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What CDProjekt Learned About RPG Development from The Witcher

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 20, 2012

Gamasutra had an interview this week with CD Projekt about the lessons they learned in RPG development from their experiences creating the two Witcher games, and how they intend to apply these lessons to their upcoming Cyberpunk RPG:

What The Witcher taught CDProjekt About RPGs

Most of the emphasis is on story development and the insanity of producing two completely different acts based on player choice (which they neither regret nor apologize for).  One interesting tidbit mentioned in the interview is they will not be adhering to the specifics of any of the Cyberpunk dice-and-paper rules systems, but rather just drawing inspiration from it.

This doesn’t bug me very much. While I’m a big fan of dice-and-paper RPGs (duh!), and played the crap out of D20-based computer RPGs (including the unofficial adaptation Knights of the Chalice, using it’s own variation of the rules available through the Open Gaming License), and would love to see more dice-and-paper concepts filter into computer gaming rather than what seems these days to be exclusively the other way around, I’m fully (painfully) cognizant of the fact that they are games presented through radically different mediums. What works best for a bunch of people sitting in a living room joking around and bouncing dice is not usually optimal for a computer or console RPG, and vice-versa.

And, to be honest, I didn’t ever really fall in love with the Cyberpunk rules system (any of the three editions). I liked the idea behind their mechanics – the emphasis on more lethal combat befitting a gritty, dark system, and the “humanity cost” for cybernetics and risk of “cyberpsychosis” stand out in my mind – but the rules in general were simply serviceable.

I cannot say The Witcher series represents any kind of pinnacle of RPG development from my perspective, but I did enjoy the games, and I like CDProjekt’s attitude. I’m glad they are doing what they are doing.

Filed Under: Interviews - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Gary said,

    I also love that players who were serious about cyberware would create characters that started with ridiculously high empathy and then loading them up with as much cyberware as they can get their hands on. I always been amused by the concept of these Mother Teresa-like characters that undergo elective surgery to turn themselves into ruthless cyborg killing machines.

  • Albert1 said,

    These days distopic themes are greatly neglected in favour of the post-apocalyptic ones! If you carefully think to it, it’s quite strange: books and movies in the 80s, early 90s clearly proved how immersive – and commercially succesful – it could be. The post-apocalyptic thing has never been as fruitful – just compare Robocop 1’s atmospheres to Mad Max’s ones! Distopic games could also be more compelling from a graphics point of view: granted, you still won’t see the entire color spectrum, yet there would be a wider palette than the mostly brownish you see in their madmaxians counterparts.
    I think a game inspired to the “Class of 1999” movies would be really great! It would also be feasibile for indies, being the warzone around the school a lot smaller than today’s huge landscapes. This more limited scope would also incentive in developing true role-playing parts: the resident gangs are now enemis, now allies… a completely fluid situation in which the only true enemies are the cyborg teachers. The player would also have the possibilty to play as a geek, free to choose whether to be on the side of the deadly teachers – they appreciate so much only-As students! – or to enter a gang because they feel morally right to sustain humans, even bully ones! I think this partially relates to what you wrote on the lack of developers’ soul in modern games – not only the teams are too much large, also the spatial part of the game is too watered down!

  • Anon said,

    > These days distopic themes are greatly neglected in favour of the post-apocalyptic ones!

    I agree to that and it’s pretty clear that the cyperpunk genre had a short, intensive life.
    “The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly!” eh?

    We all know that there are fashions and fads and everything seems to vanish from the public focus – and sometimes comes back like high fantasy.
    Maybe the time in the spotlight for cyberpunk literature is simply over – as is the influence on other media for the most part?

    In my opinion, however, the decline of cyberpunk, which was always located in the “near future”, is to a large part somewhat natural: If you look around you you’ll discover that we already live in a dystopean future, even if not as extreme as in Blade Runner.

    All the elements are there, though:

    – Megacorporations and megabanks giving a shit about laws (see the Siemens corruption scandal, the various bankster schemes like the money laundering at the HSBC, the Libor manipulations etc.). This if of course not really news, but the extent of it is unprecedented.
    – Countries and states selling out the people that elected them to feed these corporations and increase the income of already rich people to unknown heights.
    – The rich get richer, the middle classes of the formerly leading industry countries are crumbling and the amount of poor people is steadily rising. We have no colonies on other planets, yet, but there are some fun places in the world that are completely unreachable by common people.
    – We already reached the phase after capitalism as there is no free market with free market risks: The dictate of the corporations and governments bowing down in front of them to socialize their losses (and of course privatize their profits) on the shoulders of future generations (see what happens in the European Union at the moment).
    – Surveillance of private persons is increased from year to year. Telephone calls are being recorded, streets are getting monitored, internet and email traffic is getting analyzed – and all under the disguise of fighting against child pornography and terrorism…
    – We already have secret ops divisions in corporations and churches – and sometimes a dozen union leaders get murdered if they stand in the way of a big coporation in Columbia.
    – We still have massive pollution and are at the brink of climate change (which of course is being denied by everyone who could lose money because of it).
    – Secret info wars are getting fought with computer viruses specifically targetting plants and industry machines like centrifuges (allegedly to prevent enrichment of uranium), hacker groups copying credit card databases etc.
    – Wars being fought with drones – rembember all those “riggers”? We now have them, sitting at the CIA HQ in the USA, killing countless people in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan – without trial but collateral damage…

    No wonder people want to experience the next level – like in postapocalyptic scenarios (Fallout or The Walking Dead, anyone?) with even more extreme violence and contempt for human life!

    And while the Zombie overkill in the media is surely something that will vanish in a few years (to reappear in the future, as it is a supernatural element) the former industry cities like Detroit keep crumbling and people derive their fun from exploring “ancient structures” from a “better past” (google URBEX).