No one could have guessed that a card game that almost wasn’t, would end up being one of the most compelling aspects of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. A game that, by everyone’s account is an absolute blast to play through and can offer over 200 hours of epic RPG goodness, has become an almost exclusive Gwent simulator for some. If you aren’t familiar, Gwent is a card game in the world of The Witcher 3 that pits Geralt up against the slyest of minds. You collect cards through the quest until you have the rarest cards and become the most formidable out there.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the two men who are a huge reason why the now uber popular card game came to fruition, Damien Monnier (senior gameplay designer) and Rafał Jaki (business development manager) from CD Projekt Red. Here’s a behind the scenes look at everything Gwent.
First, how did it all come together? You’ll be surprised that like many things in this life, the magic happened in the bathtub… sort of. During the time of development, both Damien and Rafał were into card games and wanted to include one in the the final product. It turns out that Adam Badowski, the head of the studio, wasn’t a big fan of starting a side project half way through development, even calling it “insane” and “crazy”.
He gave them two days (coincidentally lined up with the weekend) to bring in a prototype of sorts. Like the best of ideas, a nice bath conversation sparked the creative process, Rafał says about calling Damien, “Saturday or Sunday Damien was taking a bath, thinking about the game and so we met somewhere in the middle”. Other ideas they were mulling over included axe throwing or knife throwing, so I’d say they went with the best choice.
In that same weekend, Damien photoshopped 100’s of cards so that they could have something to show to Adam on Monday. With the prototype ready, they played a game in front of the man who would have the final say, and of course he jumped on board. None of it would have been possible without that bath, though.
I took the opportunity to ask whether Gwent would ever get a physical release, online multiplayer version, or even a mobile release. Turns out I am not the only one interested in whether we will see something soon.
Rafał replied, “We are getting tons of emails from people that want both Gwent free-to-play online and they want physical versions. We are thinking heavily what to do with that, but at the same time, it’s actually not that easy, because if we would ever do a multiplayer version, we’d have to make significant changes because if there is a tip in the balance that is not great or can be exploited in a multiplayer environment where PVP is crucial, it won’t work. Because in (The) Witcher 3 it was constructed in a way that you will get overpowered over time. If you build your deck properly, you can almost win with anybody because that’s how its supposed to feel”.
The good news is they are thinking about it, he goes on to say, “we are looking into this, there is no proper team working on a standalone Gwent at this time, but at the same time we are talking with everybody on the team if we want to do it, if we are going to do it. We are going to take our time, we are going to do it properly, and test it extensively.” The hold up is more about design choices, rather than wanting to do it. Many of the choices made were based on how it would work in-game and not with multiplayer. Their biggest problem is explained by Damien a bit, “It’s a card game with an end game. You have to come to a point where you are the best Gwent player.” That mentality would have to be rethought in order for it to work with multiple people.
Though it’s a hard pill to swallow, the team seems to care about quality and not just putting something out for the sake of making money. “We understand that people want a multiplayer version of Gwent, we just don’t know if we can deliver something that’s bigger and greater of what we currently have, but we are talking about it within the team.” Damien had some high praise for playing it mano-a-mano, since they had to play with the physical prototype, “I would argue that Gwent is more fun when you play against a human player, the bluffing is a big big part of it”. You can already tell that gears have been churning.
The good news is that Gwent will be coming in the planned expansions. They weren’t necessarily planned additions to begin with, but the fan support and desire to get more of the side missions made it clear that it needed to happen. They also wanted to make it clear that everything was a team effort, from artist all the way to the translators who helped this side project actually see the light of day. Translating in particular doesn’t always go properly, so be on the lookout for a card that reads as follows, “I aim for the dick, always”. No joke, it’s real.
One thing was obvious, this team is really about trying to put out a product they believe in which is apparent in The Witcher franchise. Whether you agree with the quality or not is a different story, but trying to put out the best product possible is a valiant attribute. For selfish reasons, I do hope that a physical release of the collectibles is eventually made. At the moment they are focusing on their next title, Cyber Punk 2077 so the idea of returning to The Witcher is not even on the horizon.
What do you think about the now infamous bath? Make sure to let us know in the comments section below and tweet at me about your most epic of Geralt stories: @collegescrubz.