How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

CD Projekt Red may now have over 800 developers working on some of the biggest RPGs, but once who first started working on The Witcher series, the first version of which was released 15 years ago, was not very famous. At that time, the studio was only known for the distribution and localization of various games in Poland, but not as a developer. On the other hand, few outside of Poland had heard of its new project, a dark fantasy role-playing game based on a collection of novels and short stories. It was ambitious, and despite the fact that the team members sometimes didn't know if they would even finish development on the first game, they had already planned a trilogy that would eventually make the IP a household name in the video game industry. . In fact, it's like an inexperienced studio introducing a trilogy of The Lord of the Rings and promising a fascinating gameplay and an epic narrative as big as Tolkien's books. In any case, CD Projekt Red proved that such a thing could be possible. As you probably know, the recently announced Witcher 1 is going to be rebuilt with Unreal Engine 5. On this occasion, in this article, we are going to take a look at the early days of this series to see what made it successful in the first place.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

CD Projekt Red may now have over 800 developers working on some of the biggest RPGs, but once who first started working on The Witcher series, the first version of which was released 15 years ago, was not very famous. At that time, the studio was only known for the distribution and localization of various games in Poland, but not as a developer. On the other hand, few outside of Poland had heard of its new project, a dark fantasy role-playing game based on a collection of novels and short stories. It was ambitious, and despite the fact that the team members sometimes didn't know if they would even finish development on the first game, they had already planned a trilogy that would eventually make the IP a household name in the video game industry. . In fact, it's like an inexperienced studio introducing a trilogy of The Lord of the Rings and promising a fascinating gameplay and an epic narrative as big as Tolkien's books. In any case, CD Projekt Red proved that such a thing could be possible. As you probably know, the recently announced Witcher 1 is going to be rebuilt with Unreal Engine 5. On this occasion, in this article, we are going to take a look at the early days of this series to see what made it successful in the first place.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Beginning of the Witcher; A crazy project

Of course, it's not as if the members of the CD Project were sure of the success of The Witcher, because several members of its core team had never made a game before, and those who had also worked on a project like this. They had not done a great job. Marcin Blacha, CD Project Red's narrative director, says:

We didn't know if this game would be successful or not. Of course we hoped it would appeal to players, but 15 years ago we all had a lot less experience than we do now, and it was harder to judge what was right and what wasn't. Since we all loved RPGs so much, we wanted to be respected and appreciated by fans of the genre in the first place. So, the company started out as a distribution company, translating English games into Polish and actually doing localization work. CD Projekt then signed a contract with Bioware and Interplay Entertainment to localize Baldur's Gate, and it was this relationship that eventually led to the creation of The Witcher.

When Baldur's Gate : Dark Alliance was released as a new console-only version of the series, the CD Projekt team was worried. Console games were not popular in Poland at the time, and Interplay was not going to release a PC version either. That meant the latest version of the CD project's biggest hit wasn't going to do them any good. CD Project asked the manufacturer to develop the PC version of the game. Of course he did, and CD Project was told to develop this version himself. Although the project was canceled within a few months due to financial problems, it led CD Project to look into developing various games.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Then CD Project Red was formed and started looking for a work that could turn it into a video game. In fact, the main idea was to choose an already proven space as something for this fledgling team to lean on. The Witcher and its author Andrzej Sapkowski were as popular in Poland as Tolkien, if not more so, and the wandering, monstrous hero of the story was a perfect choice for a video game. Blacha said:

The team that developed the first version of The Witcher was made up of fans of Sapkofsi's stories and novels. On the one hand, it gave us an advantage because we felt comfortable creating a game with famous characters in a well-known world. On the other hand, we also felt pressure because we wanted our game to be respected by players as much as we love Sapkowski's books. At the time the game was financed by the publishing side of the CD project, so those of us who were active in development felt like we were a small experimental group running a crazy project that sane people would get paid to work on.

Geralt, who is currently the icon of this IP and better known through Henry Quill in the Witcher series, proved early in development that he has one of the most complex characters and almost as Completely abandoned. It is important to know that CD Projekt Red initially made the game around another character named Berengar, who later appeared as a non-playable character.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Blacha pointed out that Geralt was so good that they couldn't leave him out. On the other hand, his appearance design has also been another challenge, because the readers of the books imagined Geralt in a different way. Pawe Mielniczuk, one of the designers of The Witcher 1, who now serves as the art director of the Cyberpunk 2077 expansion pack Phantom Liberty, commented:

Working on a main character is like It means that almost everyone in the company thinks they know better than anyone else about the character's appearance, and it's impossible to please even half of your colleagues.

A prototype and the E3 event

After about a year of Witcher development, CD Project Red put together a prototype and used the company's distribution department to pitch it to various publishers. The response from the publishers was generally not positive and forced the production team to fundamentally change the production of the game. However, Bioware came in and denied the license to use Aurora Engine to CD Project and practically gave this company a new opportunity. Another year passed and another prototype was developed. At that time Bayer asked CD Projekt Red if they wanted to show the game at their booth at E3 2004. Although all CD Projekt Red had was a version that didn't even have Geralt as the main character, they submitted it to Bioware anyway.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

CD Project RED presence at E3 2004

Marcin Iwiski, one of The founders and CEO of CD Project Red recently stated in an interview:

We were completely unknown as a developer and had no special history. Suddenly, the famous creators of the role-playing genre invited us to show them things. The early version kept crashing and we were super stressed, because if they showed them the early version and said, like, we need to do more work on this, etc., I think we were done and we would have given up. That wasn't the end of it though, as BioWare members liked what they saw.

Interestingly, IGN Media's reporter at the time said that visiting the BioWare booth at the event was amazing because of the Witcher. In any case, Red and Witcher CD projects were introduced to the world. Development of the game continued for the next few years without much trouble, although some elements of the game had to be abandoned as the studio's ambitions outweighed its financial resources. Blacha says:

None of us had worked on a work of this size and complexity before, and it quickly became clear that our ideas were too ambitious. The plot of the game had to be much shorter than we originally imagined, so we rewrote the plot of each part of the game, but added more choices and consequences in the process. Many times we thought that we would not be able to finish this project in a reasonable time, but thanks to our passion and persistence, we finally did.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Release date

The Witcher was finally released on October 26, 2007 (November 4, 2007) and received positive reviews from critics. The game is a combination of fun and fast battles with a fascinating world and a decent story that is multi-branched and can be completed in three different modes. On the other hand, as CD Projekt Red intended, this game also experienced good sales throughout Europe. Blacha said:

At that time, the fact that the game was only released for PC and had gained more popularity in Europe was not a bad thing for us. It was very important for us to have completed a major project and at the same time built the largest game development studio in Poland. He didn't realize that this was a surprise for Ivinsky. He also explained about his visit to New York after the launch of The Witcher that he went to several GameStop branches waiting to see copies of The Witcher but saw nothing. It is interesting to know that the employees of these stores had not heard anything about Witcher either. It was later revealed that Atari, which had partnered with CD Project Red to release the game in America, had not budgeted much for the release of the game in the United States at that time.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

The Witcher was also a completely unknown work, as Sapkowski's first book was not available in America until a year after the game, in 2008. This was long before the Netflix series adaptation. The Witcher comic books are considered Dark Horse or whatever. Blacha says:

Our first game was incomplete. Of course, we were satisfied with the completion of the project, but we still wanted to improve it. We heavily re-edited the English translation of the game and re-recorded a lot of dialogue. We also worked on additional content for the game and released an expansion pack that provides a new adventure for players. All of these small and large improvements and changes ultimately helped The Witcher: Enhanced Edition breathe new life into the original. It is now increasing because more people experienced it after the improvements. It should be said that this game actually sold better in the second quarter than in the first quarter.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Sequences

CD Projekt Red was poised for worldwide success, and in an effort to achieve it, began work on two new projects. The second version of The Witcher titled The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in 2011 takes advantage of the success of the first game with general improvements. On the other hand, the console version of the first game, which was introduced a year later, brought it into new markets. The first project was a success, but the second one is considered a complete disaster.

The studio entrusted the development of the console version of the first game called The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf to the French studio Widescreen Games. There were many problems from the beginning, and the developer needed regular support from CD Projekt Red, and since the game was handed over to another studio because CD Projekt Red couldn't handle two projects at the same time, This had become a problem. The console version was eventually shelved, but millions of dollars of Atari's capital had gone to the target in the meantime. Unsurprisingly, the publisher was looking to get its money back, and CD Projekt Red, faced with a problem it simply couldn't handle, gave Atari the rights to publish The Witcher 2 in North America to pay off its debt. p>

Although it was a difficult time for CD Projekt Red, the developer continued to work and eventually released the second game in the series in 2011. Pawe Sasko, The Witcher 2 mission designer and Cyberpunk 2077 mission director, stated:

The Witcher 2 was our first true AAA game, thanks to a combination of great visuals, music, voice acting, combat. And a fascinating story of a very unique world, managed to reach a large community of players. It was our first attempt to create a global hit that spread far beyond Polish gamers and attracted people who didn't even know Andrzej Sapkowski's books.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

The Witcher 2 was met with great acclaim, and with its improvements over the first version and the Xbox 360 version of the game, CD Projekt Red managed to expand its presence around the world and name place yourself in the game industry. Sasko says:

This goal was achieved so well that it gave us the resources to make The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt; A work that was supposed to be open-world from the beginning with a deep story that would have hundreds of hours of gameplay. When we started developing it in 2012, we didn't know how to make a game with a very strong story and characters in a completely open world. Because no one had done it at that time. Of course, we all knew the Elder Scrolls series and loved those games, but we wished to tell a story as captivating as the previous two Witcher games.

Forward to history

Making such a work was not easy, especially when CD Projekt Red was planning to retire Geralt as the main antagonist of The Witcher. Blacha said:

After 10 years and three versions of The Witcher, not including expansion packs, we treat Geralt like an old friend. On the other hand, during the development of The Witcher 3 we felt that we needed a break and release from him. When creating its second expansion, Blood and Wine, we knew that Geralt would retire and decided to send him to a pleasant place where he would tend the vines and relax on his porch.

BingMag.com How did CD Projekt Red create one of the biggest names in the gaming industry with The Witcher?

Of course, Geralt's retirement had to be done in a certain style, so for the third version, CD Projekt Red finally became a kind of second and third character. The Witcher world brought Ciri and Yennefer together. Both of these characters were carefully crafted. Milnyczak says that the production team spent a year creating a 3D model of Yennefer based on a Polish model (Klaudia Wrbel) before scrapping everything and starting over. He added:

We decided to move away from what we had scanned and instead focus on modeling something that better reflected Yennefer's personality. On the other hand, I remember Siri's face slowly for almost three years We would have changed.

The introduction of these characters allowed CD Projekt Red to reach a new level of storytelling, as it was able to flesh out the popular relationship in Sapkowski's books, the relationship between Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer. Blacha said:

When we knew we had Yennefer and Ciri in the game, it was easy to solve a lot of problems because this triangle of characters was well established in the books and could easily be used for interesting stories. be used in the game. By the time we finished production on Voyager 3, it became clear that games were starting to tell stories that focused on father relationships, and at this point we were very happy with Siri as a character and her role in the game. In fact, we knew that we would shape the relationship between Geralt and Ciri very well. It was released in 2015 and received worldwide critical and player acclaim, becoming CD Projekt Red's best game and one of the best ever. After the release of this game, The Witcher and CD Projekt Red became household names in the video game industry, and the Witcher series also expanded beyond games and into mediums such as television. Although the Witcher series from Netflix does not use the same narrative as the games and is practically not directly related to them, it was undoubtedly the popularity of the games that forced Netflix to make this series.

On the other hand, although initially The Witcher 3 was thought to be the last game from this world, at least by CD Projekt Red, but the studio has just announced that not only is it remaking the original Witcher, but there are plans to make at least four new games in the Witcher series. has it. However, before starting this new era, Blacha reflects on his and his team's achievements. He says:

It makes me happy to think about the Tucson vineyard, because Geralt was a good companion on a long journey. A journey where I learned how to make games and had the opportunity to play a role as a producer on one of the best video games and most recognized IPs in the world.

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