Last week Polish publisher/developer CD Projekt held a press conference in a trendy Warsaw club to reveal the innards of the Collector's Edition and Premium Edition of upcoming fantasy role-playing game The Witcher 2: Assassin's of Kings. Eurogamer was there to bear witness to the amazing scenes.
Senior producer Tomasz Gop took to the stage to announce various DLC-related pre-order bonuses CD Projekt's signed on the dotted line with UK shops. Most interesting of the lot? If you buy the game from CD Projekt's own digital shop, GOG.com, you'll get a DRM-free version of the game.
After his star turn Eurogamer cornered Gop to get the latest news on the mature, PC-exclusive role-player, and quizzed him on everything from the game's recently announced delay to the looming threat of BioWare's Dragon Age II.
Eurogamer: You've revealed the Collector's Edition and the Premium Edition of the game, and listed a raft of UK retailers that will stock them. But will they game be sold in UK shops as boxed products?
Tomasz Gop: Yes. The retailers that were listed in the presentation were for retail only. Most of them have both Premium and Collector's.
Eurogamer: So, you'll be able to walk into HMV and buy the Collector's Edition or the Premium Edition?
Tomasz Gop: From what I know it will be in stock.
Eurogamer: In the UK and US boxed PC games don't sell as well as console games.
Tomasz Gop: It depends on the market, but that's probably the case in the UK.
Eurogamer: A lot of people talk about the death of boxed PC games.
Tomasz Gop: That's why we have a digital Premium version.
Eurogamer: What's caused this decline? Is it piracy?
Tomasz Gop: There are a lot of theories. Some say it's the market going casual. Console games, it's not a rule, but they tend to be more casual than PC games.
Other people say, well, PC games are more difficult. Some say a lot of people have consoles right now – previously they were not as prevalent. There are a lot of theories.
What do I think? Even if it is declining it won't die. It'll never die. What's the reason? I don't know if I have an opinion on that. I have both PC and consoles and I'm playing both of these. I don't see myself ever turning down any of these platforms. Gosh, I really don't know why it's decreasing in certain territories.
Eurogamer: In Poland and Germany boxed PC games are still very strong. If you go into a shop there are more PC games on sale than console sales.
Tomasz Gop: It depends. Right now it's getting towards somewhat of an equal. Slowly it is.
Eurogamer: You're making downloadable content exclusive to retailers. That drives gamers up the wall. What do you say to that?
Tomasz Gop: There are two things. The first one is these are not huge campaigns. These are extra suits for Geralt or extra finisher combos or an NPC. They're listed on each retailer that sells them.
It's not like you lose a major part of the game. It's a distinction – visual most of the time. It's just a cool feature.
Secondly, it's something to give retailers. They like to have unique offerings. This is all we could do to make sure people won't be too angry, but at the same time make sure retailers are happy to sell our game because they have something only they have.
Eurogamer: You recently announced a delay to the launch of the game – it slipped from the first quarter of 2011 to May. Why was it delayed?
Tomasz Gop: You might have noticed that we are cautious. We had been saying Q1 – it wasn't a set date. It was one of the things we did to make sure that even if we slipped we didn't do so by three or four months.
Second, it's polishing the game. If we want to think about standing above the competition we just want to take extra time to polish the game. This is the main reason we're moving the game outside of Q1.
Eurogamer: You mention the competition. Is Dragon Age II The Witcher 2's biggest competitor?
Tomasz Gop: They are similar games in a way. It is competition, but we're not thinking that they're going to kill us, or wipe us out with their marketing.
We're thinking, if people like role-playing games they will buy all of them because you get two or three role-playing games a year – triple-A ones. OK, yes, they are competition, but if one competitor wiped out another one, it would mean a 30 per cent decrease in the role-playing game market. Who wants that? That's not good for anyone.
They are competition, but it's nothing we're afraid of.
Eurogamer: Dragon Age II will release in March. Typically, these games are huge, with hundreds of hours of content. Is your May release date in part because you wanted to give role-playing game fans time to finish Dragon Age II?
Tomasz Gop: It's a side effect. It wasn't the main factor of this decision. But it's not bad that we're not at the same time as Dragon Age II.
Eurogamer: Dragon Age II's combat is more action-driven than the first game's, and so is The Witcher 2's. Why are role-playing games becoming more action-orientated?
Tomasz Gop: You're right, but it's misleading for a lot of people. I can't say it's not true. It is true. Developers want to have more action in their games. Boring games are not good. It's not like you're changing the genre of the game. Role-playing games will not become shooters... I mean, Mass Effect was an exception. OK, we're not doing Mass Effect.
What I'm trying to say is a lot of things that were happening in role-playing games on a daily basis years ago are too hardcore right now. It's not like we're doing a completely different genre. This is what the role-playing game is right now.
The story is never dumbed down. Good role-playing games kept really good story, and you experience the story in an even deeper way than you would previously because of better graphics, direction and cut-scenes.
Combat is more spectacular. The means to express it is just to make it real-time. Previously combat was more turn-based. We don't have turn-based combat right now. It's a better means of expression.
Eurogamer: Why do gamers complain about dumbed-down role-playing games if modern designs are better?
Tomasz Gop: Have you played Demon's Souls?
Eurogamer: Yes. It's very hard.
Tomasz Gop: It is very hard. I've played through it twice – hundreds of hours of gameplay. I loved the game. That's why I can put myself in the place of these guys who complain. They're used to stuff not too many people are doing these days because they're putting hundreds of hours into single games.
To them, playing a game that has more dynamic and fluent combat is probably something against what they're used to, and they're probably screaming loudest.
Eurogamer: What's your honest assessment of the direction BioWare's taking Dragon Age II?
Tomasz Gop: Well, it doesn't look worse than the first one. So it doesn't look bad. I had an issue with the demo at gamescom. There was a lot of combat and not too much story. I would like to get deeper into story.
Until I know more about the story of Dragon Age II, I can't tell you more.
Eurogamer: The Witcher 2's combat reminds me of Batman: Arkham Asylum's.
Tomasz Gop: We have been inspired. I'm not hiding this. We have.
Eurogamer: What's happening with the console version? I want an honest answer.
Tomasz Gop: This is too difficult a question because I can't tell you directly what's happening inside the studio, but I want to tell you we're doing everything we can to make sure one day The Witcher 2 will be released on the current generation of consoles.
Eurogamer: So, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3?
Tomasz Gop: Yes. I can even tell you more. We already have performed a lot of tests. We're doing a reality check every half a year or so. We take a level from the game and we try to put it inside our engine, because it's console-capable on Xbox 360 and PS3.
Occasionally, from time to time, we do reality checks, and it's doable.
I need a hero.
Son of a witch.
Preview: The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings
Something pretty wicked this way comes.
Gritty role-player out now on PC.
Eurogamer: What are the chances of a console version being released at the same time as the PC version?
Tomasz Gop: It's too late. We would have announced it already. It would be stupid not to announce it by now.
Eurogamer: If it does happen, will it be Christmas next year?
Tomasz Gop: Can't say. Probably by Christmas next year you will know way more.
Eurogamer: Do you need to be multiplatform to be successful with a single-player role-playing game?
Tomasz Gop: It's not only about ideology, but it's business wise. It's the only direction you can go, that's why we want to do it. We're not hiding it. Yes! This is a wise thing to do, and we will do it whenever we're able to.
Eurogamer: What's the problem? Why not develop a console version alongside the PC version?
Tomasz Gop: Three reasons: time, people and money. We have not released any console games yet. That's why we're approaching this topic with even more caution.
Eurogamer: If I'm new to The Witcher and unfamiliar with the lore and the universe, will I be able to get the most out of The Witcher 2, or do you recommend I play the first game first?
Tomasz Gop: One thing you could do is read the books. It's a really comfortable situation for us to work on a world that's not a generic one. Players don't even have to know it, because we're doing a game that will sell – we hope – everywhere, even in the markets where people don't know the books and don't know who Andrzej Sapkowski is.
So you don't have to know the books. It's a totally separate chapter not only from the books but also from the first game. There are connections but it's more like rewarding the players that have played the first game.
Tomasz Gop is senior producer at CD Projekt.