You mentioned that it was an experiment for you. Was it a success? Was there anything about it that didn't go as planned?
AB: For sure it was a success, but probably half of our players didn't even realize that they can choose totally different paths.
MI: And that's actually something we could improve in terms of communicating with the player -- telling them that there is such an option in the story. There were so many people who only found out about the choice over the internet or by their friends, or they never found out at all. So in that case, you can say that all the work we put into that other area of the game went to waste for those players.
AB: But we don't want to tell people, "Okay, this is a special moment where you have to make a choice," or you'll lose something. In Act 1, we had a few of those moments, but maybe we could do it a bit differently.
MI: I think we didn't successfully communicate it. To make it a more appealing feature for players, we didn't make it visible enough.
AB: But I don't know how we can communicate that without spoiling things or destroying the immersion. It's very tough, but that's why it was an experiment.
MPG: Everything is about choices and consequence. For us, it was natural, because we had Iorveth and Roche, two strong NPCs, and if you stand against one of them, you should get a different story.
MI: I also think it was a very bold statement for us in terms of respecting the fan base. A lot of companies would put that in and be like, "Hey, that's perfect for an expansion set. Charge 20 bucks, more revenue!" But that's not our way, we like it like this. You can be sure to expect more experiments from us. (Laughs)
Speaking of which, I've found it very interesting that you guys have remained so committed to updating The Witcher 2 post-release without charging anything for existing players. At any point did you sit back and ask yourselves something like, "Hm, what if we did charge 5 dollars for an upgrade to the Enhanced Edition?"
MI: Well, we had a lot of discussions with The Witcher 1's Enhanced Edition. It was a bit different then because we had a publishing deal whereas now we have distribution deals. When we had that publishing deal, we went to the publisher, and said, "So we have this idea where we make all this stuff, all this new content, and you don't pay anything for it, we give it away for free. How about that?" The publisher went all big-eyed and said, "Whoa! Let's charge 10 dollars! 10 Euro!" But we believed that we would sell more units if we put it out for free.
And when we put it out for free, we saw a boost in the sales with the Enhanced Edition because it just created good will, and it refreshes the product. You can always do it from two angles, and sadly I see the industry trending toward over-exploiting the gamer, and I think this will come back to the publishers that are doing that, and eventually, people will stop buying their stuff. That's just not the way things work.
Jumping off from The Witcher's Enhanced Edition, let's talk about the recent console version of The Witcher 2's Enhanced Edition. As your first real console game as a team, what went well, what went wrong for you all from a production standpoint?
AB: I'd say we're all very happy about it, because right now, the whole studio is multiplatform, and we've completely rebuilt our pipelines and procedures. Everything is set right now.
We're happy because it took, I don't know, half a year, maybe a little bit longer... nothing special. I expected a lot of big hurdles, but before we knew it, it was done.
MI: (Laughs) He's so smart right now, but when we had discussions, it really didn't look like this, so don't take that for granted.
AB: (Laughs) Okay, yeah, it was challenging, and also stressful, of course.
MI: And we are PC gamers, we love PC gaming, during production there is a certain point where you can develop a sort of stigma, where you think, "Wow, maybe we can't do console games." But when you make a game so successful and it scored so well and it was so well reviewed, and one of the best-looking games on the 360, everybody was just super proud, and I think it really built the confidence of the team.
AB: Another thing I'm happy about is that we are the owners of our own technology. It was very challenging in terms of how to prepare it, how to develop the engine from scratch, and right now it's working, it's ours, we're independent... it's awesome.
And how has the console version performed financially?
MI: We're very happy with the game overall. It's selling very well, and I think we've really shown that we can do a AAA RPG on consoles as well. Obviously, our heart is still on PC, but we want to have more and more people knowledgeable about the franchise and enjoying the franchise.
AB: We also built a strong relationship with Warner Bros...
MI: Yeah. It's been very good for us. We've built up the PC version, the 360 version, and there's also a Mac version coming, so we'll have even more people playing Witcher.
AB: But with that we're going to change some habits. I'd say some bad habits. Now, we're going to try to attract Mac users to become regular gamers, and not just with small, indie games...
MI: It's still off the radar a bit, but because there are more and more people that only have Macs, and The Witcher 1 did very well on Mac and it came out five years later. We hope The Witcher 2 will just do even better.
Looking ahead, are there any other platforms you have your eye on?
AB: Yes. We'll be releasing the visually-stunning Witcher 2 on Android! (Laughs)
MI: (Laughs) No, no. When the time comes, we'll be talking about the new stuff, but as you can imagine, we're looking to really push the boundaries of the next generation of platforms, so that's pretty much the place for us.
AB: This is why we developed our own engine.
Speaking of which, after going through all the hurdles to make your own engine, do you have plans to license it out to other developers?
MI: We're thinking about it, but it's far too early. We'd have to prepare the tools in the right way... We have some ideas of course, but we can't talk too much about them now. Stay tuned...
|Ole Berg Leren|