CD Projekt RED announced their latest endeavor, a standalone version of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s signature card game Gwent, at the Xbox press conference just before kicking off E3 2016. The closed beta was revealed to launch first on Xbox One and Windows PC during the presentation. Also of note was the studio’s decision to include a single-player campaign. Lead Designer Damien Monnier graciously took some time at E3 for a brief interview to delve into the unique, story-based experience players can look forward to when Gwent: The Witcher Card Game launches on consoles and PC.
As revealed at E3, Gwent has a single-player campaign complete with quests and a story. Why did you decide to have a storyline for a trading card game? What was the reasoning behind that?
“It came from multiple people. For me as a designer, I knew that…one of the reasons that Gwent worked so well originally was thanks to The Witcher. They work well together. So, I knew we needed some elements of The Witcher to still be present in Gwent. And then, when we got the lead writer and lead quest designer on board, we said to them, ‘Look, you guys have maybe any stories that weren’t told before or anything you want to do? If so, please, join us. We need to do something proper in terms of single player.’ And so, it was basically a group decision; it was going to be on the same level as The Witcher.”
And for the quests that have been designed, where do they take place in terms of the other games?
“There’s no real timeline right now. Have you seen the presentation?”
“What you’ve seen is the tutorial; so, you do control Geralt in that case, but the stories don’t necessarily revolve around Geralt. They’re just side stories that happen in the past, or it can be in the future. It can go all over because we have separate single-player campaigns per faction. And each faction, you start off with your base cards. It’ll take about 10 hours to complete, but could be a little bit more because we tend to overdeliver. But, the idea is that you follow the story of this faction as you traverse the land. And so the side quests can happen at different times. And if you compare that to the main Witcher game, it’s very hard to give you an answer right now. We’ll have to see, and also we don’t want to give you too many spoilers.”
Can you tell us, so far, how many characters beside Geralt players will get to control?
“We can’t tell you that.”
“That’s why we only showed you Geralt. Some of the lead writers…had many stories that were untold. So, as you play it, you’ll be like, ‘Oh right, yeah, I get it. I remember that bit.’ [If] we tell you who, a lot of it will be spoiled.”
How do you decide which cards to build stories around? Does every single card have its own story?
“No. It really depends on the faction. You do start with the base desk. The way we approach it is, ‘Can we implement this card into your base deck through a story that we have?’ In some cases, they have to force it a little bit, but not with the characters. Maybe you’ve seen the one with the Scorch card, the special card? The story is that they come across the recipe for that Scorch, and then the card comes into it. So, in some cases, with characters, it’ll be the same. You’ll come across a certain character, the way you interact with them will mean that maybe that character will join the group and that’s how it works, basically. It’s quite organic, to be honest with you.”
In The Witcher, the stories can be so bleak and depressing, and sometimes no matter which direction you take, there is no happy ending…
“It’s very Polish. [Laughs] We call that Polish.”
…so, for people who haven’t played The Witcher but who love card games, should they pack a box of tissues? Or, is it a little more lighthearted in this iteration?
“It is on the same level as The Witcher. Our writers don’t go out of their way to make sad stories. It’s just a very Polish thing, a very Slavic thing. You also don’t need to be familiar with the world of The Witcher. Just the same way that people hadn’t played the previous Witchers still enjoyed Witcher 3. You may not know who the character is beforehand, but as you are introduced to a character and his or her story, the story is itself very human and you can relate to it; and, probably, that’s why you say they’re quite sad…because you totally get it. You get why someone may mourn the loss of a child, or something like that. To be honest, these things happen every day. It’s something you can expect. Like I said, we don’t go out of our way. We just want to make good stories, and stories sometimes are sad.”
To wrap up, with the development of Gwent, what would you say you are most proud of?
“The fact that it’s happening in itself, to be honest with you. Originally, there were very few of us working on it. It started with two of us, the original one. The fact that fans asked for it, the fact that the team was behind it…I was telling you [earlier] about the lead quest, lead writer, artists; we went to these people, because it wasn’t just my call. Of course, I wanted to make a standalone. But, how can I do it without the team behind us? And, not only that, I’m super proud that as we approached all these people, they all said how we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do an excellent job. People were expecting a simple port, we’re doing a AAA. I can promise you that. I’m proud of the team.”
[Photo by Asma M.]