Filling an open world with stuff to do is a daunting task and even the devs that did The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s practically perfect open world hated how they had to do that: an overload of quests. In a self-produced interview, The Witcher 4 campaign director Philipp Weber takes responsibility for the dreaded open world question mark galore.
The Witcher 3 developer on open world quests
Weber admits that he is responsible for the ‘terrible’ Smugglers Caches scattered around The Witcher 3’s open world. The mini-map, a map laden with points of interests, suddenly got filled to the brim with additional question marks.
I did a lot of those terrible Smugglers Caches. Originally, we put them into the world, we put some seagulls over the caches. (…) So you would just randomly find one or [look for them after spotting the seagulls].
However, late in the development cycle of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the open world quests were treated to a little icon. Suddenly, there’s fifty points of interests on the map because every Smugglers Cache got one. “I completely agree that that was a mistake.”
So why did a respected studio fall prey to a common mistake of open world game design? Well, like often the case, it all got down to time constraints. Weber recalls that it was late 2014 when CD Projekt Red basically filled the world with stuff to do. For reference: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out in May of 2015, which game mostly junior designers half a year to populate a huge open world.
Late 2014 we basically filled the world with . There wasn’t a lot of time. We just have to do it, and we can’t do it perfectly.
The design of an open world greatly impacts the player experience. You can have the best quests in the world. But if traveling to and fro is boring, then why would it be an open world? You might as well make a linear game. In fact, would a game with only huge tasks and questlines even be fun?
CD Projekt Red decided no, and added many minor quests to the game. Yes, it muddled up the map, but lets be real; The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the best games ever made, with an overload of question marks and all.