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The RPG Files: The Witcher 3 Completed in 25 Hours

Columns By Christopher Coke on April 16, 2015

The Witcher 3 Completed in 25 Hours

The Witcher 3 is going to be a long game. As a matter of fact, the developers have gone on record claiming that the game would take around 200 hours to complete. That is until someone actually finished it and it only took them 25 hours. But rather than shying away from the new figure, or getting angry at the Internet, they’re doing something revolutionary: they’re talking about it.

Before we pull out our pitchforks, you won’t be finishing The Witcher 3 in 25 hours. 25 hours is a speedrun. It was also completed by one of the game’s playtesters who knew all of the ins and outs of the game, which quests to avoid, and which route to take to complete the game in the lowest time possible. He also skipped every cutscene and took a machete to the dialogue, chopping his way down to the fastest possible options. In other words, he critical pathed it after multiple playthroughs with behind the scenes knowledge. Not the most representative playthrough.

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But did any of us really think the campaign was going to take 200 hours? Judging by the outrage on some corners of the internet, that answer is yes. My response would be why: why would you ever even think a 200 hour campaign is a good idea?

We live in an age when most players don’t complete their games. This talk from GDC 2014 pegs the number somewhere around 70% of gamers not finishing the titles they buy. This is in a time when non-RPGs are considered long at 20 hours, let alone 200. A game like The Witcher 3 would still be taking baby steps by the time players moved on to the next big thing. RPG gamers might hold on longer but few are going to treat the game like the full-time job for a month just to see the credits roll.

Furthermore, no company in their right mind would spend that many millions of dollars on content 99% of players will never see. For an indie studio, a 200 hour campaign is a financial warning flare leading up to the rocky shores of the bankruptcy.

And CD Projekt Red knows that. That’s why they’ve never gone out of their way to qualify that 200 hours; it’s 200 hours to complete everything; 100-percent, every side-quest and discoverable, unlocked. It’s 200 hours for the most dedicated completionist who wants to run every well dry. It’s 200 hours you’ll spread over the next year, months after you’ve “finished” the main game. In other words, those hours are a lot more about potential than how long it actually takes to “complete” the game.

This all begs the question: how long is the actual game? Rather than shy away from the topic, or get mad that the internet feeds controversy (cough,The Order: 1886, cough), after years of marketing him and misinformation, CD Projekt did the unthinkable and actually engaged the discussion. The answer is, it varies. Depending on your path through the game, your playtime could be far different from another player more expeditious or lackadaisical than yourself. Though they’re trying to nail down an average, they say, it can swing wildly on both ends.

I’m sure that’s true, CD Projekt, but I don’t particularly buy the spin. Games like this go through monster development cycles where they are iterated on again and again until the developers know them inside and out. The record voice over and motion capture, they rig animations, and intricicately plot out every seen. Throughout that process, and they’re polling players and reviewing data to see how players engage with certain content, on the critical path and off, and basing their designs on their findings. Sure, they might not know how long it will take you to finish the game, but it would be silly to think they don’t have an expectation for the average player.

We’ll have to wait to find out, but let me hazard a guess. If we take the last game’s playtime into account -- 33 hours at HowLongToBeat -- and acknowledge that Witcher 3 is a much larger game, it’s safe to assume we’re looking at at least that much. Then, we can factor in what we know about the speed run -- 25 hours, skipping cutscenes and rushing dialogue. Knowing all of that, I would guess that we’re looking at a 45-50 hour campaign. The additional 150 or so hours would be the side-content that makes the world feel alive, the cutscenes, the intricately crafted dialogue, the crafting, open world missions, monster hunts, and upgrading gear.

And of course, the sweet, sweet, romances.

Quick Hits

Bound By Flame developer, Spiders, announced their latest project this week, The Technomancer. The cyberpunk RPG will feature action combat, dynamic dialogue, and up to five different endings. As intrigued as I am by a cyberpunk RPG, Spiders has yet to produce a game that doesn’t feel like a AA title “reaching up” to compete against major label dev teams. I always give them the benefit of the doubt, but after the disappointing Bound By Flame and the atrocious Mars: War Logs, they have a lot to prove.

Techland has finally released the much anticipated set of development tools for the apocalyptic zombie RPG, Dying Light. Starting now, players can create their own content for the game, which, if Skyrim is any indication, should give the game new life far beyond official support. Is that a My Little Pony add-on, I see?

Capcom surprised us all this week and revealed that the latest entry in their esteemed Monster Hunter franchise will allow player to ride rather than slaughter their monsters. Let’s just hope the monster doesn’t notice the shoulderpads you made out of his brother.

Descent: Underground is officially funded! As a huge fan of six degrees of freedom shooters, this is an exciting development. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long to play a quality beta! In the meantime, why don’t you check out the excellent Retrovirus. It was inspired by the original Descent and let’s you play as the world’s coolest antivirus!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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