CD Projekt Red Explains Why Witcher 3's Open World Worked

Here's what went into developing The Witcher 3's addictive open world.

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On May 19, 2015, Polish studio CD Projekt Red released The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the final entry in its trilogy continuing author Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher saga. With a huge open world, the game was a big departure from the style of the previous two games, but the risky move resulted in a game that still holds up five years later. It is often considered one of the best role-playing games of all time, and its enormous and lively world is largely responsible for that. Filled with characters and environments that felt like they were real and independent of the player's own actions, it was one of the most impressive settings in video games to date.

In an interview with Polygon, the CDPR developers have talked about how The Witcher 3 was such a big departure from other games in the series, and what went into making that change.

“Our quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, said that the main goal [of The Witcher 3] was to combine the design philosophy of previous Witcher games, which was to create a complex and mature story that has choices and consequences, with an open world," senior quest designer Philipp Weber told Polygon. "There used to be this preconceived notion you would hear a lot that open world games can’t tell interesting or deep stories. So that was something we took up as a challenge."

As quest designers, the challenge for the team at CDPR was to design quests that would still work if a player chose to take a different path through the open world.

"At first, changing our design [to fit an open world] seemed difficult, but in the end it actually improved quests a lot," Weber said. "With the open world, our quest structure also became much more open, and we could give players many more opportunities to experience our stories in the way they wanted. If I can solve different parts of a quest out of order, then maybe this will have different consequences later on. Since we were always big fans of nonlinear choice and consequence, this was a huge bonus."

Weber also mentions some of the systems the Witcher 3 team used to make the world feel more alive, such as a feature where wolves will be able to smell when a monster or animal is killed, causing them to head towards the new food source. For many players, the level of depth and life in the world was what kept them coming back again and again.

"One of the things that people mention a lot when it comes to The Witcher 3 is how long they actually played the game and enjoyed it, which was at first very surprising and funny for us, because during development we always thought it would be too short and were trying to add more into the game," Weber said. "So seeing that kind of feedback was actually a great relief, made even better knowing that people still play the game now."

The full Polygon interview has more, including diving into the details of some of the specific quests that handled this so well.

CD Projekt Red is currently working towards the September release of Cyberpunk 2077, but reports say that at least one more Witcher game is in the works for the studio.

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Crazy_sahara

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Edited By Crazy_sahara

Can I pay someone to finish this game for me, I'll pay 0.01 per every 10 minutes the timer passes, and only when the game is finished in all its aspects, you might even make $10.

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LoveBird-

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Edited By LoveBird-

I will say that I never understood the hype for this game. It is fun to play. I have it on PS4 and PC and haven't finished it. I will say this: the narrative is absolutely unparalleled IMO. The voice acting and writing seriously makes you feel like you are in a movie. Your choices matter. I have never been so drawn to characters or a story/narrative like I have in this game. Combat is lacking for sure though. It feels clunky and just basic...I guess it depends on what you value.

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TeshamMutna

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@LoveBird-: The combat gets better when you unlock a few skills like whirl and rend. I'd recommend the FCR3 mod for PC--which was created by one of the devs--to balance out things more. You can actually be more creative with your build with this mod.

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GleenCross

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Good writing and storytelling is a necessity for any rpg, doesn't matter if it is sandbox or not. Replaying the witcher 3 recently, it's clear how limited the gameplay cycle is. Always the same thing: geralt talk with some people, go out and investigate the scenes like batman, go back and talk with people. Combat is not that good, but it's serviceable at least. And that's it. If the story was not great, this limited cycle would be exposed in a ugly way. On top of that the looting is ridiculous, geralt looks like a food stealer. Enter on random houses and loots bread, milk, raw meat, etc.. then loot junk for dismantlement later, etc.. It's all over the place, not balanced and not loreful at all. I really hope cd projekt learned a lesson instead of being blind with the success, I want cyberpunk to have a better gameplay cycle on top of the expected good writing.

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RContini

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@gleencross: I would still say that it has more seperate mission types than any other open world game though.

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GleenCross

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@rcontini: It has plenty of missions, but like I said, they all follow the same formula/cycle: Talk, investigate, talk. The writing + the overall felling of "authenticity" regarding the middle-ages scenarios, these are the major elements who makes the game special. As gameplay goes, it's just too simple and even boring sometimes. That's my major fear regarding cyberpunk (besides bugs at release), the gunplay looks dull... At least, it seems the game will give us the option to either go stealth, guns blazing or hack. The variety in theory is there, but if it will be nice to play just like the recent deus-ex games? Who knows, cd projekt doesn't have a good resume on this regard.

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TitoBXNY

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@gleencross: and yet I can't stop playing it.

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TitoBXNY

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Edited By TitoBXNY

After playing it for 13 straight hours today, I was about to go to bed. I decided to check GameSpot and found this article. Absolutely amazing game. It still feels as fresh as it did 5 years ago.

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TeshamMutna

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@titobxny: I wish I could have the story wiped out of my mind but, just remember that I love playing it so I can keep playing it like it was the first time.

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