Designing The World of The Witcher 3

(adventurous music) – In many ways, the star
of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t Geralt or Ciri, but the world in which they inhabit. So today, we’re gonna talk
to the folks at CD Projekt, about creating that world, everything from the locations
of points of interest, to the communities that
live in those places, right down to the food
in everyone’s cupboards. To do this, we must talk to the team about three key areas, level design, environmental
design, and open world design. Creating a world this size
is a monumental effort. The final version of Wild Hunt
features large cities, farms, bandit camps, monster
spawners, hidden castles, quiet cottages, and plenty more. But, years before of any of those features will be finished, the team would start
with a blank landmass. – [Len Voiceover] We all
have our little specialties. We have one, senior environment artist, all he does is trees. (Danny laughing) Since Witcher one, I think, like, trees. Some of us do landscaping. Some of us like pretty much, set up villages. Others do, like, the meshes
of the actual houses. Some of us go through the entire world, and just put pots and pans, basically. What you see right now,
in this tavern, right, everything that you see right here, we were putting them on the level. – It’s easy to make a place
look really, really nice, and just, like ah, let’s
add more stuff to it! But, at some point, you have
to wonder, how do I play this? Can I even navigate it, or do I get stuck on every single thing that has collision there? And to sort of help guide this process, and make sure that our
environment, obviously, don’t get too crazy, that’s sort of where
our level designers sit. We communicate a lot
with the gameplay team, the quest designers, to
see what their needs are, and make sure that everything
is implemented properly on the world. And, on the side, we also try to, sort of, plan how the open world
works, or looks like, where we have forests,
where we have mountains, where villages are, how dense the amount of
villages is on the map, and how often players
should pop into some event. – So, we had points of interest, which were combined with
environmental points of interest. Things like bandit camp fires, abundance of lands, like
like hidden treasures. Then, we had points of encounters. So, simple spawners of
monsters in the woods, or bandits in the woods. And then, the communities. Integration of citizen, in villages. – [Miles Voiceover] The studio had never done an open world game. So, neither did I, neither
did the other level designers. And so, we were sitting there, going, all right, I guess we need
places that we should visit, but the real question was,
how many places do we need, and what kind of content
do we put into these? So, we started out very roughly, by taking a 2D screenshot of our world, and just, and Photoshop, just placing different items,
little markers on the world, where we thought there
should be locations of sorts. And we roughly define them as well, to make sure that they’re consistent. So, maybe on this area, we
have farming settlements right, and what could be a POI,
maybe a broken down mill on top of a hill. And, of course, the farm itself. But, we also try to make
sure that everything is… The infrastructure is consistent, so we would try to put these
places close to each other, connected by main roads, et cetera. But, after that, we just took
literally blue cylinders, I remember vividly, there
were blue cylinders, and we placed them on the map, in 3D, where we thought these places would be, and then we started just
running in between them, and taking their time. Basically going, all right, so, now, it seems that every minute I run into one of these occasions,
which could be of any size, like, we didn’t really define
if this is a major location, or just your average campfire. – [Bartosz Voiceover] We did some tests, and we found out that… Player is focused on
stuff which we produce, like every 40 seconds,
they should see something, and focus on it, like a pack
of deers, some opponents. Some NPCs wandering about. So, we have our rule of 40 seconds. On Skellige, we add a lot of water. – [Danny] Right! – So, there was a problem with
smuggler’s caches on the water. – [Miles Voiceover] So,
it used to be that the, the bay, with the clan village, it used to be facing away from Ard Skellig, which resulted in players either docking on the
wrong side of the island, going from… Ard Skellig. Or, having to go all the
way around it, and… Boat speed used to be much,
much slower back then! (chuckles) I remember we had tests run, where (exclaims) you going,
from one island to the other, like the bigger islands, to somewhere in between 25 and 45 minutes. (Danny laughing) (chuckles) We quickly
realized that this is not, this is not gonna cut it. And ended up, rotating the
entire island by 180 degrees! So that players would actually goes, we’d be able to go straight, and that cut down the traveling time, to do that harbor, by 15 minutes or so. It was nuts. I think what we did for forests is we sort of started embracing the fact that it is hard to see things, because most of the time, when you’re walking around the open world, you kind of have a pretty
good idea where you’re headed. You know, maybe you’ll
find yourself in Skellige, and you see Ard Skellig, the fortress with gray castle. The way we designed the world, was that maybe you’d
have the starting point, from one village, and you’d see the point in the
distance, like that castle, but somewhere in between, the road would be lost, right? So, you’d see your starting
point of your adventure, which is where you are. (chuckles) You know the end, and you know the rough general
direction that you head for, but sometimes we put a forest in between, just to get, to allow
the player to get lost. When we did that, we usually,
still had our main roads, the more safer spaces, that if you were to
just ride through them, you shouldn’t really be
attacked by most monsters, unless we really wanted you to. – Ghoul nest. Oughta just destroy it. Now, how long are you gonna have me wait? – [Miles Voiceover] Making POIs, that allow the player to
navigate the world much easier, that just simply looking around, and like, ah, there was this, this fort on the hill that I’ve seen a couple times here, but now, I seem to see it from this side, so I know, in relation to
that, this is where I am, I think the landscape does help with that, and Novigrad sort of
lended itself to this, with the temple island being there, the… The most highest point, and then you have the richer areas, which are higher than the poor area, so you have this gradient
throughout the city, and I guess some clever road placement. Overall, if you look at the city, there’s just a handful of main roads. I think there’s like two, and the areas can be very
broadly defined, like the harbor, you have the fish market,
you have the main square, the poor area, the rich area,
and the temple island, so… This definitely helps allowing the player to sort of figure his way,
his way around the city, without actually having to
consult the map all the time. – [Danny] Right. – So, the… work starts in our environmental team, they preparing buildings, like a whole setup of the village. Then, my team is deciding
what kind of purposes people have in those spots. Then, we are recasting animations, and preparing dialogues for them. So then, we will have, we have the whole village prepared. For example, we have a
village on the coast, of the Ard Skellig, so we need to set up like
a fishermen community, so requesting rocks for fishermen, and then preparing dialogues for them, and then, together, everything
creates believable settlement. – So, some of us do, like, more, more or less, rough paths. So, we put the house there,
we put the road there, and we put the couple of wheel barrows, and then it just looks like that. The houses are empty, nothing. And then, another guy comes in, or potentially stumbles
upon it, in our editor, and they’re like, this looks so bare! I need to do something about it! (Danny laughing) And so, they’re like, okay,
let me plant some flowers, and stuff like that! Like, let me put some more
rocks, and stuff like that, or like… Let’s add more decals on the wall, like a little bit more moss, so it looks a little bit more detailed, and then they leave, because they’re like, okay, my work is done. It looks okay, now. And then, the quest guy
comes in, and he’s like, oh, what’s this cute, little village? Ah, let me put something in it! But it, the houses are empty. And then, they put on a request, take it, and put something
in there, you know? And so, some of us go right in, and we start decorating, and we interview, actually,
the quest designer. What’s your story about? Like, who are the characters involved? Do they get along? What, this person is dead? Okay, are they supposed to
be dead inside the house, or are they supposed to, you know, and these kinds of questions. You take that into account, and with that bit of information, we designed inside of the house, the tailor, that kind of personality, or other people looking in it. And then, after that, we leave
the house, and we’re like, this place is still
quite barren, you know? And then, I’ll just sneak in
a couple of barrels over here. And then, little by little, people just like, were
sweeping through he landscape, are like, this feels so… I plant a little bit
more here, and you know? And eventually, the village is made. – [Danny Voiceover] It takes
a village to build a village, and the process involves
a number of steps, first figuring out where to
put them, how to design them, then building houses, then
furnishing said houses, and finally, populating those villages with communities of people,
with their own roles, routines, and dialogue. And from talking to
Len, Miles, and Bartosz about those processes, it’s clear, that each step in that process has its own set of challenges. – [Bartosz Voiceover] So, the
obvious one would be Skellige, right, where everything’s cold,
so people try to stay warm. We’re doing research on viking houses, and we saw that most of
them had open fireplaces. We decided, it will be
the center every place, because people tried to stay warm. – [Miles Voiceover] To
us, this was very real. It’s not like, yeah, we’re making a game, and I’m making a village
that is on a hillside, and they have to. In my mind, this is why
they make the scaffold. Actually, we had the height
map done already, right, and we decided okay, this
is probably the best place for a village here, so let’s make it here. This is where I would build a village, because it seems easiest, and natural, for me to build it here. But sometimes, and again, you have to go and make something
where there, it shouldn’t be, so maybe a hillside village, or maybe in a hazardous environment, even, high up in the mountain, and then you would start thinking, all right, if you really wanted, if people really wanted to settle here, there must A, be a good reason, and B, we need to see how
they sort of started coping with the environments, right? So, maybe, the Skellige
village, high up in the mountains, which is built on like 90 degree angles. There’s gold next, nearby to it, right? So, this is why they decide, we need to build a village here, because we can get that gold, and we show that there’s
mining infrastructure between the village, and
the mines that they build. Yeah, we were definitely
thinking about these things, while making locations. You go, aw man, this is probably
a very humid environment, so let’s add more moss to the walls, and maybe have them be
decayed by fungus, right? – I would pack the port houses
with all of this, you know, minus all of the shining stuff. But, that’s a little bit more like it, because when you go through
the slums, in the Philippines, you’d see that all of
their stuff is exposed. The bedrooms aren’t
necessarily segregated. Sometimes, they’re just
curtains, you know. So, these theories kind of
applied also, in Witcher. A while back, because
we’d been given the task, to add interiors to every
house in the world… Because, they were empty. (chuckles) So, we decided that,
all right, we have two weeks. How do we do this shit? So, we had the board, and
we were like, alright, let’s put this like,
let’s do a competition. – That was a competition born
out of necessity. (chuckles) So yeah, we realized
way too quick, all right, by this point, we have
made too many houses, to just easily make interiors, so we came up with some
simple math calculations. We thought, all right, we
have couple sets of houses. The Skellige houses, the Novigrad houses, No Man’s Land houses, and then, let’s say, three
to four house types, per set. So, we thought, all right, let’s make a
couple of, we called it, decoration sets, for each house, depending on how often
this exists in the world, let’s try to find out a way,
where players will not notice that these tend to repeat
themselves over the world. So, we were pretty generous. We thought, from our lesson, we could probably have
done less variations, but we wanted to make sure
that it is not obvious that these houses repeat themselves. – [Len Voiceover] Those
things at the back, yeah, the kegs, they used to barrels, this big. And then, we were like, we
don’t have kegs in the world! (Danny laughing) (Len shushing) – [Danny] Oh, really? (both laughing) – We have kegs now! Yeah, so yeah. – [Danny Voiceover] How many houses would there have been in total, like ball park? – [Miles Voiceover] There were a lot. I couldn’t give you an
exact number, but it’s, I think, Novigrad, alone, features more than 80 accessible houses. (man coughing) – [Bartosz Voiceover] It was something, like 15,000 lines for communities. And sometimes, it was… Easier to write those lines. Sometimes, it was harder,
because, you know, let’s imagine that you have
to write 50 times “Hi,” in a different way, and you need to do that, to achieve… Believable community, in the city. I was supposed to prepare,
like, a coherent design for parts of the world, so Novigrad designs, they
have different subjects. There’s gossips, and… On the Skellige Islands,
completely different topics, and the same in Velen. (scattered conversations) I was supposed to create really
different, different world, using just lines. We had something like a main subject, and then, smaller subjects for each village. But, for example, the Guardians, who are focused on military
topics, thinking about strategy, or missing their wives and children. In Velen, the main topic was family. On Skellige, we had honor and
sea, and like viking stuff. You need to achieve something,
which is not catchy, at all, because this is the background. But sometimes, because
you have dialogue lines, and players are focused on them, but to be honest, this is like a small
percentage of the game. Mostly, you are just… Wandering about, going from
one place to the other place, and you keep hearing those things. So, you have to create that background, but also leave to the players
some diamonds, small diamonds. This is small, like a… A case for him to just
grab it, to hear it, and just say, wow, that’s nice! – [Baron’s Guard] Well,
bring out the gimp. – [Man] Think the gimp’s sleepin’. – Well, guess you just
have to go wake him up now, won’t ya? (whimsical music) – [Len Voiceover] We
have a lot of funny bugs. There was one point, when we were like, let’s implement this whole
skidding thing that Geralt does when he’s on the slope, thing. And, people had just too much fun with it, but we decided to have, like, let’s try this again, on this mountain. And let’s just fix Geralt’s textures, so that he looks like a ski, like a snowboarder, sorry. And then, they just let him go, and then made him skid through there. Yeah. One of them is, the zero-zero bug, and what basically
the zero-zero bug does, is that… Let’s say, I put a house, no, actually, no. Let’s start with something small, right? I put one of those tankards right here, and then I was like, doesn’t look right, control-Z, and then it disappears. I’m like… – We were doing optimization passes, and part of that was
figuring out physics, right? How many physical objects are
you going to actually move around, can we have? And I remember, we were being told that, there’s an area where there’s a lot, and this one house is
really weird where it drops, and then, the items, or something
disappears, and something, and we had to actually do research as to, where do these land? – Somewhere in the world,
that tankard actually pops up. That’s what control-Z did. Puts it in the middle of the world. – We have this asset selection,
right, you see a list, you select it and you see that transform data, the coordinates in the world, read zero-zero-zero, and we’re like, huh? Start looking there, and then, (chuckles) it was amazing. It was like opening the box of Pandora, and like trees, houses, you had swords! I don’t know, there were NPC meshes. We had this reference guy, who was basically just a
gray person of 190 height. We just placed next to objects, to see how large our cave,
or whatever we made would be. He was there! (chuckles)
(Danny laughing) He was having himself a party, with all sort of market
stands, it was crazy! – It was somewhere in Velen. (chuckles) And you’d travel from Baron’s Castle, and you’d see this pool,
with I don’t know, cupboards, and walls, and stuff. – There’s a house, and 500 tankards, and a horse, and a chair, and a bench, and it’s just all just there! – We ended up deleting most of it. I know most of those places, and Skellige is in the
bay of Ard Skellig, and… – [Danny Voiceover] He just
drops into the water? (laughs) – [Miles Voiceover]
(chuckles) Yeah, and… The coolest thing, is actually
that, in No Man’s Land, the spot was above ground level, so we marked this one with a special tree, there’s a forest with a
little, a little creek, I guess, and there’s this one rotten looking tree, that stands right in the middle, and he stands right on zero-zero-zero. ♪ – [Danny Voiceover] To
ensure that bugs, glitches, and inconsistencies were spotted, the various teams at CD
Projekt had a lot of dialogue between one another. Teams would discuss areas
of design over lunch, give pointers, and watch
each other’s backs. One good example of this
collaboration working, came when somebody on the
open world team realized that the environmental
team hadn’t accounted for the famine in Velen. – [Bartosz Voiceover] So, we had a famine
over there, so we were trying to… Get rid of all these
cows, pigs, and chickens. Our tremendously talented guys,
from the environmental, prepared, like a… wonderful villages, with houses, with
sausages and pudding here, hanging around, and we go, guys, there’s a
hanger on the door, so please, get rid of it! – I had, at some point, had to make a set of food decorations, which were just leftovers, because we realized, that
all of the food that we had was just like the best apple
in the world, you know, it’s like, it’s a big thing of cabbage, and it didn’t make sense, for
the lore of No Man’s Land, to actually have food. So, for about a week, I
was just like, alright, I’m gonna… Fish, I’m gonna strip
you down, into just bone! All right, and then, I was just
picking all of the food items, and just compiling a set, which would be suitable for
a famine-esque situation. – And it was fine, but sometimes, we can still have a guy
in there, in some village, that keeps saying that, I am so hungry, and then, you see the
pack of deers in the back! So, yeah. – I mean, there were
other issues, like this, with loot, for example. Actually, it was the same issue. It’d have food in every crate, and they were talking about being hungry all the time, you know? Or, there were issues with food placement, like you would go into
these long, lost tunnels, you know, like these old,
ancient, elven tunnels. Nobody sets their foot
in there, in 1,000 year, but you’d find a chicken
sandwich, or… (laughs) – [Danny Voiceover] While Len made sure the environmental team had rotten apples to place on countertops, other members of the team
were emptying cupboards, and inventory of fresh
poultry, sandwiches, and milk. It wasn’t enough for this
world, just to look real, it also had to retain some
semblance of continuity. This extends outward into the wilderness, where packs of deer are
hunted on by wolves, but areas where bears reside
are scant of other predators. Over months and years, the
team molded this world, but they did so with a fear, that ultimately, most
players would skip over it. Open world games have fast travel systems that let players travel
from anywhere they want, but that idea flew in
the face of the world they were designing, one where random encounters
and points of interest are designed to lead you astray. It was a point of contention, but the team found an elegant solution, to let players only fast
travel to and from sign posts, at specific junctions on the map. – [Miles Voiceover] Once
we got the green light to do it this way, level designers and environment artists, it screamed us a shout of victory, because for us, it was, yeah, we made this beautiful world, now you players have to look at it! (both laughing) – Yeah, but I think that we
really did a good job of it, because players keep
running through Velen, and through Skellige, and
through Novigrad, and… They were finding those spots,
and it was nice. – You know, you get a better sense of the scale of the world
that you’re traversing. You have a higher chance of actually having something
interesting happen to you, and being sidetracked, perhaps, from whatever quests you
were following right now, when you are pushed to
follow the road for a bit. And at the same time, we thought, obviously, fast travel is very convenient, so let’s have you have it, when it’s… Unlocked, right? You have to unlock the place,
and then you can use it for fast traveling. I realized, that not all
players were happy with that, but I think most of them
appreciated it really, because some of the most
coolest stories that we had, that I read on the Internet, or I saw happening on
YouTube, or what you have you, were definitely chance encounters, by people trying to get somewhere, and then being sidetracked
by something else. – [Danny Voiceover] As
somebody who loved the books, and then loved the first game, and then was able to be
part of this crazy story, for CD Projekt, are you proud of the
work that you’ve done? – Yes, I am. Yes, I am. Like… I remember, whole, long moments, moments of the project,
Witcher 3, and I was, sometimes I was afraid,
sometimes I was tired, but… I felt that we are
doing something special, and I really… I was sure, that we’re much of it. And now, when I’m watching
the parts of the game on the YouTube, I was preparing for that interview today, and I was watching some
things, which I’ve did. I read those lines, and I see that people
appreciate those things, and really like Witcher, and it is amazing feeling, like that I’m part of something special, like a special game, and special company. (gentle music)


  • Noclip

    Friendly reminder: we're only half-way through there series. Make sure to subscribe to get updates on next weeks videos on Quest Design, Localization, Music, Lore & More. Thanks so much for watching, we hope you're been enjoying them.

  • MadBunnyRabbit

    I never consulted the map, I don't think. I've constantly looked at the compas fallowing the little white dots ^_^

  • ean nelson

    this is great for inspiration on where to start for any fantasy worldbuilding. So many ideas for my d&d campaign in terms of drawing the PC to areas of interesting, what kind of things go on there, what are the beings like who live in the area, how does it fit in to the world at large… fantastic

  • Kevin Harris

    I recently replayed W3, because I got the Complete Edition. I didn’t know my save wouldn’t transfer, but OH WELL….I loved playing the game again, and did every single mission possible. I was completely sucked in all over again. The music, the world, the amazing story telling……its just so wonderful.

    I’ve never been a big fantasy person, but this game is truly special. I am waiting to dive into the DLC finally, until my Witcher jonez is unbearable.

    Hearing this music is killing me though. Its the dramatic White Orchard tune, and reminds of being there for the first time, exploring, unraveling mysteries about small towns abandoned due to some monster.

    I discovered so much I never saw the first time through!!! I never visited the Nilfgard camp on my first playthrough, so getting to do all of those missions was a treat. I didn’t elect to assassinate Radovid on my first playthrough…..what a mistake, because fuck that guy! The only things I didn’t complete were all those damn ?’s in the water around Skellige.

    Its hard to imagine ever not wanting to play this again. I’m thrilled that Nintendo-only people who think that BOTW is so good, will get to experience W3. BOTW was cool, but its not even in the same league as W3.

  • against1virus

    i got the achievement from skidding of the whole mountain in skellige

  • Cussundria Kneal

    "YEAH, we made this beautiful world! Now you players have TO LOOK AT IT!"

    That is the funniest reasoning/victory i have ever heard, and its honestly such a big mood! I love the staff members on this game! XD

  • Sleepin-N-Snoozn

    10:10 "Populating those villages". Ah yes, I too like to T-pose on those around me while walking through town.

  • WhiteZe

    I'm annoyed at how positively they talk of points of interest. I feel they ruined the game partially. Too much to distract you from quests and too much you want to do before continuing. Basically the main story is drowned under the side quests and points of interest. I could have done with less, but I guess being mad at side quests and points of interest in open world games has finally taught me to avoid them.
    It's a lesson I will take with me to Cyberpunk 2077. No side quests until I beat the game!

  • EpictGaming

    Special game, special company.

  • Aaron Javier

    For the CDProjekt team who might read this comment: thank you so much for creating this game. People loved your work because you guys pour out your love in making it. I will never forget this game…

  • Mr Krunch

    13:30 – we noticed, dude, we noticed!

  • Dan Skyder

    So impressive

  • Daniel G

    4:15 This is why The Witcher 3 world is amazing and a joy to explore. The same can't be said about Zelda Breath of the Wild.

  • Gokky Legend

    I rarely use fast travel

  • Ahov

    Look at that like:dislike ratio!

  • tlove21

    I literally lived in this world for months and months, so anticipating CyberPunk 2077, GOG store purchase only.

  • Pungkoy

    really hope other companies apply this mindset to their game not just quick cash grab ideas

  • Bagaskara Hadjar Putra

    In a nutshell, all the art teams are The Game World Decorator. Which is nice

  • BladewolfLQ-84i

    See Kojima? This is how you do an open world game and not that dead POS that was MGSV world or Death Stranding which looks even more boring


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *