Today marks the fifth anniversary of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's release. And to help celebrate, we managed to snag an interview with lead writer Marcin Blacha. We talk about the game's development, fond memories of its launch, Marcin's favourite Witcher 3 moments, and more.
Push Square: First off, can you tell us who you are and how you were involved with The Witcher 3?
Marcin Blacha (Story Director, CD Projekt Red): My name is Marcin Blacha and I was the Lead Writer on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
When you were working on The Witcher 3 over five years ago now, did you ever think that it would become such a beloved RPG? What were your expectations for the game at the time?
I honestly did. I believed that by combining a vivid and lush-with-life open world with a strong, immersive narrative would result in a truly great game. We had a cast of strong characters, and having worked on two games starring Geralt prior, we knew how to write our protagonist well and weave stories around him. We poured huge amounts of love into every detail of Wild Hunt, which I think shows, and is also something gamers see and appreciate about our game.
That said, in this industry there’s always an element of uncertainty. I also think it’s really tough, if not impossible, to look at your own work and view in a totally objective manner. Yet in my eyes, The Witcher 3 always had the makings of a great game, right from the start.
What’s it been like to see The Witcher 3 remain so popular for so long?
To me, The Witcher 3 is like a child I’ve put a lot of effort into raising. As is the case with most children, they eventually head out into the world, and such was the case with Geralt’s final adventure. And that child of ours really managed to go places! I’m so proud and happy to see just how popular The Witcher 3 still is today; how what we created continues to inspire others and is being enjoyed by millions — after 5 years since launch! Knowing just how loved The Witcher series of games is around the world today really takes me back to when we launched each and every title — moments near and dear to my heart — and rekindles these amazing memories.
Do you have any fond memories of The Witcher 3's release in 2015? What was it like seeing the game launch?
I was overjoyed when we finally released the game and was looking forward to seeing what gamers think about it. And it just stuck with me, you know, this hugely exciting moment, but also — one that’s a fair bit wistful. All these years of work, all these emotions — all of it building up to this singular moment in time that is the launch. Then, suddenly, it’s done and it felt really weird, arriving at the apogee and then moving past it. I think it’s a lot like what gamers wrote they felt after finishing Wild Hunt for the first time — they were both happy, and at the same time sad that the adventure came to an end.
Looking back on it now, what are your favourite things about The Witcher 3? Do you have any favourite moments in the game?
There are many moments and things I remember fondly about The Witcher 3. Like the time when Priscilla performs “Wolven Storm” at the Kingfisher Inn, or when Geralt watches over the Bloody Baron as he picks up a shovel to bury the body of a botchling. I also thought the music was really good, too — I remember The Ladies of the Woods theme and the melodies that played when exploring Skellige. Sunny fields around Novigrad made me want to jump on a horse and just ride — they remind me of the landscape around my hometown.
That said, if I had to choose just one moment, it would be the scene Ciri and Geralt have after defeating Imlerith. I wrote their dialogue and some time later, after the Cinematics Team set it up in the engine, I went to check it out and see if everything’s on point. Then I saw the landscape of No Man’s Land from the peak of Bald Mountain, a father and daughter gazing at it as they talked. It was beautiful.
Is there anything about The Witcher 3 that you would change in hindsight, with the knowledge that you have now?
Some political themes, perhaps. It would’ve also been interesting to see the theme of King Radovid and the war between The North and the Empire of Nilfgaard fleshed out.
The side quests in The Witcher 3 still receive a lot of praise for how well made and involved they are. They also ensure that The Witcher 3 is an incredibly long game. Was there ever a point in development where it felt like the project was perhaps too ambitious?
We set out to create a huge game and what we achieved with The Witcher 3 was exactly that. Still, the scope of the game did change a bit throughout production. Some of the ideas we had, as well as quests and content — they just had to give. And while it would’ve been nice to see them all make it into the final game, the end result is a tighter, more polished and focused experience thanks to the calls, very often difficult ones, that were made.
Can we ask if you saw the recent The Witcher Netflix series? Did you have any idea that the show would boost sales of The Witcher 3 all these years later?
I was looking forward to watching the series ever since it was announced and literally devoured it when it premiered. It has some great moments and overall I think it is a solid watch. I can definitely see how its popularity translated into many new people coming into contact with Wild Hunt, and vice versa — the popularity of The Witcher 3 and the books drove many people to check out Netflix’s adaptation. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone — after all, today’s media are all interconnected and undoubtedly affect one another to varying degrees.
Were there ever any plans for an “Enhanced Edition” of The Witcher 3, like what happened with The Witcher and The Witcher 2? Or were you always going to release free updates, and the eventual Game of the Year Edition, instead?
I think that from the very beginning the plan was to release the game, free DLC, as well as two massive expansions of the scale and grandeur of the huge add-ons released for games on discs back in the day. A lot of enhancements and quality-of-life improvements came with each release, as well as game updates. I think this approach turned out really well, with the game itself, as well as the DLCs and expansions still garnering much appreciation and love from gamers.
Are there any plans to revisit The Witcher 3 at some point? Dare we ask if a PS5 version has been considered?
The game still looks and plays great, gamers are still enjoying it 5 years on. Chances are they will for many years to come! As for the future and what it holds for us, our number one focus is Cyberpunk 2077, which will be releasing on PlayStation 4 on September 17th, 2020. If you liked The Witcher 3 and are craving more of this brand of RPG, albeit in a new setting, I think there’s a lot you’ll like here.
The Witcher 3 has spawned a lot of dumb jokes and internet memes over the last five years. As a developer, is it easy to embrace these kinds of jokes, even if they make fun of something that you’ve worked on?
I love all jokes and memes The Witcher 3 spawned, especially the ones with Yennefer and Triss, King Radovid. And Roach, of course! Near all are genuinely funny. Each and every one, however, reminds me just how amazing and creative the community surrounding our game is, and just how fond of our game its members can be. Why would these people bother spending their time creating all these jokes and memes otherwise? Laughter is the affirmation of life and it makes me very happy to see the game, with all its strengths and imperfections, teeming with life.
Sorry, but we have to ask this. Five years later: Triss or Yen?
Yennefer, always and forever!
Huge thanks to Marcin Blacha for taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Hollie Bennett for making this interview possible.
Do you have fond memories of The Witcher 3? Tell us all about your favourite moments in the comments section below.