Games

Writing Sex Scenes for ‘The Witcher 3’ Was More About Characters Than Carnal Kicks

Ahead of 'Blood and Wine,' here's a look back at what made Geralt's between-the-sheets encounters as memorable as his monster slaying.

by Mike Diver
May 16 2016, 5:35pm

Geralt and Yennefer in a moment of clothes-on intimacy. (This is actually one of my favorite scenes in the whole game. Shut up.)

If you've played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt—and I'm going to assume you have, because it's the best game that came out in 2015, and you pretty much need it in your life—then you know all about the hanky-panky that goes on between the monster slaying, politics, and personal turmoil that comprise its narrative backbone. Geralt, the Witcher in question, a genetically mutated hunter-cum-tracker with heightened senses, two swords, and some fantastic facial hair (let it grow out, it suits him), isn't slow in saying yes to the possibility of some good ol' boot-knocking should the player in question want to paint his personality as fast and loose in the love department.

There are at least three separate sorceresses that Geralt can go to bed with in The Witcher 3, and many more strictly human partners-to-be, if you decide to role-play in such a way. Personally, after playing the field a little in a preliminary run on preview code, my "complete" game saw my Geralt stay faithful to Yennefer, the dark-haired sorceress who Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the fantasy books that inspired the Witcher video games, wrote as his long(est)-term partner. But if you want him to sow his wild oats, that's your call to make—not that he'd be planting any seeds, on account of all Witchers being sterile. (Is that metaphor holding up, back there? I think I just about got away with it.) And if you stay the path of truest virtual love and commit yourself to Yen, you could well be rewarded with that unicorn scene.

What do you mean, what unicorn scene? The below video is probably NSFW.

"Characters come first, no pun intended," she tells me. "Well, maybe a bit. But really, characters are what drive Wild Hunt. I often get asked things like, 'What's the key to creating a good, strong female character,' as we have our share—think of Cerys, Ciri, Triss, Yen, Keira Metz, and many more. And my answer is always: I don't know, because I don't think that way. When I write, I create a character. A flawed character, a magnificent character, a genuine character, you name it. But it's never a male or female character. And this applies to sex scenes in Wild Hunt as well."

With Yen at least, it's quite clear that Geralt isn't the one in the driving seat—she calls the shots in the bedroom department, even if that means throwing the bed in question out of the window for reasons that, well, are fairly understandable. And the player has no direct control over the physical act unfolding on their screen, either—which, if we're all honest with ourselves, might just be a quick time event too far for a mainstream-courting, big-budget adventure game. Hot coffee, and all that.

"[If you were to do that], I think it depends on why you want to make it interactive," Stachyra says. "If you want to build an emotional relationship between the characters on screen and the players controlling them, the way you touch someone in the game—their lips, cheeks—and the way you look at them, these things can have meaning and translate to gameplay. Somehow. Still, gameplay design is not my cup of tea."

In your own playthrough of The Witcher 3 you'll encounter incredible creatures, ancient deities, old friends and foes alike, inspiring vistas, and tragedy-struck landscapes scarred by the ravages of war. It's a game full of fascinating sights, and a game which, if you're anything like me, you'll constantly delay getting to the very end of in the hope of always accidentally uncovering something new. But what you absolutely won't see, however many hours you put into proceedings, is an erect penis. I understand why—it's not like you'll often see a fully blooded boner in Hollywood cinema. But I wondered if, when writing sex scenes for video games, there is anything that programmers and writers alike simply cannot do. Yes, it turns out, sort of—but not because they don't want to.

"I remember this situation from back when we were making Wild Hunt. We wanted a character to undo her hair during some dialogue. Just a gimmick, nothing really relevant to the plot, just something you'd consider very natural during dialogue. And you know what? The amount of custom work needed to do that at the time was really big, and we ended up not doing it. But basically, we can do everything, but everything costs time and time is something we often have very little of. Here's where the line's drawn. For sex and for sex scenes, and for everything else, too."

Geralt can also pursue a meaningful relationship with Triss, albeit at the expense of Yen. Attempt to woo both and, well... it's best that you don't.

I don't yet know where The Witcher 3's upcoming mega-expansion, Blood and Wine (can't wait), will truly take Geralt and his promiscuous (or not) pecker; but I do know that an accidental tryst with Shani in the previous storyline DLC, Hearts of Stone, left me feeling... guilty, actually.

"Hearts of Stone is detached from the main storyline, so, technically, you had sex 'in parallel' to what you experienced in Wild Hunt, so you need not feel guilty," Stachyra reassures me. "But if you still do, it means that we've succeeded in creating a character that you actually can identify with. Really identify with."

And she's right, you know. The Witcher 3 got a lot of attention for its sex-on-the-back-of-a-stuffed-fantasy-beast scene—even Conan O'Brien found space to highlight its sweetly kinky silliness. But it's the strength and depth of Yen, of Triss and a handful of other prominent female characters in The Witcher 3 (the sorceresses really do run shit) that ensures that their relationships with Geralt feel substantial, important, and surprisingly close to those we've had in our own, so-called real lives. I'm not about to bunk up with my wife on top of a badger freshly back from the taxidermist, but you know what I mean. Right?

Blood and Wine will be released on May 31. Find more information on The Witcher 3 at the game's official website.

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