Witcher 3 Dev: Open World Development is "Very Challenging"

Witcher 3 Dev: Open World Development is "Very Challenging"

The Witcher

The Witcher 3 will feature three open world landscapes, each with their own storyline.

It feels somewhat odd to describe The Witcher and The Witcher 2, games endowed with a venerable plethora of branching story choices, as linear. Despite their many options however, the two games were ever leading you down a set path, even if you got to choose your detours. With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, however, CD Projekt Red is aiming to maintain the franchise's complex and meaningful choices, while also expanding on its experience with open world mechanics. It's a process that's easier said than done.

"It's very, very challenging, because we have this goal that we want you to have the same intense feeling/experience that you got you got in The Witcher 2 and we want to combine it with the open world. Not the other way," said Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, game director at CD Projekt RED. To make the experience more manageable, the development team has split the game world into three landscapes: the Skellige Archipelago, No Man's Land and the city of Novigrad. "Every landscape has got its own storyline," explained Tomaszkiewicz.

The question on many gamers minds, however, is whether or not those stories will hold up when compared to The Witcher 3's more linear predecessors. Tomaszkiewicz is confident he and his colleagues can pull it off. "You need to have believable situations," he said. "If you put only black and white choices into the game, you will feel that it is [sic] a fake."

Source: VG247

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Its ambitious, but I find myself feeling trepidation of this idea.

It is sort of upsetting how we view narrative linearity almost as if it were a dirty word, when it is simply a design choice complete with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Given what has been set forth between W1&2 and how prominent the narrative has been in the franchise thus far, trying to go open world seems more likely to undermine one of the franchises strength in its compelling narrative cohesion.

Not saying it cannot be done, and I would think if anyone can pull it off it would be them, but I think what would have to occur would be more of a hybrid of open and linear for it not to quickly become a cumbersome mess that hinders and disrupts a positive narrative pace.

IE: such as having multiple main objectives of which you are free to complete at your own pace but it requires you to occasionally bottle neck in order to maintain logical pacing and flow, as in DA: Origins where you are tasked to gain support from various groups, but you get to chose when and who to ally with, but it always brings you back to the final act in a straight line for the sake of cohesive narrative.

I just do not know if is even really possible to pull off a truly open world and a truly compelling narrative at the same time because hybrids are rarely if ever as strong as their source components and typically far weaker.

I still wish they'd embrace the style of Gothic rather than that of Skyrim.

Huge world, linear story missions, and do whatever you want with the factions and settlements in any way you please meanwhile.

viranimus:
Its ambitious, but I find myself feeling trepidation of this idea.

It is sort of upsetting how we view narrative linearity almost as if it were a dirty word, when it is simply a design choice complete with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Given what has been set forth between W1&2 and how prominent the narrative has been in the franchise thus far, trying to go open world seems more likely to undermine one of the franchises strength in its compelling narrative cohesion.

Not saying it cannot be done, and I would think if anyone can pull it off it would be them, but I think what would have to occur would be more of a hybrid of open and linear for it not to quickly become a cumbersome mess that hinders and disrupts a positive narrative pace.

IE: such as having multiple main objectives of which you are free to complete at your own pace but it requires you to occasionally bottle neck in order to maintain logical pacing and flow, as in DA: Origins where you are tasked to gain support from various groups, but you get to chose when and who to ally with, but it always brings you back to the final act in a straight line for the sake of cohesive narrative.

I just do not know if is even really possible to pull off a truly open world and a truly compelling narrative at the same time because hybrids are rarely if ever as strong as their source components and typically far weaker.

It is possible. The Gothic games are a great example of that. Basically the reason, why this works in the gothic games, is that, while the game is open world, you still can't just dick around all the time and see everything on your first day in the world. The level of the enemies around you is scaled depending on what story chapter your on, not depending on your own level. That means, expecially in the beginning a big chunk of the world isn't accessible to you, because the monsters in the other areas are just too strong for you.
This way you are a little bit forced into doing the story missions, because you are so weak in the beginning and when you finally are strong enough to see the whole world, the story has progressed enough and engaged you enough, that you just want to continue the story missions.
The Problem with games like skyrim is that from the very beginning the game is filled with stuff that is more interesting than the main story.

Amaror:

The Problem with games like skyrim is that from the very beginning the game is filled with stuff that is more interesting than the main story.

But it's not really a problem; it's a design choice.

The problem with using the methods you described (Colloquially referred to as Beef Gates), is that in most games they feel artificial. They amount to little more than unconventional wall blocking gameplay. For a game that wants you restrict yourself to certain areas until you level up more, this can be an acceptable sacrifice.

Elder scroll games (with the exception of Morrowind, which used Beef Gates) don't employ it, because they're all about the exploration. Bethesda doesn't care where someone goes, at what level; in fact, their main focus was to allow the player to do what they wanted.

OT: I'm still not sure CDProjekt can pull off open world, so few devs can do it well, but I'm anxiously awaiting the chance to find out.

Amaror:

It is possible. The Gothic games are a great example of that. Basically the reason, why this works in the gothic games, is that, while the game is open world, you still can't just dick around all the time and see everything on your first day in the world. The level of the enemies around you is scaled depending on what story chapter your on, not depending on your own level. That means, expecially in the beginning a big chunk of the world isn't accessible to you, because the monsters in the other areas are just too strong for you.
This way you are a little bit forced into doing the story missions, because you are so weak in the beginning and when you finally are strong enough to see the whole world, the story has progressed enough and engaged you enough, that you just want to continue the story missions.
The Problem with games like skyrim is that from the very beginning the game is filled with stuff that is more interesting than the main story.

/shrug.

Dont get me wrong, I really liked Gothic (least 1&2. 3 is a little more iffy to me and Ive yet to break 4 out of backlog) But I feel it has the same problem most open world games have and it is an active exchange of narrative depth and pacing for freedom and to me that is an incredibly hefty cost. One I have yet to personally see pay off in a positive way or that has actually resulted with an increased return of enjoyment on that investment.

But I accept my perspective is skewn because I have always been incredibly underwhelmed by Bethesda RPGs that are lauded as supposedly being next level of open world immersion, despite the fact I have always been just as fascinated by exploring a world in a game as being captivated by its narrative. I think it is because where most people see depth, realistic representation and attention to detail, all I really see is picking up useless trash like forks (or in Fallout, empty cans) Or exploring every corridor and tunnel of dead end caves acting as combat set pieces. As well as wandering the world you find yourself more often than not tripping ass backwards over objectives you had no idea about after youve done it so long. So Im guessing if I personally am not impressed or in awe of what is considered to be the best of open world exploratory experiences (I honestly got infinitely more exploration enjoyment out of Everquest back in the day than TES 3-5 and F3& NV all combined) it does logically explain why I do not see any game that has yet fuzed both elements together well enough that its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Different strokes I guess.

However I still do not know if this is the wisest idea and direction for Witcher 3. CDP may and will likely offer up something well made, but it seems like trying to branch out into open world design might have been better suited for as well as made a great justification for a new IP. That way they branch out their experience whilst not suffering final fantasy syndrome (suffering negative reaction when new sequel deviates further than expected away from the expectations players have of what the franchise should be.) Leaving open too much potential that for all their good intentions and best efforts having to make that narrative sacrifice to accommodate open world game play and the final product suffering for it. Im hopeful that my concerns would be unfounded, but still simply expressing those concerns.

Creating an open world that's enticing and doesn't make the player feel lost in it like skyrim is indeed a challenge.

Krantos:

Amaror:

The Problem with games like skyrim is that from the very beginning the game is filled with stuff that is more interesting than the main story.

But it's not really a problem; it's a design choice.

The problem with using the methods you described (Colloquially referred to as Beef Gates), is that in most games they feel artificial. They amount to little more than unconventional wall blocking gameplay. For a game that wants you restrict yourself to certain areas until you level up more, this can be an acceptable sacrifice.

Elder scroll games (with the exception of Morrowind, which used Beef Gates) don't employ it, because they're all about the exploration. Bethesda doesn't care where someone goes, at what level; in fact, their main focus was to allow the player to do what they wanted.

OT: I'm still not sure CDProjekt can pull off open world, so few devs can do it well, but I'm anxiously awaiting the chance to find out.

I didn't mean that skyrim was bad, i know that they are about exploration, but it's just a fact that the main quest is almost always the most boring thing you can do in a elder scrolls game.
That's not bad for a elder scrolls game, but as the person i was quoting before allready said, it would kill a Witcher game.

I don't know about other games but at least in gothic i have to say that the beef gates never really feel artificial at all.
It's not like the big monsters stand guard at the entrance of an area or something. They are just kinda there. You CAN actually go to these areas and if your REALLY carefull you can evade all those strong animals. The world is even as natural that it isn't like in one area is only inhabitet by strong enemies, there are some weak ones around.
In the first two gothic games there even is one really strong enemy in the starting area, but it's a bit deeper into the forest and you can evade it quite easily.
But it still makes the world feel quite natural.
In fact, it's the level scaled open world, like skyrim, that feels way more artifical to me.

I've been skeptical about this change as well, but if someone can make this work, it's CDProjekt RED.

I would of liked if they would of kept the linear world similar to Witcher 2 so they have power over how to direct the player through the story rather than the randomness of the open world.

Regardless, I really hope they will make this happen.

viranimus:

I just do not know if is even really possible to pull off a truly open world and a truly compelling narrative at the same time because hybrids are rarely if ever as strong as their source components and typically far weaker.

Playing Gothic 1+2 will answer that question for you. The guys from Pyranhia Bites pulled off an open world game with fantastic atmosphere, non-linear story and cool characters, twice.

And that Studio did not nearly have the recourses CD Projekt RED has at the moment.

I belive CD Project RED to be a smart studio, they wouldn't have changed from the linear level design to open world if they could not pull it off while keeping the strong points of their games as strong as ever.

I have literally never been so exited for any entertainment product ever, can't wait for that game to be released. It will be the first game I preorder too.

It will be interesting to see the result. Game balance can be as much an issue as story telling. Bethesda has always banked on exploration and player-created narrative rather than provided options of the sort you see in a CD Projekt RED or Bioware title, and Bethesda has always had a sort of, to hell with game balance attitude. I mean, you could make characters who were invulnerable to everything but arrows (and even then reduce damage by 85%) in vanilla Oblivion, and characters with arbitrarily high physical stats in Morrowind. This didn't bother Bethesda one bit. Their attitude was, If that's what you want to do, go for it! We're sure not going to stop you. Bioware hasn't truly done open world since Badlur's Gate I and even then, some areas were plot-locked.

viranimus:

/shrug.

Dont get me wrong, I really liked Gothic (least 1&2. 3 is a little more iffy to me and Ive yet to break 4 out of backlog) But I feel it has the same problem most open world games have and it is an active exchange of narrative depth and pacing for freedom and to me that is an incredibly hefty cost. One I have yet to personally see pay off in a positive way or that has actually resulted with an increased return of enjoyment on that investment.

But I accept my perspective is skewn because I have always been incredibly underwhelmed by Bethesda RPGs that are lauded as supposedly being next level of open world immersion, despite the fact I have always been just as fascinated by exploring a world in a game as being captivated by its narrative. I think it is because where most people see depth, realistic representation and attention to detail, all I really see is picking up useless trash like forks (or in Fallout, empty cans) Or exploring every corridor and tunnel of dead end caves acting as combat set pieces. As well as wandering the world you find yourself more often than not tripping ass backwards over objectives you had no idea about after youve done it so long. So Im guessing if I personally am not impressed or in awe of what is considered to be the best of open world exploratory experiences (I honestly got infinitely more exploration enjoyment out of Everquest back in the day than TES 3-5 and F3& NV all combined) it does logically explain why I do not see any game that has yet fuzed both elements together well enough that its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Different strokes I guess.

However I still do not know if this is the wisest idea and direction for Witcher 3. CDP may and will likely offer up something well made, but it seems like trying to branch out into open world design might have been better suited for as well as made a great justification for a new IP. That way they branch out their experience whilst not suffering final fantasy syndrome (suffering negative reaction when new sequel deviates further than expected away from the expectations players have of what the franchise should be.) Leaving open too much potential that for all their good intentions and best efforts having to make that narrative sacrifice to accommodate open world game play and the final product suffering for it. Im hopeful that my concerns would be unfounded, but still simply expressing those concerns.

Krantos:

Amaror:

The Problem with games like skyrim is that from the very beginning the game is filled with stuff that is more interesting than the main story.

But it's not really a problem; it's a design choice.

The problem with using the methods you described (Colloquially referred to as Beef Gates), is that in most games they feel artificial. They amount to little more than unconventional wall blocking gameplay. For a game that wants you restrict yourself to certain areas until you level up more, this can be an acceptable sacrifice.

Elder scroll games (with the exception of Morrowind, which used Beef Gates) don't employ it, because they're all about the exploration. Bethesda doesn't care where someone goes, at what level; in fact, their main focus was to allow the player to do what they wanted.

OT: I'm still not sure CDProjekt can pull off open world, so few devs can do it well, but I'm anxiously awaiting the chance to find out.

I agree with what you say about Bethesda and beef gates, mostly, but I'd like to point out that your example is completely backwards.

Morrowind had no artificial beef gates. Like every element of the game, the difficulty level of areas was tied in to the extremely coherent logic, aesthetics and atmosphere of the gameworld. The areas of the map that were more dangerous were so for a very obvious reason. Populated, temperate zones were much safer than the blasted wastelands wrought by volcanic storms and divine diseases. If fearsome Red Mountain and all its ancient cursed fortresses were to be populated by nothing stronger than rats, now THAT would be bizarre and artificial.

And that is precisely what Oblivion did. Hell itself is trying to swallow the entire world and the legion of demons that horrifically wiped a city off the map is nothing more than... stunted scamps? You can beat the MQ at level 2 and never face anything remotely impressive. Now that is artificiality destructive of narrative.

 

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