Getting The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to work on Nintendo Switch was a significant enterprise. But it’s a problem that Saber Interactive chief govt officer Matthew Karch was assured his crew might overcome. After all, that is the identical crew that upgraded The Wither 3 into 4K for PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X. And Saber had additionally launched quite a lot of video games on Switch. Using its familiarity with the {hardware} and Witcher developer CD Projekt Red’s recreation engine, Saber took on the job of placing Witcher 3 on the Switch.

And it labored. The Witcher 3 is offered now on Switch, and it captures the full expertise you get on different platforms. But how did this occur? And what limitations did Saber face in getting Witcher 3 to run on Nintendo’s restricted residence/handheld hybrid?

Some of the points had been the sorts that each one video games face, like becoming the software program inside the out there console reminiscence. But cramming the recreation onto a 32GB recreation card is an impediment distinctive to Nintendo.

“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 defined in an e-mail to GamesBeat.

Making sacrifices to save lots of Witcher 3 on Switch

Everyone concerned with The Witcher 3 Switch port knew the adaptation would wish some visible sacrifices. When Saber began that course of, it went proper to options the place it might get the largest efficiency return. The difficulty with that’s The Witcher engine. CD Projekt Red has already performed a ton of labor to optimize these instruments. So Saber started taking the scalpel to essential visible results.

Saber’s engineers turned off dynamic shadowed lights, removed screen-space ambient occlusion, and reduce down the variety of NPCs in the world by 30%. But this primary cross was too excessive. It led to a model of The Witcher 3 that now not regarded like The Witcher 3.

“As we worked on the game, we realized these things were really essential for the look and feel of the game,” mentioned Karch. “For example, after cutting the number of NPCs by 30%, we started getting complaints that the levels, especially Novigrad and Toussaint, felt rather empty. We had to reintroduce most of those features back and find creative optimizations to get the frame rate up.”

So Saber began over.

“We went back and targeted other areas to optimize, like the in-game animation, AI, rendering, cloth simulation, etc,” mentioned Karch. “In those instances, the process was less about deciding what to sacrifice and more about solving how to keep the things the game really needed.”

Creative options

So Saber couldn’t flip options down or off to get The Witcher 3 working properly on Switch. That pressured it to get artistic about easy methods to save efficiency. An apparent instance for that was shadows. On PC, turning down shadows is a straightforward solution to get some further frames per second. For the Switch model, nonetheless, Saber needed to rethink the implementation from scratch.

“One of the things we knew we had to change for Switch was how the engine calculates shadows from the sun,” mentioned Karch. “Shadows are obviously essential for creating a realistic look for huge outdoor levels, but the off-the-shelf solution was prohibitively expensive on Switch. We had to combine a blend of static shadowmap, terrain lightmap, and dynamic shadowmap to achieve a similar look to the original.”

Saber additionally encountered an analogous difficulty with vegetation in the world of The Witcher 3.

“In outdoor environments, foliage can make up about 50% of all the visuals,” mentioned Karch. “We had to rewrite the algorithm for how grass is generated and rendered. We also had to change [levels-of-detail for] trees, lighting, and shadows to keep the overall look and performance as close to the original as possible.”

That course of was intense, however Saber was capable of get the recreation into form. It simply took a while.

As Karch advised GamesBeat, “We worked tirelessly for a year to get the game running on Switch at 30 fps without losing the incredible visuals fans expect.”