What the Video Games Industry can learn from The Witcher 3

Victor Cardoso looks at how The Witcher 3 and the folks at CD Projekt Red changed the direction of video game development

The gaming industry in recent years has seen the exponential increase of corporate greed that has, in turn, led to the staggering amount of unfinished games that we see being released by major publishers today. CD Projekt Red is an example of a publisher that went above and beyond for its players, releasing a game that was polished, complete and well supported.

CD Projekt Red created a dedicated RPG community with the Witcher 1 and 2, low sales numbers didn’t matter that much because those games were actually building towards a much grander game, the magnum opus of open world games. The Witcher 3 did three important things to separate it from its contemporaries and become a titan of the genre; it had an immersive world, its quests were memorable and unique but most important of all, the game was polished and support for the game has continued until today.

Immersion requires you to believe, to feel as though the game becomes your reality and all that matters is what is in front of you, The Witcher 3 does this in a multitude of ways;

A colour pallet that strayed away from the gritty and dark coloured choices games in this genre usually make, opting instead for beautiful and bright colours that combined incredibly well with some of the best graphical fidelity work seen in video games to date. More importantly, this enchanting world is filled, and not in a monotonous way like in games such as Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed that came before it, but in its own unique way. The Witcher 3’s world feels alive, villages and communities are spread throughout the world, each with its own unique feel and their own problems and difficulties, cities are huge and packed with interesting NPCs, secrets, and stories. A characteristic of a good open world game is excellent quest design, The Witcher 3 has perhaps the best quest system in a video game period, treating the side quests of the game almost like they were a main story quest.

CD Projekt Red set a new industry standard, nearly every side quest is meaningful and memorable either in design, story or characters. Furthermore, the side quests allow players to choose their own morality and in a world where nothing is black and white, you start to learn that your decisions can’t be either.

A company like Ubisoft, for example, one of their biggest struggles was making their side quests feel meaningful. In almost all of their open world games, a majority of their side quests felt like random busy work, and when you have a map that is filled to the brim with pointless monotonous quests, you ended up avoiding them all together. However, after the release of The Witcher 3, it seems that Ubisoft has decided to rethink their approach to their open world games. In Assassin’s Creed: Origins more specifically, the focus on good quests brings a refreshing change to the franchise making it feel like an entirely new game, rather than a slight graphical update, like many of the other Assassin’s Creed games. They achieved this by making side quests an important part of story progression, side quests in Assassin’s Creed: Origins tell the story of the game world, it is through this sense of discovery that the game engages with the player, allowing them to be fully immersed.  

The beauty of The Witcher 3 is that you can play the game at your own pace, you can hop in play for an hour and nothing would feel tedious or like a waste of time, when it comes down to it, playing the game is, fun.

“it had an immersive world, its quests were memorable and unique but most important of all, the game was polished and support for the game has continued until today.”

Polish and support are the aspects that set The Witcher 3 apart from any other game, in the contemporary video games medium. Without putting things lightly, the video games industry has been suffering from a problem that is rampant; unfinished games. The even bigger problem is that those unfinished games, remain buggy and incomplete as publisher support dies. Polish is a word that is being used less and less in the video game space, but it’s a word that is at the core of The Witcher 3. I have over 200 hours in the game, and never once did I hit a game breaking bug or a glitch that would interrupt my experience. I had to do some serious research to find a major bug that hadn’t been fixed, and as of the day of writing this piece, the latest patch released for The Witcher 3 added Xbox One X support with further patches already announced down the line. The game continues to be supported, almost three years after its release.

We have, as a community, gotten used to the fact that when a game is as enormous and as ambitious as The Witcher 3, we should expect bugs and glitches, however CD Projekt Red shows us that we can expect and demand more, that we should not be playing the game worried about losing our save files.

The game continued to be supported post launch with 16 pieces of free Downloadable content(DLC), some of it included; new quests, different armor sets, alternate looks, even a barber was added to the game. Even when they did release paid DLC, it wasn’t just throwaway pointless side stories, both pieces of DLC that were released for the game were -in a word- grand. They were just as polished as the main game, both pieces of content added an extra 20-50 hours worth of gameplay to an already incredibly massive game.  When compared to DLC released by other companies today, not many offer relatively deep and meaningful contributions that enhance player experience with their games.

A company that is synonymous with polished games is Nintendo, and their release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was no different. What is really noticeable in the game is the design choice to move to an open world setting, rather than the more linear Zeldas we have had in the past.

It’s hard not to look at both The Witcher 3 and Breath of The Wild and compare the two, however, Breath Of The Wild didn’t copy what made The Witcher so memorable, it drew inspiration from the game and implemented them in its own unique way, from its colorful pallet to the varied characters you encounter in the world, the game blends it all together to deliver one of the best open world games of 2017 and arguably the best Zelda game of all time. Albeit the world in Breath Of The Wild isn’t as expansive as the world in The Witcher 3 -mostly due to console limitations as the game was also being developed for the Wii U- the game is alive, immersive and most of all polished and complete.

CD Projekt Red did something really special with the Witcher 3. The game came out almost three years ago and yet somehow it has managed to stay at the forefront of conversation inside the gaming community. Every so often we get games that change genres and impact the industry in an incredible level; games like Super Mario ‘64 – forever changing 3D platformers and the way we looked at games in 3D- or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare- a game that we can still see its influence on modern shooters 10 years after its release. The Witcher 3 has changed the way we look and approach open worlds, the way the industry will tackle side quests and post-game support.

Like the two aforementioned games, The Witcher 3 is an anomaly, a once in a generation type of game.

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