The Witcher Enhanced Edition Interview: Maciej Szczesnik, Project Lead

Silly me forgot to take these questions to E3... on paper, seeing as I had it in an email draft but the wireless connection there was enough to drive everyone insane from not being able to connect or do any work. It definitely wasn't the best time to contact people with extra questions, and at the time I was so excited about my meeting, the game and my signed copy that I couldn't even remember half of what I wanted to ask in the first place! Fortunately, shortly after the rush of the event died down, I got the answers I was looking for in my email.

So, to complement the E3 preview, here is a Q&A with Maciej Szczesnik, the Project Lead behind The Witcher Enhanced Edition.

Didi: Where did the "enhanced edition" idea first come from? Were you not satisfied with the initial finished product?

Maciej Szczesnik: We were very satisfied with The Witcher. It was our first game, our debut. We simply wanted to make it even better. We had some suggestions from The Witcher fans, as well as our own ideas about how to improve the game. You usually get these right after release, when you go on you holidays and finally get some sleep and don't have to think of deadlines all the time ;-)

D: What sort of issues will be addressed that couldn't have been done through regular patching? One that comes to mind was my usual "crash during saving" causing me to lose certain game saves.

MS: We will address lots of technical issues like game stability and loading times. We probably could have made some of these fixes in a regular patch, but we want to give players more than technical improvements. For example, we will re-translate and re-record over 5000 dialogue lines in English, as well as the entire German version. We want to polish the game as much as possible.

D: Will we be able to name our game saves to better categorize them?

MS: No, unfortunately there will be no such option. But we're adding an option to turn off autosaves. That was really one of our most requested features among fans.

Above: three examples of the color diferentiation system

D: Some of the character models were repeated often throughout the game. Will we be seeing only new faces in the same body skins, or entirely new characters with more personality and specific animations?

MS: We've added a character differentiation system into our game engine, which changes NPCs' clothing by adding new colors and also changes their hair styles on occasion. It allows us to differentiate the characters without adding new textures and such, because adding new models and characters always lowers game performance due to the amount of memory needed for storing these textures and models. This system allows us to multiply each character's appearance by 10 to 20. So no, there will be no more clone wars in Vizima.

D: Is there work being done regarding facial animation?

MS: Yes, we've improved the lip-synching. We've also added over 250 gesture animations for dialogue scenes, which make them much more realistic and natural.

D: And as far as graphical changes, what other improvements can we expect? Will these make the game even heavier on system requirements?

MS: System requirements shouldn't change for the Enhanced Edition. We wanted to make it as light as possible. With the graphics changes, our main goal was to make the game world more believable and less repetitive. The main graphical features are the character differentiation system, new gestures and new faces for some NPCs.

D: Are the game mechanics being changed at all?

MS: We've made a few changes that should help to improve gameplay. We've changed the inventory, adding a special sack for alchemical ingredients. We've also added some filters that allow you to show ingredients that contain specified alchemical substances, and you can also sort the items easily, by pressing the sort button. The last little mechanism we've added is auto-looting. When you find a container e.g. a chest, you can click on it with CRTL button pressed, and you will take all the items from it without opening the inventory screen. It really helps when gathering herbs.

D: Will we be getting more side-quests in the new version?

MS: No, we will not change the storyline of the core game. But we are adding two external Adventures called "Side effects" and "The Price of Neutrality". You can think of them like two small add-ons, giving you a few additional hours of gameplay. These Adventures show what you can do with the D'jinni Adventure Editor (also included in the package). We did release Price of Neutrality and D'jinni already, but the version included in the Enhanced Edition will feature full voice-over.

D: One of the things I enjoyed the most were the dialogs, some were extremely funny. Are the conversations being re-written or added to? Are voices being re-recorded for the English version, or just for some of the other languages?

MS: We've re-translated and re-recorded over 5000 dialogue lines for the English version, and the whole German version. Our goal was to have English and German dialogues as strong as thew original (Polish) ones. Further to that, The Witcher Enhanced Edition will be a multilingual version; you will be able to choose the language of voices and subtitles in the game's main menu. So you will be able to play with Polish voices and English subtitles, for example. That's a nice feature. I can't wait to play with Russian voices and Chinese subtitles. Really.

D: Will there be new monsters and creatures?

MS: No, we will not add any new monsters, but we will differentiate the existing ones with our character differentiation system. So monsters will have lots of appearances now.

D: There was mention of downloadable updates what else can you tell us about those? Will the downloadable content be free or available for purchase?

MS: If you bought The Witcher, you will be able to download all of The Witcher: Enhanced Edition's improvements and content for free. We don't want to sell this game twice. We want to give those who believed in us an even better game... and if they feel like buying the retail version again to get the extra goodies, we won't complain.

D: Can you give our readers a brief overview of the Djinni editor?

MS: D'jinni allows you to make your own Adventures. These are little add-ons that you can share with people online. Anyone can download your Adventures and play them. D'jinni is our own tool - it was what we used to create The Witcher - but we did make some adjustments to it to make it a bit more user-friendly than the development tool.

D: Will the enchanced edition include some (or all) of the goodies from the Polish and Czech versions? And by that I mean, are we going to get medallions too?

MS: These medallions were only in the Polish Collector's Edition, so you will not get them, I'm afraid. But I can promise that The Witcher: Enhanced Edition will be one of the richest editions on the market. I'm sure you will be satisfied – you're getting the multilingual game disc, the two additional adventures and D'jinni, the official soundtrack CD, a Music Inspired by The Witcher CD, a game guide, an expanded manual, a map of the Witcher's world, and a short story from the first Andrzej Sapkowski book.

D: Are there plans for a console version or a sequel yet?

MS: Oh man, I would be dead if I told you anything about CD Projekt's plans. These are more secret than the Manhattan Project and the Roswell crash files. I hope they let me live if they read this. I told you we have plans! Oh man, I’m so dead now. We have no plans at all. Believe me. Please.

D: And before I forget, can someone tell me why when Siegfried says "Once again I've been wounded on the leg!" he actually grabs onto his own shoulder?

MS: That's even more secret than CD Projekt's plans. What!? Are you trying to get me killed?

Really, I am not trying to get anyone killed. Female curiosity, that's all ;). But there you have it boys and girls, now all we have to do is wait until September. In the meantime, you can watch this video to learn more.