Update: CD Projekt Red has been in touch and passed on a comment written by studio head Adam Badowski in response to this interview.
- "It's true that the game was based on the popularity of the Witcher novels, so there's no sense in wondering what came first, the chicken or the egg. In this case, the books and the author are both of those things.
- "Our cooperation has a strict and defined direction. I can't imagine Andrzej Sapkowski playing a game to do research for the new novels. This is unlikely and would look like writing a book for a game or movie release, which ends badly in most cases; the novel winds up in a collector's edition and then covers with dust somewhere on the gamer's shelf.
- "We want to develop The Witcher's universe in other media, not only video games. We have Mr. Sapkowsk's blessing and what we create is in line with his vision of the world, no matter how the saga will evolve.
- "We want The Witcher's universe to be a part of pop-culture like Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, and for our fanbase to expand rapidly. We just have to carefully and diligently do our thing.
Original story: The Witcher fantasy began long before the excellent video games made by Polish studio CD Projekt Red. The Witcher was originally a short story published in a Polish fantasy magazine in 1986. Today The Witcher series encompasses three collections of short stories and five novels. Their 64-year-old author Andrzej Sapkowski has become one of Poland's most distinguished fantasy literary icons.
On the surface it's a wonderful marriage of Polish creativity: CD Projekt Red has a wealth of source material to draw from, and Sapkowski benefits from exposure to a new international audience. That's why I assumed Sapkowski would be an ardent supporter of video games.
But that illusion shattered when Eurogamer Poland discovered that Andrzej Sapkowski didn't really like video games much at all.
"I do not play computer games as they are far beyond my sphere of interest," he remarked.
"I've never played any computer games, be it fantasy or others. Sometimes I read through dedicated gaming magazines or watch television programmes. Graphics and technology, sometimes, I admire. I cannot say anything about the plots, though. Apart from the fact that some types of games seem to lack any story whatsoever. Those seem to be all about the hack and slash."
"I've never played any computer games, be it fantasy or others."
All Sapkowski actually saw of The Witcher video games was artwork, he revealed, but said it was "a sight to behold". His role was therefore "not enough to call it cooperation". "I don't feel like a co-author of the game," he said, so all plaudits must be directed at CDPR.
The Witcher game told an alternate story with The Witcher world. Was Sapkowski happy with it?
"The game - with all due respect to it, but let's finally say it openly - is not an 'alternative version', nor a sequel. The game is a free adaptation containing elements of my work; an adaptation created by different authors," he noted.
"Adaptations - although they can in a way relate to the story told in the books - can never aspire to the role of a follow-up. They can never add prologues nor prequels, let alone epilogues and sequels.
"Maybe it's time to set the matters straight," he went on. "'The Witcher' is a well made video game, its success is well deserved and the creators deserve all the splendour and honour due. But in no way can it be considered to be an 'alternative version', nor a 'sequel' to the witcher Geralt stories. Because this can only be told by Geralt's creator. A certain Andrzej Sapkowski."
Developers can base games on good sci-fi or fantasy books, their worlds, their stories, their heroes, and then beautify them with artwork and a bit of borrowed dialogue, Sapkowski said. "The visual effect will be stunning, the players delighted - some might even consider it to be better and easier digestible than the original book, because in the book the letters are so small.... Some will never even reach for the original book; as for them, the game will be enough," he believes.
"But it is the book that's the original, this book is the result of the author's unique, inimitable talent. 'Transfer a book into a virtual world'? Funny. It's impossible."
Oh and don't get Sapkowski started on cross-over Witcher book and Witcher game content ideas: he's not a fan.
"If we level the field between books and their adaptations in other media, only the former can be the ones telling a story," he stated. "There can never be a different relation between a book and its adaptation, other than the one that without the book the adaptation would not exist at all.
"It would be funny and silly were I to write based on the game's suggestions."
"I realise that current times accustom us - which I find terrible - to the strange convergence of media and the freedom of mixing them. To me as a writer, the idea to write 'adjuvant content' and create something 'complementary' to a game or a comic is an absolute pinnacle of idiocy."
There's no chance of The Witcher games influencing the outcome of the The Witcher books, then.
"I will definitely skip any 'alternative ideas'," Sapkowski promised. "It'll come easily to me anyway, as I don't know any of them. And even if I knew, it would be funny and silly were I to write based on the game's suggestions. I suppose I have made myself clear when I said that I will never accept any ideas and concepts of 'complementarity plots' and 'building coherent stories'. A story can only be contained in a book."
As to those of you itching to find out what happened to Witcher 2 hero Geralt: you'll probably be waiting a deal longer. "You aren't supposed to know," Sapkowski pointed out. "And you will never know. Or at least until I write about it and I'm not sure if I'll find the will to do so."
The literary merits of The Witcher games aside, the 4 million-plus sales of all games in The Witcher series must have boosted his books' profiles some what. What say you, oh humble Sapkowski?
"I believe it is the success of my books that significantly affects the popularity of the games," he returned. "That in reality, the games used this fact, as my success beat the games to the punch.
"The translations of my books into most European languages - including English - preceded the release of the first game. Long before the game - and it's a known fact - I was a well known writer, even there, where there have been no translations of my work.
"Of course I don't want to diminish the role of the video game, it is obvious that it had a positive impact on the interest of foreign publications and the number of translations. A lot of gamers, of course, have only gained interest in the books because they liked the games. Otherwise, they would have never read it.
"A story can only be contained in a book."
"It is also important to note that there is a negative aspect, damages if you like, that I bear because of the game," he went on, "but neither the game or, God forbid, its creators can, of course, be blamed for such state. Some foreign publishers are doing me a disservice by painting my books with artwork borrowed from the games, and including game advertisements and game related blurbs inside.
"Though I praised the knowledge and familiarity of fantasy readers, there are some among them who have less of it. Sometimes, by looking at the covers, they reject books as game novelizations, products secondary to the game."
The Witcher 3 has all but been announced by CD Projekt Red. It's one of two next-gen PC and consoles projects in development at the Polish studio for 2014/2015 - the other being Cyberpunk 2077.
Sapkowski wouldn't talk about any ideas from the books he would like to see in the game, saying only that, "Knowing them [CDPR], they'll come up with something."
Sapkowski is currently in the process of writing another Witcher novel that's already contracted for release in English.