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Making of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

by Diogo Miguel April 13, 2012

It’s unusual to see a popular video-game developed by a developer that is not located in typical development locations. This is but one of many traditions that Cd Projekt is breaking with its well known Witcher video-games. Witcher 2 is out soon so CD Projekt is in promotion duty and one of the stops just happened to be the London Bafta headquarters.

Level designer Marek was in charge of the presentation with the help of a work colleague and Namco Bandai UK staff. The first half of the presentation is focused on introducing new players to the world of Witcher 2. This is a mature game that focuses heavily on a non-linear storyline. Any choices made change the way events unfold and the fate of characters. At its core physical combat is the basic manner to defeat enemies. But this fighting system is complimented by other abilities such as potion crafting. It’s completely up to the player how to develop the main character and unlock new abilities.

There’s a story layer and a world layer that will make it easy to dive into the world of Witcher 2. This is made possible by a dialogue system that doesn’t focus on telling players what is right or wrong. A bold move that works extremely well as there is an element of surprise with each choice made. A special engine was used to make the most of the Xbox 360 hardware. Marek boldly stated that the team believes the Witcher 2 is one of the best looking console video-games. Not surprising considering the monumental effort to get all the content into the Xbox 360 version.

But Witcher 2 is not just a port since the team believes it’s more of an adaptation. CD Projekt know the importance of post launch support. The Witcher 2 Xbox 360 version for example has a lot of tweaks to make it a better experience. Cd Projekt believes that not all content after launch should be added at a premium price.

Various updates to PC version, such as the upcoming Enhanced Edition content, are free as a way to thank dedicated fans. Some on screen statistics reveal four hours added to an already impressive forty hours journey and thirty three minutes of extra cut-scenes/movies. Such passion for pleasing fans is a glimpse of hope, in an industry obsessed with paid for download content.

The next part of the presentation consisted of answering questions from the audience. Here’s a recap of some of the answers given. It’s not necessary to read the books or play the Witcher. There’s plenty of back-story throughout Witcher 2 so new players won’t feel lost. It’s important to develop for a mature audience. This makes it possible to focus on conveying strong emotions with the aid of the storyline and brutal combat sequences. Choice in Witcher 2 is not about picking a clear side. Nothing is ever right or wrong and consequences only appear later on.

No clear confirmation has been given on making the Witcher available to platforms like Xbox 360. It’s just been released on Mac though so there is hope. Where exactly does CD Projekt get inspiration from? It’s all about looking for references and expanding on material found, such as photos. It’s a group effort and it’s all about trying to bring new experiences to players. This means that it’s not required to get approval from the book author. The video-games use the books as an initial reference but the rest is up to the team.

It wasn’t difficult to find new content to add to the Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition. The team already had plenty of ideas when they started working on it. In fact, it was harder to not add everything that they had in mind. It’s important to listen to what fans are saying after launch. Any feedback from the forums or social networks makes it easier to improve future products and catering for the fans.

The team defend its stance on mature setting since there is a purpose to all the killing and other questionable activities. Other media such as films is able to get away with it, so no reason why video-games can’t do it. The use of less serious quests, such as one involving an alcoholic troll, make Witcher 2 unique. Witcher has a preset character and the reason is so there is a focus on storytelling. Custom characters would make it impossible to keep the focus on important story elements.

There were a few struggles during development of the Xbox 360 version. A particular algorithm made it difficult to make the camera focus on enemies. Finally there are different difficulty settings to cater to a wider group of players.

This presentation made it clear that CD Projekt is a developer that values quality above anything else. This shows in the passionate manner that Marek answered questions. Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360 is definitely more than a quick attempt at recouping development costs. Pc players might have experienced it already but it’s a worthy addition to the Xbox 360.

Bafta regularly holds video-games themed presentations at its London headquarters. Please check the Bafta website for upcoming events.

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