The Witcher 2 was one of PC Gaming’s smash hits of 2011. In April 2012, NamcoBandai published The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition – bringing The Witcher franchise to the Xbox 360 for the first time. This presented an interesting challenge – how do you re-ignite the passion and excitement felt around a game that journalist and gamers first played over a year ago?
Once again teaming with the pervasive gaming experts at the Tom Sawyer Effect, we created an immersive theatre experience inspired by the narrative of The Witcher 2. Our aim was to draw our guests back into the Witcher universe by placing them at the centre of a conspiracy in the fictional world of Temeria.
“If stories themselves are universal, the way we tell them changes with the technology at hand.” – Frank Rose, The Art of Immersion
We transformed Shoreditch’s Basing House into a medieval tavern and populated it with mysterious hooded figures, scoundrels and (naturally) the odd serving wench. 75 assembled journalists, the ‘Outlanders’ (some of whom hailed from as far as “Swin-don”) attended a banquet at which King Foltest was poisoned and they were framed for his murder.
Thus began a fast-paced, immersive gaming experience in which the players had to clear their names and bring the rogue Witcher responsible to justice. Each inhabitant of our world held vital information that led the players to the prime suspects – The Elves. To uncover their location, players completed a series of interactions directly derived from the Witcher 2 – challenging the local drunkard to an arm wrestle, beating a pair of ne’er-do-wells at a dice game, or by charming a comely wench into providing magical trinkets to unearth possible allies.
“Choice & Consequence is the spine of the Witcher experience” – Marek Ziemak, Lead Level Artist
The location of the Elves discovered, players were ushered out into the world of Temeria (actually Shoreditch) to complete their quest. The Witcher 2 is a game of choice and consequence, in which early decisions can have far-flung ramifications, which we reflected in our experience. As their adventure continued, players encountered the seductive but mind-controlled Lady Lefeyette. Using the herbs collected by the players on completion of various challenges, they mix a potion which breaks Lefeyette’s enchantment. Armed with a silver dagger, players are sent to the final confrontation, where the truth behind the conspiracy is revealed…
The Witcher franchise is famed for it’s narrative complexity, our challenge was condensing it’s key themes – betrayal, lust, choice / consequence, racial tension, and the implications of power – into a tightly controlled one-hour experience. Players had to be given the freedom to explore our world, whilst being guided enough to maintain immersion and focus.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Further drawing from The Witcher 2, players were provided with a magical Journal (In reality a mobile web-app developed by mobile game whizzkids Scramboo) which recorded the players choices along the way, framing a real-life ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book which complimented our immersive experience. The journal also had magical abilities (augmented reality), which could translate ancient elven texts using the phone’s camera.