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Speaking of The Witcher 2, I'd love to hear about the lessons you all learned during that game's production. Looking back, what sort of things did you learn from The Witcher 2, and how are you carrying them forward into Cyberpunk?
AB: It's quite complicated, but it all comes down to design. We spent days discussing a general postmortem after we finished The Witcher 2. What we learned is that we need to attract people with a smoother learning curve when it comes to the storyline.
On the other hand, we want to keep that mature setting, and offer something deeper than the usual war between good guys and bad guys.
MI: Just to make sure we're understood correctly by our fans, this does not mean that we are going to simplify our games. That's definitely not the case. But for some audiences, the learning curve should be improved, and particularly the introduction to the world should be improved.
For example, we like to talk about the thing that everyone's talking about: Game of Thrones, the TV series.
AB: Look at the difference between the book and the series -- and there's a huge difference. I love the TV series, because for me, it's a perfect adaptation of the book. You cannot create as complicated story as the books when on TV.
MI: It's the perfect reflection of the book in another medium. They're different forms of expression. You have all of these different characters, and every character has their own story, but they all make sense when presented in either the book or on TV.
And that's what we want to capture. In the game, we want to create a story that is very profound, but the novice players should be introduced to it better than they were in The Witcher 2. Those players should be taken by the hand, but at the same time we would never want to offend the intelligence of someone who is more hardcore.
AB: If you're going to introduce a character to players, we definitely need to offer special quests just for that character, for example. This way, you take time to focus on the character specifically so players can understand them better.
MI: With our next game, we want the hardcore player to be able to get more context, and we need to introduce the game and characters to people more properly. In The Witcher 1, for example, we were throwing people in the middle of the story, and we assumed that players would know what is happening. But a lot of players told us that they didn't really understand this relationship or that relationship.
AB: Also, it's not important, for example, that every city on the game's map have its own story. If you're a hardcore player, however, you should be able to go in and find something interesting. This way, you can create those layers for the new and the hardcore players.
Michal Platkow-Gilewski (Head of marketing): Players should be able to choose how deep they want to enter the story, the plot. If they're really hardcore, they can really dig deeper and deeper and deeper, and if they're just casual, they can still learn about the characters and the story, but they'll do that by going in another direction.
AB: Sometimes you might find some external characters, or some scripts to read that reveal different branches of the storyline, and this stuff is very interesting for our hardcore players who really want to learn more.
MI: With Witcher 2 we hit another problem, where a lot of people came in new to the franchise, and they were like, "I don't even know what happened in The Witcher 1!" So we're thinking about ways to introduce people properly to a complex story.
Take Gears of War. A lot of players don't care about the story, but there is a huge universe around that series. For us, it's very important to attract player and make them want to explore the storyline. If you think of a game has having a gameplay level and the story level, we need to find the perfect mix between them.
While we're looking back on The Witcher 2, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the game's second act, in particular. You basically designed it such that players would see one of two batches of content based on their previous choices. Why did you choose to design the game that way, considering players wouldn't even see a huge chunk of content unless they played the game twice?
AB: Because we are rich! (Laughs)
MI: And we didn't have to reuse assets! (Laughs)
AB: No, no, no. Really, it was kind of a design experiment. We want to treat our players right. It's true, the story has different branches, and for us, choices and consequence are very important, and that is the proof. In Act 2, we basically made two different acts, and from the production perspective, it was kind of a hell, but we did it.
MI: I mean I think another reason we did it is just because we wanted to play a game like that. We had never seen it before, and we think it's really cool, and it gives the game a lot of replayability options.
Now some people might say, "Oh, but I don't want to have to play it again," but we had a lot of fans who said, "Hey, I liked experiencing things completely differently."
AB: Also, as the creators, it was just fun to do it. For our next game, we have some new ideas that we want to keep secret.