Namco Bandai recently had press out to see the upcoming Xbox version of The Witcher 2 and meet the developers.
MCV took the opportunity to discuss the CDP approach to targeting a new market, the benefit and struggles of remaining independent while taking on larger competitors, and its game design philosophy.
On hand to speak was Agnieszka Szostak, Marketing Specialist and Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, senior quest designer on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
Tell me a little about the background of CD Projekt Red, the development arm of CD Projekt.
AS: CDP started as a publishing house. The first big success of CDP was Baldur’s Gate, because we did a full localisation of the game for Poland, and it was a huge success. Later on, the studio decided that they wanted to do their own thing, so that’s when CDP Red was established, in around 2004.
It’s rare to see a new independent developer thrive while putting all its eggs in one basket on a full AAA title. What factors do you believe led to CDP breaking out as a success?
MT: A big part of this is the people that work at CDP. This game wouldn’t be the same without them, it’s as simple as that. I think that it’s the combination of certain elements, like a great plot, solid artistic vision and a customer approach (such as the free DLC) which really works.
It’s certainly impressive to make all previous DLC available for free to owners of the original game once they become available across another medium, like you’re doing with The Witcher 2’s Enhanced Edition. Do you see that as generosity on your part, or a service fans now expect?
MT: I think all of the smaller DLCs should be free. In my opinion, you shouldn’t pay for such small packs for to the game. I have no problem with buying an add-on to a game which adds a lot of hours of gameplay and a lot of new content, like expansions used to be in the past. But small DLCs, such as individual items – a customer shouldn’t be forced to pay for that.
Would you recommend that smaller studios who are just starting out go down this route of trying to compete in the AAA market, or was the whole thing a nightmare?
MT: Well, I was in QA back then, so it’s pretty hard to tell. I think it’s a very risky thing to start with a AAA title from nothing like we have. We did take that risk, and we did succeed, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s a good idea or not.
I think it depends on the idea you have. I think that if the vision you have is something you believe could be really widely accepted, then yes, but you’ve got to really have confidence in it, otherwise absolutely don’t do that.
AS: That’s something I wanted to point out as well. First of all, I’m not sure we’re really in a position where we should really recommend anything to anybody as such a small studio.
MT: We don’t want to sound like old Jedi masters or something.
AS: Yeah, for us, it’s more that as long as you believe in what you’re doing, you have faith in that, work really hard and you have this attitude of dreaming big, then you have to try. Even if you try and you fail that first time.
Of course, The Witcher 1 had its problems, and everybody knew that. So we did the Enhanced Edition to try and make that better.
MT: I think also, If your objective is to create a AAA action-RPG from the get-go, you’ve got the wrong attitude. You have to start from the creative vision.
AS: The goal we had was to create a game we’d actually like to play ourselves. We love RPGs, so we’d look at the game and say ‘It’s missing this and this and that’, and ‘We don’t like this’ and we’d just keep tinkering and doing things differently. From there, we start to think about whether it’s going to be AAA or AA or whatever.
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