The Witcher 3 can get bloody, dark, and downright traumatic at times, but that never stopped Geralt from enjoying a casual game of Gwent, often with a villager who just asked him to save their dying child. At PAX East 2016, Gwent creators Damien Monnier and Rafal Jaki sat down to talk about the game’s nutty creation process.
The Gwent-ception panel started off with the motives behind putting a game within a game, such as giving players a breather from the fighting, adding a collection aspect, and opening the opportunity for Gwent-based quests. The devs also noted that it helped create a deeper and more believable world, filled with NPCs who partook in the hobby. And on top of all of that, these guys just really loved card games.
They began working on Gwent about 2 years ago, approaching the studio head with the idea, inspired by a number of different card and board games. They got the approval to create a pitch, but with a few catches. The game had to play out in under 10 minutes, it had to be simple but not simplistic, it had to involve collectibles, and they had three days to make it.
“We came out of the room, both smiling, super pumped and we literally looked at each other and we were crying inside.”
The duo knew they wanted a game based on a clash of two armies, an idea inspired by The Witcher books themselves. Baptism of Fire has two sentences referencing a card game called “Gwint,” wherein two armies fight and cheaters get spanked.
First, they drew out the battlefield, initially conceiving soldiers in the front and mages in the back, able to take supportive or offensive actions. The idea turned out too complicated, with so many possible interactions between different parts of the board.
After quite a few board iterations, with a lot of possible rules and arrows, they eventually landed on the final base schematic.
The team quickly decided to ax the ability to steal cards from your opponent’s hand, saying it felt very unfair to the player.
After getting approval for the game, the two sat out in the corridor of CD Projekt and asked passing people to play, slowly building a team interested in working on the project. In the end, there was one coder for the entirety of Gwent.
As for the visuals, they knew they wanted to keep the tarot card shape, but went through a few concepts before landing on the final design.
At the end of the panel, the team added that yes, it’s a little strange the characters don’t realize they are themselves Gwent cards. They’re planning on releasing a comic with an explanation as to why Geralt is on a card sometime in the future.