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The Warsaw Voice » Society » May 27, 2011
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Polish Computer Games on the Offensive
May 27, 2011   
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Polish computer game makers are gearing up to grab a bigger share of the global market for role-playing games, which is worth an estimated $55 billion.

The world’s most popular role-playing game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, has generated $1 billion in sales in just six weeks. Polish games have been gaining an increasingly favorable position on the market, and have a good chance of joining the world’s first league, market analysts say.

Blood and guts
The eagerly awaited Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings game was released May 17. A sequel to the highly successful Witcher published in 2007, the game is based on the literary work of the popular Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The first part of the Witcher series sold 1.7 million copies and generated zl.3 million in profit for the Polish publisher, CD Projekt RED. The Polish company received only 30 percent of the profit from foreign sales; the rest went to local distributors. With the runaway success of The Witcher, CD Projekt RED was probably able to negotiate much better terms for its sequel. Experts say the publisher may get up to 50 percent of the profit.

Apart from earning a decent profit, The Witcher also received more than 100 awards from various game magazines worldwide for its attractive animation and interesting plot, the diversity of options the player can choose and the fact that the player does not need to know Sapkowski’s novels to understand the rules.

CD Projekt RED says it worked on The Witcher for five years. The player assumes the role of Geralt of Rivia, the central character of Sapkowski’s book series. During the game, the player visits places and meets characters known from his five novels—the Witcher series—and 10 short stories about Geralt. Witchers are warriors trained to fight monsters, who use special weapons and concoctions and have supernatural abilities, including the ability to see at night.

Geralt of Rivia, a powerful witcher, returns to the witchers’ stronghold where he received his training. The stronghold is attacked by mysterious assailants. The several witchers present in the castle have to fight off the attack. The player determines the further course of the play, and those decisions influence the behavior of the characters. All behaviors, achievements and deeds of the characters are remembered by the inhabitants of the game world. During the game, the player scores experience points for the adversaries defeated and for the tasks performed.

The sequel to The Witcher continues the original plot. At the end of the first story, Geralt accepted a task assigned to him by the king. But the king is assassinated and two new enemies appear—a spy and the mysterious Assassin of Kings. Both plan to kill the heads of royal families and Geralt has to cope with a new, complex intrigue. The game is intended only for adults; it contains both brutal and erotic scenes.

The Witcher 2 provides an extensive option system that can provide 16 different game endings. Major changes have also been made to the combat system, with the fights becoming much bloodier. Many characters of The Witcher 2 can practice magic and cast both offensive and defensive spells.

More blood and guts
But the Witcher fantasy world is only a fraction of what Polish producers of computer role-playing games offer on the market. The most expensive Polish game so far has been Bulletstorm. Its producer, People Can Fly, spent $20 million to develop the game. More than 450,000 copies sold in the first three weeks after its launch. People Can Fly says at least 1 million copies have to be sold for Bulletstorm to earn a profit, but sales may reach 2 million copies.

The plot of the recently released game is set in the 26th century when the Confederation of Planets, led by a charismatic general, is one of the greatest superpowers in the galaxy. The prosperity of the empire is protected by a secret army called Dead Echo. The story follows space pirate Grayson Hunt, public enemy No. 1, who was once a member of the elite army.

Bulletstorm is a typical first-person shooter where the players have to kill everything that appears in their field of view using a wide range of firearms. It also features a spectacular close-combat system. Points are won for performing increasingly ludicrous kills, and may be spent on modernizing one’s firearms.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior, released a year ago—first for the PC and Xbox 360, and then also for the PlayStation—is the best-selling game in Poland. The producer, City Interactive, says the profit has already topped zl.27 million, or around $9 million. City Interactive, also known for such popular games as Code of Honor and Terrorist Takedown, is the first Polish role-playing game company to have been floated on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, followed by CD Projekt RED.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior is advertised as a tactical action game. The player controls the avatar of a sniper character and fights against the regime of a fictitious island country called Isla Trueno. The way in which a pre-determined place is reached and individual tasks of a mission are accomplished depend solely on the player’s choices.

The designers took care to recreate the real conditions in which a sniper operates. The player has to take into account the force and direction of the wind, terrain features and gravitation.

Experts on the market say companies developing new games are beginning to experience a shortage of animation specialists. The professions of computer programmer and graphic designer specializing in role-playing games are considered highly promising in Poland. The best proof is that two Polish university-level schools—the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow and the Polish-Japanese Institute of Information Technology in Warsaw—have started to train specialists in this field.
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