Skill beats Luck Ep. 7 – Behind the scenes with CDPR Event Manager MrRepek

Introduction

For most of us, the holiday season has come to an end and the new year 2022 began. Surely not the start I hoped for as a Darts and Gerwyn “The Iceman” Price fan, …but in terms of Gwent we have an exciting year to look forward to. Not only did the new competitive season just start, but also some old journeys will come back to the shop and new and exciting cards are already in the making. 
Also you can expect now more frequent episodes of Skill beats Luck in the near future, including amazing guests from all over the world, while I also have some special episodes in mind already. Stay tuned!

Last episode we had a chat with Team Legacy’s Danirai, the winner of the Duel of Dogs No.2, where we talked about his route to victory, his opinion on Gwent in general and how the Gwent community was the foundation of real-life friendships.
While normally our guests are either players, streamers or casters, this time we will get a closer look behind the scenes of Gwent and CDPR with our guest Maciej Reputakowski-Madej or better known as MrRepek. As the Event Manager of CDPR he was involved with many different Gwent Events, like working on official tournaments, conventions, or PR-campaigns.

Let’s take a closer look at our community from a different perspective and get some insights from behind the curtain!

Meet the Guest

Name: Maciej Reputakowski-Madej

Age: 41

Hobbies: Streaming, TV Shows, Boardgames & RPG, Comics, Football

Section: Event Manager CDPR

Favorite Faction: Bandits

Favorite Card: Shupe’s Day Off

About CDPR

CD PROJEKT RED is, as most of you already know, a video game development studio and publisher with its origins in Poland. Founded in the 90s by Michał Kiciński and Marcin Iwiński,  the company starting with localization and translating games into Polish. Years later, 2007, the first adaption of Andrzej Sapkowskis novels of Wiedźmin, The Witcher was born.           
After the success, 2011 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings followed as well as The Witcher 3: Wildhunt 2015/2016 with getting a next-gen update 2022.    
As for Gwent, the journey started in 2018 as a spinoff card game featured in Wild Hunt. While also developing and publishing other games like Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, Cyberpunk 2077 or The Witcher: Monster Slayer (for Android and iOS), CDPR is also known for their REDengine used in their games and their game distribution service Good Old Games, GOG for short. 

With over 1000 employees working in their Studios in Warsaw, Cracow, Wrocław and now also Vancouver and Boston, CDPR is growing and keeps creating games, which tell “breathtaking, mature stories to global audiences, without losing the attention to detail”.

For more information check out their homepage or one of the different community forums to get to know the company and people behind it… just continue reading to hear what MrRepek has to say!

The Interview

Sawyer: Welcome Repek, I really appreciate you taking part in our series! 

For many in the community you are a very familiar face, but maybe you can tell our readers a bit more about yourself as well. Especially your way to CDPR and your strong connection to a certain ogroid…    

Repek: Thank you for having me! I am always humbled by such invitations and really appreciate them.

My road to CDPR had started before Witcher 1 was released. I wanted to become a writer and applied back then and once again when REDs were working on Witcher 3. Finally I realized that maybe it is not my way to get into the games development industry. Four years ago CDPR was looking for someone with experience in events and card games… So, it took me only about 13 years, but it seems that third time’s the charm.

And speaking of Shupe … I know that Midwinter Update does not invoke the best memories, but that was the moment when I met our friendly troll. It was love at first sight.

S: Seems like your persistence paid off…luckily for all of us and Shupe!      
Besides sometimes streaming Gwent, you are mainly the Event Manager of CDPR. But what does this actually mean? How can we imagine what your tasks and duties are?

R: I enjoy streaming but I am doing it just for fun and to stay in touch with the game and the community.

As the Events Team we are supporting whoever needs our help. It means taking care of our booths at conventions and presenting the games to the community and the press, but also organizing internal events like Holiday parties and Social Fridays. It is just a tip of the iceberg and it never gets boring. Oh, and we have Gwent tournaments of course…

S: Sounds like a lot of work, but also very exciting.     
When I think back, my journey with the Witcher began when I realized that I bought Witcher 3 at some point but never played it, heard it was good and…the rest is history.

 Since when are you part of the Witcher universe, if you can say it like that, and what got you hooked on it?

R: For me it all started in the early 90s. My older cousin brought me a book titled “Sword of Destiny” and… the rest is history. In Poland, if you were a nerd, it was not possible to miss the phenomenon of the Witcher. Not everyone liked the books or even understood them, but everyone knew that something extraordinary was happening.

I always loved Sapkowski’s style of writing. He is Polish but he never seemed to be afraid to use Arthurian myth or Celtic mythology as a foundation of his works. Over 30 years ago it was not that common in our fantasy literature.

S: I can relate as I actually just finished the first book myself!            
So you’ve kinda experienced the whole journey of Gwent from a different perspective than most of our readers.
Do you have certain milestones you remember fondly or also experienced moments where you’ve thought “why not stick with dice poker?”

R: If you like dice poker, you can always replay Witcher 2 for the fifth time, right?

Seriously though, I have many great memories when it comes to the whole Gwent journey. Tournaments, events, even the challenging moments are important to me. But the event I love the most is the last Challenger of Season 1. (You can rewatch the quarterfinals here and semis & final here)
It was not the biggest in scale (like tournaments in Moszna Castle or in Wieliczka Salt Mine), but we invited community members to our studio in Warsaw and spent a wonderful weekend together. Such memories live forever.

S: I can only imagine, let’s hope these kinds of events will be back in the future.
On Twitch we can see you guys creating streaming events, besides from the official tournaments, like TWIG for example or charity streams.        

What is it like behind the scenes to organize these kinds of events, which, because of Corona, are happening for us only virtual?

R: TWIG is Burza’s thing so you have to ask him. I try to follow it every week and I really like the new format with invited guests. I believe that from the organizational perspective they are much easier to prepare, as you only need a camera, mic and some free time. Oh, and a tub from time to time.

Charity streams require more time to prepare. For example, we need tons of approvals from our legal team. I do not want to spoil too much (the community team would kill me), but something is brewing…

S: I am already excited…and also know the struggles organizing these events, as I worked on a charity event together with ShupeTV myself back in August.       
Obviously, you have been not only involved with Gwent, but also other projects, like Thronebreaker or Cyberpunk.
What would you say are the differences between working on an ongoing CCG like Gwent and an open-world RPG like Cyberpunk?

R: As the E-sports team, we are really experienced when it comes to Gwent events. So far we organized 24 official tournaments. I am not saying we are doing it on an autopilot now, but – after such blows as Covid hitting Masters Finals – hardly anything surprises us. Just like the game, it is an ongoing, exciting experience. And it is free to play!

Cyberpunk 2077 was and is a whole different story. The scope of the pre-launch campaign was so big that I cannot compare it to anything else that happened in my professional career. For me and the Events Team it meant traveling a lot, meeting thousands of people from the community, presenting the demo over and over again. It was an amazing adventure which was unfortunately brutally stopped by Covid.

S: Speaking about Cyberpunk…you were not only working on PR-campaigns but also involved in some technical manners, like the face scanning process.
What was it like and how would you describe your experience? 

R: It is a good example of what people from the Events Team help with. Almost three years ago we cooperated with an external company who came to our studio to make professional scans of our faces. They built a special ring with around 100 connected cameras and we just had to make sure that over 80 RED and GOG employees appear in this science-fiction environement.

It was totally worth the effort. The Characters Team could use the scans as in-game models for many NPCs in Night City. This way the visuals of characters in the open world are much more diversified. For us it is also quite funny to see our colleagues in the game (especially when they punch you to death, haha).

I was lucky to be picked by Characters Team too. You can find me in the Pharmaceutics near Skyline/Salinas. For a Cyberpunk fan like me, it is a big deal to contribute to this game. I hope they won’t remove me in any upcoming patch.

S: Seems like a unique and exciting process, as well as a great memory. Can’t think of any reason why they should remove you in the future.
Also, people are eager to know what future projects CDPR is currently working on. Witcher 4, Cyberpunk DLCs, Golden Nekker.

I am sure your options to reveal some leeks are limited, but I can’t avoid trying anyway. And if not about the games, what events are planned in 2022, especially the Gwent community can look forward to? 

R: They will carve it on my tombstone, but I will keep saying this: “There is only one Master of the Leeks at CDPR and his name is Paweł Burza“. That being said, we already shared some information on what’s going to happen in 2022. A company like CDPR never sleeps so you can expect cool new stuff.

In December we concluded Season 3 of Gwent Masters and the new season already started.  I’m not gonna lie, I am already looking forward to Gwent Opens. I just love the atmosphere of these tournaments.

S: I see. That sounds promising!          
With the holiday season coming to an end and 2022 already in the starting blocks, maybe tell us how Christmas looks like at CDPR.
Also, do you have any resolutions or goals for the new year? 

R: Holidays time was very special for the company and for the Events Team in part-icular.
We just helped the Internal Culture Team in organizing an outdoor party for RED and our friends from GOG. After another demanding year everyone de-served a moment of re-laxation. It was a very challenging project but very rewarding at the same time.

Personally, I am not setting any big goals for 2022. I am just going to expect the un-expected and react accordingly. It worked for me for the past 2 years.

S: Reminds me of the Law of Surprise, which seems to end really well!       
Finally, when can we expect a Gwent face-off between Henry Cavill and Keanu Reeves? What would you think their favorite factions might be if you have to guess?

R: Both of us can only do one thing: dream! Dream big!

I can totally see Keanu playing a refined Bandits themed deck (with Shupe, because why not). Henry would, of course, pick a Witcher deck with special appearances by Ciri and Yennefer (#TeamYen here, sorry). Factions do not matter, they are both playing neutral cards and agree to not use their leader abilities.

I’d love to make such a show match happen.

S: A big hit for all Trissers for sure, but also based on Cavill’s fondness for games my bets are on him.   
 
Jokes aside, I am really grateful for this opportunity of having you here. Thank you and as always, good fortune in the wars to come. Normally the Pro-Players in this series end with some advice for Gwent…what would be your advice for everyone not only interested in playing games, but also trying to become involved as a designer, developer, or any other role behind the scenes of the gaming industry? 

R: I’ve just reached PRO Rank (again!) but all I can say is: have fun. If you are not enjoying what you are doing WHEN PLAYING A GAME, what’s the point in playing it in the first place? Entertainment should not feel like punishment.

It works for me when it comes to my job too. Of course, you need certain skills and stubbornness to get where you want to be. There is no shortcut. You play a lot to become a pro player. You write to become a writer and you organize your own events to prove you can work as an event manager. However, when you are there, in your own Promised Land, it is good to remember you are not doing it only for money.
If you are not enjoying it, you won’t give your best” – Repko Coelho.

Once again, thank you for having me. Team Bandit Gang FTW!

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