Why did we stretch ?

The Kickstarter team tweeted a quote from Faulkner yesterday – “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything good.”. I never read Faulkner so I don’t know if indeed he wrote that or if he intended what I think is intended. In any case, the quote seemed fitting enough to me to start’s today’s blog entry with, because yet again, Larian’s taking a big chance and as always, there’s a few risks involved.

Here’s the thing – We just announced that Divinity: Original Sin is going to be released this winter, in February 2014 to be precise, most likely at the end of February as our aim is to maximize the remaining development time. The relation between quote and announcement may not seem immediately clear, but implicit within the announcement is the message that we’re going to be investing much more in Divinity: Original Sin than we already invested, and thus increase our risk significantly. Releasing in February means we’re adding four to five months of extra development time, and the plan is to have pretty much our entire team work on it, together with a couple of outsourcers. Given that there are around 40 people in our team, that’s quite an increase for DOS’ final price tag.

The financial reasoning behind extending our development even more is that the better the game is, the better it’ll sell, and that it makes no sense releasing something that’s not good enough, within reason of course. It’s the kind of reasoning that keeps the accountant within me appeased, because he does freak out from time to time.

My dominant line of thought however is that I think we should continue to “tinker and toy, hammer and hew” up to the point that feel we have something in our hands strong enough to convince even our biggest skeptic, and that as long as we break even, releasing a strong RPG in today’s environment is something that’ll create a lot of value for ourselves as a studio. Now, as it happens, I know said skeptic personally, and because it’s such a misanthrope, we’ll never manage to please it, but a healthy dose of positive idealism never hurts ;)

Divinity: Original Sin is one of those games for which I have a lot of “we should put everything we can in this one” sentiment in me. I’m a big believer in both its game and sales potential, and it doesn’t take a lot to convince me that we need to do everything we can to let it grow at its own pace. If it tells us that that it needs five more months, it’s going to get its five more months, even if those are months in entire social lives will come to a standstill again, and this for the third time this year. There are good reasons to think that it’ll be worth it and I really hope I’m not making another big mistake, again ;)

In our official communication, we’re explaining the delay as the result of wanting to properly integrate our stretch goals. Thanks to Kickstarter these are becoming very integral to the game, so much in fact that parts of the game were completely re-engineered to make room for them.

That last statement can be read in two ways, and both happen to be right: A) Some stretch goals were incompatible with design decisions we had already taken e.g. our character development system wasn’t robust enough to accommodate for companions, and so we had to change things more than we expected. B) Some things in the pre-Kickstarter version sucked, and we took opportunity to fix them as we were re-engineering the game world anyway.

I don’t know what the reactions to the release date news will be at the time of writing this, but my guess is that there’ll be some disappointment about having to wait a bit longer. But I think we’re delaying for good reasons, so I hope there’ll be some understanding.

One big downside of delaying the game is that it’s not out now and that we can’t work on other things I planned for. This is something that could potentially have quite an impact on our studio, because it means that should DOS fail, we won’t have many fallback options, as nothing else will be in production. Of course, there’s always the plan B that is to do work for hire, but if you read my older blog entries, you’ll know that’s a trap I’d rather avoid.

Larian’s been active for over 15 years in this incredibly fickle industry and one of the reasons for that is that we’ve always had at least two things in production at the same time, so that if one thing went wrong, there was always the failsafe. Typically, one of these things would be risky and the other one fairly safe. It’s been since Divine Divinity that we’ve bet everything on one game, and even if it’s only for five months, I’ve  grown used to the don’t-bet-on-one-horse-strategy so I am quite nervous about it.

You see, I don’t necessarily have to put the entire team on Divinity:Original Sin, and the temptation to hedge my bets is large, but I’m going to do it nonetheless. I’m silently hoping that the advantages of full team focus will translate themselves in even better gameplay, and as I said, I think that in this case that’s really important. For one, under my earlier reasoning this should lead to better sales, though that’s definitely not a view everybody in this business will agree with. There are after all plenty of cases where extra investments in gameplay didn’t resulted in better return on investment. (I had a board meeting this morning, so I’m still recovering from finance speak ;) )

Another reason is simply that we can. Between the funds received through Kickstarter, and the money we’re making from Dragon Commander, we have sufficient budget to invest more in our newest baby, and so we will. Our aim remains to eventually  make the very big RPG that will dwarf them all, and this is just another step in that direction.

As always time will tell if I’m making the right move here, and obviously I’ll let you know once I figured it out for myself. As it is, we’re going to be releasing Divinity: Original Sin, most likely on February 28th 2014, and we will be spending the next five months doing nothing but trying to make this a very successful release. Our secret strategy is that we’ll aim to further improve the game play in every single way we can think of, taking advantage of the opportunities given to us by integrating that full set of pretty cool stretch goals.

Come to think of it, I don’t think any Larian game ever had such a clear mission statement ;)

  • Vejita00

    Take as much time as needed to make sure it lives up to its namesake.

  • http://tarasis.net/ Robert McGovern

    Swen in your last blog entry you said “The most important one for me was that in the future I’ll try to only commit to a release date when the game is actually done.”, and what have you done in todays update and blog entry: specify a release data before the game is done. Doh! (Note the KS update says “specifically” for 28th Feb, and your blog is “most likely”)

    Otherwise there is no disappointment on my part, you need the extra time to make the game excel with all of the new features you are adding. Take the time and knock it out of the park.

    At least you haven’t mentioned DLC yet, after todays disappointing Carmageddon news.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Hi Robert – I’m quite aware of that ;) DOS is a game that’s already in production with real contracts in place, so there’s only that much I can do, and I did the maximum I could to extend development. I hope that for our future games, I’ll be able to apply my own lessons.

    • gamemasterknowledgeface

      The thing I love about DOS is how it does everything right, but also “good” as in “lawful good”.

      It supports the mod community with its tools. This will really extend the time people can play this single title. We see greedy Call Of Duty has removed the map editor in order to improve sales of the next version, always just around the corner. FIFA 01, 02, 03, 04. It’s “evil”. Having the mod tools available works against DLC sales as people can add their own content. However, Larian can still do an expansion pack in which one of the key attractions is new environment tilesets, props, monsters, etc, for the map makers to use.

      The GoG version will be DRM free which is also a move, which entirely benefits legit users who can’t be bothered with “insert disk 1″ when the pirates don’t have to, at the risk of worse first week sales – those pirates who just can’t wait a few days for the crack to come out. It’s also, if we’re being down-to-earth here, a great move for broke kids whose parents won’t buy them any games.

      As for a comment on the release date, we’re looking at either “actually feb” or “say a fraction of the actual delay and get a fraction of the unknown backlash”… Well, Swen, I can assure you everyone is happy with as long a delay as it needs. Just make sure “kill everyone in the world” sandbox gameplay is a viable option for the 2nd play-through. Unique swords on good guys! Ever play dark souls? ;)

  • Windemere

    I must not have been paying very close attention because this means it is coming out sooner than I expected. Yay!

  • Ex Serv

    Hello,

    I guess anyone who backed up the game in the KS knew this would most likely happen :) Dragon Commander was released not two month ago and yet we should have been playing O.S less than six month later ?

    If you can postpone for five months because you’ve got the fund to do it, i think it’s the best choice to use that money for more time.

    Once the game is released i frankly see no reason why we should disapointed, it got a lot of thing we rpg fans crave for years. The editor itself make the game a great buy.

    So i’m confident you’ll earn more sympathy / trust from players and i’ll be happy to follow your next project and “kickstart” it if need be !

  • nobody72

    I liked to see a DC-2 with improved combat – either turn base (AOW2/AOW3) or structured more like king arthur – i.e, no base building and more tactile in structure.

    As for D:OS – I can’t comment; while in the minority I liked DKS >> DD (have but haven’t yet played B-DD will do so soon). With D:OS I worry a little about the co-op structure (since I am but one person – playing with someone else would be fun but not practical given my gaming hours et all – maybe when I was younger and in college it would have been more feasible).

    -
    I’ve already paid for D:OS but no clue how it will turn out :) I was a bit disappointed with DC; I think the RTS structure really hurt (ruined?) the game.

    • Raze

      For D:OS you can set one character to always defer to the other in conversations, answer based on a specific profile, or randomly, or you can choose the answers for both main characters. In this case having a design that allows co-op play improves the single player experience (by having much more depth than is normal between party members), rather than restricting it.

      • nobody72

        I know they put in hooks to help the one player experience but I think the game as designed would be more enjoyable co-op which is difficult for me to achieve and overall *might* hurt the single player experience (key emphasis on might – i don’t know yet since I haven’t played :) )
        -
        Oh well time shall tell; I do wish they would revisit DC’s combat.

      • Fox

        My understanding was that you could set up a “personality” or “personality traits” for the secondary hero, and he/she would auto-dialog based on those decisions.

        Personally, I’m in the same boat as nobody72, but I think I’ll probably try and hook up with someone from the KS (as in, a long-time, dedicated fan) to get a co-op game going, simply because it seems like such a refreshing (not to mention innovative) take on a co-op RPG.

  • boe2

    Heavenly times are coming up for rpg fanatics and we owe it all to kickstarter. Can’t help feeling proud of contributing to a genre that the big publishers refuse to properly support. You will be competing for the title of “best crpg in 2014″ with Project Eternity and Torment, though fans (and I’m guessing Larian staff as well) will play all 3 of them regardless :) .

    And that’s ignoring stuff like Witcher 3 and Dragon Age 3. Have we -ever- had such an RPG-heavy year as 2014 will be? Take all the time you want to polish D:OS. Good rpg’s get remembered for many years.

    • http://www.worldsfactory.net/ Alessio Palumbo

      2014 will be the best year ever for RPG fans. Feel free to add Lords of the Fallen to that list, it’s that good.

      • LC

        And don’t forget Wasteland 2 and Dead Souls 2….

        Yeah, good times for RPG fans. :-)

        • Fox

          Isn’t Project Eternity also slated for 2014? Well, it’ll probably get delayed, too.

          • LC

            Sure, it was mentioned in the first post of this conversation. ;)

  • Kein Zantezuken

    Delay of DOS is something that was expected, I doubt it was a big surprise to many. Honestly, I’m glad you decided to took some more time, i was afraid you will release just partially finished game.

  • JackDandy

    Best of luck.
    From what I’m seeing and hearing, DivOS might be that “RPG to dwarf them all” that you keep going on about.

    And if that’s not worth investing in, what is?

  • Stabbey

    It was hard not to expect a delay, given that you set the schedules at $ 1M, thinking that you’d NEVER reach that, and welp… Plus the month delay on Dragon Commander. I don’t mind a delay, I’ve got tons of things on my backlog to take care of anyway. I can wait for a better game.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      That’s a point I indeed forgot to mention – we really didn’t expect to reach the $1M goal anymore when we announced the stretch goals, given that we thought most people were KS exhausted by Torment and Shroud of the Avatar.

      • LC

        You underestimated the potential of your game and the charm of the people working at Larian. Kickstarter is one of the few institutions where honesty, sympathy and dedication for the stuff you work on can pay off immediately. ;-)

      • Fox

        IMHO, the Original Sin kickstarter was the “best” kickstarter to donate to, since none of the other big RPG projects had much of anything to show for themselves other than some big names and conceptual stuff. Original Sin was in Alpha–and on my radar–long before the kickstarter campaign.

        As successful as kickstarter has been, there are still a LOT of gamers who are reticent to donate money to little more than a promise. IIRC, the Original Sin kickstarter said something along the lines of, “the game is going to come out whether the kickstarter gets funded or not; we’re just doing this to make the game better.”

        In other words, it was the safest investment.

  • jkingweb

    I for one welcome our new February overlords.

    A release date in November coincided with my girlfriend’s birthday, so I pledged for two copies; now I get to have fun shopping for a birthday present to somehow make up for the disappointment of not having the best RPG since Divinity II in hand!

    Larian is synonymous with quality for me, while I suck the big one at Dragon Commander, I do not regret buying it because it’s strong evidence that Original Sin will be a phenomenal game.

  • Shawn Edwards

    I have both no objections to this, and a reason to be glad.

    I have no objections because I see the focus on quality over early release as preferable. I understand the risks that a studio takes to do it, but I am always glad as a player to play a game that was developed for quality. Too many games decide to go the opposite route. They publish early, with tons of pre-order bonuses and exclusive content so that they can get the rest of the money they need to actually finish the game. This would be better solved by simply explaining to the fans their financial dilemma, being open about their struggle, and humbly requesting support so that they can finish the game before it is released. Prime example: Total War: Rome 2.

    The main reason I love Larian studios is that you are so open. I read all of your blog ptosts, watch the videos, and follow you guys on Twitter. Why? Because I know that you will tell me about the issues and, if I can do anything about it, a way to help. Ultimately, even if I become sad about a delay or canceled features, I at least understand why it happened.

    So, thanks for telling us. :-) Thank you for being open, unlike so many other studios. And thanks for the games, btw. They’re great. :-)

    The reason I’m glad for the delay is actually a bit selfish. :-D I am hellishly busy this semester with college work. I took on way too many classes and work hours, and am barely keeping up. But, since the Kickstarter, I have been greatly looking forward to D:OS, and modding it A LOT once it is released. If that happened this semester, then I would either a) not be able to play the game at all, or b) fail my classes. I’d prefer neither of those to happen. :-)

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Glad we could contribute to your studies ;)

  • Silpheed

    Thank you so much for this update, it´s gone somehow quiet about the game
    I think it´s better to take some time and DWARF THEM ALL, then push out something that should have needed some more time. I´m sure DOS will be epic.

  • Johnny TwoHats

    Thank you. Just, thank you!

  • Illusive Man

    Well, that was expected. Every kickstarter project gets delayed these days.
    My only concern is about D:DC : the entire Larian team working on D:OS means no more support for D:DC , like an expansion for instance.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      That’s not ruled out, but it won’t be something that we’ll do immediately.

  • Kaptnblaubar

    I am really excited for DOS and i think it’s going to be an awesome game.
    Take all the time you need!

    Though i have to say, i don’t think it will sell better because of you putting more work in it now, at least not cost-effective.
    But on the other hand i am not nearly as experienced on that subject as you are.
    So i will just wish you the best of luck and a lot of fun. ;)

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Only time will tell – in the end what matters to us the most is that we break-even so that we can make a next game and grow sufficiently to be able to cater for the increasing demands from players in terms of game content.

    • Fox

      I think you’re underestimating the power of word-of-mouth, particularly in the current market. The better the game is, the more likely it is to see greater long-term sales.

      It probably won’t effect the initial sales much, but think about it. If, a month after release, the game is so good that people are still talking about it online… that’s going to drive more sales than if the game were merely “sufficient” and was unable to generate the kind of dialog.

      I mean, hell: people are still talking about Divine Divinity today, not to mention the Fallouts, Torments, and Baldur’s Gates.

  • Bob

    I am definitely looking forward to this game. I also definitely won’t be beta testing; I’ll save myself for the polished product.

    Have you considered the Buck Rogers Universe for your RPG to dwarf them all? Those games where great and you could probably get the license for extremely cheap. I know Buck Rogers doesn’t sound very cool but the games were excellent. The combat was the best of the gold-box games with a ton of options and variations (different armor versus weapons, etc). The Char Gen and Dev was far better than what the SSI D&D games offered (and any D&D game until 3.5), the stories were great, and the ship battles were more than decent. Option and choice heavy, deep, and 100% pure unadulterated awesome.

    BAM. Buck Rogers it is – we all decided and it is final. If Wastelands can cause such a fuss when announced by a studio that has never released a TB game, just imagine what the howdy-who will be like when a developer who releases a blockbuster original IP TB game announces a new Buck Rogers game on KS would cause.

    Maybe this is wishful thinking, but the Buck Rogers games were definitely some of my favorite games from the 90s (and one of the only memorable console rpgs and the only example of a game as good on the console as the PC
    back then, even though they were different games and not a ports ((genesis and PC)). Also, I think the Buck Rogers humor would jive well with your studio’s humor.

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      Buck Rogers definitely strikes a chord in me – I actually never played the games but the series defined part of my childhood and from time to time I still utter a random “bidibeep” at my children (who then stare at me with that I-wonder-when-the-next-replace-my-dad-fair-is-passing-by look). I’m not sure though that we’re the right guys to operate in a universe created by someone else – but then again – maybe we are ;) I think we’ll first finish DOS and then see what’s next.

  • Stanley Breskin

    Hi Swen, thank you for the update, it is humbling for me as a backer and a fan to have transparent bi-directional dialogue with you as a developer. I had read the forums and realised this is not new to Larian either. You guys are great.

    In terms of risk – have you considered the timing of your announcement (28 Feb) in relation to the release schedule for any other, potentially competing products? i.e. are you absolutely comfortable that there is no known overlap in the two weeks before and following currently announced D:OS release with some major Action RPGs or whatever?
    In your previous update re: not being focused on distribution channels, I am hoping that D:OS will get a lot more coverage and build-up on Steam in the lead-up to release.

    Additionally – this might sound like a slightly lame suggestion, however have you considered sending preview (e.g. Beta access) to various web-comics? I think the only reason I encountered Kickstarter as a “thing” was because of Penny Arcade.

    Lastly – I don’t want to offend anyone by segmenting gamers into “markets”, but had it occurred to your team that D:OS could likely be very popular with female gamers (either as a solo or co-op run through)? This is a game, significantly an RPG, I’d feel comfortable playing with my gf than any other game out there.

  • Fox

    In terms of a fallback strategy, should DOS fail (which seems very unlikely from my point of view) I think you should at least consider the idea of DLC. I know there are lots of reasons not to do it, but, for example, you could probably establish a bit of a financial “buffer” at little cost simply by selling a new dragon skin or campaign map(s) for Dragon Commander at a low price. Couple the DLC release with a steam sale or something, and you’d likely sell quite a bit.

    At the very least, it’s something to keep in mind.

    ……

    And on a semi-related note:

    Given the amount of time and effort that’s gone into the development of DOS, specifically the creation of a new engine, is it safe to assume you’ll continue to use this engine for future games? And, furthermore, what are you’re thoughts on NOT necessarily developing a new game after DOS releases, but rather re-utilizing all or most of the DOS assets to create an expansion pack? These days, DLC has mostly supplanted the role of expansions in the industry, but I feel like there are quite a few of us–particularly PC gamers, particularly CRPG gamers–who miss the days when we’d see a Throne of Bhaal or Lords of Destruction or Brood War pop out for our favorite games inside of a year.

    • Raze

      Larian said during the kickstarter that they would be continuing to expand and improve the engine and editor for several additional projects.

  • phantomphorest

    Hi! I missed the Q+A but I had a Q I wanted to ask…

    Will the user be able to “pre-roll” their character and use it in multiple hosts games or are you stuck “borrowing” one of the hosts characters, which you will only be able to play as again when you join that same host?

    I’d like to be able to import my “main” character kind of like an mmorpg or diablo. I was planning on making some super hard endgame content to challenge my character after they complete the main game.

    • Raze

      You take over one of the host’s characters in co-op, but there should be some options to customize that character.

  • benwa

    … my two pre xmas games are now Feb 2014…. – now I have to find another game to spend more money on… thought the increased $ was to give them the ability to do more and hire people to handle the extra caseload and get it done on time… Am one of those disappointed gamers – wanted a game to play…

    • benwa

      Can you all at least release a playable demo of chapter 1 or something?…..

      • Raze

        I don’t know about a demo, but the alpha is expected this month (included in some of the kickstarter tiers or available as an add-on).