The game studio behind the Witcher games, CD Projekt Red, shot into the best-seller charts with epic action RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt last year. Our very own Alan Stock spoke to game designer Damien Monnier about the Witcher franchise and upcoming title GWENT.
We Comiconverse with Damien Monnier of CD Projekt Red
Witcher 3 is a fantasy, open world action RPG based on the popular book series by Andrzej Sapkowski. It’s a dark, mature world where the lines between good and evil are constantly blurred and harks back to the brutality of real medieval times. You play as a Geralt, who’s a Slavic superhuman monster slayer – a Witcher. The game received amazing reviews and wowed players and critics alike with its detailed and believable world, rich combat and engaging characters. It picked up tons of Game of the Year awards, and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
I spoke to Damien Monnier at CD Projekt Red to discuss all things Witcher.
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Firstly, can you tell me a little bit about your background and what your role is CD Projekt RED?
Damien Monnier (DM): I am lead designer on GWENT, before that I was Senior Gameplay designer on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt & Cyberpunk 2077. My role varies so widely that it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what I do – I am asked to design features for the game, I design them and work on them with talented coders and artists. I basically make pieces of a bigger puzzle – we deliver what hopefully is a fun feature among many others.
I have worked on many different games in the past, from puzzle games, to racing games or even shooting games.
As for my background it is just as hard to explain really – I went to art school, studied jewelry design and fashion design for a couple of years only to settle down for graphic design and games design in the end…
Why do you think Witcher 3 was such a successful game? I assume the studio is extremely pleased!
DM: We were, and still are, totally amazed by the success of The Witcher 3. I mean, we knew we had something special because we put a lot of love in it — we’re talking hours and hours trying to polish the tiniest feature that most players would never see — only because everything mattered to us. We made the game that we would like to play and we’re all massive RPG fans, so maybe its success is due to the fact that players can feel that we really paid a lot of attention to many things and put that passion into it — maybe you can feel it when playing.
Definitely, the polish shows! Are there any improvements or things you wish you could change in Witcher 3?
DM: Basically you can ask anyone from the team and there are always things they would have done differently, you could polish a game for a decade and still find things to improve on. However I think we’re pretty pleased with what we achieved.
The Witcher games are inspired by the popular book series of the same name. Does the studio work directly with Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowski ? Is there any conflict between where he wants to take the book series or is the game canon separate?
DM: Mr. Sapkowski is not part of the development process. His awesome books however continue serve as an evergreen source of inspiration for us.
How faithful are the games to the books? Was Witcher 3 based on any particular book?
DM: The Witcher is set after the original books so everything is written in-house. I think our writers managed to capture the style of Sapkowski and understood the characters that he had created. As a fan of the original books, I really enjoyed The Witcher series.
There are already two expansions for Witcher 3, which have been very well received. Are there any more in the pipeline? Any hints about upcoming expansions or projects (aside from GWENT)?
DM: Nope – that’s it. We have Game Of The Year Edition coming out soon which will include both expansions as well as all of our downloadable content into one neat package. Now we focus mostly on GWENT and Cyberpunk 2077.
For those who don’t know, Gwent is a fun and addictive collectible card game within Witcher 3, where players build decks and pit their armies against opponents. You announced a full spin-off game, GWENT: The Witcher Card Game, at E3 show this year. Can you give us an overview on the game and why it was made?
DM: Well GWENT is a bit of a special project for us — what happened is that during the development of The Witcher 3, we fancied creating a different mini-game than in the previous games. The previous titles had some that were quite fun but since we saw that the game was really turning into something awesome as each team was pushing hard, we thought “Ok wait, maybe we’re missing something here, maybe we should also try something different”.
As The Witcher 3 released, it turned out people really enjoyed it and started sending us emails asking us to make it into a stand-alone. Now originally these emails would be forwarded to us because the team was proud and happy, then suddenly we got daily emails and I am talking tons of them. So, after a while, we started working and decided that if we were going to do it properly, we needed to add more to it. We have full single player campaigns, we have added many more cards, more abilities, more of everything — while keeping the core gameplay element that made it so fun in The Witcher. GWENT: The Witcher Card Game is similar to GWENT, but it’s a totally new game.
Witcher seems to have been a pretty big hit with the cosplaying community. Would you agree with that? Any experiences to share, and what does the company think about it? Does anyone in Projekt Red participate?
DM: I totally agree with you — in fact we wanted to thank the fans and the cosplaying community for their help and support and we decided that during E3, when we would announce GWENT, we would paint this massive hotel in LA with cosplayers playing GWENT. It’s called the Figueroa hotel, every year a company will hire it to paint something on there, usually it’s AAA games like GTA or COD. I felt really proud when I was there at the time that we used that space for something cool. I was there with the guy who is Eredin (our antagonist in Wild Hunt) on there and he loved it as well! See it here
There have been a number of Witcher comics released, based on the books and the game. Have you read any of them or know of how they were involved with Projekt Red? I understand you enjoy comics/graphic novels yourself. Any thoughts about anything you’ve read recently?
DM: I love comic books. Last night in bed I started reading Black Road which is an intriguing story with a Viking as its protagonist; and it reminded me that I never got a chance to finish Northlanders so I got a digital version of it last night. I tend to buy digital versions, then when I go to the US I bring a suitcase with me just for comics and I fill it up for myself and my friends (comics aren’t cheap here so I take orders when I go to the US 😀 ). Unfortunately this year I did not get a chance to go to Comic Con :(. Top of my head, other comic books that I’ve enjoyed recently are RatQueens, the Criminal series which was recommended to me by Marcin Iwiński (the co-founder of CD PROJEKT… this place is great!) and with the TV series out I am revisiting Preacher. I read a comic book on my way to work, and on my way home minimum — so this morning was Black Road which I recommend.
As for the Witcher comic book I personally had nothing to do with it — I got to see the development of it because I am always curious and putting my nose in things but otherwise it is handled by Dark Horse and other parts of the company I don’t directly work with. We take great pride in The Witcher franchise so all the panels, the story and so on will have to come through our studio for review and tweaks and so on. So we’re heavily invested in it for sure.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Damien Monnier for taking the time to answer my questions and the team at CD Projekt Red for producing an amazing game. You can follow Damien on Twitter here. Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and downloadable content is out now on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. You can register for the Beta and watch the trailer of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game here.
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