[Interview] CD Projekt Red on how The Witcher 3 came to be on Switch, challenges, fitting it on a cartridge, more
Posted on September 7, 2019 by Brian(@NE_Brian) in Interviews, Switch
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may have seemed like an impossible idea for Switch at one point, but at E3 2019, the game was announced for Nintendo’s console. CD Projekt Red has been collaborating with Saber Interactive to make the port possible.
Recently, we were able to speak with senior producer Piotr Chrzanowski about the new Switch version. Chrzanowski discussed how it came to be, the challenges involved, how the team managed to fit the entire experience (and its DLC) on a single cartridge, and more.
You can find our full interview below.
How did The Witcher 3 come to be on Switch? How long has it been in development? What was it about Saber Interactive that made CD Projekt Red want to partner with the company on the port? How has it been working with the studio so far?
When I first played The Witcher 3, I had this dream of taking it with me everywhere. I loved the world, I loved the characters and story…, I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome to finish a quest on the commute? Turns out not only I had this idea. When Saber approached us and said they could port it, we said “OK, awesome, but it has to be the same game, no compromises.” We knew what they were capable of because we had worked together on bringing 4k and HDR to The Witcher 3 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, so when they showed us the game’s prototype running our engine on Switch some time later, we knew this would be something.
In the initial announcement, it was mentioned that CD Projekt Red has been closely involved with the release of The Witcher 3 on Switch. Can you discuss how much of the work has been split up between CD Projekt Red and Saber Interactive?
The port took more than a year to develop. We provided high level vision and Saber was responsible for execution. Since we already had a working relationship with them before, the process was very smooth – they developed milestones, we reviewed and discussed to make sure everything was according to the original vision.
Can you discuss some of the technical challenges involved with bringing The Witcher 3 to Switch?
When I’m asked this question, I always start off with this: before we talk technology, play and see the game. See how it runs, get the feel of the world and, if you had played the game before on another platform, try to spot the differences. And when you squint, you’ll see some, but – mostly – I think you’ll be surprised how good it looks. Having said that, we compressed some textures, removed some shadow cascades (so the console renders two instead of four), the draw distance and foliage distance is decreased, too. But you know what? It’s still the same game. I’m biased, I know, but play it – you’ll see.
Given the Switch hardware, have any notable changes been made to the game’s open world?
No. Well, maybe the loading times – they’re sometimes significantly shorter when compared to bigger consoles.
The Witcher 3 is a massive game, but the entire experience has managed to fit on a single Switch cartridge. How did the developers accomplish that feat?
First thing is, we’re using a 32GB game cart. I think we’re not the first game to do so, but definitely one of the few. The rest is the magic of compression and optimization. For example, since the game doesn’t run in 1080p, we could recompress cutscenes and save space that way. No content was cut, if that’s what you’re asking.
Audio can make up a significant portion of any game’s size – how has audio been treated for this port? Has anything been cut?
It was previously mentioned that the UI was the only aspect of the game that had been reworked for the Switch release. How has it been changed?
It’s been adjusted to play well with the smaller screen. We had to do it so the fonts are easy to read etc. Also, we adjusted for the ‘switched’ accept/cancel button mapping on the Switch.
In the initial announcement, we heard that The Witcher 3 will run at 720p with dynamic resolution when docked and 540p in portable mode. Is that still the case, or were any changes made during development?
Dynamic resolution is enabled all the time, so at times it might dip below that, but – all in all – it’s still the case.
What was the experience like of having The Witcher 3 be announced for Switch during the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct?
It was the first time a CD Projekt Red game was presented during a Direct so the feeling was definitely nice.
Is CD Projekt Red interesting in further supporting Switch in the future be it additional ports or new games? Would something like the previous Witcher titles or Gwent be possible on the system?
For now, let’s talk this port only.
What does the future of The Witcher look like? Do you want to do more with the franchise in the future?
We love the Witcher, but Cyberpunk 2077 is our main point of focus.