One week to go!

Man, time goes fast! It seems like yesterday that I packed my suitcase to go on a press-tour to prep our Divinity: Original Sin Kickstarter campaign. I can’t believe it’s almost over.

This morning David, Divinity: Original Sin’s most excellent producer, told me that the first thing he did when waking up was checking the Kickstarter counter. He followed up with an “of course, that’s not really the first thing…”,  but then saw that I didn’t buy it and sheepishly admitted, “yeah, ok, it’s the first thing I did.”

I frowned at him, giving him my “what kind of life do you have”-look, but then grinned, in an equally sheepish manner and admitted ”yeah, me too…”

For the last three weeks, life has been – “what are they writing, what update is needed, how can we be covered there, can we get this translated, somebody call that guy, how can we get the counter up, can we do this, are we really sure we can do this, ok, let’s do it, what is the Engagor thing telling us, what does the Codex think, what does the Watch think…” and so forth.

I don’t know how we pulled ourselves through, but we did, and I’m mighty proud of the team that did this. The feedback we received from our backers and our fans has been astonishing, and to be frank, a bit scary too. People are expecting so much from what we’re doing that despite all the disclaimers we tried to put out there, we’re almost bound to disappoint. But we’re for sure going to give it our best shot. The support given deserves nothing else but our best.

One thing I didn’t expect when we started this was the long list of personal messages we’d get. There were people telling us how our games affected them, and how the entertainment we offered them, helped them during difficult periods in their lives. A few of these stories were heartbreaking. We were reminded that we’re making games for real people with real people issues, and that our creations can have the same impact as a book or a theatre piece. We were reminded that games are experiences, not jut a bunch of features. The latter is something that’s easily forgotten by developers who deal with overloaded task lists on a daily basis, even if a love for creating experiences is what attracted us to this job in the first place.

Another thing I learnt from the Kickstarter campaign is how to better communicate. You learn a lot from the direct feedback you get from the actions you do in the form of the total pledge amount: Do something well, it goes up. Do something bad, the rate drops. Do something so so, nothing changes. Extremely interesting stuff. It also helped that so many of you wrote us long messages, telling us exactly what we were doing wrong, and what we should do to fix it.

Yet another thing I learnt is that running a prolonged media campaign where your job is to stay in the picture is pretty tough. Thomas, our magnificent video dude, put up a small video digest today and watching it, I realized just exactly how much work was done. I couldn’t help but wonder if we did enough, too little, or too much. I guess I’ll never know, but I do know that there was really a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering, trying to get some media-attention.

We had a lot of Kickstarter fatigue to fight against, and this clearly also affected media. One statement I’ll remember from an editor-in-chief was “your previous news piece didn’t generate enough clicks, so I don’t see why we should cover you again”. I was quite angry at that, but the man clearly was just being honest about how his business worked. If it wouldn’t have been for the help we received from our PR agency and our local distributors, I’m not sure we would’ve managed.

This is how people arrive on our page. This is the top of the referrer list...

People told us that we were stupid for launching when we did. Even if they may have a point, the fact remains that didn’t know when starting to prep PR attention that Torment & Shroud of the Avatar were going to launch when they did. Certainly no journalist who knew about it told us ;) We could’ve asked of course, but right after those two were over, we had Camelot appear, and who knows what else could’ve appeared had we waited. For all we knew, Baldur’s Gate 3 was about to be announced on Kickstarter once Torment finished. But lesson learnt – if there is a next time, we’ll ask all the guys we can think of if they’re planning on launching something at the same time. A bit of coordination between developers would help a lot.

And the lower side of the list...

...and this is the bottom of the list...

I also learnt the word credit-card cycle. Never thought of that. People explained to us that they want to back us, but can’t in this credit-card cycle. Makes sense of course.

There’s more, but I’m going to end here and keep the rest for a future piece. In one hour I have to play a coop session with somebody from Kotaku. Then we’ll be doing live streams or cooperative play sessions with (top of my head) Gamespot, Kotaku, Angry Joe, TotalBiscuit, Jesse Cox, JeuxVideo.com, PCGames.de, Gmbox.ru, Kanobu.ru and even more guys. Somewhere in between we have to do more updates and organize even more stuff.

All with the aim of making this game as good as we can.

The last time I’ve given so much energy to a game in such a short period of time was when programming Divine Divinity. There we literally slept in the office.

Now, a decade later, with the last week of our campaign coming up, I have the distinct feeling that’s what I’ll be doing again.

Wish us luck – 7 days left to reach 3 big stretch goals I’d really like to be in. Should be doable ;)

  • LordDon

    One thing I was really impressed with was you taking the community feedback about the female character concept to heart and giving her armor. Know that that was appreciated by your fans.

    • JackDandy

      Hope it won’t effect in-game stuff too much. Don’t want the studio to be limited by what some ultra-PC people whine about on the internet

      • Arhu

        As long as characters wear more and show less the more powerful they become, I don’t see a problem. ^.~ Diablo 1 was like that, IIRC.

      • Raze

        It didn’t effect the in-game armour at all; it was stated that was realistic before the cover art was changed. Even with bikini armour, though, you’d have to be pretty PC to complain about an inch or two high character in an isometric view.

  • JackDandy

    Hot damn! Didn’t expect you to be running “Let’s play”s with so many different people and sites. It will surely help you out.

    Best of luck, can’t wait to see how that KS counter will look like next week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/felipe.pepe.58 Felipe Pepe

    Know that your fans learned a lot as well during this KS campaign, especially on how “human” and open to dialogue developers can be. Keep fighting the good fight Sven & Larian! o7

  • Bolla

    Good luck with the stretch goals ;)

  • Urs Schaub

    Swen you and your Studio deserves way more than just the 1mill stretchgoal IMHO, you put so much effort and love in your work, that’s really admirable.
    I wish you and your Studio all the best and may the Pledgecounter explode in the final Week!

    • Daniel

      I can’t word it better than this, fully agreed!
      I will try to spread the word too and hopefully we’ll get that 1million stretch goal. It may be possible looking at that nice list of coverage in this blogpost. :)

  • aluinie

    You guys deserve the money and the praise as you are one of the few companies these days that listen to their fans and make games that the fans want. I hope you manage to get a lott of stretch goals covered by the end of the kickstarter.

  • http://twitter.com/Staf_de_Giraf Robrecht Dewaele

    I don’t get it. I really don’t. How did you succeed in making me feel the almost irresistible urge to just go over there and help you guys out. Code my heart out, find bugs, make coffee, mop the floor, whatever.

    Well, maybe I do know. The passion you guys show, is what I want to feel too when creating a brainchild of my own. Kudos, and keep being Larian. You’re awesome.

  • Arhu

    Can’t see the image at the bottom “access denied”. Maybe put it on your own server?

    Also: Sleeping at the office was fun! :D

  • Kein Zantezuken

    While Kickstarter definitely brought something good, there were things that affected both, the game (projects) and team too much. I really didn’t like it. KS does hurts independence as well. Instead of publishers – crowd. Both are hungry monsters.

    • Urs Schaub

      That may be the case, but the crowd doesn’t wan’t the cut on royalities(neither does Kickstarter, besides their one time funding cut).
      The crowd is hard to please true, and the angry opinions are the most vocal, but that was and is the case since…almost ever? (And i am pretty sure most Devs. know how much they listen to the crowd and how much they have to ignore.)
      But yes i think the Devs have to go quite a mileage for the KS campaign, it may be pay out or not.
      We’ll see i guess.
      But every step to independence(More Money for next Project) even tiny ones are better, than to stay in a publishers grip, and get shafted in the end.

      IMHO

    • Urs Schaub

      That may be the case, but the crowd doesn’t wan’t the cut on royalities(neither does Kickstarter, besides their one time funding cut).
      The crowd is hard to please true, and the angry opinions are the most vocal, but that was and is the case since…almost ever? (And i am pretty sure most Devs. know how much they listen to the crowd and how much they have to ignore.)
      But yes i think the Devs have to go quite a mileage for the KS campaign, it may be pay out or not.
      We’ll see i guess.
      But every step to independence(More Money for next Project) even tiny ones are better, than to stay in a publishers grip, and get shafted in the end.

      IMHO

    • JackDandy

      I believe (and hope) Larian has the right brain to separate the quality suggestions from the chaff, and hold their own if they simply don’t agree on something certain fans want

      • Arhu

        I agree with that and what Urs Schaub wrote. I’m among the first to say that developers / authors / creative minds in general should stick to their vision and don’t let themselves be influenced by others too much.

        That said, without the constant nagging of fans-to-be, Divinity 1 wouldn’t have been what it became in the end, back in the day. I remember the massive amount of long posts of forum members and plethora of ideas that were thrown around then — more than nowadays, really. Judging by how much didn’t make it into the game, I’d say Larian knows how to filter the good from the not-so-good. They do filter a lot. They take what is good (in their eyes) and feasible within boundaries, and yes, sometimes they even make big changes. But if it works — why not? Originally houses in Divinity didn’t even have roofs (!).

        I guess it’s just part of their iterative process of game development they were talking about.

  • BGuns

    Schedules and day/night + weather is what I’d like :) , please change your stretch goals. You’ll never make it to the last one… sadly.

    • DACH

      Look who’s talking now..

  • http://twitter.com/dwelfusius Katrien Cornelis

    I don’t know how feasable but still i will say it again, put on a girl-T with weresheep logo and/or one with larian logo (atleast a slimfit puhleeeeze!).If you put em both i will buy em both. You guys have a lot of female gamers..exploit them ;) in a good way i mean

  • LC

    It’s hard to find a more honest, open-minded and likable game developer out there than you guys, Swen.

    Kudos for everything you did for so many people with your awesome Divinity games. I know that times weren’t always good at Larian but you never betrayed your fans or your own visions and you guys stayed always true to yourselves, no matter what journalist or industry “experts” told you.

    And now this kickstarter campaign: you literally gave us all you have, you showed us all your hard work and the passion you put into Divinity: Original Sin. It’s a damn shame that not more people have pledged for the project yet but be assured that the vast majority of your backers is truly thankful for your efforts, your honesty, your dedication. This is the first “big” kickstarter video game campaign in which I really felt apprehended by the creators. Kudos again for your much appreciated communication and interaction with the fans, Swen. You can be sure that Larian got some die-hard fans during this campaign and reminded many of us how awesome your games always were!

    Stay like you are and don’t listen to all the people out there claiming that it is not possible anymore to make good games with a clear vision in mind which is not determined by financial considerations above all but by concept, by passion, by customer-satisfaction, by fun and by honesty. You’re showing us every day that there is still something “good” in the gaming industry that is worth all the attention and the support it can get.

    Thank you for that, Swen. :)

  • Subt1e

    I really hope you make it to all the stretch goals. Out of all the cool RPG’s you were competing with Divinity really looked the best and most interesting. I’ve seen lots of Kickstarter’s end strong, lets hope some people can still pitch in and get to a million!

  • http://www.facebook.com/phyla.vell Phyla Vell

    Whatever you do, don’t listen to the “masses”, because the “masses” are usually senseless (crowd psychology). They tend to follow the most primordial instincts – which usually lead to trivialization and streamlinization of the experience. Trust your own authority and do what you think is right.

  • Steve

    I’m really excited about hitting the next stretchgoal, that should be an awesome addition -Looks possible too at this rate!.
    I have to ask, because I am really curious, if for some reason we don’t hit the final (3) stretchgoal(s), is there some way it could be implemented into the game after it is released – after both DC and D:OS are released… and once you’ve raised enough money? I know it probably wouldn’t happen, but I’d be curious to know if it was possible. It’s a huge thing to ask, and as you put the company on the line I would expect the obvious (a no).
    Keep your guys chin up, both games are looking awesome!

  • LightningLockey

    I’m rather interested in this orchestra at the $700k mark. I figured an Orchestra would cost a lot more then $50k to have compose even if it was for one day. What am I talking about, this is Larian… they are good at pulling white rabbits out of a hat. Larian is so good at making things work that if they had to pull a rabbit out of a hat, without having a hat to pull it out of, they’d somehow pull it off!

    Swen, if would manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat, without having a hat, can you record that and upload it to youtube?