John Mamais has worked on The Witcher franchise since its first incarnation as an Atari release back in 2007, switching to developer CD Projekt Red five years ago. And given the huge critical and commercial success of latest instalment, it’s hardly surprising that it’s this project he’s most proud of in his career to date.
“It was totally a team effort,” he says. “But I would like to take some of the credit for helping to build and manage such a stellar team. We grew the team from around 80 to 200+ staff and created the studio's first open world RPG – a major technological and content challenge, considering we were actually developing the engine in parallel to the creative development on the project.
“We also self-published so we had to handle both sides of the business, developing a cross-platform game, working closely with Sony and Microsoft, and then partnering with multiple distributors to release seven different language SKUs across three retail platforms.”
With any game – but particularly one as complex as The Witcher 3 – QA is a critical element in the development process. And with 45,000 lines of speech in seven different spoken languages and eight additional subtitles languages, localisation was a challenge, too.
“In terms of production, when we hit a real playable alpha we needed to quickly scale up QA,” explains Mamais. “It's just not possible to have a large enough internal QA team – at least if you’re a mid-size studio like us – to handle this rapid scaling. This is why it’s important to have a reliable go-to external QA team - one already deeply familiar with our IP and way of working.
“And the biggest challenge on The Witcher 3 with localisation is the constantly changing dialogue, and requirement to get it translated, recorded, and added into the game in time for things like lip sync, etc. Finally, you need to wrap everything up on time to ship the game in multiple languages.
“We outsource a great deal of play-testing and compliance plus localisation QA,” he adds. “We have strong linguists as PMs who manage multiple languages using external translation and recording vendors. The Witcher 3 was initially written in Polish and translated internally to English by two very strong Polish-English bilinguals. English is then used as the source and reference for all other languages.”
Outside of his official duties, Mamais is a great interviewee, and in his spare time he enjoys working through TV box-sets, reading and, of course, playing games. However, he may find his spare time is crunched a little for the foreseeable future, as his second child was born just after this interview took place.