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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - José Teixeira Interview

CD Projekt Red's Senior Technical Artist talks about development, Bethesda, and the backlash over The Witcher's graphical downgrade.

Although José Teixeira started in the field of architecture, and spent some time in advertising, he headed to Poland in January 2009, where he joined People Can Fly as Special Effects Artist. There he worked on projects like Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgement, this over the course of four and a half years.

In 2013 he got the chance to join CD Projekt Red, mainly to get started on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077. Now, José assures us that he is "super happy" with his current status, and decided to grant Gamereactor this interview, and he started by explaining exactly what a Senior Technical Artist does at CD Projekt Red.

"I'm responsible for the visual effects for the games, trying to breathe 'life' into the worlds the Environment Artists create. We have a team of excellent artists, able to create incredibly detailed worlds, but they can be quite static. This is where I, and the remaining visual effects artists, add effects that breathe some life and movement into the world. Effects like clouds, rain, rivers, waterfalls and smoke coming from the chimneys, for example. We also do all the spells, combat effects, blood, and similar items. In these open world games there is always a lot of work to do!"

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is far from being an ugly game, and if we consider the scale and complexity of the world, it's really very impressive. Some fans, however, didn't forgive CD Projekt Red for the obvious graphical downgrade, if we compare the final game with the first trailers. On the other hand José Teixeira considers this whole topic... rather depressing.

"There was a lot of discussion about graphics before the game was released, but when it finally came out, we found numerous forums and comments praising the game's stunning graphics. Especially now that we allowed access to all the graphics settings in the PC version. Problem is, there seems to be nothing we can say to please some people, and I find that genuinely scary. Have games today really become this? To see a long, hard and sweaty investment to create a great story, world and characters, suddenly under attack and even threatened with boycott... because the grass density is not the same, or a visual effect was removed since the trailer? This is scary, and honestly, a bit depressing, especially after we spent endless hours trying to create the best game possible."

"Here at CD Projekt Red, we worry a lot about the quality of the game, and we knew The Witcher 3 would be very complicated from a game mechanics standpoint. In fact, we often joke the 'game testers' are the ones that suffer the most here in the studio. A game so big, based on a open world, with a non-linear story... there are so many ways of doing things that it's impossible to test all the variables. There were some ridiculous errors, problems that would only occur at a certain time of day, or if Geralt wore a specific armour. Things that are completely impossible to predict and test. In any case, it was crucial to launch the game without any error that would prevent the player from completing the game, and since launch we have released several updates with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of adjustments and fixes."

Despite complaints about the quality of the graphics, and the obvious problems at the launch, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been praised by players and critics alike. A reception that was expected by CD Projekt Red... despite anxiety settling in as the release day was getting near.

"We were confident on the game, but in reality I think that everyone was afraid. It's hard to explain, because this type of games were always aimed at a small group of players. We have huge hardcore fans, but the general public had never been very interested in The Witcher. Unexpectedly, this game began to pick up attention from everyone, including players that are not even big RPG fans, and with higher expectations, there's also a greater risk to disappoint. On May 12 the first reviews starting coming out and I think no one really worked that day. Everyone in the studio was glued to their monitor, pressing F5 repeatedly! When the reviews were finally published... I think I've never heard so many people simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief! It was a memorable day for us. Above all else, we were delighted to see that there is still a public that craves this type of game, single-player adventures with adult stories and interesting characters."

"Now we're super excited about the whole Game of the Year prizes period. We're confident, of course, but we won't be surprised if other games win. It was a great year with fantastic games like Bloodborne, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight, among many others, including The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I, for one, can't stop playing Project CARS and I even bought a wheel just for this game! Next year is also looking quite promising."

For many people The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the strongest Game of the Year candidates, along with Fallout 4 from Bethesda. There seems to have always been a certain relationship of respect, admiration and competitiveness between the two studios, something that José Teixeira confirmed.

"There were a lot of 'colds' in the studio during the launch week for Fallout 4... I wonder why! Bethesda makes absolutely great games, no doubt about that, and everything they do serves as inspiration for us, although we hope that the opposite is also true. Here in the studio we are all major gamers, and although each one has their preferences, almost everyone loves RPGs. I think this rivalry between the two studios ultimately benefits both the players, and the studios themselves, forcing us to always do better."

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's campaign is filled with memorable moments, but we still asked José Teixeira the difficult task of choosing one of his favourites.

"I personally loved the game's multiple endings. I think the designers have managed to get an interesting mix of 'good' endings, leaving the player mostly satisfied with the outcome of the story. As for the bad ending... I pity anyone who has had the worst ending. I think the game's writers even went a bit too far! The ending is simply brutal, and will leave you with a void in the heart, especially after such a long time to getting to know and gain empathy for those characters."

As for us, we enjoyed many memorable moments during our time spent playing The Witcher 3, but none beats the night out in Kaer Morhen. 2016 will see Geralt's big farewell, with the arrival of the Blood & Wine expansion. We asked José Teixeira to give us a little hint as to what's coming.

"I can't much, but I think that soon we will be sharing more information on this expansion. What I can say is that it will introduce a new region for players to explore, with new characters and adventures. I believe that somewhere in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt there is a book about this region, describing it as 'something out of a fairy tale'... and more I cannot say!"< i> [The book José is referring to is Toussaint, a Duchy Out Of Tales of Fantasy and Wonder]

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Living for several years in Poland, José Teixeira hasn't forgotten his Portuguese roots, but he believes there is a curious relationship between weather and good videogame studios.

<i>"I get often get asked why there isn't a big video game industry in Portugal, specially considering it is a great country to live in. Usually I joke that the great weather we have is the main culprit, as no one wants to stay closed at home looking at a computer, but lately I began hearing more stories about how several developers in Poland and Sweden began. They are always tales of cold and miserable winters, where a group of friends got together and started making 'mods' for Quake or other games. Even Rockstar is located in Edinburgh, Bioware in Edmonton and Remedy in Finland! I really start to believe that success in the game industry is somewhat related to adverse weather conditions!"

Finally, José Teixeira made sure to leave some advice to anyone wishing to pursue a career in the industry.

"If you dream of working in this area, perhaps in a big AAA company, so you can gain experience and eventually make your own game, that's entirely possible, and maybe easier than most people think. But it will take a sacrifice... well maybe not a sacrifice, but a strong time investment. I strongly advise that everyone takes the time to discover what you really like to do. In my case, I discovered I loved to work in special effects. After that, try to gain experience with all that is in your power to improve in that area. It is now easier than ever to achieve this, because there are game engines available. Trust me, it is totally possible!"

Thanks, José.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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The Witcher 3: Blood and WineScore

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

REVIEW. Written by Mike Holmes

"If this little sojourn to Toussaint is to be our final adventure with the silver-haired monster slayer, then it's a fitting conclusion."

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