Senior gameplay designer;
When we speak to senior gameplay designer Damien Monnier and senior quest designer Pawel Sasko, it’s the day of The Witcher III’s release. There’s no sound of popping champagne corks in the background, however; the game may be out in the wild now, but the team is hard at work on its DLC and monitoring forums for launch-day technical issues. Here, we discuss the philosophies and design decisions behind the creation of a remarkable open world. What’s the secret to making a believable world? Damien Monnier The first thing we did was create a Living World team to work closely with the Location guys. Location started by creating mountains and lakes in places that made sense. Then they’d look at where villages would go. They’d do their research, understand the criteria that peasants in Medieval times would use to decide where to build villages and settlements. Then the Living World team kicks in, populating the village, then placing everything around it, and that’s where things get tricky. When is it too much? When is it not enough? We knew we wanted a system that was organic, and that means you can’t hard-script things. It took a lot of prototyping. We’d have people around the office playing and one would say, “I haven’t seen anything for 20 minutes,” and we’d know we had a problem. So it was all done by feel? You weren’t tempted to use data to handle it? DM We didn’t want to create a system that would check that sort of stuff. ‘Have you seen a monster in the last 20 minutes? If not, then we’re going to force one to spawn.’ That’s not what we wanted. The system now is the result of so many iterations – every single area, every single monster, made and placed by hand. Pawel Sasko The important thing to add to that is that along the way we failed many times [laughs]. To be honest, I still can’t say if we got it right; we did everything we could to make sure the player was never bored, but not overwhelmed. A game based so heavily on choice invites repeat playthroughs, which is unusual for an open-world game. Did that affect the world, or quest design? PS We don’t really want players to do that. We want the player to make a choice and stick to it. You must understand people won’t do that, though, especially since the consequences of some decisions don’t become clear until much later. PS Yes, and that’s intentional. We wanted to reflect a bit of the uncertainty we have in life. We don’t always know how our choices will affect our lives.
Damien Monnier, senior gameplay designer
Pawel Sasko, senior quest designer