Of all the games ported to the Nintendo Switch, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of the most spectacular adaptations. Just the scope is a massive undertaking, and that doesn't include all the graphics, animations, and systems that need to be working in unison to capture Geralt's journey. In a new interview, Saber Interactive talks about how it managed to do it.
Speaking to GamesBeat, Saber Interactive CEO Matthew Karch says initial attempts to get CD Projekt Red's massive fantasy RPG running on the Nintendo hybrid weren't up to snuff. Considering the whole experience had to fit onto a 32 GB card, the team had its work cut out for them.
"When the initial port was done, the game was running at 10 frames per second, was taking 50% more memory than the Switch has, and the build size was 20GB larger than the biggest Switch cartridge," Karch told GamesBeat.
The other issue was that it couldn't use regular fixes, like reducing the number of ambient characters in an environment, because they started making the cities and towns feel empty. Eventually, the team discovered ways to mess with shadows and vegetation, fine-tuning the visuals to a scale the Nintendo Switch could handle without losing key aspects of the game. This even required rebuilding the actual sun from scratch.
"Shadows are obviously essential for creating a realistic look for huge outdoor levels, but the off-the-shelf solution was prohibitively expensive on Switch," Karch says. "We had to combine a blend of static shadowmap, terrain lightmap, and dynamic shadowmap to achieve a similar look to the original."
The team took a similar approach to foliage, saying it had to rewrite how grass is generated and rendered. Karch tells GamesBeat it took a year to get The Witcher 3 to where it needed to be for the Switch, running at 30 frames per second without losing too much visual fidelity.
Somehow the entirety of the game fits onto one of Nintendo's game cards, which is a feat in and of itself. And the port ended up looking pretty solid, even if modders are still finding ways to run it even better.
It's a pretty massive accomplishment to get a game like this onto the Nintendo Switch. But considering the prestige The Witcher has carried this generation, it's pretty worth it. Now you can play what we called the third-best role-playing game of all time on the commute to work, and it's thanks to a year's worth of work fine-tuning shadows and plants.