Witcher 3 quest designers talk design process, most difficult quest to create

CD Projekt Red held a Q&A on its forums and revealed quite a bit about the time and energy that go into mapping out quest lines in The Witcher 3. (Warning: May contain spoilers!)

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The Witcher 3 entranced players with its beautiful world, vast scope, and mature quest lines and dialogue. In anticipation of the game's upcoming Blood and Wine expansion, one of CD Projekt Red's moderators collected questions from fans and submitted them to quest designers Pawel Sasko and Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, quest designers at CD Projekt Red.

Sasko and Tomaszkiewicz went above and beyond, giving detailed answers that illuminated their process for conceptualizing and implementing stories. "It always begins with an idea, but the origins can be varied," said Tomaszkiewicz in response to a fan who queried after how ideas for quests begin. "Many times the base idea comes from the writing team, especially when it comes to main storyline quests, but sometimes they come directly from quest designers, as was the case with most of the side quests in The Witcher 3."

Not just any idea will do. Designers submit notions in brief pitches, then cull the list. Once a pitch gets picked, the designers flesh it out into a full scenario, coming up with "the foundation behind the events, specific scene ideas, what should happen where," and so on. From there, the team takes several passes at the quest, shoring it up or scraping it and starting fresh when needed.

Once the writing is done, asset creators take over. "The quest designer prepares a list of all assets needed to implement that quest in the game engine – characters, locations, items, music, etc. As the other departments work on these assets, the quest designer implements the first draft using temporary assets."

That's not to say quest designers can wash their hands of a quest once they turn it over to artists. They're responsible for ensuring that the mood of the quest coalesces appropriately: lighting, ambient noises, music, and items to find and use are discussed and tweaked until they're just right.

Another fan asked about the most difficult quest create, either technically or creatively. Sasko and Tomaszkiewicz agreed that the Bloody Baron line of quests posed the biggest challenge from a writing standpoint, while the Battle for Kaer Morhen quest was more difficult in terms of technical implementation.

"Players could have between 9 and 16 characters supporting them, depending on all other things they did – and those characters could appear in any possible combination, plus some of them had to have additional separate scenes," Sasko said. "I had to make sure that every player who brought a unique set of characters had a quality experience that would stay with them for a long time."

The Bloody Baron quest line went through several iterations before it got the thumbs-up from designers. "The topic we decided to tackle was difficult and ambitious and required special attention. Karolina Stachyra, who did all the writing, spent lots of time with me dealing with nuances. Both Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz and Marcin Blacha offered lots of feedback and ideas to improve the writing – we wanted to present mood of Velen through the character of Baron and sketch the similarities between two fathers who lost their daughters."

Ultimately, the Bloody Baron quest won the Golden Joystick Award for Best Gaming Moment in 2015, making all the effort worthwhile.

There are plenty of other questions and answers to read through, so be sure to check out the forum post.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
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      May 5, 2016 2:18 PM

      I'm about halfway through that questline. Need to get back into it after a couple of weeks break.

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      May 5, 2016 2:47 PM

      Yeah, the Bloody Baron is probably my favourite questline so far. I liked how it presented the Baron as a total asshole but then managed to make him a sympathetic character. I'm just at the battle of Kaer Morhen now.

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      May 5, 2016 2:49 PM

      Yeah the Bloody Baron questline is pretty much the best I've seen in a game.

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      May 5, 2016 5:03 PM

      Surprised more Shackers aren't talking about this one.

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        May 5, 2016 5:12 PM

        I imagine most are probably dicking around in overwatch open beta.

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      May 5, 2016 11:40 PM

      Man that was a real good read thanks a lot for the link, real interesting stuff I totally dig it.

      Nice!

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      May 6, 2016 4:12 AM

      When they say 9 to 16 characters I assume they're talking about kaer morhen. It did strike me that the battle would be slightly different for everyone, while at the same time having lots of commonality. It was really well done and makes me wonder what I missed based on who I brought along.

      Now , off to go look up other golden joystick winners for best gaming moment!

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      May 6, 2016 4:25 AM

      my only problem with the bloody baron questline is that you have no sense of the timeline of when his wife/kid left him. it could have been weeks or months. some of the quest points towards a long time period while other parts suggest it was only a few days (eg fresh tracks, fresh blood).

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