Any mention of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is quickly followed by mention of its scale – be that in terms of its story or its world. Wild Hunt’s script is roughly 450,000 words long. Its literature (books, bestiary, etc.) add another 250,000 words. Combining all of the different world states, the game has 36 different endings. Both its main story arc and side quests provide about 50 hours of content each – if you’re rushing – though it’s easy to spend upwards of 200 hours with the game. Wild Hunt’s two expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, add another combined 50 hours of content. 

CD Projekt Red senior writer Karolina Stachyra says that incredible scale was planned from the beginning. Wild Hunt was always going to be an open world and its story was always going to be massive. We recently spoke to Stachyra about the process of writing Wild Hunt, how Projekt Red crafted such a large narrative, and how it is moving forward after finishing protagonist Geralt of Rivia’s story.

Ambiguous, But By Design  
The inspirations for Wild Hunt are surprisingly intimate, close to home. When asked to define what exactly makes a Witcher game, Stachyra first points to comic writer Alan Moore’s quote, “Artists use lies to tell the truth.” 

“We tell fictional stories, but they’re about us, about our society and about our problems,” she says. “They’re about long-lost love, about hatred, about lust, or envy. Racism, social inequality, or terrorism. And Geralt is never a side until the player chooses he becomes one. We never impose on you.” With each choice, Stachyra says, the player gets to know something about themselves.

Those elements have always been a key part of The Witcher’s universe and the life of its characters, both in CD Projekt Red’s Witcher trilogy and the original series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. “Life is brutal,” Stachyra says. “Sapkowski’s world is brutal and so is our game.” However, she adds, this darkness often gives birth to humanity. The worse off the world is, the more we fight for it to be something better. 

In Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red tried to mimic the non-black and white nature of life with its choices. As Stachyra says, “Just watch the news, even the simplest problems have multiple answers, all depending on your point of view.” It purposefully made each decision difficult, and outcomes, more often than not, never what the player expected. They may decide what they think is best for a family, only for it to end in the suicide of the father. Or Geralt may turn his back on someone, only for that person to stab him in his own.

That’s the point of Wild Hunt’s story: Everything is ambiguous. Nothing’s ever concrete, everything is subject to change based on the player’s decisions. Writing a game this open required all hands on deck, with everyone bringing their own influences and inspirations to the table. “Everyone works on everything,” Stachyra says.

She cites work that matches the gritty world of the Witcher, such as Game of Thrones, but also points to some less obvious elements of Polish culture and literature. One such example is a customary Slavic feast called Dziady, later adopted into Polish culture as the Christian Zaduszki feast, which pays tribute to the dead. Portions of the Polish poet Adam Asnyk’s poem Między nami nic nie było is also spoken by the Olgierd brothers in the Hearts of Stone expansion. 

“We thought it would be extremely cool if the younger generation and people of other cultures could have a glimpse at it, just crafted in a more contemporary and approachable fashion,” Stachyra explains.

Other ideas arose from casual conversation. “Many quests landed in the game because somebody said ‘***, [it] would be cool if we did that’ during lunch,” Stachyra continues. In fact, one of Wild Hunt’s biggest features was created this way: The in-game card game, Gwent. Designed over a weekend, became a key side activity and fan favorite. It’s now getting a standalone game.

With inspirations in check, CD Projekt Red’s next step with Wild Hunt was both creating and adding quality to its massive world. 

For how CD Projekt Red created its ambitious quests, continue on to page two.