A decade before CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher (1) was released, there was another Witcher game was being made.
In 1997, a Polish team by the name of Metropolis Software, led by Adrian Chmielarz (Bulletstorm, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter), was making the game. I talked to him three years ago about this Witcher game that never was but until today had never seen it in action.
I never thought I would, either, because Chmielarz told me all data, including the working prototype, was lost. “As it turns out, CDs actually don’t hold all your data for 100 years!” he said. All his attempts to recover data had failed.
But where he failed others have succeeded – two members of the original Metropolis Software team no less: Kacper Reutt and Jarek Sobierski. It’s they who join Polish video host Arek Kaminski to show around 10 minutes of prototype footage from the game.
This Witcher game was going to be an action-adventure with a linear story, with a sprinkling of branching storylines and role-playing mechanics. It was also going to be adult, which sounds routine these days but was unusual back then.
“I know it sounds a little cliché or funny in 2014,” Chmielarz told me, “but in 1997 it wasn’t really obvious. These things like moral choices or hard choices or slightly darker storytelling – it wasn’t common. But that was the goal and it was all because of the quality of the source material – it inspired us to do something very special.”
The game got as far as a playable first chapter and signing a publisher – TopWare – but was too ambitious and the developer too overworked with other projects. Gradually more dust piled up “until it became clear it was never going to happen”, Chmielarz said.
Then, in 2002, another company came sniffing around The Witcher IP, a Polish distributor looking to make its own games. It was of course CD Projekt, and the rest is history.