A couple of days ago, an extensive article appeared on buffed.de (a German RPG magazine & website) about Divinity: Original Sin. It was a pretty cool article for us because we showed the game for hours to the journalist and despite all the bugs that were apparent, he considered the presentation to be sufficiently convincing to write “shut up and take my money” in his conclusion.
It’s always cool to get quotes that we can rip totally out of context
At the same time, Jean-Marie Prival, a French independent journalist who visited Larian for jeuxvideo.com, wrote on his newly launched blog about his press trip to our offices and the words he used in his entry are actually quite flattering for Larian, something we’re obviously grateful for too.
But If both these things made me smile as I drove home, the thing that really made my weekend was getting the message that we were voted runner up for most anticipated RPG of 2013 at RPGWatch, receiving 22% of the votes. Major whistling because this is a site I visit daily to keep up to date on the antics of our fellow RPG developers. Being in their lists makes me feel pretty good, and tbh, even a bit smug because I had been dealing with quite some naysayers in the past about this game.
But because I learnt the hard way that “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” I figured over the weekend that it was important to find a counterbalance and therefore decided to visit another site this morning…(insert doomy music)
Could this be the secret meeting where Larian decided to go to Kickstarter… (Yes, the interface is stub and work in progress for those who’ve been mailing us about this )
Specifically, the RpgCodex forums, your daily antidote to thinking you’re getting anywhere in the world of CRPGs, unless your name happens to be Chris Avellone.
And lo and behold, they didn’t disappoint
For those not familiar with the RPGCodex, it’s where you go if you’re looking for a hefty dose of RPG critical analysis wrapped in imaginative language (often involving gastrointestinal issues). Now despite the occasionally interesting wording and tendency to rant about what makes a true RPG, I think that more than often the posters there represent the unvented opinion of a lot of players, and if you’re into making RPG’s, you can learn a lot by reading between the lines. In the same breath I have to add that you’ll also need a very thick hide, preferably made of dinosaur scales, especially if you already dared release a RPG that they played. But together with the RPGWatch forums, you can get a lot of “market research” done by just spending some time there.
So the Buffed.de article referred to how Larian is financing its game projects, citing that the funding comes from a mix of our own money, investor money and Kickstarter money. Obviously somebody jumped on the Kickstarter part, and suddenly it started popping up on forums everywhere, including the RPGCodex where the phrase “partially funded through Kickstarter” was quickly translated into “Larian ran out of money” The thread is here btw.
Now admittedly, the original article was in German, but clearly the guy who wrote that has another version of Google translate than me. Still, I have to say that the original quote in the article is actually not telling the entire story either, and it could do with a bit of nuance, so here goes.
Basically, Divinity:Original Sin is already funded. Larian, together with two minority investors, one for each game (Divinity: Original Sin and Divinity: Dragon Commander), put sufficient amounts of cash in both games to guarantee that they get done. We’re even reasonably assured that the games won’t be a financial disaster because we managed to get sufficient guarantees from our retail distributors to earn back large parts of our money and, we only need to sell a fraction of our previous sales to be in the black.
The reason we received these guarantees is that the concepts are solid, our previous games sold well enough and to talk about Divinity: Original Sin specifically, if you see Divinity:Original Sin in action and love RPGs, any doubts you may have will disappear on the spot. This game is just cool. Because words are but words and some posters on the Codex are rightfully wary of any rhetoric, I’ll happily extend an invitation to one of them to come to our offices so we can show the game. I’m serious btw guys , but you’ll have to agree on who you send as an emissary, the emissary obviously being the person who knows a real CRPG from a a mutated adventure (evil grin )
So, the “Larian is out of money” story won’t fly on this one, though as I said, it’s true that we’re walking a tight line and that we’re burning a lot to ensure that what we release as good as we can get it. However,for over a decade we’ve been working with tight cash flows and publishers (not all, I’ve been getting complaints ) that don’t pay us or pay late, so it’s not like we’re not used to this, and I actually think that we’ve proven in the past that we can do a lot with a constrained budget. I’m certainly not afraid to compare the budget of our productions to that of other RPGs of the same scope and age, anticipating to come out lower than most.
And yes, we are so passionate about what we do that if we can fund a budget increase via Kickstarter, we’ll happily do so. If we indeed go to Kickstarter, it’ll be because the game deserves to get the maximum funding we can find, even if financially that’s not necessarily in our best interest (you’re essentially pre-selling a lot of games at a significant discount if you sell on Kickstarter, partially compensated because Amazon and Kickstarter take a lower cut than other digital distribution platforms).
Which may bring the question why we’re actually interested in increasing the budget at all ?
In short, it’s because it’ll allow us to put more things in, prevent us from having to take shortcuts because of some development mistakes we made, and in general give us a better chance of making that great RPG we know we can make if we can marshal the resources. It’ll also allow us to accommodate for some of the suggestions we received during development, not only from people who saw the game live but also from our fans. And it’ll allow us to put more stuff in the editor, which we expect great things of. How long has it been since somebody released a decent commercial level single– and multi-player RPG editor anyway?
So in a nutshell, that’s why we’re contemplating going to Kickstarter. All those things would increase the fun for our players and it won’t necessarily mean that the game will come out later because the things we’d like to do are all things that could be done next to what we’re doing already. We’ve been working on this game long enough now to want to see it released , but we are sufficiently in love to want to do all the extras we can while development is ongoing.
Anyway, now that the cat is out of the bag – how about it. Do you think it makes sense for us to go to Kickstarter, having read all of the above? Or should we just focus on finishing the game with the budget we have and reserve all the things we think should be added for some future game? I personally think that if ever a Larian game deserved a budget increase, then this is the one. I’d very much like to to see multiplayer and cooperative dialogs and turn based combat as a new standard in party-based RPGs and this game becoming successful will certainly help that cause :)