Tash interviews John Mamais, The Witcher 3 executive producer
Greetings from E3! I’m battling my way through throngs of gaming press to bring you the stories you want to read. Today, I sat down with John Mamais to find out how much romance we can expect in Witcher 3, among other topics. But come on, it’s the romance you really care about, right?
Tash: Can you tell me a little bit about the continuity of the game? So, as a player of both Witcher 1 and Witcher 2, what can I expect out of the game that’s going to different to somebody who’s playing Witcher 3 as a fresh start?
John: You’re gonna be more familiar with the characters and the back story obviously, so I think it’s a richer experience. But at the same time, we want to make sure that The Witcher 3 is a stand alone game, just because a lot of people haven’t played it yet. So we need to make a gentle learning curve in terms of story and in terms of gameplay. You’ll start with all your signs, and if you have a save game from Witcher 2, you can actually import your save. And some facts about Witcher 3 will change so your gameplay experience will feel different based on how you played the previous game.
Tash: Fantastic. So, we can import saves from Witcher 1 and Witcher 2?
John: Witcher 2, yeah.
Tash: Now, Witcher 3 has been described as 20% bigger than Skyrim. So what types of locations can players expect to see when they finally get their hands on the game?
John: So there’s three main regions. An area called Skelega, which has a Scandanavian feeling. It’s got fjords and islands and stuff like that. It’s windier and colder, and we use a lot of nordic myth as a basis for creating the monsters there. Viking myths, and all that kind of stuff. And then we’ve got No Man’s Land. It’s more Slavic feeling. It’s like the hinterlands of central Europe, and it’s built more around Slavic myth. And then we’ve got Novigrad, the big city setting of the game, and within Novigrad there are different regions. Then outside the city, there are surrounding regions too. So they’re all three big significant regions you can play, but they’re all contiguous and interconnected. So you can go from one to the other.
Tash: So you can go wherever you see in the game.
Tash: Fantastic. With no loading screens.
Tash: One of my favorite characters across the first two games was Triss. Loved her.
John: It’s the same actor.
Tash: Across all three? Fantastic. So she has a role to play in Witcher 3?
Tash: Is it large, small, in between?
John: It’s important.
John: She’s an important character, yeah.
Tash: Speaking of her, another thing that I loved both Witcher 1 and 2 was the romance aspect. No so much romance in the first one, but Triss and Shani were still there. Second one came along, there was a bit more romance. Can we expect to see some romance in 3 as well?
John: Yeah, there’s a lot of romance in this one.
Tash: There’s a lot of romance?
John: Yeah, relationships and so forth. We’ll be bringing that up a lot more.
Tash: Excellent. I’m excited for that. So we’ve seen the Red Engine 3 in action, just in that demo there, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I loved it. Given that you created that specifically for non linear RPGs, what can you do with it? What freedom does it give you that you can’t get with other engines?
John: In terms of combat? Well, there’s random combat encounters in the game, out in the open world. So if you go off on a treasure hunt or something, you’ll run into things that you’re not expecting to run into. You have to use your skills to defeat it. You might not be equipped properly because you actually don’t know what you’re getting into. So, I think in those terms, it’s pretty challenging for players, because they need to be good enough. For instance, there are certain monsters in the game, that if you’re not at a certain level, or you’re not prepared in a certain way, you just won’t be able to beat it.
Tash: So you can wander into an area and get your ass absolutely handed to you.
John: Yeah. The way we designed it, with the world building, is to design points of interest. Like you saw that mass of trees in the middle of the mountains in this demo. If you go there, there’s probably something there waiting for you, potentially. So it’s to encourage players to explore the map, but it’s also a way to upgrade your character. It gives you a chance to find items, or it gives you a chance to encounter monsters that might might drop something for you to upgrade in your arsenal, and so forth. And it’s also a way to keep our combat, our game pacing, moving forward. We don’t want our player to be bored for more than a few minutes at a time. So we really have to populate it with interesting stuff, and that all plays back to you just becoming a skilled player in combat.
Tash: Two more questions. First one. What gets you drunk quicker? Toussaint red wine or Mahakaman mead?
John: I don’t even know what Mahakaman is.
Tash: Really? It’s probably my accent. Mahakaman mead.
John: Mahakaman mead.
John: That’s a good question. I could just guess.
Tash: Yeah? Which one do you think? The red?
John: Probably the mead, I would imagine.
Tash: Probably has more in it.
John: Yeah, it’s more like moonshine or something.
Tash: Yeah, true. You can put anything in there, I guess. OK, last one. Give me one spoiler free sentence that will emotionally prepare me for Geralt’s final adventure.
John: It’s probably going to be the best story driven open world game, I think, ever created.
Tash: Am I going to need tissues? For the ending?
John: Oh yeah. Well, it depends on what you decide to do in the game. You could definitely need tissues. You might make all the right decisions and not need tissues. I would imagine that’s pretty hard to do.
And that’ll do it. Big thanks to John Mamais for taking the time to answer my questions. Also, thanks to Joe for staying up late to transcribe this for me.