Eurogamer: A lot of RPG games these days deal in choice and consequence. What do you think are the best examples in the genre at the moment and how does The Witcher 2 improve upon what's come before?
Jan Bartkowicz: I like how BioWare approaches the subject sometimes. I was a fan of Knights of the Old Republic - I loved the way there were just a few choices but they had really big consequences. I think it's impossible to create a game that has tons of choices and great consequences because at the time you're basically creating five games at the same time, and there's no point doing that.
I think we're not really that much influenced by other games if we're talking about just telling the story. I think it's hard to compare The Witcher with specific other games. But I think The Witcher 1 made some really big steps in this department, and there are some games out there right now that are pretty much influenced by The Witcher, so we're hoping to head down that road further.
Eurogamer: Which games do you think are influenced by The Witcher?
Jan Bartkowicz: Okay, er... [laughs]
Eurogamer: You said it!
Jan Bartkowicz: This is going to be bold, right, but I think Mass Effect was and Dragon Age was for sure, because we made some things that weren't really that popular in RPGs at the time. For example, erotic themes in RPG games - it's still really difficult to handle. You see games running into clichéd areas when doing erotic content. It's hard to do them as a believable thing because the player's always trying to find the hidden mechanism behind it so it will be easy to show. Mass Effect has its way to do this and I think Dragon Age was bolder than that too. So I think Witcher was an important factor in this department.
Also in the choice-and-consequence department. Dragon Age really was influenced by us and that's great, because it's a genre that doesn't have that many games and it's not like that serious a competition, because at the end of the day if you're an RPG player you're not going to get that many games, so you're not considering, "Is it going to be Fallout 3 for me or The Witcher?" You're probably going to play both. It's not like Bad Company or Modern Warfare where you're playing through the whole year. That's why I think our little RPG genre family is more tight, because we're not looking at each other thinking, "Argh, they're going to steal our gamers!"
Eurogamer: I've heard there are 16 endings in The Witcher 2 and even multiple introductions if you import your savegame from The Witcher. How do you make sure that every way you play the game is rewarding and coherent when there's so much player choice involved?
Jan Bartkowicz: It's like this. First of all, we wanted to make these multiple endings not like... We don't want the game to be a linear story until the last 10 per cent of the game where you make the choices and suddenly everything goes totally different ways. That's not really a summary, right? It's only a summary of the last 10 per cent of the game.
So we've made our system based on the idea, for example, that in the first chapter of the game you will make choices that mean you could only possibly see eight of those endings because of the choice you made. Someone asked me at gamescom, "Where do I need to save the game to load it and see all the different endings?" and I told them, "Well, basically in the prologue!"
Eurogamer: I understand you're using your own engine this time - what was it like having to adapt to doing this?
Marek Ziemak: In The Witcher 1 we used a modified Aurora engine, which was a kind of old engine for us already, but we did our best to make it as good as we actively could. But we weren't able to put all the stuff we designed into the game because of the limitations of the engine. After The Witcher 1 we decided we needed some new technology to let us create the things we wanted to have in the first game and our future requirements.
So we were creating the engine to suit our needs and expectations, and I believe that's what we did - we created an engine that allows us to do the game pretty fast in the way we always wanted to do it, and we have all those cool features thanks to the new technology. We wanted to have them - that's one of the main reasons we did the engine.
Tomasz Gop: The main idea was there are not too many RPG engines on the market, so if we wanted to move one step forward we definitely had to think about doing features that no one else had, because not every day people are implementing new RPG engines, and we already knew that we had great ideas that people appreciate so we said okay, let's try to make the ultimate RPG engine that will serve for our game and maybe for other games in the future.
Eurogamer: You're PC-only for now. Why do that rather than go multiformat?
Tomasz Gop: Well, we're on PC right now because we're focusing on what we know and definitely know how to implement. But of course multi-platform possibilities were one of the reasons why we have rewritten the engine. We have tested our engine and it works on multiple platforms, it's just that right now we don't have anything solid to show until whenever we will - and we will - but we're just not announcing anything because we don't have a demo in hand. We will announce a new project.
Eurogamer: Maybe we can invite you back to the Expo next year and you can show something on console.
Tomasz Gop: Yeeeeah, we'll see! Haha.
Tomasz Gop is senior producer on The Witcher 2, Marek Ziemak is level designer and Jan Bartkowicz is story designer.