The Witcher Wild Hunt is the best detective game I think our industry has ever done. Not the best crime game or the best investigation game, but specifically the best detective game. Or even more specifically: The best pulp detective game, we’ve ever created. In fact, it steals so much from the form of pulp detective novels of the 20S and 30s that it’s actually what I wanted L.A. Noire to be. I don’t say this because you spend much of your time investigating crimes or figuring out murders, but rather because it borrows so heavily in terms of plot, theme, characterization, and even narrative delivery from early American private eye novels. Actually, this game is pretty much what would happen if you’d pick up a Dashiell Hammett or a Raymond Chandler story and just dropped it in a fantasy setting. But to talk about why this is rad, I first have to talk a little bit about the history of the detective novel. The detective novel, as we understand it, was basically born in the 19th Century. Before that, no detectives so no detective novels. Then, in 1841, Poe brought us: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and here’s where we get the idea of the murder mystery as puzzle box. And, this is actually incredible, the Idea of being entertained by watching somebody perform astounding feats of logic. Conan Doyle then took this and gave it character and depth with Sherlock Holmes. And then it was off to the races. This led to a slew of English detective novels from authors like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, which sort of established what detective fiction was. It was a puzzle. It was about coming up with more and more elaborate methods to commit a crime. But more than that, these novels were about the gentry, about the english upper-class. They often took place at somebody’s country estate, or in some tiny English hamlet, where the mere scope of the setting could limit the number of suspects. The murder Itself was whitewashed. There was no grieving, no moral revulsion. Usually, a body turning up did a little more than Interrupt a dinner party. The detectives themselves were often dilettante, rarely asking for payment for their services. The police were often bumbling but never corrupt and society always stayed the same. But in America, a few authors began to rebel against this tradition. They felt that the detective novel had become completely divorced from the world they saw around them. And here is where we get back to the Witcher. In these American pulp detective novels, or Hard-Boiled detective novels, or Private Eye novels, whatever you want to call them, the authors decided to move away from the wealthy dilettante and make the central character an outsider. Somebody ostracized by society but also not within the bounds of common society and so able to move between high-class and low-class with ease. Geralt. The world is always a world of upheaval. It’s not the timeless aristocratic society of England but the rough-and-tumble society of America. Where everyone’s either on the make or on their way down. The state of war and flux in the Witcher leaves practically every character in this state. And Witcher 3 specifically, goes out of its way to show us advisors to kings and powerful nobles, hiding out as country herbalists or reduced to being petty crime lords. And these Hard-Boiled detective novels began to focus on a world that really did Include the poorer and seedier sides of humanity. Beggars, drunks and prostitutes appeared in these novels and they weren’t just props or red herrings. They were allowed to have real character, a real life within the story. These stories didn’t shy away from talking about the real world, for making a social commentary through observation of the real world. These were authors not trying to preach to you, but rather trying to show things as they really were. And have that alone express the problems of the world. We see this in the broadest sweeps of The Witcher, with characters like the Bloody Baron, forcing us to stare at domestic abuse, alcoholism, and PTSD, to more Minor moments, like the huntsman, who makes us look at the horrific consequences of homophobia, as Geralt assumes that people are calling the huntsman a monster because he’s a werewolf or something, when it’s actually just because he’s gay. The Witcher series may have its history of issues portraying women, that’s Another Episode altogether, but even with the prostitutes, rather than merely serving as sex objects, you can talk to each of them a bit about their lives. And if you do, you get everything from the prostitute who calls you out for thinking what she’s doing Is wrong, to the one who hates her life, but doesn’t feel like she has a choice. And sexuality in general in these Hard-Boiled novels Is moved away from the vaguely implied or often the wholly chaste world, to something realer and more raw, something shown and indulged in, but also embraced as human, as something that motivates us, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Though, I will confess, I’ve yet to read a detective novel with sex on a stuffed unicorn Then of course there’s the depiction of Geralt himself: Unflappable, sarcastic, taking pride in wis work a, guy, who can take a beating and give one; all essential traits of our Hard-Boiled detective. But more than anything, it’s the delivery of the piece as a whole, that’s lifted from Hard-Boiled fiction and that’s what drew us to do this episode. Because this choice Is brilliant. It’s what makes the Witcher: Wild Hunt. In fact, in many ways, it reveals the key to delivering narrative in an open-world game. You know, what? Rather than talk about it myself, I’m just going to read what’s probably the most well-known passage from Raymond Chandler’s famous essay on the difference between American detective fiction and British detective fiction. This is from “The Simple Art of Murder” “The emotional basis of the standard detective story was and had always been that murder will out and justice will be done. Its technical basis was the relative insignificance of everything, except the final denouement. What led up to that was more or less passage work The denouement would satisfy everything. The technical basis of the black-mask type of story on the other hand, was that the scene outranked the plot in the sense that a good plot was one, which made good scenes. The ideal mystery was one, you would read if the end was missing.” Let me reread that last bit: “This new type of mystery is one where the scene outranked the plot in the sense that a good plot was one, which made good scenes. The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing.” I can’t think of a statement, more true and more essential to The Witcher. In this, the main storyline, as it so often is in so many pieces of American detective fiction, is simply a thread you follow to get from scene to scene. But it’s all the little moments, it’s all the disparate scenes that make it compelling. The human interaction with an old woman wanting to get her pan back, or the children in the countryside stealing chickens because they’ve lost their family. That’s what you play The Witcher for. Those moments are what allow us no exit point. They’re what allow us to wander our way through quest after quest, for Hours at a time. It’s the journey, not the way everything wraps up in the end. And as game designers, this was the piece they needed. If this had been a more traditional story, and if it all hinged on the denouement, it couldn’t work as an open-world game. Understanding open-world storytelling as a series of scenes, and understanding the plot of an open-world game as something that enables the player to encounter incredible scenes, rather than something that directly drives the player down a linear path, that is what allowed CD Projekt Red to present such a vivid world. To Make an open-world narrative work. And this scene based approach works so well for The Witcher because all the other elements of their narrative already come from a scene based storytelling style: That of the Hard-Boiled detective novel. So with that, I would just like to end with the words that end “The Simple Art of Murder” They describe how to put together a good detective for your mystery, but The Witcher 3 is such a pure distillation of the Hard-Boiled detective formula that these words, written 65 years ago, could just as easily have been the mantra, CD Projekt Red used to create this incarnation of Geralt: “Down these mean streets, a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero. He’s everything. He must be a complete man, and a common man, and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. By instinct, by inevitability, without thought of It, and certainly without saying it. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He’s a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man, or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as a man of his age talks. That is, with rude wit. A lively sense of the grotesque. A disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth and it would be no adventure, if it didn’t happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you but it belongs to him by right. Because it belongs to the world, he lives in. If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet, not too dull to be worth living in. That Is how you build a character! See you next Week!