FiringSquad: How involved can we expect the story to be? Is it going to be relatively light like a Diablo, more involved like Baldur's Gate or a full-on exposition in the vein of Planescape: Torment?
CDProjekt: When compared to the aforementioned, we’d much rather see our game in the line with productions of a great storyline like Baldur’s Gate (epically drawn plotline) or Planescape: Torment (extraordinary protagonist and his mystery). We ourselves would probable be the closest to calling The Witcher a ‘medieval’ version of Fallout, mainly due to two similarities – nonlinearity and mature world full of violence and eroticism. Additionally, unlike in the case of titles mentioned above, we have for our disposal a unique protagonist – strongly characterized by his literary background, story and interpersonal relations. This, we think, wins us a lot and works to the game’s advantage.
According to master Hitchcock’s maxim our game will begin with ‘an earthquake’ and then the tension will rise. We would not like to see the gamers bored with lengthy introductions, which by the way are the curse of most contemporary RPGs, that is why we’re putting the protagonist ‘in medias res’ – into the middle of the plot. Geralt wakes up with no recollection of the past, somewhere within the walls of an ancient witchers’ keep. Only to see it attacked by a bunch of mysterious thugs. After a few moments of astonishment, the witchers gain control over the situation and the slaughter of the bandits – completely unprepared to face so dangerous an enemy as the monster slayers - begins. It shortly turns out that the attack was not aimed at the witchers themselves. And though the monster slayers try to keep away from humans, their intrigues and conflicts, they are soon engaged in a military and political trickery. Geralt, however, has a freedom of choice, he can join either of the sides or remain neutral.
Additionally, the storyline revolves around the idea of getting to know one’s past and searching for one’s identity. The novels tell us of a deadly injury Geralt receives, while trying to protect non-humans from the massacre under the mob’s boots. Yet, no one knows exactly what happens after that. What’s more, the doubts awaken in the heart of the main character himself.
You say that the player can kill almost any character in the game and can wait for some quests to basically time out as he chooses to do something else. Isn't this a nightmare for the designers, trying to think up everything a player might do? How much development time does compensating for the openness take up?
We do realize that such an approach requires a lot of input and bay bring about certain problems. That is why we’d begun working on the script long before the production phase started, and we believe we managed to create a solid basis for an involving, non-linear storyline. The additional time we got was entirely devoted to polishing the plot and placing it in a very flexible world avoiding linearity. We have also created very meticulous and specific system of hints and gameplay mechanisms, allowing us to foresee the consequences of character’s reputation and flexibility of interpersonal relations. All these sum up into a consistent structure that responds in a foreseeable way to the player’s actions and matches itself so as to provide a number of alternative solutions to certain problems. It is of course worth mentioning that the players’ lack of sense and responsibility may cause the main character’s death.
In majority of the games such choices are restricted within the bounds of a good/evil axis, where eventually the ‘good’ is preferred. In The Witcher there is no ‘better’ solution – the consequence will be vital, consequence of the choices that become more and more dramatic and result in an arising difficulty of discarding the once-taken path. The very final, climactic outcome of the game will be a result of a number of choices made during the gameplay. It will be impossible to change one’s mind at the eleventh hour, as it took place in e.g. KOTOR.