Larian needs your help ! (update 4)

We’re entering our last six months of development on Dragon Commander, meaning that things are getting serious now. Pretty soon we’ll have to prove that our adventures and experiments in the wonderful land of independence and self-publishing were fruitful, and show that we’re capable of launching a game worldwide on our own, both digitally and via retail and preferably with a certain degree of success.

This is an example of the kind of stuff we've been doing trying to boost our reach on Facebook. It has some impact, but we have no idea if we're actually doing the right thing.

That success is far from certain, and there are plenty of cracks in the floor that we’ll need to hop over to break even on this game. This post is about a few very specific issues we’re dealing with, and I wanted to check if there’s anybody here reading this blog who has a couple of bright ideas that might help us forward. Your help will be most appreciated!

One of our bigger issues is that the gameplay of Dragon Commander changed drastically over the course of development. It started out as a game that was also going to appear on console and contained quite a lot of action, but ended up as a game for the more thoughtful yet skilled player, featuring quite a lot of strategy. While I personally think Dragon Commander is now vastly more fun that it used to be, the big problem this caused is that all the communication so far was more or less beside the point. And we did communicate quite a lot about it…

A week or so ago, one of our retail distributors asked us for a sales sheet – a small doc featuring bullet point features – which they needed to sell the game to the retail buyers. The stuff we wrote there was quite different from what we were showing even back at GamesCom 2012, and while we ourselves know this is for the better, it’s clear that we’re going to be dealing with some confusion when next we show the game to the world.

We realized that it’s going to be important that we can capture the essence of the game in only a few lines, and the better those lines are, the higher the chance that players will be able to figure out if this is a game for them or not. The lines should be strong enough that they clear up whatever confusion we’ll have caused by our gameplay shift, and they should also be memorable enough so that one player talking to another player can refer to them to explain what the game is all about.

I’m going to list here what we have for the moment in the hopes that somebody reading this might come up with a couple of suggestions to improve the text and clarify the message.

Dragon Commander – Become the dragon, command the empire

The lands of Rivellon are overrun by the forces of chaos. You are one of the last dragon knights. Do you have what it takes to unite the races and build an army formidable enough to defeat the biggest threat ever ?

  • Become the Dragon – Take control of the dragon in you and join your troops in combat, assisting them with a host of powerful magic skills
  • Full 3D massive real time strategy – Engage in land, air and sea warfare, commanding unique fantasy units with various upgrades and tactical abilities
  • Dynamic story driven campaign  – After each battle, you make choices that affect the lives of everybody in the empire and from your strategy map, decide which countries to attack
  • Cooperative and competitive multiplayer – Play with or against your friends. In cooperative mode, one player can command the armies while the other blasts away at the enemy in dragon form

Feel free to rip it apart but please do give feedback – if you find this text appalling, please let us know, because otherwise you risk being appalled even more when next you find it back in all kinds of languages in all kinds of ads and on all kinds of boxes in say about six months ;) Likewise, if you find it appealing, let us know too. And obviously, if something is unclear, please ask so I can clarify. Not being clear is the thing I’m the most afraid of.

One other issue we’ve been dealing with and for which we could use some ideas is how we’ve been handling our online presence. Up to now there wasn’t a clear plan other than everybody bitching that we could do better, but now that we’re trying to do better, we’re finding that it’s not that easy – go figure :)

The way we’ve been going about this for the moment is that last month we set up a group of 6 guys at Larian who meet every Monday to discuss what we’re going to be doing through our online channels for the remainder of the week, resulting in fun stuff on our Facebook and Youtube channels. This seems to please the people who are already there (we think) but it hasn’t caused real earth-shattering growth in terms of people reached. We still have plenty of time, so we’re not panicking yet, but it’s fair to say that there was some hope that we were going to be increase our reach faster than that.

I think it’s pretty clear that we have little experience with this, so if anybody has any good feedback or ideas on how we can increase our online promotional reach, we’d be more than happy to hear them. Feel free to treat us as noobs, because that’s what we are when it comes to Facebook, Twitter & co ;)

I thank you in advance for helping us out with this!

***UPDATE 4***

I’m really glad I did this post. Thanks to your contributions, I think the text became a lot stronger and you also gave us a good idea of what are the key points for you in Dragon Commander. It’s easy for us to forget them because we see this game every day.

The list of things to-do to promote online also contained a couple of things we were not thinking of, so I’m grateful for you pointing them out. I listed them here so they could also be of use to other devs reading the article.

Here’s the text, modified with comments I found here and on our forums. Thank you once again everybody!

Dragon Commander – Become the dragon, command the empire

Rivellon, the heroic land of the Divinity series, is overrun by the forces of chaos. You are one of the last Dragon Knights and your people need a leader. Do you have what it takes to unite the six races and build an army legendary enough to turn the tides of an all-consuming war ?

  • Full 3D massive real time strategy – Command your land, air and sea troops.  Research various technological and magical upgrades and discover plenty of new tactical opportunities.
  • Empower the Dragon within you– As a dragon, you can join your troops in combat. And if your fire breathing powers aren’t enough, boost your dragon with demonic technology. Equipping a jetpack is but one example!
  • Dynamic story – On board of your battleship, discuss with your crew, friends and counselors how to proceed. Each game is different and you’ll find that a Dragon Commander needs to make really tough decisions!
  • Complete strategic control- War unfolds as you choose what countries to attack from your strategy map. But beware, victory and defeat are never far apart. And the enemy has plenty of tricks up its sleeve…
  • Cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes –Play skirmishes or full campaigns online with up to 4 friends. In cooperative mode, one player can command the armies while the other blasts away at the enemy in dragon form.
And here is the list of suggestions to aid in promoting the game
  • Use beta-keys to spread the word
  • Get youtube stars to feature the game
  • Amplify the message through press
  • More & better gameplay videos (non-flash)
  • Use countdowns for important stuff
  • Tell fans to subscribe if they want to receive notifications / newsletter
  • Fanpack to allow fans to promote the game if they feel like it
  • Webconferences
  • Contests
  • Streaming video developer chats
  • Fishing commander / Pimp your dragon & co
  • AMA reddit
  • Advertise to ensure presence on larger sites
  • Non-flash/mobile versions of websites
  • Pre-orders
  • Keep on talking to people
  • Link to your website everywhere
  • Make sure your sites load up fast in your target markets / use CDN’s
  • Localize where possible
  • Don’t be generic in describing a non-generic game
  • Ask your community to help you improve how you pitch your game
  • Dan

    I read the description and concluded the game was like Total War (commanding troops), with me being able to play as a dragon at some/any point to help turn the tide of battle. If this is correct then you’re probably on the right lines (if it isn’t….).

    Unless somehow the wording of your back-of-the-box is story/lore-related, ‘strategi’ should be ‘strategy’.

    With regard to online presence, you’re probably going about things the right way in order to sustain interest with the current fanbase. Growing that base is much more difficult. In broad terms you have to find something that can make your game newsworthy to ensure mass-coverage (which in turn should provide a spike of interest, with a trickle of sustained additional followers). Countdowns to an interesting reveal, competitions, beta-key giveaways. One way or another you need to get the games media involved because they’ll reach an audience you can’t possibly hope to build up yourself. Get someone like the guys over at RPS playing.

    • http://twitter.com/xelrah88 Christopher Kania

      Countdowns are a really good hype generators indeed. Since game changed a lot you can prepare new gameplay video and have a countdown before revealing it. That would surely gain a lot attention and anticipation given gaming sites would mention it. Add some sort of pieces being revealed on the way each day and it will be even better than numbers counting down alone.

      Beta keys I would not be so sure about, although some sort of bigger testing for multiplayer component might be needed closer to release. If they are to be available to larger public though then press should receive access ahead of others imho.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/ForkTong David Walgrave

        If it weren’t for beta testing, I would never have heard of Path of Exile.

        • http://twitter.com/xelrah88 Christopher Kania

          Hmm, now that you mention PoE… Early package and preorders giving you beta access anyone? That’s often a nice catch to get small funding prior to release and have people share their opinions about the actual game, and if they do enjoy it.

          • http://www.last.fm/user/ForkTong David Walgrave

            And when executed well, potential hype machine.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/ForkTong David Walgrave

      I agree. What we are currently doing on Facebook is just keeping the fans of the pages updated, informed or hopefully amused, and reminded of the fact that we’re still there. Posting stuff on FB does not mean more people will follow us. It doesn’t draw people. It is even mostly invisible to anyone who is not following us. Maybe one or two extra fans may join because a friend of theirs commented or shared our post, but that’s just peanuts. The extra “likes” we are looking for, have to come from somewhere else. We can promote a post or a page on Facebook itself, but I believe most new likes will come from getting our game’s name out there and picked up by people who are interested.

      We shouldn’t overestimate Facebook. Sure it’s important to be present there, but it should be treated as it is: a (small) part of the entire scheme, and actually the end of a certain flow: the flow of getting people to know about you. If you are a fan of something on Facebook, most of the time, you heard about it somewhere else and just typed it in on Facebook to get regular updates. We’re taking care of the tail, and we should probably invest more time in the proverbial head :)

  • http://twitter.com/xelrah88 Christopher Kania

    You should start by releasing more videos (there isn’t many gameplay videos thus far) to youtube and photos at facebook imho. That would be a nice start. A weekly screenshot as a start, then slowly more often as long as you can give some eye candy stuff to people. Same with videos, showing small parts of gameplay once a week for example (as long as this exact part of game is ready to be shown).
    Facebook, yt and twitter alone won’t give you near enough followers though if you are aiming high.

    But… if you reach to famous internet people like Totalbiscuit for example (you did 1 interview with him already as I rmemeber, but it had mediocre number of views compared to any other vid of his – probably also due to not showing a lot of actual gameplay of either of games that you talked about) and give them some exclusives to show to their fans then you might earn yourself more followers quite easily, without big PR spendings.

    As to that box description… it sounds a bit like just another fantasy game. But sadly I’m not very creative person so I can’t really help with improving that ;(
    Though one thing you probably should point out there is which genres you mixed into the game in a short but nailing description rather than only points telling what you can do. When someone will see that game is Strategy with board game and rpg features, in addition to real time action (worded better than I did it) then they will know exactly what to expect from it.

  • Rod Lightning

    I’m no fancy analyst or anything but here’s my imput:I feel like the text is pretty good. It provides enough information to the consumer I feel like and it get’s me pumped up to play it. But that’s just me, I’m probably a bit biased because I love you guys.

    The youtube clips are amazing. They crack me up every time but there’s not enough people viewing these. I remember when Swen was on TB’s channel being interviewed. That interview got people talking but it died down after a while. Perhaps you should try and do something like that again with other Youtubers or TB again (since he’s arguably the biggest one out there video game related).

    Other big youtubers that I know of are AngryJoeShow and Life’sAGlitchtv (LAGtv) but I’m not sure whether or not they’d do something like this since AngryJoe usually does reviews and LAGtv casts does gameplay.

    • Rod Lightning

      The best way is perhaps to grant them Beta access (of you guys are doing this) and have them do a first impression thingy on it…I don’t know, mang.

      • http://twitter.com/xelrah88 Christopher Kania

        Yes, giving beta access to selected people from outside is often a very easy and good promotional move. It can be press only to avoid poorly done reviews from simple fans as they often can hurt you more than not.
        It can be cut beta (or demo) for them if some areas of game are incomplete and you do not want to show them just yet, too.

  • Nina

    The sales sheet looks great to me. You could probably include one more bullet point if there is information that is not yet there. Maybe something in regards to quests / missions if you have them. Something else worth inputting might be how gear and equipment works. Could possibly merge that into the first bullet point.

    Regarding Facebook presence, be aware that Facebook does not display every status you post as a page to everyone. If a fan wants to see everything, they now have to select the option to receive notifications from a page. Merely selecting to show the page in the news feed (which is on by default) is not enough. Notifications are not on by default. It can be worth to make fans aware of this.

  • Rod Lightning

    I’m no fancy analyst or anything but here’s my imput:I feel like the text is pretty good. It provides enough information to the consumer I feel like and it get’s me pumped up to play it. But that’s just me, I’m probably a bit biased because I love you guys.

    The youtube clips are amazing. They crack me up every time but there’s not enough people viewing these. I remember when Swen was on TB’s channel being interviewed. That interview got people talking but it died down after a while. Perhaps you should try and do something like that again with other Youtubers or TB again (since he’s arguably the biggest one out there video game related)

  • DivinePonies

    For the description, I think it sounds to ordinary. It’s not bad but it feels like it’s not doing the justice for the game (at least how I imagine it). I think You gave some good explanations to the game some time ago (probably on this blog) when You had to explain it on all those conventions.

    As for online presence, my suggestion would be to try and reach some people on Youtube that have large fanbase and their channels deal with games and gaming. On your own you’re too unknown, but if you can find and convince someone to help you out getting the word, you have a chance. Also, some shameless marketing like annoying adds (either Facebook or around gaming portals) is good.

    Make some good gameplay video and try and spread it on youtube. I’ve seen recently one old gameplay video of DC and it was quite bad (was probably an early stage) so it received a lot of dislikes. Fix it with something jaw-dropping :)

  • Kotep

    If you’re looking for more coverage, doing an interview or some other kind of press release wouldn’t be a bad idea–off the top of my head, I can think of The Escapist and Rock Paper Shotgun that have (as far as I know) a decently high readership, the former for games in general and the latter for PC games in particular. I’d love to see more people talking about your games too, but it seems sometimes like news doesn’t often drift down elsewhere unless there’s other sites involved.

    For the pitch itself, one of the things I thought was interesting about what I’ve seen so far is how the side characters can develop based on the choices you make–I’d think that would be an interesting point to make, considering that ‘affecting the lives of everyone in the empire’ sounds slightly impersonal after all. Something like ‘you make choices that affect both your empire and your companions’ or even mention how a companion’s story will change based on your choices. I don’t know how well that goes over with retail people as opposed to gamer people, but hearing clearly that choices have a big impact is, I think, important.

  • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

    Wow – thanks for all the feedback so far! I’m updating the blog with a summary of what I found in here so far – keep it coming ;)

  • Vaifan

    It’s probably just me, but the phrase ‘biggest threat ever’ makes me cringe. I’ve heard it countless times, and it’s an instant flashback to Mass Effect and the color me Elmo ending, where the biggest threat turns out to be the Casper the annoying ghost.
    But other than that, the message is good. Concise and to the point.
    Like most people here advised, RPS is the way to go. It’s probably the last beacon of legitimate game journalism.
    More gameplay videos would also be nice :D
    Anyway, I wish you good luck in the last 6 months :)

    • Rod Lightning

      Yeah I get that too. Kinda sick of the “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE THE WOOOORLD” bullshit in so many games.

  • Daniel

    It has been said before, but new gameplay trailers would really help a lot. (of course game sites need to feature them)

    For me, the best example is still the skyrim gameplay trailer of the e3.

    Half an hour of gameplay, and it hyped me enough to watch it 3 times and then watch a lot of skyrim interviews.

  • FG

    Its ambitious but it can help you spread the word.

    Build some kind of giant dragon and let it fly over some major cities in Flandres.

    Don’t mention the name of the game but let people wonder why there is flying a dragon above flandres.

    People will tweet about it, post pictures and make YouTube movies about it.

    It would be interesting to have a hashtag on the dragon #AwsomeDragon.

    Afterwards when the buzz is on, Larian unveils that they were behind the dragon.

    The internet space will be thrilled about it and you will have reached a lot of “new” gamers.

    I don’t say it should be a flying dragon but it should be a low budget quick selling prank/joke/mystery.

    Remember the Telenet Commercial? How many views did it get just be doing a prank? It’s a Flemish broadcaster but the whole world knew about it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=316AzLYfAzw

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Surprisingly, we actually had that idea and even investigated how much it would cost – but it was too much :(

    • Dylan B

      If you build a giant dragon and do this you will win :D

  • Kein Zantezuken

    That’s weird, my comment got lost. Damn, I typed a lot… oh well.

    • http://twitter.com/lazaregus Lazare Gus

      Mine too! one hour of painful translation..

      • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

        It’s not lost I think – it’ll just show up later. Seems to happen with this disqus thing.

        • Kein Zantezuken

          Nope, it won’t, I know Disqus :<

          • http://www.last.fm/user/ForkTong David Walgrave

            I’ve had this too. Ever since, when writing a fairly large entry, I select all and CTRL+C just to keep it in memory, or even just type a reply in Notepad… It shouldn’t be that way, but Disqus allows us to easily and quickly get this comments section going for lots of account types.

  • http://www.facebook.com/achim.heidelauf Achim Heidelauf

    would be glad to help… have some ideas to promote DC in at least one online game. you know where to reach me.

  • GhanBuriGhan

    My 2 cts:

    Explain Rivellon: “…the lands of Rivellon, the heroic lands of the Divinity series, …”

    Set expectation for strategy earlier: “You are one of the last Dragon knights, and your people are in need of a leader.”

    Replace “…to defeat the biggest threat ever?” with something a bit more evocative “…to turn the tides of an all-consuming war?”

    Switch bullet 1 and bullet 2. Bullet 1 only makes sense after knowing bullet 2.

    “host of powerful magic skills” -> omit “skills”

    Clarify this: “After each battle, you make choices…” -> “After each battle, interact with your crew, allies, and enemies, making choices…”

    And last but not least:
    strategi map -> strategic map ;)

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      This is pretty helpful!I I’ve updated the text – better ?

  • Venix

    i read somewhere that you get the board game if you pre-order the game, maybe use that as a kind of selling point? maybe have it on steam with a pre-order offer, so when 1,000 people pre-order the game they get some wallpapers, 5,000 pre-orders get a dragon skin or something? and maybe 10,000 pre-orders give away free copies of divinity 2 or divine divinity, xcom did something similar with a reward system on steam

    and yes getting youtubers to feature the game is a good idea, i will certainly feature it for you when it comes out!, that’s how i found out about it is this gamespot video = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XOCOAu4lMM

    however seeing as this was quite a while ago some of the hype for the game by people who watched it has gone away

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Yes, the board game is on the err.. board, but that is an entire story on its own ;) And you’re right – we started hyping the game too fast too soon without having an online “backbone” installed, which is pretty much what we’re trying to do now. Lesson learnt.

      Thank you for featuring it btw :)

      • Rod Lightning

        He’s completely right on the XCOM thingy. What pushed me on that train was because you got Civ5 for free if you preordered it. And because XCOM is a pretty fun game too, of course.

      • Venix

        and im not sure about rivellon being “heroic” as it’s a relm/ land, and not the heroin/hero of the story (a sentient continent would be weird to have as the protagonist) i’d say “Divine Rivellon” or something along those lines, as it fits in with the game name and such

  • Dylan B

    A couple of ideas/comments, I apologize if that duplicates the below, got to get these in before work:

    You have a typo under Dynamic Story Driven Campaign; strategi should be strategic.

    It’s hard to know exactly how well this text represents the game without a better feel for how it’s evolved, not having watched the YouTube videos, but it feels a bit generic but generally good. A game with this text I’m going to look at the screen shots, reviews, and rely on having heard about it elsewhere. As a Larian fan it’s enough to sell me, but if you’re looking to broaden the audience you might want more details. I imagine the idea of a ‘hook’ here is similar to that in writing; you may want to look into how writers grab an audience with the book jacket and opening paragraph. Your big selling point to general audiences is becoming a dragon, so you want to play that up, maybe use some more imagery. I’m a terrible writer so take this with a grain of salt but : “Your enemies will flee before your might as you become a great and powerful dragon and join your armies in battle. Fly, Breath Fire, use powerful magic, and direct the battle from on high.” Don’t use that directly, but you want something that has punch. It should be exciting to read.

    Also this: “What’s better than being a dragon? Being a dragon with a JET PACK.”

    If you’re going for humor. That will appeal to the gamer audience that loves the somewhat ridiculous and awesome :D

    If there are RPG elements you want to mention that. That’s a huge part of your fan base. Something like ‘level up, and/or choose skills, or even something like your army grows in power over time and through your choices’.

    The full 3D point is great. People see RTS though and they expect a certain type of game. Not sure how to explain that this is different but has those elements. I don’t like the term hybrid for marketing; lots of games claimed that and suck.

    Dynamic story driven campaign doesn’t need ‘choose the countries to attack’. That seems like the lowest point of choice. Touch up the first part (lives of everybody in the empire and the direction of the game. The world responds to your choices and you determine how the conflict will end.) I imagine for this part Xcom’s marketing might have some ideas for you.

    Any mention of co-op and multiplayer is going to win you fans as long as that gameplay is compelling and fun. If it’s not you’re going to get slammed for including it as an afterthought. The bar for regular multiplayer is very high these days. Be careful. Co-op is an easier bar to hit; there’s more demand I think for that right now than is being filled.

    Definitely the list of outreach points is great. You need a mailing list and a call to subscribe (with the ability to unsubscribe), you need emails to this list announcing new videos and blog posts, maybe monthly, with more leading up to release that ask players to please help spread the word.

    You need a facebook page that people can like where you post new links and updates to media and youtube videos. This should be game specific.

    You need a twitter account where you answer fan questions. Also game specific.

    If you get enough interest you should do an AMA on reddit closer to release; not sure if one’s worth doing now during development as well.

    You need gameplay videos that show details, but you also need shiny videos that convey your idea with sweeping music to inspire and excite. The most effective videos aren’t necessarily gameplay, but you need gameplay to back them up for people who want to dig deeper. You’ve got dragons; USE THEM. ;) Skyrim was a great game, but one of it’s selling points was definitely dragons, and you couldn’t even become one there. So you’re way better! :D

    Moar videos. Many, many more. But not too many gameplay; you don’t want to give EVERYTHING away.

    If you have developer diaries with some humor that will help a lot too. Gamers love seeing that you’re real people who care, and might have something in common with them.

    Stupid cheesy videos can help too, like your office doing gangnam style :D In six months that won’t have the cache it does now, and it’s a little cheap, but you’re small and mean well so I think it would work.

    Think of this as bread crumbs or seeds. You need to scatter them far and wide. Little dots everywhere. Many will be lost. But some will follow them back. So you want all kinds of little initiatives, so that people get used to seeing your names.

    You NEED to do interviews and game play demos for the press. A story on the Verge talking about how you’re taking a huge chance, or on the Penny Arcade Report, would go a long way to establishing legitimacy and interest among core gamers. You need press sites talking about you, especially the serious ones. Buy advertising if you have to; not to buy reviews but to get your name on those sites even if they don’t do prominent articles. You should be willing to send them demos, invite them for office tours, etc. Go all out here, it’s important.

    Sponsor the Child’s Play charity if you have extra cash and interest. It’s the right thing to do. Sick kids, you know. I think more studios should donate games to this effort rather than having to have them bought with cash that could go to toys, but not all games work here. They put sponsor logos on the page, but this would be more about doing something good; PR benefits are obviously secondary. There are not nearly enough hospital’s signed up on that side of the pond though :(

    If you don’t already, you should be taking pre-orders. Especially if you have some sort of collector’s edition (which you should, if sales justify it). This helps pre-flight sales, generates early income, but also generates PR. People tell their friends they just picked up a pre-order. Not all the time, but every person counts.

    Make a non-flash version of your web page. There should at least be something there that looks good static, and you can load the flash when it’s enabled. Your existing assets could be made static very easily; they lose a bit without the animation, but they still look good. You can also animate with javascript, if you want to go through the effort; it’s not that bad with some of the new JS libraries and modern browsers.

    You should also have a mobile optimized version of the page. It’s not that expensive; just make sure it looks passible there.
    Your art work is beautiful but the top bar of your web site looks dated, like something from the 90s.

    Your videos should be on youtube in a format that isn’t flash, that lets people with all mobile devices (iPhones/iPods/iPads, or other flash disabled devices) view and share them. Not sure if this is already the case.

    It’s around Christmas, so that makes me think of gifts. You should let people buy any of your products for a friend, and now you might want to do some sort of ‘Give the gift of being a dragon’ promotion, with a small pre-order discount for the season. It’s not an immediate gift so you might not get a huge up turn, but you’ll get some.

    I’m not sure if contests are effective in this day and age, but I suspect they are. Do a fan art contest, get people participating.

    You’re very accessible for a game company; use that too. Get out there and talk to people. It can be tempting to buckle down before a release to get things done, but now is when it is absolutely critical that you’re out there showing the game to people.

    Have multiple price points. Collector’s edition and regular. Something that lets a friend join the multi-player for free for a limited time. Prepare some sales to go live in the first few months. If this is a PC game try to sell on Steam, and use their promotional mechanisms.

    All of your sites should have prominent links to http://www.divinitydragoncommander.com. There should be a giant link with a picture of a dragon somewhere on this page. Think of it like a table display at a trade booth. You want all eyes going to the new shiny thing; everything else needs to be positioned to draw the eye there.

    Your site (http://www.divinitydragoncommander.com) is slow. Load it up in Chrome and go to the menu in the upper right. Go down to ‘tools’, select ‘developer tools’, and go to the Audits tab. Select ‘Reload Page and Audit on Load’ at the bottom, next to the run button, and run it. This gives you a list of issues. You have no green checkmarks here. That’s bad, and this stuff is technically VERY easy. Get someone who know web tech to look at it. You want sub second load times; and you want images to come up fast.

    Use a CDN for media. This is a network that stores images on servers geographically closer to the target audience. If you’re hosting in Europe you should still serve images from the US. There are many good ones; but have someone who knows what they’re doing look at them. This is also easy; people set them up for their personal blogs.

    The share on facebook link in the lower left of your site should be localized. I’m an uneducated US citizen; I can’t speak any real languages :) Localization in general is fairly cheap; a little more effort to put it in and get it working. This can vastly increase the appeal; you should be localized for each language the game ships in. There are lots of cheap localization services these days.

    Polish the game and get it tested by as wide an audience as possible. Make it fun, make it not crash. By far the best PR is having an awesome game that people can’t stop playing. If you don’t have this your message is empty.

    Marketing sucks; I wish you guys the best.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/ForkTong David Walgrave

      “Think of this as bread crumbs or seeds. You need to scatter them far and
      wide. Little dots everywhere. Many will be lost. But some will follow
      them back.” > Made me cry a little :’)

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      I don’t know what you do for a day job, but this is some very good advise, much better than some for which we’ve been paying. Thank you. It’s very much appreciated and you just made a few people at Larian very busy.

      • Dylan B

        I spread my time between gaming and running my own (very) small software company. I’d do much better if I took my own advice :)

        Thanks for the kind words; you’ve made my day! I just hope it helps. It’s a tough market, especially when trying something new, but it sorely needs new ideas.

  • Fabricio

    Hey there! First of all, about the second part:
    I have always thought that Larian has very little presence online. I never knew why, but even if you are not EA or Blizzard, you are a well known company with quality games. I think many people don’t get your games ’cause they don’t get to know about them in the first place. What could you do? Well, there are other comments which are good enough already, but in my opinion, massive marketing in many gaming sites is the first choice. IGN, Gamespy, Game Banshee, etc. even Newgrounds.com, ArmorGames, everywhere. It implies a cost of course, but you get lots of people to know about your company and games. There are companies that dedicate to this as well, to internet marketing, maybe you could hire one of those.

    Still, you have a good solid foundation, you have been going on for years now, and have many titles under your name. You make me remember of the Total War series and Creative Assembly, it doesn’t have that much of a presence on the ‘net, but everybody knows them. The same with you.

    About the first part, this is how I’d change the synopsis:

    Dragon Commander – Become the dragon, command the empire

    The lands are overrun by
    the forces of chaos. You are one of the last dragon knights. Do you have
    what it takes to unite the races and build an army formidable enough to
    defeat this great threat to Rivellon?
    (changed the last part only, “biggest threat ever” sounds cliché, the rest is good, it sets you in place, character and story in only some phrases.)

    Become the Dragon – Take control of
    the dragon in you and join your troops in combat, assisting them with a
    host of powerful magic skills.
    (This is perfect, it talks about what the action is about in this game)

    Full 3D massive real time strategy –
    Engage in land, air and sea warfare, commanding unique fantasy units
    with various upgrades and tactical abilities
    (What isn’t clear here is, are you commanding armies? or only a few amount of units that fight along with you? This you will surely show in the trailer, but it’s not clear here. Still, it it shows you won’t be fighting solo, and that there will be different units to learn to use, surely in a rock-paper-scissor way or similar)

    Dynamic story driven campaign – After
    each battle, you make choices that affect the lives of everybody in the
    empire. War unfolds as you choose countries to attack from your strategy map.
    (I only changed the last part there too, I really didn’t like how it was put, I think it fits better like this. This is good, in two phrases you’re saying that you have built a living world which reacts to your actions, you give a glimpse of how war works in the game, and the importance of your plans across this fantasy universe)

    Cooperative and competitive multiplayer – Play with or against your friends.
    In cooperative mode, one player can command the armies while the other blasts away at the
    enemy in dragon form
    (Perfect, not much more to say)

    Well, that’s it I guess, hope it helps.

  • Drym’

    Greetings!

    I’m not sure that we are well placed to talk about marketing (especially as we are aware of every news from Larian)… it’s always difficult to try to talk about oneself, to exist on the net.

    You can always learn from other developers, publishers? Like CDProjekt (and GoG.com, with their Gogbook ahah), Valve, Mojang, etc. : conferences/webconferences, secrets (like for Portal 2) or mèmes, by word of mouth, little contests (like The Witcher community), call for volunteers (like Valve for translation, or bêta testers), streaming video (twitch.tv for example) to talk with developers, unboxing video (Nintendo made one ahah), special events (1th April… Fishing Commander uhuh), fake websites or video diversion (just careful to the copyright of course) – …”Pimp my dragon” to customize your dear flying beast ahah
    Be creative! Like you always did :)

    In fact, people need to be intrigued, then attracted; so the keys:
    ->Curiosity, to be intrigued – short or long video, surprize them… yeah, it’s difficult to exist among the lolcats and other “hype”.
    ->Originality – it’s OK for your games :)
    ->Desire, to be attracted – make a demonstration (like XCOM, only tutorial mission), hats for Steam? Collector edition, wallpapers (I want so much a Divinity Original Sin wallpaper), little goodies on LarianVault (t-shirts, cups,…). Provide something… different?
    ->Involvement – be & stay honest with players, like you always did. No stupid DLCs, or season pass, the Divinity 2 add-on Flames of Vengeance was a better idea :) promote amateur maps on Divinity Original Sin.

    Keep up the good work, and take your time. Do not rush your work as most current games (Skyrim …).

    Good luck! I trust you for doing good things.
    …Whatever, shut up and take my money, Larian! ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Klein/700006419 Matthew Klein

    Am I missing something here? You are asking us to describe a game which we haven’t played yet? Is Larian a charity organisation? I think YOU should make and advertise the game, and then WE buy it. Larian, you need to be more professional and take a look at your competitors. Unless you wish to give the game away for free, then why ask people to do your work for you?

    • GhanBuriGhan

      Yes, I think you are missing at least two things here. One is the fact that getting feedback/criticism is almost always good. Second, that a lot of people welcome the opportunity to interact with developers they respect in this way, and don’t mind being asked for feedback/help/criticism at all. It’s one of the advantages of the internet age, for both sides, I would say.

      • LightningLockey

        Larian has often asked the feedback of their fanbase. They have done so since the first game. It not only is to give them new ideas, but to see exactly how we are perceiving their products and if things are on track. With all other developers it is a one way street of communication. Essentially the customers help in the creation of the game :)

        A perfect example in Sword of Lies (Divine DIvinity) of two skeletons discussing how they can talk and stay together with all organs missing. The one makes a comment that thinking too much will have adverse effects, they both then explode.

        As for the bit of not playing the game.. his question is “how would we advertise the product based on all that we’ve read and seen?”

  • Fen

    You need to make it more clear that this is a strategy game start showing off units and map movement. I would also suggest you look at a game called battle stations midway and pacific those were rts action games as well and may give you ideas. Also Arena net sold out on guild wars 2 charr plushies a few times perhaps you could make a dragon plush and use it for a promotion.

  • DarthPies

    Just some small feedback, change the “army formidable enough” to “army legendary enough”, “making choices” to “making decisions” and perhaps for “unite the races” have “unite the 7 races” or however many races there is. Just sounds better to me and describe the competitive multiplayer – you just talked about cooperative in the last bullet point. You should also say what platforms available on (pc is a must), what controllers (mouse/keyboard, joystick etc), how many players for multiplayer and how you connect for multiplayer – internet, lan, splitscreen. And describe what you do when you become the dragon – it sounds as if it’s just a hotkey game, where instead of you having to fly around with a jetpack (mention the jetpack!) breathing fire and engaging various units your just spamming 1 1 2 1 3 tab repeat. Perhaps also mention that it’s a mix of rpg action and strategy? Up to you guys but best of luck!

  • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

    I updated the text again, trying to integrate everything written here and on the forums. Let me know what you think!

  • Simone

    First of all, I think it’s great that you have the guts to put Larians ideas in this position to be criticized, especially because this project is made with so much passion and love (which I think it is ;-) ). A lot of designers might be too proud or too self confident to ask help about these things to the community.

    When I was reading your blog, I started to wonder what made me interested in the game, apart from the fact that it’s made by Larian Studios. A few months ago I came across an article on pcgamer.com (http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/06/08/dragon-commander-coming-in-early-2013-here-are-five-insane-things-you-should-know-about-it/5/#gallery-top) and the sentence that stood really out for me was: “It’s a board game/card game/real-time strategy with role-playing elements and third-person action dragon piloting” I think this is the key strenght of Dragon Commander; it tries to integrate all these elements in one game. Ofcourse the sentence should be redrafted, but I think the essence should return in your bulletpoints because this can attract a wide range of gamers and is a clear summary of what the game is going to be.

    Ow and perhaps something about the steampunk style :-)

    Good luck out there!!

  • Venix

    also, it’s a good idea to have something like “tired of RTS games, commanding your troops to go somewhere and watch, not directly involved? well, dragon commander changes that, command your units and at any time join your troops in battle and help them directly”

    tbh i have a lot of friends, some love RTS’s and love watching the big battles and like commanding units and building things, some friends detest RTS’s simply because your watching the fight and not in in yourself, but dragon commander it seems sims to satisfy both parties weather you realize it or not, it might be a good idea to emphasize it not being your run-of-the-mill RTS, then it might appeal to people who don’t like RTS’s

  • LightningLockey

    For me Dragon Commander reminds me of a similar game called ActRaiser for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was world building game (Age of Empires / Sims) with an action concept (side-scrolling platformer).

    Perhaps looking into the marketing strategy of ActRaiser might help. It has been successful enough to be converted from Japanese to English back in the 90′s and is a download on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console. It is also considered a very challenging game. From what I’ve done with some quick reading, it is revered as a game that combines action with simulation the way no other game (for the SNES) does.

    For me, three words describe your product.
    Strategy / Drama (Romance?) / Action

    For ActRaiser:
    Simulation / Action / (Not much of a story)

    Though Dragon Commander is different as it doesn’t have you create towns, there are quite a bit of similarities such as forming armies, conquering territory and trying to gain complete dominance. ActRaiser has no jet-pack so that can be added :)

  • Flash

    I don’t know if this is just a problem with the html version of this document, but there are some formatting issues. The space between “war” and the question mark should be removed. The dashes on the bullet point list are inconsistent. Some have space before and after the dash (correct), one has no space before, one has no space after, and one is a minus instead of a dash. Also there is a space at the beginning of the line before “Research”. Capitalization is not consistent, sometimes “dragon” is capitalized, sometimes it isn’t.

    In addition, I think “empower the dragon within you” sounds really silly, like a marketing slogan for an energy drink. Why not have the first two bullet points just like the slogan of the game?
    Command the empire – Full 3D massive real time strategy with land, air and sea troops. …
    Become the dragon – Join your troops in combat as a dragon. …