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 😉