Developers wanted to “surprise” players with NPC deaths.
Vesemir’s death in 2015 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt moved me to tears. Although I was very unfamiliar with the games or the books before playing the third installment in this classic RPG trilogy, the moment my little band of misfit heroes lost a significant part of their found family was too much to bear to hold back. As it turns out, CD Projekt Red’s decision to kill off this character wasn’t easy. In a recent GDC talk, Quest Director Paweł Sasko revealed that Vesemir’s death was both difficult and necessary for narrative impact and urgency.
Based on a series of novels by writer Andrzej Sapkowsi, The Witcher Video games march to the beat of their own storytelling drum. Developer CD Projekt Red’s choices for these characters were based solely on their own creative impulses, and they enter uncharted narrative waters as the games are set post-books. After the second act of the game, Geralt’s mentor tragically dies in a siege at Kaer Mohren’s witcher training ground. It’s a powerful moment that strikes the surviving characters where they are most vulnerable: the memory of mortality. According to CD Projekt Red, it was a difficult decision, but it was important in order to give Ciri, Geralt’s ward and virtually adopted daughter, the motivation needed to take the fight straight to the game’s antagonists.
During a presentation at this year’s Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, as reported by IGN, Quest Director Paweł Sasko delved into the studio’s difficult decision to kill Vesemir, a central character in the games and books that inspired her. It had everything to do with giving Ciri the motivation she needed to take on the Wild Hunt, and it’s a perfect example of why The Witcher Games handle the themes of Sapkowski’s world so damn well. When Sasko killed Vesemir he said:
Ciri [needed] to actually make a decision that she will no longer be hunted. She becomes a huntress. She will pursue the Wild Hunt. But for that I needed an actual event that would break her inside, and that’s when I suggested to our writing team that we kill Vesemir.
Look at the usage here in the light of the world The Witcher plays. The narrative often meditates on what it means to be a hunter in a world of dark fantasy. Who hunts what and why – and who the real monsters of this world are – is a central battle in many quests and the overarching narrative. And Ciri’s status as a “sorcerer” doesn’t follow the direct line that Geralt and other witchers have. It’s just poetic to frame a moment when Ciri feels the call to ‘hunt’, not out of an errand from the world around her, but out of a driving need to fight back the real monsters of the world. It’s emblematic of everything I love about this game.
Reflecting on the discussions during the writing process, Sasko said: “[the writing team] We weren’t sure if we should do that,” given the character’s importance in the books and games. But given the potential narrative impact, the desire to embrace “artistic bravery” and give Ciri a call to action, it was too powerful a move not to take. Sasko also wanted to set a standard for surprising players, saying that he “wanted to do something that players wouldn’t believe we were doing. I wanted to surprise them, in a good way I hope.”
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It’s hard to deny just how much of a turning point a character’s death is, and it’s a reminder (game developers take note) of how losing a character can offer compelling narrative potential. The video of this GDC talk entitled “10 Key Quest Design Lessons From The witcher 3 And Cyberpunk 2077‘ is expected to be available for those with Passes in the GDC Vault on 04/14
https://kotaku.com/the-witcher-3-geralt-ciri-vesemir-battle-of-kaer-morhen-1850261616 Developers wanted to “surprise” players with NPC deaths.