Inside CD Projekt Red and The Witcher

Ever since the release of The Witcher-video game series, CD PROJEKT RED has gained international acclaim. For Stanisław Just, longtime employee of the Polish company in Warsaw, working in such an environment is a privilege.

Entering the lobby of CD PROJEKT RED is like entering a hall of fame. The walls are filled with numerous gaming awards from all over the world. And it seems like there is not enough space left, as there are more and more accolades to come.

‘We’re very proud of our company and of the games we have released,’ says Stanisław Just while sitting on a chair beneath two blunt fantasy swords. He makes a professional impression, sitting calmly in the small meeting room at the company’s headquarters in Warsaw. However, his looks might resemble those of a gamer more than those of a businessman.

“Of course I do enjoy playing video games. I guess everyone here does.” Just quietly hints that in order to work for CD PROJEKT RED, one clearly has to share a certain admiration for the products he produces.

Just’s glance is quite firm. He speaks with a low and soft voice, in an intent and reasonable manner.

He has worked for the company for five years now, currently in a position Research and Development Manager. Prior to that, he has been working as a game producer for different Polish companies. He has just joined in time to see CD PROJEKT RED’s biggest success to date: the release of the third installment of the famous Witcher-series.

Stanisław Just, Research and Development Manager, standing in front of prices and accolades won by CD PROJEKT RED.

CD PROJEKT RED began as a small company in 1994, founded by Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński. The duo did not specialize on game development right away. They rather gained their first capital by importing American games to Poland and by translating them into Polish.

‘We have come a long way. The company has definitely seen its ups and downs,’ Just says. Before coming to CD PROJEKT, he had gained experience at other gaming companies. According to Just, Warsaw’s gaming industry saw its hardest period after the economic downturn following the Euro-crisis in 2010.

“In terms of finances, there have obviously been a few wrong decisions in the past. Back then many of us were convinced that the best way to invest, is to spend all the newly accumulated money in research and new titles. But that is not the ultimate strategy.”

‘It was a tough period in the company’s history as we were forced to downsize the business significantly.’ Just says.

Fortunately, the company quickly got back on its feet. As for now, money is the least of CD Projekt’s problems, which allows both the creative and the management team to get some air to breathe. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was an international hit, both for consoles and PC. It was named the best role-player game of all time by several video game critics.

In terms of creative philosophy, CD PROJEKT focuses first and foremost on the game’s quality. The developers do not cut corners. They release the game when it is done.

Just talking about the artwork in ‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ at the DevGAMM Conference.

An understandable strategy, as video games are an incredibly complex. They need years and years of development work and preparation. It begins with coding, with the programming of a video game engine, which is later used to create an open world game, a landscape players can explore and in which they can interact with computer generated characters.

But the adaptation was not easy for the creative team. ‘Our writers are very talented. Some of them are rennomated writers with a few books published already. The challenge is to adapt the book to video game storytelling, which differs from conventional screenplay writing,’ Just notes.

Being an open-world game in which the players can interact with characters, there are many in-game decisions to be made, which respectively lead to different outcomes for the general story arc. Each of these outcomes have to be established in advance, making the whole game a complicated web.

In addition to content, several technical hurdles must be overcome. ‘A big challenge is to render the game fluid and natural. We can see this trend in a lot of open world games. Developers try to eliminate loading screens and visible transitions between gameplay and cutscenes.’

In order to overcome these obstacles, the company employs hundreds of employees from all over the world, though roughly 80 percent of personnel is of Polish origin. For many developers, CD PROJEKT is the dream company to work for.

Polish game developers do prefer to remain in Warsaw despite receiving tempting offers from employers abroad. ‘I think that the main motivation that is keeping people from venturing abroad is the pride of making a game that is setting new RPG standards in the world today. You don’t get that very often.’

CD PROJEKT RED is known to be working on a couple of new games lately. ‘I am not allowed to tell anything about our latest projects but at this year’s E3 finally we were able to show Cyberpunk 2077. It was definitely worth the wait because the response was extremely positive,’ Stanisław comments.

He is doing so to prevent leaks or spoilers reaching the public too soon. And fans should not take this amiss. As Stanisław points out, the company does create games for its gamers. And waiting a bit longer in order to get a high-quality product certainly is worth it.

‘We don’t want to disappoint our fans. They mean everything to our company’, Stanisław notes, who himself has been a long-term fan of the company prior to joining.