Adding a feature to a game might seem like a fairly straightforward process, but even a simple one can have much bigger ramifications than you might think at first glance. During GDC Europe 2012
, CD Projekt Red gameplay producer Marek Ziemak and lead gameplay designer Maciej Szczesnik detailed the process that the developer uses to evaluate any features that could make their way into a project.
CD Projekt Red uses a set of internal documents that the studio's employees all have access to. Using these documents, developers can describe their features and the rest of the staff evaluates them. In some cases, staffers even apply numerical values to a proposed feature, with the final "score" affecting the likelihood that a feature will make it into the game. The overarching idea is to fully analyze the risk of a feature and the consequences of implementing it.
At one point, for example, the studio considered adding dual sword combat to The Witcher 2
. "We actually wanted to do it in Witcher 2. We wanted to implement this feature, but we started thinking about the consequences of the decision," said Ziemak. Adding a new form of combat would "look great," said Ziemak, "but of course, the secondary consequence of this is that we would get really complex animations, and we only had one stuntman, so that would be probably really hard to develop." After analyzing these consequences, the feature was canned.
Using this method of evaluating potential features, said Ziemak, a developer can get a much better idea of how much effort it will take to implement and polish. I asked if it's ever difficult for staff members to leave their ideas at the mercy of charts, graphs, and the consensus of their coworkers, especially when it means axing someone's favorite feature. He agreed that there is a lot of emotion involved in proposing features, but using charts and mathematical methods forces the team, even the feature's creator, to look at it more objectively. It enables everyone to honestly evaluate the negatives and positives, not to mention the costs of shoe-horning an unnecessary feature into a game.
Given the incredibly positive reception of The Witcher 2
, CD Projekt Red's methods seem to be working.