A cancelled Witcher game of the 90s had tank controls

Which Witcher is which?

Here’s some interesting trivia for fans of emotionally stunted pest-control men. Footage of a long-cancelled Witcher game has surfaced thanks to some of the Polish developers who worked on the would-be adventure RPG back in the late 90s. This was before CD Projekt Red started work on their own version of The Witcher, and shows the white-haired swordsman we’d come to recognise as Geralt waddling around in dungeons at the mercy of ‘tank controls’ and taking swings at a burly man in a bar. It looks a bit like Resident Evil, except here the annoying camera angles fly sickeningly across the room.

Here you can listen to former developers Kacper Reutt and Jarek Sobierski talk over the old build they made for the game, which they’ve got running on an emulator. This was more a “proof-of-concept” they admit but say it was a good representation of what the studio, Metropolis, were hoping to make.

The project began in 1996, led by Bulletstormer and Ethan Carter vanisher Adrian Chmielarz, after he met the writer of the “Wiedźmin” stories, Andrzej Sapkowski, and convinced him to let his studio of the time make a game based on the author’s adult take on Slavic mythology. But the game itself died soon afterwards. You can read the whole story about that thanks to Robert at Eurogamer, but the short version is that technical problems and “publisher doubts” meant the game was put in a cupboard and slowly forgotten.

Eventually, the rights to the Witcher fell into the hands of CD Projekt Red, who took the cat-eyed womaniser in their own direction. But this is still a curious reminder of the fragility of videogame development, a glimpse of what might’ve been.

12 Comments

  1. int says:

    I think Witcher could have worked in the Die by the Sword engine.

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    Aerothorn says:

    I was confused and thought “Wait, didn’t Eurogamer write this exact same story years ago?” And then I followed your link and they noted right there in the header that they were just republishing it [for additional traffic].

    Doesn’t mean it’s not worth highlighting for RPS, but best not to frame it as a new revelation.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Oh, weird – it turns out the article was published in 2014, then republished upon the release of Witcher 3 in 2015. So even the reprint is 2.5 years old.

      The internet is weird.

      • IaIaFhtagn says:

        To clarify; the original story is several years old, but the footage that forms the backbone of this article is new, from a recent interview.

    • Arthandas says:

      It IS a new revelation.

      There were just screenshots before, but now the story resurfaced because arhn.eu published an in depth documentary on making of the first Witcher game with never before seen content and one of the ex-developers of Metropolis watched it and remembered he had the actual demo. They ran it through emulator and now for the first time we can see the actual gameplay.

  3. Vedharta says:

    It’s surprising to see they did the model geometry on the Amiga still that late (1996/1997) for a game targeted at PC.

    • Lobotomist says:

      CGI in Babylon 5 was done on Amiga

      • Vedharta says:

        Oft repeated but not entirely accurate, only for the Pilot and partially for the 3D modelling of the 1st season. They switched to DEC Alpha render nodes and workstations very quickly.

        For PC game development in the mid to late 90s 3dsMAX was the pick of poison generally speaking.

        • Imperialist says:

          ugh, of all the 90s sci fi shows that need a remaster, B5 is it.

          Also, CDPR’s development documentary thing they released a couple years ago goes over their original build for The Witcher that was purely isometric and starred a generic build-a-witcher rather than Geralt. Was rather interesting…but im glad we got what we got. Nobody could have done it better.

          • Werthead says:

            Sadly the B5 remaster isn’t happening. It’d cost about $20 million per season and Warner Brothers ain’t up for it. They’d actually much rather remake the series from scratch which doesn’t sound too bad, but Straczynski is vehemently opposed to it and wants to make a movie instead. Hence a logjam and nothing happening in the franchise. Sigh.

    • Szhival says:

      PCs weren’t common or cheap in fresh-after-communist Poland.

  4. Uberwolfe says:

    Tank controls? Isn’t this how games like Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil used to play? The control system was fine… all it needed was a lock on target feature