Swen’s 2013 New Year’s letter

Dear Team,

Chances are that I will not be seeing things so clear anymore during our Christmas party this friday, so I decided to post my New Year’s letter here ahead of time. Remembering what happened the previous years, I’m sure you’ll understand ;)

You know, one thing I love (and occasionally hate) about my job is that I never know what the day is going to bring me. On most days I come to the office with a vague idea of what I need to do, and typically by the time I reach my desk, my todo list has already changed.  While this occasionally leads to a bit of chaos, I have to admit that I wouldn’t want it any other way, because all these little surprises combined together  keep me sharp and make my life even more interesting.

I mention this because while reflecting upon yet another year of Larian in action, I discovered a few differences between what I expected at the end of 2011 and what actually happened in 2012. From this it could be derived that my expectations for next year are probably going to be wrong again, but you will notice that this time, I’ve tried to keep them fairly realistic ;)

Before delving into 2013, it’s worthwhile looking at the year that passed and how far it deviated from the initial script.

The first obvious slip-up is that back In December 2011, I expected Dragon Commander to ship in 2012 whereas now it turns out that it’s going to ship only in may or june 2013. Once again Larian’s ability to plan well in advance was put to shame, proving our complete lack of professionalism! :) But tbh, I’m afraid this lack of professionalism tag is going to stay with us for a long time because I don’t think we’ll ever learn to ship a game before we’re happy about it, and I actually also don’t think that we really want to be that “professional”. I am pretty sure that In Dragon Commander’s case, I’ll pick the game we’ll ship in 2013 any time above the game we would’ve shipped in 2012 , so even if we’re off schedule, I’ll maintain that delaying it and changing the gameplay  were  the right decisions.

Back then I also forsaw project E’s  announcement, and that one indeed happened, even if in the end it was called Divinity: Original Sin instead of Eyes of a Child (which is where the E in project E came from). In case you are wondering (and you didn’t read the memo), Divinity: Orginal Sin was initially also scheduled to be released in 2012. Nobody believed us, but that didn’t really matter – we (well I) believed it until… well until we all fell in love with our own RPG and then went completely berserk on its  features, leading to a big scale increase with all the inevitable delays as a consequence. Not that  I’m worrying – the game really is turning out to be a gem and if we can manage to keep on finding the funds to support its development, so we don’t have to scale down again, we could have a hit on our hands. Obviously, we should aim to release it in 2013 :)

I also wrote that I expected Monkey Tales Games to be released in different countries and was excited about some research about its efficiency as an educational tool. I actually meant that ;)

So what happened is that the international releases went slower than expected, Apple refused to allow us to upload patches for the Mac version because we used the Wine wrapper, and the first research results came in only a few weeks ago. The good thing was that the latter were positive, the potentially bad thing was that they were so positive that people started having doubts about the methods used. They’ve been submitted for peer review now, and if that works out the way we hope it to work out, then we’ll be screaming our lungs out about this particular piece of science ;) .

Then there was our Iphone game, which I’ll just shut up about – I wrote enough about it here – apologies to Bert for forcing him to work on this ;) And there was the performance capturing for Dragon Commander, which turned out well in the end, but took quite some effort to get right (and a lot more cameras than expected). As to the expansion of my family, that went really well except that he sleeps less than I had hoped for ;) And regarding, the self-publishing…well, that had its up and downs, but that was to be expected. We definitely learnt a lot, and will probably learn even more next year.

So what about 2013 ?

The two obvious predictions are that Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity: Dragon Commander are going to ship. We have target dates for each and we’ll have to see if we manage to reach them. Obviously, the delays are costing us cash, so we cannot delay much more, but looking at the games, I don’t think the need to delay further will be there. Maybe we’ll have to scale up a bit more but we’ll see about that next year. Yes, I said scale up – not scale down ;)

And since we’re going to release both games next year, that also means we have to start thinking about what we’ll do afterwards and for which platforms. At this point, I have absolutely no clue what the games industry is going to look like in 2014, and I don’t really believe those that say they do.The one thing I think we can count on is that people are going to keep on gaming and that people are going to keep on playing games that have a beginning, a middle and an end, pretty much the types of games we like ourselves. So I think we’ll focus on the content and worry about the format and platforms afterwards when the dust settles and it’s more clear what works and what not for studios like us.

I assume everybody knows that we pretty much invested everything we have in Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity: Dragon Commander, meaning that we’re betting the entire company with these releases. That’s a risk but also vote of confidence in the abilities of this team to bring this to a good end.  I’m really counting on writing about the fantastic reception both games had when the date will be december 2013 and I’m absolutely looking forward to the day that I’ll be playing the final versions of both games.

I  hope that Larian is offering you a workplace you can be proud of, and hope even more that you are proud of the work you’re doing. Things aren’t always easy and sometimes the grass may seem greener elsewhere, but I’m very convinced that if this team keeps on putting its heart and mind into what we’re crafting now, we’re on to something great. By now that should be clear for all to see.

Thank you for sticking around and working on our games. I wish you  a happy new year,  a healthy dose of smiles to use in 2013 and plenty of sleep during your holidays!

Have fun!

  • Daniel

    Happy 2013 too! I’m sure your games will do great then, they’re both very interesting and your blogposts only make that feeling stronger :)

  • Kein Zantezuken

    Many people usually upset about delays, but I’m quite happy with these in this case, because, as you said, it will let you to make the game you want. And I do hope my expectation will be fullfilled with these polished gems.

    Happy new year/merry Christmas to you as well, Larian!

  • Jon B.

    I’ll say it now so I won’t forget about this: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Larian! I also hope your kid grows as awesome as you, Swen! I sure am thankful for you making this blog. It’s been a pleasure to read every word in it and I hope you’ll continue with this for a long time. This is my first comment here and hopefully not my last. I did however talk to you a bit over private messages on the Larian forums. Well, I can’t wait for your two amazingly looking games to release, hopefully without any issues!

    Cheers, Jon

  • DarthPies

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • LightningLockey

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • http://www.facebook.com/luke.dunn.7 Luke Dunn

    I love the way you stake the studio on the games you develop, this is such a great show of trust and belief in yourselves!

    I had some free time and thought you might appreciate this, Have a merry Christmas!

  • Arne

    Good Wishes to everyone! May 2013 be your best yet!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nilschristian.hesebeck Nils Christian Hesebeck

    Here’s to many more successful Larian years!

  • Zelon

    Have fun too Swen and good luck with your big projects! Hopefully theyboth will be a success, so we can finally see the one rpg, which will dwarfe us all!