World creators: Out of chaos comes order

The Earth – the third planet from the sun and the fifth largest planet in our solar system.

From my perspective, working on an RPG  can get quite challenging. Gamers always say they want vast landscapes to explore – they don’t want to have artificial boundaries like invisible walls. They want to be a part of the world and to have the feeling that they can do anything a being in this world could do.. And they can and should have those things, but it only works if the developers have a clear vision of what they are creating and concentrate on the most important aspects of the game. You might ask – what is the most important thing? The PLAYER. Gamers are often the main subject of meetings in CD Projekt RED.

Creating something gamers will enjoy is a long process. The game doesn’t begin on high-end rigs, but on paper. In our case, it begins in the STORY department. That’s where the first ideas for The Witcher world sprang to life. This is a long and complicated process, but defines everything that will happen later. Their work is the base for the whole studio and later influences the work of everyone else in it. Sometimes, of course, we have to remove certain elements of this foundation, because they don’t fit into the whole structure. We have to be 100% sure, that we want a specific element in the game.

But this is just the first step. Once all the teams know where are we headed, we start to create prototypes. This takes place in each team. The design team pens down the quests and develops the main storyline, the programmers code the first tools depending on the other departments’ demands and needs. Cut-scene artists draw the storyboards. Gameplay designers plan the movement mechanics, combat and other ways to make the world more alive (e.g. how do the background characters work?).

Concept artists draw maps of locations based on quest descriptions together with the first impressions of characters and monsters.

Character artists look for ways to reflect personalities of different people, concentrating on those which are the most important to the storyline.

Location artists create the first 3D maps using the REDengine, which is an excellent tool for creating vast locations. This is the moment my team steps in. When we have the first sketches we can see how the world will look in 3D. We define the size of the gameplay area, thus setting the area the player will be able to explore. We determine what we want the player to feel when he or she walks up a hill or descends into a valley. After we combine our work with all the story and gameplay guidelines, we see a world teeming with life, no longer an empty visualization.

This is still an early stage, no doubt. When we finalize the prototype part, the real production may commence. I will elaborate on this part in later blog posts.

Some of you may think that after we’ve written the story and have the prototype, we’re over the hump. Actually, we are not yet ready for anything. It’s like the aftermath of a tornado. Every team has added new assets and new ideas – none of which the editor can properly handle at this stage. The game performance needs improvements and all the gameplay mechanics get messed up, so the game is far from perfect. This is where QA steps in and saves the day. The testers control the gameplay in real life and help us all facilitate our work.

This is a long and tiresome process, which has one goal only – transforming the paper version of the game into something the players will love.

As I mentioned, I work as a location artist. In my first post I wanted to explain how things work around here. My department cooperates with all other teams, so this knowledge is important to understand what my team and me do.

In my next posts I’ll write a little bit about environments, lighting, composition (seen from the players perspective). You will see how tiny changes in shape or color can have a huge impact on the atmosphere of the places we create, and finally you will see how we cooperate to create something like The Witcher 2 – how all the pieces fit together.

  • Aditya Iyer

    nice! waiting for more on this subject :)

  • Thaetriah

    Nice read. Keep this kind of posts going!

  • Scani

    This blog i getting more and more interesting…

  • wichat

    Please, never lose the player that every one of you have inside! We need it.

  • Víctor Andrés Tous Casamitjana

    Simply beautiful…

    • wichat

      Ves per on… un tous Casamitjana per aqui? ;)

  • Corylea

    You guys have made some amazing things, and players all over the world are grateful for your vision.

  • Gabriele

    This is how a game should be created to be a masterpiece as The Witcher series is, now most studios only tendo to pursuit moneymaking… Keep up with the good work, you’re great!!

  • haRT3r Gan

    keep blog posts like this coming! love them so much.

  • Stas Simovski

    This is really interesting, I don’t think any studio has done so much to describe the workflow and creation process (well, except for on GDC, maybe). I would love to read something about you amazing graphics, how did you manage to get this level of fidelity with just Normal/spec mapping and parallax and without even using Tesselation?

  • DmSO_O

    Thanks for this post! It is very interesting)

  • Daniel Stoilkovski

    I feel like someone have read my posts about open map :)

  • Leea2734

    I love u guyss!!!Please make the witcher 3 or an expansion to the witcher 2 while we wait for tw3.I really enjoyed your game.Plaese add necromancer magic to geralt would be awesome.Now that the wichers, witches are being hunted.Geralt also going to need to fight the wild hunt .What better than a warrior/necromancer slash more powers and abilities(forbidden magic) but geralt has to balance it.Juat a thought Love ur game always been a fan .