Spread too thin at 444444$

Yesterday was a good day. Our Kickstarter campaign went through the roof and as I write this, we’re at 441K whereas our goal was 400K. With 15 days left to go, the future looks bright for Divinity:Original Sin! I have so much to say but so little time that this will probably be my smallest post ever, but I for sure gathered enough material to fill quite a lot of blogposts in the future. So much stuff learnt.

This image is now part of Larian's history. There was much rejoicing in the office and too much champagne!

Our main problem now – time.

There’s four of us @Larian who are busy with managing the KS campaign, and that’s really not enough. Because we try to isolate the rest of the team as much as we can from all the extra work so that they can focus on development, we can’t really muster more resources & so we find ourselves sleeping very little and spending a lot of time typing. Obviously, we get a lot of energy from all the positive feedback & I have to say the friends & family support has also been amazing, but it’s still pretty tough. To give you an idea, here are the channels we’re monitoring/managing/posting on:

  • www.divinityoriginalsin.com
  • www.divinitydragoncommander.com
  • www.larian.com
  • www.twitter.com/larianstudios
  • www.facebook.com/larianstudios
  • www.facebook.com/dragoncommander
  • www.facebook.com/divinityoriginalsin
  • www.larian.com/forums
  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/larianstudios/divinity-original-sin/comments
  • The mails both in our mailboxes & via Kickstarters personal message feature
  • And www.lar.net ;)
In addition we’re doing plenty of interviews & presentations (David & Farhang for instance did 12 presentations in Berlin yesterday) & we’re still prepping more. And obviously we also have the stress of trying to do one update per day on Kickstarter because we noticed it really does have a big impact on the campaigns counter.
I’m not complaining though – imho we funded really fast, considering the circumstances & I’m curious to see what the end-game is going to look like.
But yes, it is more work than I expected. I’m not the first one to say it, I’m not the last one to say it, but I did want to add my 89kg to those who are saying – prepare well if you want to do a KS campaign. It’s tough to add/change course once you’re rolling.
Anyway, here are the stats as they stand now:

There is some movement, watch the neck & neck between Codex & Watch ;)

The rest of the referrer data

As always, any suggestions to improve our campaign and reach our stretch goals – much appreciated!

  • LC

    You’re doing great so far, Swen.

  • Darklord

    Keep up the good work, I hope this ends with a great result! :-D

  • Bartek

    Guys you are great! You are doing fantastic job and I do really appreciate this. I am trying to spread the word on different forums just becouse I think you deserve better – recently started to post some info on stock market forum – well on thread about gaming indoustry so it is not spam :)

    You started KS campain with pretty much everything ready and I know you are serious about your fans. Just can’t understand how it works that some gets 4+ KK$ without even single line of code while you with everything almost ready have to wait 14 days to get 400k. It is not fair :(

    Good luck to you!

  • Xodetaetl

    Easy way to raise awareness: do or say something very controversive relative to a hot topic and make sure the press takes note… ;S

    • Xodetaetl

      If that’s too easy for you, well the usual stuff that the press covers
      will help them mention the kickstarter again: new batch of screenshots,
      description and pics of collector edition, *cough*demo*cough*, giveaway of Div 1 or some big promo… you know better than me.

  • zed

    the codex must prevail in the end

  • http://twitter.com/Roqsan Roq Marish

    It’s holding up into the middle section of the Kickstarter better than some other projects, due to your updates, I think. I reckon those short videos with bullet points did a good job. Can see that without constant pushing it’s likely to dip; like pushing a heavy weight up a steep slope :) .

    Any chance of doing a combat oriented vid in a dungeon type environment with a party of four (i.e. including henchman)? That’s a meat and potatoes area of gameplay that we haven’t seen much of yet.

    WRT henchmen. I know that the 800k goal (fingers crossed) will broaden them into companions, but what will be possible without that? What kind of options are there for henchman progression? Will we for instance, with your classless system, be able to direct them to be magic users, clerics etc. and make the main characters more melee oriented? Do exactly the same stats and progression apply to henchmen? Can henchmen do summons to create the last two party members? Can we swap different types of henchman in and out of the party? Will we be able to dress them up? etc…

    • Raze

      Henchmen start out with a particular build, but you make their stat and skill selections when they level, and can change their equipment, etc. I think just the 2 main characters can summon (the party is limited to 6, anyway).
      I’m not sure about now, but at least if the henchmen stretch goal is reached you will be able to swap back and forth between different henchmen depending on the situation.

  • Zeriel

    Sven,

    Kickstarter is definitely a lot of work, but compared to some of the big names that barely put out an update a week if that, you guys are crazy active. I don’t think I’ve seen any project with so many replies to the comments, and certainly the amount of updates you guys do is off the charts. It’s fantastic, and I think you’re right, it does help a campaign with less cachet than something like Torment, but that’s probably a big part of why it’s much more stressful than you were warned. Most Kickstarters just aren’t putting as much effort in as you guys are.

  • Kein Zantezuken

    RPS took the lead, hehe. They posted about your campaign success too: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/10/divinitys-original-win/#more-149030

  • Arhu

    Project Home Page Overhaul

    I’d make sure to update the project home more often with new relevant information from the normal updates. Casual and potential backers don’t read updates and they don’t read comments. Sometimes, they might check the front page.

    All relevant and new information should thus be present on the project home page in a concise form.

    1. Better links

    Avoid “here” or “click here” links. They don’t tell people anything while they are scanning over the page and are bad for SEO. Use words, preferably nouns, that describe or could be the title for the target page. Cf. Links should never say Click Here

    2. Updated FAQ

    There are only 4 (!) FAQ items. Update #3 features FAQ, part the first. These need to be put on the front page, be updated to reflect the current situation and be kept updated when new information becomes available.

    Maybe get help from Raze to keep everything up-to-date? He’s already all over the place and probably knows more about everything than you guys can remember on your own. ;)

    3. Updated reward tiers

    Update #4 featured updated reward tiers with some nice descriptive text. Update #10 featured More goodies and addons. It would be nice if this extra info could be made available on the front page. At the moment there are only images for each reward tier — maybe add popups, links or flyouts (like with those FAQ items at the bottom) with text like those on the right-hand side but with updated information? Currently there’s only a short word or two below the images.

    4. More / new media

    I liked Torment kickstarter page:

    - Eye candy at the top. We have a short gameplay video there, that’s good. How about adding a screenshot showing cooperative dialogue? Maybe make a new one with a prettier, more atmospheric scene and add a good tagline.

    - Stretch goals further up on the page. As a casual visitor they’d interest me *before* the rewards I’d be getting. They are important, because they will become the game.

    - Ear candy (music). In update 7 we could listen to a music preview. Kirill’s music is a magnet. It’s not on the front page. A fully mastered song would be preferable, but this is better than nothing. Add an mp3 player, a youtube video isn’t necessary if there’s no video.

    - pledge rewards were easier to grasp on the Torment page: Description explaining rewards (we don’t have that!), then list of addons, reward matrix, reward pictures. At the D:OS page there’s only “quick overview”..

    5. Less clutter!

    The entire first two pages on the front page look really cluttered. If something is not really relevant to a first time visitor, put it under scrutiny.

    - “For a full HD version of our project video, with subtitles, click here” — necessary? Also see 1. Could be condensed to “watch our [a]project video in HD with subtitles[/a]“.

    - windows, linux, apple icons could be put on a side somewhere — top right maybe? Is the text necessary?

    - facebook, twitter, youtube — wouldn’t want to see these as the most prominent thing for a project. How about a small floating box on the right side like on wikipedia, so that the main content gets the spotlight again?

    - “For a short pitch of our Kickstarter Project, compressed to one minute” — remove? It says “Gameplay Trailer” right there on the image.

    - Updated rewards and Add-ons — I’d expect these texts further down the page in the “Rewards” block. (Is it possible to add the “updated rewards” text as a limited pledge tier for $4, so it’s visible on every page?) Not interesting for visitors who want to be informed about the kickstarter / game at this point.

    - “Updates” block: I’d remove this. It’s a lot of clutter. Backers will get updated through other channels (E-Mail, update icons at the top etc.). Not interesting for first time visitors at this point. Too much unrelated text. If you really want to have this, consider moving it to the very bottom.

    6. Original Sin in a Nutshell

    Highlighting keywords is nice, but as is still difficult to scan through. How about putting those keywords at the beginning of each list item so it reads more like a list of killer features with short descriptions?

    Lord Panda wrote a very nice summary of the D:OS kickstarter page. “tl;dr: Self-funded game inspired by Ultima VII. Co-op gameplay/dialogue system. Caters for SP or MP. Need moar funds for more features.”

    tl;dr: Front page maintenance may be as important as — if not more important than — regular updates.

    • Daniel

      I agree with this, it would be a good idea if you reworked the front page a bit. Most first time visitors really won’t read all of the things that are on it now ;)

      After that’s done, you need more publicity of course. I bet you’re already doing a lot on that part, but have you also tried famous youtubers like TotalBiscuit? Those can really make a difference. :)

      Oh and last thing, but I hope you’re already doing that. Make sure the paypal users can get the same rewards and add-ons as the kickstarter. This will surely make a big difference, as many people in Europe don’t have a credit card. (and you probably get the most publicity in Europe)

      • Arhu

        They already did most of it along with update #12. Looking much cleaner already. :)

        I guess one link to the newest update somewhere near the top wouldn’t hurt, but I’m glad the big block is gone from there.

        TotalBiscuit is a name I’ve heard mentioned several times. Could be worth it, yes.

  • AlexF

    I have a few comments about the kickstarter campain but first a question/request. I’ll just phrase it as a request. Recently there has been a lot of bad press for the Shadowrun kickstarter due to their last update. I won’t mention the specifics because I don’t know the whole story and some things may have been misinterpreted. Just wanted to ask, please don’t release DLC for Divinity Original Sin or Dragon Commander. If you want to add to the game do a full blown expansion like Flames of Vengeance (which was awesome). Also I think you mentioned that you’ll support steamworks. Please let people who don’t want to use steam to be able to create mods and share them. No need to have a dedicated server for that, just let it as an option. There are sites like the Nexus that can take care of that, not to mention that people may have their own online storage space to store a mod for download.

    I think Arhu made some good suggestions about how to improve your main page but I’d like to make an additional suggestion. Put a link to your facebook page with an image of Belegar and a short description of what likes will get us, first thing on the kickstarter page just under the main video. You have almost 10.000 backers. I’m sure a lot of them have facebook accounts but they may not know about it or the may not know who Belegar is and how awesome he is. Together with people who visit your kickstarter page but don’t pledge you should have a lot more likes. If you can send a mail to the backers it would be a good idea to do so to make sure they know about this facebook thing. Of course you would benefit from more likes as the word will spread but this is more of a selfish request. I’d like to meet Belegar at least 5-6 times in the game.

    The stat discussion could be a very long and complex one so I’ll only make only a few suggestions to keep things (relatively) brief.

    First and most important, please disengage carry weight from strength. I know it makes sense and lots of games have it but in every one of them it’s a bad design choice. It forces you to invest points in a stat that may be completely useless for your build just so you can have an out of combat benefit. I may want to play a party of 4 mages and I wouldn’t be able to because my inventory would be so small I’d have to go back and forth to sell in town. Inventory restrictions have a raison d’être but they should be as little an annoyance to the player as possible. Tying them to a stat is one of the worst ways to deal with it. Of course that’s just my opinion, you’ll have to weight it with the hundreds more you’ll get on the forums about stats but I think you should tie inventory size (or weight limit) to items only, like buying bigger backpacks, or extra bag slots.

    Second, it seems the roles are a little unblanaced. A melee fighter seems to need strength, constitution, speed and perception. Mages only need intelligence. They can just stay at max distance and fling spells. Only range enemies will be able to get them, that means archers and casters. Magic resistances are determined by your equipment and intelligence. So a mage can invest only on intelligence and maybe just a little bit of constitution or speed to run away from melee, use air/fire/water/earth resistance items and only be in danger of archers and poison spells (if there are any).

    Rangers are kind of in the middle, on the stats they need. They would probably need good perception and dexterity, above average speed so they can run away from opponents who try to melee them and a little bit of consitution just to be safe.

    I think you need to give an extra boost to strength, like giving a bit of offence rating for melee attacks so that the melee fighter doesn’t have to rely so much on perception.

    Also intelligence does too much for a wizzard. I think you should make bonuses to magic to be reliant on intelligence or perception, or constitution, depending on spell type. For example an aoe spell could have a bigger area of effect if you have more perception. An ice wall could stay in place for more turns if you have more constitution.

    That way all the archetypical classes could have 4 out of the 6 stats that are important to them, 2 or 3 of them more than others. As for the other 2 they can be raised if you want more of a hybrid character or for example mind resistance for your fighter to make him a wizzard slayer.

    One last thing about armor. I think it’s a good idea (used in several rpgs) to have an armor cap. That is have the armor stop say up to 80% of the damage, with a minimum of 1. So if you have 9 armor and you are hit for 10 right now you would get hit for 1. But that’s less than 80% of the damage so we use the bigger number instead, that is 2. That way encounters with many smaller enemies don’t become trivial for a well armored character and really poweful armoured enemies can be defeated even if your party has only physical damage dealers. (Elemental resistances should also cap at around 80% or so but I think especially for poison to allow an 100% absorption because it’s constant damage each turn even if you manouvre good enough so as not to get hit so if you’ve really invested in it you should be spared that hurdle). You have evation, you have hit points, you have a chance of blocking 100% of the damage with the shield so I think armor shouldn’t soak all the damage but let a little bit through. Imagine wearing heavy plate and an enemy hitting only spots covered by your armor. You wouldn’t bleed but you’d probably bruise underneath.

    • Raze

      In a comment in the blog post announcing Original Sin, Swen said they had no plans for DLC, and has made negative comments about DLC in general. The DLC items for D:OS and DC in the retail version of the anthology was included at the request of one of the distributors.

      There is no requirement for Steamworks for mods, and a non-Steamworks solution for online co-op is in the works, but not 100% official yet. In the kickstarter comments Larian did say they would like to get a D:OS page on Nexus once the editor is released.

      The first 2 Divinity games had carrying capacity dependent on strength, but this had little impact on mage characters. With the teleporter stones in DD it was easy enough to drop off loot at a home base (low strength characters just had to do this slightly more frequently), and in BD you could just use a summoning doll as a mule.

      • AlexF

        In Divine Divinity I usually left one of the teleporter stones at my character’s home to travel back and leave items. The stones were useful for some puzzles though so I had to use them both every now and then, making the treck home a bit longer.

        Now in Original Sin if you have the Shelter Plane and can travel to it at any time after you uncover it (and it looks kind of certain that that stretch goal will be met very soon) without using the pyramids then I guess you can hop there leave your extra laggage and then travel to the nearest waypoint or if you want to travel say to the exact point in the dungeon where you left off you would be able to, by using the pyramids creatively (that is if they work like in Divine Divinity and you can use them both on the ground and in your inventory). That would remove the need to have one of the two at your house at all times and have them both available for creative problem solving.

        Still I don’t think it’s a good idea to tie inventory space to strength. It makes sense in the way that a stronger person would indeed be able to carry more in real life but I don’t see the need to translate that to a game mechanic that just isn’t that fun. You may say that a couple of extra journeys back and forth aren’t that much of a hassle but that depends on a couple of things.

        First the base size of the inventory. If it’s as small as say in Diablo 2 or Path of the Exile and the things you find are as numerous that will require trips every ten minutes or so.

        A second problem is loading times. For example in Skyrim or New Vegas you could fast travel every time your inventory got kind of full and store all your stuff and travel back. That meant 2-4 loading screens (depending on if you were indoors or outdoors and if the space storage is indoors or outdoors). In New Vegas I played a character with very low strength because it had the less benefit from all the stats for my build. That meant a lot of trips back and forth and many loading screens. It was a stat that did nothing for my fighting build, nothing for my dialogue skills and I just needed it to avoid to spend more time in traveling which was a tedious activity with no real value.

        I think a better use for strength would for example to limit the weight of the equipment you can wear. Now that would affect gameplay a lot more both in combat and outside, depending on what stats the equipment give. For example a wizard character that puts no points in strength wouldn’t be able to wear heavy armor thus making the choice between boosting attack or defence more interesting.

        Also since you mentioned Divine Divinity, I remember I had so many things stashed on the floor of my house that I could hardly find anything when I needed it. There are 2 things that I think should be easy to implement and are quality of life choices for RPGs. The first thing is tags in inventory and all containers. For example a tag for everything, a tag for weapons, a tag for armour, a tag for books and so forth. The second is probably a novel idea but one that I think would make life for players like me much easier. Some times in games you find a unique item or a book or a quest item etc that may or may not be of use. If you could some way indicate that an item has no special value that would be great. I usually end up maxing my inventory with things that are trully useless.

        I’ll give an example. Let’s say in my travels I come across a book for example called “The life of Maxos”. As a gamer I’m thinking this seems like an important item. Do I need to use it for a quest? Do I just need to read and remember its contents? If I throw it away do I lock myself out of a quest line? What about if I have it in storage and I miss the moment when I could use it if I had it in my inventory?

        I know you won’t have typical quests and you want players to discover things on their own and I’m all for that but if there is a way to indicate that I don’t really need to hold on to say an item called the “mouse’s wiskers”, taking inventory space, without ever being a special use for it throught the game, that would be great.

        Especially for books you could make it that every time you read one, it’s contests are recorded in some kind of journal or codex and the item dissappears from your inventory. That way when you find a couple of 30 pages books in game you won’t have them take up inventory slots for when the time comes that you’ll find the will to go through them or have to carry around 10-20 different recipe books so you don’t forget them.

    • http://twitter.com/Roqsan Roq Marish

      A big quality of life improvement is the ability to craft items directly from your “bank” (or house storage etc.). Guild Wars 2 makes this particularly easy by having “collections”, which are inventory pages with slots for all crafting materials, then when you are at crafting station you don’t have to move things in and out of inventory. You can also just right click on stuff in your inventory and transfer it into your collection pages, without going to the “bank”.

      Personally, I think trying to maintain a semblance of “realism” with inventory doesn’t make much sense. If you go the whole way to realism, then it’s just too inconvenient and in games where you can teleport around, carry five suits of armour etc., why not just make inventory management as painless as possible? This was actually one of the most requested features for GW2, which is why they added it a few weeks after launch.

      Agree that strength shouldn’t affect general encumbrance, but that it might affect the items you have equipped, so that mages wouldn’t be tempted to wear full plate armor – although there are other mechanisms of doing that of course, such as those used in D&D.

  • arne

    Well, it’s paying off, that’s for sure! You took responsibility to make all these decisions yourself since the day you broke up with publishers (no regrets yet?). If you really need an answer, get them back, and ask them :) !!

    Well I can personally say that I greatly enjoy the more frequent activity you’re pushing through. Who knows what your recently improved responisbility and the kickstarter success will, within today and 14 days from now, yet deliver (or what it won’t, and your efforts were in vain, of course)? I say give it a go and consider the experience valuable knowledge when you get to the RPG that will drive them all.

    Anyway, I’d also like to thank you for letting me have a look at the DC bèta testing last week. Those are very enthousiastic and friendly people you’re working with! Send them my regards!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirill.filippov.184 Kirill Filippov

    Hi Swen,

    in this article (http://www.lar.net/2012/02/06/choice-consequence-in-rpgs/) you told us about your choice & consequence mechanic in Dragon Commander and did mention this system to be present in Divinity: Original Sin, if i understood your words correctly, which i certainly hope to be truth (quote: “You can hear this one come from miles in the distance, but it’s what we’re fooling around with in our next games, Dragon Commander and the mysterious project E.”).

    If that’s true, it makes me wonder: why the hell you haven’t told about it on your kickstarter page already? You are right, it’s quite a feat, and a good choice & consequence system (choices matter, results make the difference) is really a thing, that people are very eager to see in an RPG, so why not tell everybody about it’s existence in your game? Modesty is not the best strategy on the marketplace.

    It will be also good to pertinently mention Dragon Commander on your D:OS kickstarter page, when saying about something common between these two games (like choice & consequence mechanic). Maybe it won’t affect the kickstarter campaign itself, but in long term that should help to sell both games. Kickstarter campaign is very much about PR hence a good way to let people know about not only one, but two your games, if treat it right and have the means necessary.

    Also I’d like to remind you, that after campaign ends, you won’t be able to change anything in your project. So it would be wise to think through beforehand, what info you want to leave on the frontpage.A good choice would be a describing message on how to help you if somebody didn’t make it in time (PayPal, for example). Or inviting on your on-line store, if somebody wants to buy your games, with explanation, why is this method better for you and them. ( this http://www.lar.net/2012/01/12/who-do-you-pay-when-buying-a-game/ and the ending of this http://www.lar.net/2012/07/10/of-kickstarter-one-thing-i-think-game-journalists-should-do/)

    Good luck and all that stuff =)

    P.S. I’m going to play both games and have high hopes for the editor.