Today is an important milestone in the development of Divinity: Original Sin. Until now, even if we were already heavily into bugfixing mode, we were still incorporating new ideas, systems, and features into the game.
We just released this Kickstarter update which announces that as of next week that period will be over. We will now shift all of our development effort towards reading incredibly sexy reports that start with phrases like “We’re only 3240 bugs away from release – here’s what needs to be done”.
The exception to this will be the end of the game. That part still has some room for us to indulge our creative selves in. Other than that, it’ll be a whole lot of “he and she did this and that and that and then this happened and that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”
We’ve been working hard these last few weeks to integrate the last of the features we really wanted. Looking at the net result, I’m pretty proud of what my team has accomplished. We’ve amplified limited means into a lot of gameplay– a testament to the creativity of my team.
You will be able to check out our work as early as next week (most likely on april 3rd 2014) when we upload the beta version of Divinity:Original Sin to Steam Early Access. Or you can watch our twitch tv session, next monday at 18:00 CET where we’ll be showing off the new stuff.
We’re a bit over budget and over time, but I have no regrets whatsoever about that. The game’s quality is a lot higher than any of us originally expected, so we’re very happy about that. Obviously I now hope that this extra push for quality will transform itself into extra sales, because in the end it’s going to be those sales that will shape what opportunities we’ll have for our future RPGs, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m sure that somewhere along the line we’ll reap the benefits of all the effort we poured into Divinity:Original Sin.
The job isn’t done of course – we still need to actually resolve all those bugs, but I think we’ve created sufficient development room to do that, so I have high hopes that will manage in a reasonable amount of time.
My main regret for D:OS is that we didn’t manage to do the day/night cycles. Killing your darlings never is fun, but it is an inevitable part of production. I guess we always figured that, if anything, this would be the one we’d cut. Up until not-so-long ago however, I did have some hope that we were still going to be able to make it happen.
Some have always considered overestimation driven by a good dose of optimism to be Larian’s biggest “problem,” but to be quite honest, I’ve never agreed. Instead, I’ve always thought of it as one of our best qualities.
“Who dares, wins,” “Optimism is a moral duty,” “No sweat no glory” – these are all part of the ideas at the core of Larian’s credo. We tend to feel that something that looks almost impossible deserves its fair chance at being realized. As long as we can put an adverb like “almost” in front of the “impossible”.
The thing that forced our hand in the end is the size of our buglist. Despite having made quite a few RPGs already, I’m still impressed by what’s being reported.
It’s not the quantity that’s scary per se (we’re used to large numbers like this, and we are making an RPG, after all) – but the types of bugs we’re seeing are in a category of their own.
The freedom we give players, coupled with the fact that we are introducing a unique type of cooperative multiplayer, makes for a very complicated quality assurance experience. You just have to look at a few of the “Let’s Play” videos to see that the level of imagination of players apply to abusing our game is boundless.
If you’ve been following my blog a bit, you’ll know I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Being able to not only handle but encourage this abuse is what makes Divinity: Original Sin unique.
But sometimes, when I’m really tired, I silently wonder…
Maybe we should’ve gone for linear storytelling through fixed cut scenes with nice, easily manageable bottlenecks.
And oh yeah, maybe we shouldn’t have allowed the player to kill everybody.
Or steal quest items.
Or do everything in whatever sequence they want to…
Life would be so much easier.
But then I watch another one of those “Let’s Play” videos, and I know it’s worth every bit of effort. You may think I’m joking, but that’s really how it goes– I’m quite obsessed with this game but I constantly question what we’re doing so I often need to re-convince myself.
That’s why it took a lot for me to commit to dropping the day/night schedules and stick with the NPC routines we have now.
The money we received from Kickstarter and Steam Early Access has gone a very long way to improve the overall game experience and we could never have made a game with such a deep and involved RPG experience if it wouldn’t have been for our backers.
It makes it all the more difficult to disappoint those who were looking forward to NPC schedules reacting to day/night. But the realization that we need all of our energy to polish the game is strong.
We do not want to release a game that has as many bugs as Divinity II: Ego Draconis had upon release; that would lead to an even bigger disappointment. When people install the release version of Divinity: Original Sin, we want them to have fun right away and not have to worry about technical issues. Entertaining people is why we’re in this industry.
As I’m writing this, I don’t know how backers will react to our dropping day/night cycles. It unsettles me very much to possibly disappoint our backers because they made the extended development on Divinity: Original Sin possible. But there are limits to what time and budget permit and sometimes it’s necessary to make a choice when you discover something is more work than you anticipated. In this case we chose to go for stability, balancing and polish.
One alternative would’ve been to put in a day/night cycle without a lot of reactivity from the npcs, just for the sake of being able to say that we’ve done it, but that’s something we didn’t want to do. The vision driving Divinity:Original Sin has been that every feature which is in there has real gameplay value and isn’t a gimmick.
Perhaps those who are disappointed may take comfort from the engine & toolkit supporting pretty much everything that’s necessary for schedules, up to having NPCs sleep in their beds, so it’s not impossible that somewhere down the line a mod or a derivative game is released that uses these features.
Yesterday, we filmed the Kickstarter update in which I try to explain our reasoning for this decision.
The video contains a tour through the office during which I discuss everything that’s been done by the team these last weeks and what players can expect in the beta. It’s a very long video because it’s a very long and cool list. I think a lot of what has been done addresses the majority of what our players have been asking for.
In my mind, that’s the most important part of the video, but I’m of course aware there may be quite some attention for the day/night cycles not making it.
Still, the big news is that we’re going beta. An RPG unlike any you’ve played in a very long time is now on its final course to release.
In some form or other, almost everything we promised in our Kickstarter campaign is in, and as a result the game is a lot of fun and packed with content that will keep players entertained for quite some time.
I’m also very happy that it matured into the RPG development platform I was hoping for back in 2010, because the time we’ve taken now will allow us to do great things in the coming years.
First things first, however.
D: OS is on its way. I count Larian (and our players) blessed that I have a team that’s very dedicated to getting this one out of the door in the best possible shape, and I count us double blessed because we have so many amazing fans helping us out.
Be sure to check it out if you have any interest in cool RPGs that reward exploration, that have turn-based combat and that encourage experimentation with the game systems. Oh, and that have a cooperative multiplayer in which each player can completely change the story line.