearing in this world. But they’re quite a legendary and spectral force, so they can use… ‘special moves’, I guess you could call it.
Q: I saw Geralt use fire magic quite often in the demo. Can fire spread or be used to burn down certain things? How extensive are fire physics, if there are any?
A: It’s not as extensive as in Far Cry, for example. For now. It’s a spell that allows you to attack enemies and set them on fire. But we did not think of fire as this destructive force that can burn a whole island.
Q: From what I understand, this will be the final chapter in the Witcher saga? It’ll bring Geralt’s quest to a close?
A: Exactly. That’s our goal. To close the story of Geralt of Rivia.
Q: On that note, will there be multiple endings?
A: Yes, sure. We’re having around 36 endings, as far as I remember. These affect the state that you will leave the world in after your playthrough.
Q: I think that about wraps it up. One last question: You can ride horses of course, but are there other animals you can ride? I’m guessing you can’t tame monsters and ride those? *laughs*
A: No, no. It’s not that kind of game. I think we have a very defined setting, and Geralt always used a horse in the books. So, that’s all he can use in The Witcher 3. You can’t ride different animals.