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[E3 2013] The Witcher 3: Interview with Level Artist Jonas Mattsson

By
Posted on June 15, 2013 AT 12:09pm

After watching a pre-alpha demo of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I had a chance to sit down with Jonas Mattsson, a level artist for CD Projekt Red, and ask him a few questions about the game.

What is your role in the project?

I’m an environment artist

What specific parts of the environment have you worked on?

Mostly exteriors, so the ruins you saw, for instance, are my work. We’ve had to rethink how we do environments in The Witcher 3, because in The Witcher 2, everything was very specific for the locations. So we make a house, and we think, how can we use this house in other places and make it unique looking in every location. It’s all about the composition in the environment that it sits in. So you saw the mountains, and you can go there and explore it. We work a lot with the tones and color of the scenery and you get the full picture. Not just one polished path, but you get the whole thing. We usually, when we create something, we take thirty steps back and go “How does that look from here, and when you come around the corner, at this time of day, how does it light?” And we’re all very conscious about that.

So you’re trying your best to make amazing environments that you come around a corner and you’re just blown away by the visuals?

Exactly, so we always want to have this Wow!

And that’s exactly what I saw in the demo. I was especially impressed with the very first part when Geralt is coming up the mountain and the view across that–

Yeah, I made that as well.

 It’s interesting to see how this has progressed from the original Witcher where it’s top down, and then you move to third person. Did you guys have this progression in mind when you started? How has this evolved? 

I think our ambitions have reset–well, not our ambitions, our ambitions have always been high–but technology has always held us back a little bit, and I think that for the first time we can now make the game that we always wanted to make. Because being a witcher in a restricted environment doesn’t–it works, but it’s better if it’s open, because you can travel from village to village for the main story line, but you also help people by monster hunting. It makes sense to have an open world for The Witcher.

Yeah, it does. So you talked a lot about consequences in the demo, and how your actions can spread throughout the world. Are the consequences from random events and side quests going to affect the main story line?

Oh yeah, definitely. Side quests can definitely have a consequence in the main story line. Potential allies, potential enemies.

So everything that you do can affect how your individual story plays out?

Yeah, we want to have an organic feel to the quests. It’s not like a Fedex quest where you fetch ten bear pelts or whatever, we don’t want that. We want it to be organic, and we want the player to go “Ah, I can do this side quest, and it works well with the main quest and kind of brings it together.” It blurs the line and makes it more organic.

This is going to be on the Xbox One, right?

Yes, on the Xbox One, and Playstation 4, and PC.

Have the new consoles given you new potential for what you can do with this series?

Oh yeah, I mean, it doesn’t hold us back. We can have the same high quality on all the high end platforms.

Like for The Witcher 2, you had to scale some back for the Xbox 360?

So we have The Witcher 2, and say there’s a cake, and you can see the whole cake. Putting it on Xbox 360, we had to split up the cake into smaller pieces, streaming it, so it was like more doors and stuff to make it easier to load and to make it as seamless as possible. We worked almost a whole year to get it to work as smoothly as possible on the 360. And I think it was a touch of black magic as well to get it working on Xbox, and also the programmers.

That sounds like it was a real challenge for you.

It was, and we were greatly happy with the result. We felt like we really proved that you can do it.

You definitely pushed the limits of what had been seen on the Xbox 360. Do you think that the PC version of The Witcher 3 is going to look basically the same as on the next-gen consoles, or are there still going to be enhancements that you can only get on PC?

I think there will be certain things like what we call uber-sampling. Have you played the PC version?

Yes, I have played the PC version.

Then you know that this uber-mode that renders it and makes it incredibly soft. You know, we released The Witcher 2 a while ago, and even though many people can’t play it on the highest settings even today, we’re future proofing it basically. Once technology catches up, people can play The Witcher 2 on really high settings. We’re probably going to do the same for The Witcher 3 as well. But we’re really aiming to have it as high as possible on all platforms with as few compromises as possible, if any, really.

Let’s talk about voice acting for a bit. I saw a small sample of what’s included in the demo. How many voice actors have you brought in for The Witcher 3?

Let’s see, I’m not going to say how much, but it’s an enormous part of our budget. We really want to have an authentic feel to the world. I mean, Doug Cockle is returning as the voice for Geralt, and you heard the different voice actors we had, we had North Irishmen for these islands here. You can hear the the authenticity of the island speakers, which is very important for us to keep with this, so when people play it they feel that it’s a real world, not just one accent for all regions because we’re going to have different areas.

I also noticed that you’re adding some naval action in there as well. Is that there strictly for traveling, or are there other uses as well? 

I don’t want to spoil too much, and we’re going to reveal more information about that as we go along. But it’s pretty cool! It goes on physics, so you actually go along the waves.

So it’s actually simulating how the boat would react to the wave movement. And as you mentioned with the storms, it can get pretty dangerous out there? 

You can tip over and fall out and drown. Or if you’re close to land, you might pass out and wake up on the beach if you don’t make it back to land in time. Well, you can try and swim, but…

Probably won’t work out too well?

Exactly!

How about monsters? How much has been retained from the Witcher 2 and how much as been added?

Well, we’re going to have over 80 different monsters. Now, in The Witcher 2, we had a lot of flocks, and right now, we’ve taken it back to more singular and tougher monsters, so you can prepare for these monsters and make it more as it is in the books.

So most of the encounters are going to be like in the demo with tracking and finding a big monster?

Yeah, but you can also stumble upon them as well, as you saw in the ruins. They roam the wild, and they’re not spawned because you triggered a quest. They’re there because they’re part of a living world. Now there could be quests related to them, but you can also just hunt them, collect a trophy, and go to the nearest village to see if you can get a bounty for it. They’re part of the ecosystem.

Do some of the side quests lead back into the main quest and interweave with it?

I don’t want to spoil it too much, but…maybe! I won’t spoil it! It’s hard to give an interview without spoiling anything.

Well, that’s all of the questions I have for you.

So you liked it?

I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to getting to play it at some point. So 2014?

Yeah, 2014.

And that comes out for all three systems at the same time?

Yeah, simultaneous release.

 

Mike Fugate is the type of guy that you can count on to blab all your secrets to the world. He also kind of has a thing for video games, exercise, and Buckyballs. If for some reason you want to listen to him talk, go listen to his PC Gaming podcast AFC - Away From Computer here on DigitalNoob.




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