At this year’s E3 we were invited to the CD Projekt booth to check out The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt. We got a chance to speak with Jonas Mattson, the environmental artist on the game, about the differences between the next generation versions, the weather system, the in-game day night system, dragons and more. Check out the entire interview below.
Leonid Melikhov: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt does look pretty good. Obviously what we have seen is the alpha footage and so I have a few concerns, like there were times where the frame rate was not stable.
Jonas Mattson: Yes, that was alpha footage. As we are going to release it in 2014 so we have all this time to truly polish all the loose ends. Right now we are focused more on the quality of the game and as usual in any development scenario you focus on optimization and we have pretty cool stuff to help with this i.e. Umbra. I won’t get too technical but it allows us to hide things that the player does’nt see automatically. We have this feature in our engine and it will be further optimized to improve performance.
Leonid Melikhov: Is Umbra a custom written or a proprietary engine?
Jonas Mattson: It’s like an addition to the main game’s engine. We have RedEngine 3.0 and together with that it’s our own stuff.
Leonid Melikhov: So it’s not like the Unreal Engine where some company buy licenses?
Jonas Mattson: No. Umbra is a separate company, the license and everything is different. I am not a programmer so I can’t go in to specifics but Umbra basically gives a boost to our own engine. So ye, there will be much better frame rates later on.
Leonid Melikhov: Is PC the lead platform for Witcher 3?
Jonas Mattson: We are targeting all high end platforms, so the Xbox One, PS4 and obviously the PC. We won’t absolutely forget our roots, absolutely not (referring to the PC).
Leonid Melikhov: So will the PC version be ported to the consoles?
Jonas Mattson: Right now what you see is running on the PC but we have development kits (for next gen consoles) so we are aiming to have an equally high quality experience with all the platforms. As you know the specs of next generation platforms, it really allows us not to hold anything back. When we were working on The Witcher 2 on the Xbox 360, it was…
Leonid Melikhov: Problematic?
Jonas Mattson: Not problematic, but we had to do a lot of work to get it running on a current gen console. But really, this time we can push the limits and hold nothing back.
Leonid Melikhov: So the PC architecture similarity and nothing like the PS3 which had a complicated Cell processor architecture where developers need to find a way across…
Jonas Mattson: Exactly, I personally think this new generation will make it easier for a lot of developers to release games on consoles.
Leonid Melikhov: Do you feel you guys will be able to push the game a bit more on the PS4 given that it has 8GB GDDR 5 compared to 8GB DDR3 on the Xbox One?
Jonas Mattson: As you are aware am an environmental artist but we have talked about this in the office. I don’t think we are taking too much advantage of it. But as I said I am entirely not sure about this as I deal with making the world pretty.
Leonid Melikhov: I am intrigued by the whole weather dynamics in The Witcher 3.
Jonas Mattson: Did you like it?
Leonid Melikhov: I liked it and I thought it was pretty cool.
Jonas Mattson: We really wanted to be more than just fiction and create an impact in the community. We wanted the people to react to it and get affected by it. Because sometimes when it is raining and nothing happens.
Leonid Melikhov: What about the monsters in the game?
Jonas Mattson: Some monsters in the game are nocturnal and you can only hunt them in the night. Some monsters are not. This is where your boosting skills and abilities will come in the picture. What kind of monsters I am going to deal with? What kind of potion should I drink to prepare myself for the fight? When should I fight?
Leonid Melikhov: It probably depends on where the player is currently located in the world…
Jonas Mattson: Oh yes. There are monsters in the game where you won’t simply find running around in the wild. The fiend that you saw earlier, it feels comfortable in its own territory, so the player needs to lure it out. Our monsters in the game act differently and take in to consideration where it is and they behave accordingly.
Leonid Melikhov: How does the day-night system works in The Witcher 3? Is it like 24 hours or modified for in-game time?
Jonas Mattson: It is 24 hours.
Leonid Melikhov: Do you mean real 24 hours?
Jonas Mattson: Ah…no. I think it’s a little bit faster. It is seamless compared to Witcher 2. The Witcher 2 times were a bit quicker so we have made it easier to play it in The Witcher 3.
Leonid Melikhov: What is your favorite location when you were creating the world for Witcher 3?
Jonas Mattson: I worked on the ruins a lot and it was really nice to work on them, because you have the mountains and valley behind it. I am not going to spoil it but there is a valley there, river leading out and it really gives you a grand view of it. It basically makes the player say wow. The ruins are located higher and you can see all those valleys. Even when the player is fighting a fiend and being attacked it still pushes the player to check it out. For me the composition, all the mountains and everything comes together and really makes it beautiful.
Leonid Melikhov: Are we going to see any Dragons?
Jonas Mattson: (Laughs) I don’t want to spoil anything so am I not going to say anything about that.
Leonid Melikhov: I know you said the release date is 2014, but can you tell me the seasonal date?
Jonas Mattson: No, I cannot say anything about when in 2014 it will be released. But yes, 2014 is the year the game will be released.
Leonid Melikhov: Tell us a bit more about the different creatures in the game.
Jonas Mattson: There are 80 creatures in the game and of course you have the wild life like rabbits, deer and bears.
Leonid Melikhov: Can you kill them?
Jonas Mattson: Yes you can kill them.
Leonid Melikhov: Are they useful for anything or they just make the world look pretty?
Jonas Mattson: Of course, each of them has a different use. The player can invest hours in to hunting and sell them to the villagers. The fiend, I mentioned before, it basically does not stay in one territory, it goes out to hunt. So the player might come across it, so even when you’re hunting you might become the hunted. You have all this monsters like werewolves, so we are really populating this open world as much as we can.
Leonid Melikhov: What about the gore in the game? I remember playing Witcher 2 where I was able to cut off limbs. Can the player do the same in The Witcher 3?
Jonas Mattson: There are certain times where the game is a bit gory. Currently we cannot cut off limbs; we might do it later on. But we don’t hold anything back to due to the ratings. This is a game for adults and for people who can handle violence, gore and intimate relationships. We are not changing our attitude.
Leonid Melikhov: That won’t be Witcher if you do…
Jonas Mattson: Exactly! The Witcher world is dark fantasy world and it is about delivering this experience and we are not going to change that. I can’t see us change that and we are not going to change it. This is what we are as a studio, this is what we do, we do mature role playing games and we are going to continue to do that.
Leonid Melikhov: So you mean to say gore may be a part later?
Jonas Mattson: Maybe. But right now it’s not our focus. Right now we want to make a kick ass game.
Leonid Melikhov: Is there any beta or demo planned for the game?
Jonas Mattson: As far as I know, no. But we have an open beta program for our RedKits, the modding tools for The Witcher 2 and that is what we have in terms of beta. For Witcher 3 we have our own testers so we probably won’t do an open beta. I can’t say yes or no but I guess it’s not going to happen. Sorry to disappoint you and I know people want to play it as soon as possible.