After “reboot” the development process of The Witcher, RED needs to overcome difficulties and find a way to continue developing its game.
After the initial difficulties of not appreciating the difficulty of making games as well as personnel issues, CD Projekt brought RED members to the headquarters in Warsaw and embarked on a “reboot”. his judgment. The two founders of CD Projekt refused to buy Sebastian Zieliński’s engine and therefore could not use anything built on this engine platform but had to restart from the beginning.
The Witcher 1 was started again in Warsaw with three artists, plus Ryszard Chojnowski, who was appointed game project leader in 2003-2004. Back then, RED had no developers, no engines, and only a few sketches and original scripts. The total cost of the game is about 1 million złoty (about 6.6 billion), and parent company CD Projekt also does not know what to do with the four new members. They have to choose a new engine, find new developers to continue making games.
RED testing Aurora
But back then, engines were extremely expensive, and there were no free engines. Even buying the right to use a normal engine will cost the studio money. To save money, Ryszard wanted to try The Witcher on Aurora by Neverwinter Nights because he had experience with this engine. If successful, Ryszard believes that they can make something within a few years.
On hearing this, Michal Kicinski, one of the two CD co-founders of Projekt, remembered that they could contact BioWare to ask for the Aurora engine, and the good relationship of the two sides from the Baldur’s Gate era could bring Back an acceptable price. After a few months and a lot of emails, Bioware signed a contract to allow RED to use Aurora for a very cheap price, about 10,000 USD.
But actually, BioWare’s Aurora engine was not designed to be empowered, so the version of the engine RED received was … the Neverwinter Nights source code. It’s not a modern engine like Unreal, Unity or Cry Engine, it’s just a toolkit attached to a game. RED has to rebuild this engine of its own, and rewrite about 90% of the code with many changes to achieve the goal of turning The Witcher 1 into a more beautiful game than its contemporaries.
To do that, they recruited Pawel Czopa, a friend of Adam Badowski (Art Director of RED from 2003-2009). Pawel is an experienced programmer with Warcraft 3 and Diablo: Lord of Destruction, but has never touched on graphics. Pawel helped RED recruit a number of new programmers, including Michal Iwanicki, who would later become head of engine development for RED.
Transform every day
After this recruitment, RED’s team “ballooned” to 15 people, and with new human resources, RED wanted to add some features to the Aurora engine, creating a complete game within 8-9 months and hit the market. Ryszard said this was still impossible, but could not convince the two CD Projekt owners Marcin and Michal to change the plan.
The demo was shown at E3 2004.
In mid-2004, RED showed off its game at E3 with a trailer, and was helped by BioWare to arrange several interviews with the press. Michal Iwanicki remembers that “the demo was only designed to show the most important aspects of the game, including the moral and ethical options, a world that is all gray and not white – black, … ”and it impressed the reporters who attended.
Although RED members were still not happy with the demo they showed at E3 2004 due to a lot of problems, its success convinced two CD Projekt founders that The Witcher still had could be better, and decided to give RED more funding and time until the end of 2005, or early 2006.
RED begins to return to the game’s plot. They decided to ignore the idea of allowing gamers to create their own characters, and forced the player to use Geralt. “We already have a powerful hero like Geralt, why not use him instead of trying to create a new character?” Michal Iwanicki recalled. “We need to explain why a seasoned witcher like Geralt is ‘weak’ at the beginning of the game. From here, the idea of an amnesic Geralt was born. ”
After E3 2004, two more names participated in the development of The Witcher 1: Ola Cwalina and one of the two CD Projekt founders, Michal Kicinski. However, Ola is only involved for 6 months and manages things that are not directly related to content such as budget and work progress, while Michal directly participates in the process of making game content. As a gamer, Michal wanted his game to be perfect, but it was impossible. The development team has to accept the trade-offs of a few things, to improve other things in the game.
With The Witcher 1, RED became the first studio to use motion capture – mocap technology in the region. Initially, they used traditional equipment with bulky cords, and contacted Borys Szyc, one of the most potential actors in Poland at the time. This actor is the one who created the motion for the Drowner monsters with funny movements on all four limbs. These movements are kept throughout the game development process, until the game is officially launched.
Borys Szyc, the first contributor to the Witcher 1 mocap
Recalling the early days of performing the Witcher mocap, Ryszard said that the “weapon” that Borys waved around in the room was … a mop. They also have no plans for the movements to be recorded. “Everything was created at the last minute because we didn’t have an animation list to do. I tried making a list, but new motions kept appearing and I thought it might take several years to record them. ”
After a period of early use of old mocap technology, RED began moving to Germany and France to use “fine” mocap systems with the white round balls you see today. Borys still contributes to the game, and some of his moves still appear in The Witcher 2.
Initially, the mocap was RED made with outdated equipment like this.
The biggest challenge in the mocap of The Witcher 1 is the sword fighting. RED did not want to copy movements in artificial point-and-click games, so Adam Badowski began contacting experts, swordsmen, and historians specializing in the Middle Ages and weapons. melee. In the end, RED hired a group of young stuntmen but were real fighters.
“The most important person, sweating, bloody and crying the most is Maciek Kwiatkowski, a stuntman who worked with us to create The Witcher’s combat system from scratch ,” Adam Badowski revealed. “I try to think of movements for strong, fast fighting styles and crowds. In the following games, they have improved a lot but back then, it took us a lot of time to think of these movements and want them to be mocaped in real time. ”
This requires Maciek Kwiatkowski to increase the speed of the movement to capture those movements, and the swinging and jumping movements take hours to complete. ” I recall that every time a job is finished, the mocap actors have to lose a kilo,” Adam Badowski joked, but the truth is not much different.
As the director of photography for The Witcher series, Adam Badowski is responsible for creating a video game that is commensurate with what the readers imagine when reading books by Andrzej.
This is not an easy challenge. At that time, the most famous fantasy games were made in cartoon style like WarCraft 3, Baldur’s Gate, Dungeon Siege … and made gamers think fantasy = animation. But a game with a dark background like The Witcher may not be suitable for this type of image, and RED must find a different graphic style.
Adam Badowski sketched for The Witcher 1
From here, RED began to study what she was doing and what she should do, so she was inspired by and where to refer. They went to many historical places, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and especially paintings by Flemish Primitive painters in the 15th and 16th centuries. These paintings provide a lot of life details. and life at that time should be very helpful in helping RED create a true world in the game. Also around this time, RED began trying to link the world of The Witcher with Slavs culture – the latter factor that took the leading role in The Witcher 3 launched in 2015.
With a team of new painters, shaping the world in the game progresses much faster. “We locked ourselves in a nearby 2 or 3 week rental office nearby to create a modeling system, and to paint. We drew sketches on many papers, with a list of places to have in the game, ” Adam Badowski recounted. In particular, he said he was extremely proud of the area of Vizima, New Vizima and the nearby village, with the church having an Easter Egg, the German sniper’s Mauser gun protruding on the bell tower, inspired by an idea. scene in the film Saving Private Private Ryan.
The Mauser gun protruded from the bell tower
And as you all know, The Witcher 1 appeared in not just one E3. At some point, someone will say “make a new E3 demo,” and sometimes this makes the artist think that they’re making places to “show off” at E3, not a game that holds all those landmarks seamlessly. They do not know where they will be located on the big map and appear in the gameplay.
So far, RED has got all the components of a complete game, from the engine, the storyline, the fights, the movements of the characters, the little pieces of the world in which the characters will operate … to make a game, they need to put all these components together. How will they do it, and what challenges are waiting? Look for answers in the next part of this series, guys!