Now, as we’re approaching the moment where the game is going to be released, I think it’s safe to say that without any doubt, the two smartest things Larian Studios did this year were deciding to put the game on Kickstarter and subsequently deciding to put the game on Steam Early Access.
Having access to a pool of over 60,000 people who supplied us with feedback during development, and at the same time enabled us financially to act upon that feedback, is nothing less but a developer’s wet dream, and we’ve had the luxury of living it.
It’s something for which we at Larian are very grateful and it’s something for which future players should be grateful too, because the game experience they’ll get will be so much better because of all that feedback.
I’m aware that there’s a lot of negative out on the internet regarding Steam: Early Access, but reflecting on my earlier blog entry in which I was pondering whether or not to release Divinity:Original Sin via Early Access, I think the positives for us far outweighed the negatives, and I think our game is an example of Early Access being a boon both for the developer and the players.
Barring a disaster, we’ll be shipping Divinity:Original Sin in 6 to 8 weeks, the target date being the day before the next solstice, June 20th.
I know we lost a lot of credibility in the release date department, but this particular deadline is pretty much set in stone now, if only for the reason that if we postpone releasing again, we’ll be taking turns at the divorce lawyer. Of course there’s also that other reason and that’s that we’re slowly approaching the stage where the game will actually be ready.
It remains hard for me to figure out what the correct deadline is for this game because it is after all an RPG, which means millions of data fields, and it would be easy to continue working on it for ages. Perfectionism is a disease many of us have at Larian, and it’s something the production-minded people over here need to fight constantly.
In my feeling the game is now at a point where, barring a few thousand bugs and balancing changes, it’s good to go. Anything we put on top is icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, there still are a lot of extra features I’d still like to see, but I think that what we have now makes for a rich RPG experience already and more importantly, also makes for a lot of fun. I was watching these 2 guys play last night , and the experience they were having was pretty much what I was rooting for when we start out developing this game. Seeing that confirmed my feeling that we’re very close and so I didn’t pull the new release date in panic, but instead confirmed that we were going to communicate about it today.
I know there are people out there who would see us develop for another year, and while we certainly won’t be doing that, I might have some news that will cheer them up.
If you’re playing the game on Steam Early Access, you’ll see that we’ve published an impressive changelist again, with tons of features in there I’m sure nobody was expecting.
Most of them are direct consequences of player feedback, and even if we already said that we weren’t planning that many features anymore, you shouldn’t be surprised if you see some more pop up in the coming weeks.
This obviously deviates from the classic development model where you have a clearly defined start and end of a project with a specific feature set, but I think we have some good reasons for it.
You see, in our minds Divinity:Original Sin is an adventure that runs on one version of our shiny new RPG engine, an engine that btw is in dire need of a cool name. The same engine will be used for making more RPGs in the future and as such it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to invest in it.
Already, the continued development of features in Divinity:Original Sin is being done on the budget of whatever our next RPG will be, one of the truly nice but also dangerous perks of being independent. The CFO in me needed quite a lot of reassurance when it turned out that extending development not only meant that the budget would go up, but also that we’d have to wave goodbye to a lot of our guaranteed retail distribution sales. But I had good arguments to counter his pleas for some more sanity.
The core idea behind us going independent is that each RPG we make improves the quality of the next one, not only because it’ll give the studio more financial room, but also because we can draw on the work done in the previous game and don’t have to worry about any publisher *stuff*.
If better games mean better sales (which intuitively seems right, even if there are counterexamples) then it makes good sense to adopt the following strategy: make a good game, use the opportunities (both technically and financially) created by that good game to make the next game even better. Repeat. Enjoy increasing sales.
I know it sounds simple but I believe in simple 😉
Dragon Commander and Divinity:Original Sin are the first in the set of these games, and I sincerely hope there’ll be many more. Dragon Commander (which to my own surprise looks to be on course to outsell The Dragon Knight Saga) created a lot of opportunities for Divinity:Original Sin and I’m burning a candle that Divinity:Original Sin will be creating even more possibilities for our next game.
The fantastic and completely unexpected thing that happened this last year is that Kickstarter and Steam Early Access worked out so well for us, that suddenly we were able to take some serious shortcuts in this long-term roadmap.
We could never have afforded such continued development on Divinity:Original Sin without the support of our backers, and if it weren’t for them, we for sure would’ve had to release it sooner, if only because of those aforementioned distribution deals.
So in a sense, thanks to the help we received from crowdfunding, the game that ships on June 20th will be at the quality level of Game 3 on my roadmap instead of Game 2. Or put differently, the Divinity:Original Sin that will ship is not Divinity Original Sin 1.0 but instead Divinity:Original Sin 2.0.
And because once you commit to an idea, you should commit to it fully or it won’t come to fruition, that means investing in Game 4 by putting even more into Game 3 isn’t that unreasonable.
Of course only time will tell & it could very well be that we’ll be badly burnt by this. I for sure wouldn’t advise it as a strategy if you’re meek of heart, as it does cause considerable stress 😉
I have good hopes though, and if you are one of those 60000 fantastic gamers who backed us on Kickstarter or Steam Early Access, you have my profound thanks for letting my team and me take this path.
We’re putting a good piece of ourselves into creating entertainment for you and it’s nice to know that there’s so many of you that have so much faith in our abilities that you’re willing to fund us on a promise.