Expo! It's been a hell of a weekend for developer session speakers at the Eurogamer Expo so far. We've had Peter Molyneux and Tim Willits and all sorts. Today we've got CD Projekt showing off The Witcher 2. Senior producer Tomasz Gop and level designer Marek Ziemak were on hand to show how things are going for good old Geralt now he's in a new game engine with refined combat, improved dialogue systems and a newer and much bigger story.
As with all our sessions, we grabbed Gop and Ziemak, along with their colleague Jan Bartkowicz who works on the story design team, for a chat about how The Witcher 2 is coming along and the focus of today's presentation.
Eurogamer: For the benefit of people who haven't seen much of The Witcher 2 yet, what did you learn from the experience of making the original and what are the main themes of the sequel?
Tomasz Gop: Definitely the feedback from the first game was the most crucial thing for us, which means there were things people liked, like the story, and there were things were more controversial, say combat system. We definitely wanted to improve everything, but the deeper changes went into things that were complained about. The story is brand new but it's still an old-school RPG story, and things like combat and even the dialogue system have been revamped so they look better and some have deeper changes.
Eurogamer: How have you revamped the dialogue system?
Jan Bartkowicz: There are some big changes in the dialogue system compared to The Witcher. We basically remade it from scratch. Witcher 1 was kind of old-school with single cameras just to show you the speaking character, and now we can switch cameras on a timeline to show other characters reacting to the characters speaking. We have more gestures now, we can add another person to the dialogue, they can come in and come out throughout the chat, and we've also added extra skill-based options so the player can persuade people, you can use some of your Witcher signs, you can intimidate people, and it's all based on your stats.
Eurogamer: Can you give a bit of a summary of where you are story-wise at the beginning of The Witcher 2 and what we can expect to see?
Jan Bartkowicz: The story of The Witcher 2 is about a month or two months after the ending of The Witcher 1. So The Witcher 1's outro has set the stage for the new chapter of the adventure. The story's bigger compared to The Witcher 1. It's not only this one kingdom, this one city; it's throughout a really big part of Andrzej Sapkowski's world, so I think that's a major difference. Your actions will actually influence a lot of political change in this world so it will be more epic for sure.
Eurogamer: Which areas are you going to be concentrating on in your Expo presentation?
Tomasz Gop: We're trying to show bits of the things we've shown at E3 and gamescom. One of the things will be concerned around these deep, hardcore RPG features like dialogue, cut-scenes, introducing new plots, new characters, and changes that we've done in the storytelling. The other part of the presentation will be going big, going huge to show epic stuff - huge battles, huge fights, like 100 characters on screen.
Eurogamer: What kind of reaction have you had at places like gamescom?
Tomasz Gop: It was like [screams] WOW! Haha, no, people are telling us it's really good that we're focusing on things that were commented on in the first one. The story - people said you have proven that you think well about the story and then you implement it in the right way. We're not messing around with this or doing deep changes to the way we tell the story - we've already proved that.
And on the other hand people said, okay, the combat is not done yet, but the way you are going we can see you definitely removed the things that some people perceived too difficult. For example, the advanced tactics in combat - they were obligatory in The Witcher 1 and in the second one they're not. These are the changes we're trying to do, all of them based on feedback.
Eurogamer: People at gamescom also said that the game seems more confident about uniting RPG and action elements - is that something you consciously did in development?
Tomasz Gop: It basically derives from who The Witcher is. It's a guy who is a mutant - he can move, heal and fight better than normal humans - so to actually do that you cannot do the kind of combat from, say, Demon's Souls. It's really realistic where you can feel the moves and strikes of your sword and the weight of your weapon. In The Witcher 1 it's not that way.
That's why people maybe perceive the combat we have now as more action-packed. But the way we're trying to combine it - a lot of action aspects are story-driven, and the character development is story-driven, so we are putting story in front of everything else. If combat in The Witcher 2 is more action-like than in The Witcher 1, it's good but it's not the main feature of the game.