About Me

My name is Swen Vincke.

I’m the founder of Larian Studios, an independent game developer based in Gent, Belgium. Larian Studios has been around since 1997 and I’ve been running it ever since, so it’s fair to say that Larian is a large part of my life and that I take whatever happens to it quite personal.

Larian Studios is known for the Divinity RPG series which includes Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity, Divinity II: Ego Draconis, Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, Divinity: Dragon Commander and Divinity: Original Sin.

There’s a lot of Divinity in there, and there’s a lot of RPG in there. That’s no coincidence. I like RPGs. The following video probably says it all:

Other than RPGs and the occasional RTS, we also made quite a lot of kids games. For instance, we  made online 3D worlds for broadcasters like the BBC (Adventure Rock), VRT (KetnetKick), NRK(Superia) en Lagardére(Gulliland). Probably the most a-typical series we made is Monkey Tales, an ambitious series of educational games.

I think almost all of our games at some point won awards, so we must be doing something right or getting an award has become really easy . My job on all games was either the creative director and/or the technical director.

The Lar & Larian names come from my favorite dog whose name was ‘Lar’. I also used it in the highscore lists of old arcade machines which only allowed you to enter three letters, so I guess it stuck.

My intention on this blog is to bring you regular updates not only about the life and tribulations of a game studio head, but also about how the games industry can be a vampire if you’re not careful. You can rest assured that I’ll also pitch my own games, but that can’t be helped :)

  • Tuco Benedicto

    EDIT: Wrong page

  • michele

    good evening sven, i’d like to thank you for your work this years. I have loved divine divinity (i took years to finish it) and then I played Beyond Divinity (a bit disappointed for the lack of races) and this year i finished the DK saga. I have to tell you what i think about this last chapter: it was full of great ideas, but i think the plot is too easy, there is only one ending ( and every mission has no real conseguence on the world around you) and Rivellon is too small, i would like to come back to Rivertown, or to Verdistis or even to the dwarf city and the dark forest.. anyway I enjoyed playing it and trying all the secrets inside it. I am one of your biggest fan, i m looking forward dragon commander and maybe one day i’d like to join larian studios and to help you in making a new, big, wonderful adventure in the world of Divinity. Best wishes for your work

    Michele

  • paladinjedi

    Hello. Great job with your games, keep it up! Do you accept positive criticism?

    1. I think a good game means more story, less combat. It would be interesting to add an option to skip combat encounters when any combat round starts. That would conclude the player is the winner and would get the random loot automatically added to their inventory. If, for example, the player is either less dexterous with game controls, or real life time pressed, or any other reason…

    2. On a story level – it is subjective to think of which story is better, but is definitely not subjective to consider how much choices and consequences matter, in any story or atmosphere presented, either fantasy, medieval, futuristic etc.

    I would consider choices to belong in 3 categories:

    a) minor choices (they don’t affect the game’s ending/s, nor the path/s to the ending/s); example: character customization, gender, race, class etc, or any completion of a quest with different outcomes which neither affects the game as a whole

    b) medium choices (they don’t affect the ending/s, but affect the path/s; they lead to different paths); example: the faction the player joins, or the race they belong to makes him/her reach the same goal but on a different route

    c) big choices (they are the ones that lead to different endings); example from Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 1: when the player meets the dark side turned Bastilla at the ancient temple and she offers the protagonist the option to join her – the player’s choice radically affects the story, leading to 2 totally different endings

    I think the games that pretend to be great – and really are great – offer the player at least 2 big choices, at least 2 different endings, while mixing the minor and medium ones as best they can.

    3. Another very important aspect of the story: the characters, starting with the main protagonist. Must have list:

    – full customization: gender, body type, class (if available at start; some games made it very nice to choose class in-game later on), looks, armor design (some players are not very fond of armor design from the game, they should have the option to choose a different always available outfit which would replace the actual armor in looks, while keeping the stats) etc.

    – full voice acting

    – pantomime, body language

    – great focus on main character’s personality (directly related to moral choices)

    – good motivation for getting involved in the story and in the overall action

    – strong relation building system: build/lose (some mutually exclusive) alliances, friendships, romances (same gender ones included)

    – captivating dialogues, full of insight, reflection and emotional impact

    I hope you take these into consideration. I wish you all the best!

    • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

      A skip combat encounters button is an interesting concept but I’m a bit ambivalent about it. The problem you would get with that I guess is that you’d stop caring about your equipment and items and so get less character attachment. Character development through item fever remains an important part of the type of RPGs we’re making. You could of course argue that you might make it optional, but that’s no really the same. I remember reacting badly when Nintendo announced their Kind code, first of all because they patented such an obvious thing, but secondly because I’m of the school that thinks carefully dosed frustration is necessary for good gameplay.

      On the other hand, I have a friend who never managed the jumping sections or the last dragon part of Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. I had to drive to his place and do it for him, so in that particular instance I guess a kind code would’ve been a good thing.

      In Divinity II: The Developer’s Cut, you get access to the cheat menu so it’s perfectly possible to play the game and go and instakill all the enemies as well as use the teleport key to skip the puzzles. That’s already pretty close to what you’re asking – have you tried playing it like that and did you consider it fun ?

      • http://www.lar.net/ Swen Vincke

        As to the other two points –

        On choice & consequence – funnily enough we actually tried to be so systemic (i.e. the designers had the obligation to categorize their quests, and ensure a certain number of consequences) about things in Divinity: Original Sin when we started development but tbh, it didn’t work out that well, so we reverted to the tried and true system of figuring out a quest, and then trying to put as much as choice&consequence as we can and see where we end up. So sometimes you have a few consequences, sometimes you have plenty, some of them being short-lived, some of them long-lived. The problem usually isn’t coming up with the consequences, but finding the time to actually implement them (the real problem being the QA of all the cases)

        As to the list of story requests – I agree that all those points are important. I can’t guarantee we’ll implement all of them because there is such a thing as production constraints, but perhaps Santa Claus will give us a big sack of cash so we can put more stuff in ;)

        • paladinjedi

          1. “The problem usually isn’t coming up with the consequences, but finding the time to actually implement them”

          That is the Game Developer’s Challenge! That is exactly where time is best spent, unless you want a cliche linear story which imposes upon the player only one face of reality.

          I think it’s easier to start from the big choices, implement those first, and then gradually go from there with the medium ones. (the minor ones go without question in any respectable rpg, right?:) Just like you were to mod the already made game…

          2. “but perhaps Santa Claus will give us a big sack of cash so we can put more stuff in ;)

          I wish you get the biggest sack. The most important gift is Passion, though. Priceless one…

      • paladinjedi

        1. “The problem you would get with that I guess is that you’d stop caring
        about your equipment and items and so get less character attachment.”

        I agree up to a point. I personally like gearing my character too, though this isn’t the main reason that keeps me continuing a game. However, what if I’d be either:

        – one of those who prefer my hero to be a real (real meaning the classical strong superhero) hero and – as long as I watch the screen – never lose a fight…

        – one of those who is less dexterity and hand-eye coordination gifted…

        – one of those who has a real life that’s popping right when my long combat rounds start…

        – one of those who consider I relate enough with my character through story and dialogue choices…

        Don’t these guys deserve to enjoy the game, too, in their own way? How would that extra button negatively affect affect the others, the hardcore players??

        As for resorting to cheats, hm, some would prefer not to. Maybe out of some last sense of dignity, maybe :)

        Besides, why pressing so many buttons to deal with the console and all, when just one button would heal so many headaches at once?…

        2. “have you tried playing it like that and did you consider it fun ?”

        I only resort to cheats if the story is interesting enough for me to want to go till its end while the fights are too difficult and senseless. Even then, I still won’t consider such a game a great one (maybe a great book or movie, but not a game – games mean Interaction), since it forced me to cheat, diminishing somehow the value of my main character’s strength and aura, know what I mean?…

  • Tornum

    Hello,

    christmas is done and now the time has come to make some comments about youre previous and following games.

    First thing to say is, i bought the german divinity anthology and was absolutely happy with this box.

    Not only that it was relatively cheap (just in terms of price^^), you put a lot of work and love in this box. best part of it was the book. it was so special because it gave a deep insight into your company history and it is satisfying when gamecompanys give theire fans the opportunity to take a look insight theire hisystory and theire development.

    I think making the anthology was a very good decision.

    To youre games: I played them all :) And now i play them again, because they have a unique atmosphere cant even explain it, because it is just something that let yourself dive into youre games.

    Example: I now play beyond divinity, i am in act 3 and there was a bug, which didnt let me save the whole time in the temple complex. So i tried everything (technical), started it many times but no sulution appeared. But then i played it without saving, did it at last and was very happy. So BD not only survived my anger (yes it still is alive and not cut into pieces^^), i play it too, even because of this bug (wrong grammar but you get the point he?;). So thats a point for the atmosphere in this game.

    I think, after reading youre developers diary, you are on a good way. Divine divinity was brilliant, even if the last part of the game was so empty. The gamesystem (you called it Gameplay Improvement Quests) was a very good decision. That made the whole game so much more alive and this is a point you have to keep alive.

    Many RPG games lead you trough a scripted story, provide you with outstanding graphics and a nice battle system. But i play games since nearly 20 years and the important part is the possibillity to get into the game, to get into the story to become part of it. Divine Divinity made it excellent, BD made it good too and even divinity 2 (even if it was a little bit more mainstream then the rest) had this Quality.

    Now just make the perfect game with divinity original sin, i will buy it anyway but give youre best, you can do it :)

    And one final thing: Keep Kirill Pocrovsky, he is a real gem and his music is absolutely perfect! At any costs, keep him :)

    So i wish a happy new year and keep up the good work!

    Greetings from germany

  • JeanBhon

    hi !

    i support Divinity : original sins on kick starter… but i guest one thing : will you add translation in the game ? i love that kind of game (yay, LAN multiplayer ! ) but i really hope you will add french subtitles…

    will you ? :=)

  • Remco

    Hi Swen!

    Ive been following the Kickstarter campaign and just saw the lastest update movie, the one that described your favourite games. I smiled a bit at the part where you told that after a day of playing you where trying to find hidden buttons outside.
    Because the same thing had happened to me with Divine divinity, i was playing it in 2002 when i was 14 years old for 12 hours straight, and when i got outside i was still in the game. The atmosphere it had is unmatched for me in RPG’s i think Divine Divinity means to me what ultima 7 means to you. I always wished to make a 2d rpg like it since then.

    Im currently working at an indie FPS called Wrack. But who knows what the future might bring :)
    I wish you guys at larian all the best and thanks for the great games and inspiration you gave me

  • Voinescu Marius

    My dear Swen Vincke “in chase you missed my message on kickstarter”, I wanted to take but a few brief moments to deliver to you these, my humble words of praise and appreciation to you and all your team. To say that you have created something special is a great underestimate, only a few moments ago I finished reading the brief lore of the land of Rivellon, and after refreshing my fond memories of this land of myth and legend, destiny and possibility, I found my self in that place where dreams become reality and each small man can be a hero, and the light of truth never dims. For all of this, and for the unreal honor to once again put on the armor of the Black Dragon, pick up that Sword of Lies and give evil a taste of her own medicine, I can stop not even one moment from saying THANK YOU!
    My only regret is I may never have the privilege of meeting you face to face, or even to congratulate your achievement with my own voice. But per chance if you find the time to read these, my words you will bring upon a joyful smile, maybe even be flattered, if that will be so then I to will be quite happy. From me your great fan the young knight Marius Voinescu to you Swen, with only the best wishes.

  • Voinescu Marius

    My dear Swen Vincke,”In case you missed my kickstarter mesage” I wanted to take but a few brief moments to deliver to you these, my humble words of praise and appreciation to you and all your team. To say that you have created something special is a great underestimate, only a few moments ago I finished reading the brief lore of the land of Rivellon, and after refreshing my fond memories of this land of myth and legend, destiny and possibility, I found my self in that place where dreams become reality and each small man can be a hero, and the light of truth never dims. For all of this, and for the unreal honor to once again put on the armor of the Black Dragon, pick up that Sword of Lies and give evil a taste of her own medicine, I can stop not even one moment from saying THANK YOU!
    My only regret is I may never have the privilege of meeting you face to face, or even to congratulate your achievement with my own voice. But per chance if you find the time to read these, my words you will bring upon a joyful smile, maybe even be flattered, if that will be so then I to will be quite happy. From me your great fan the young knight Marius Voinescu to you Swen, with only the best wishes.

    Ps: If your familiar with the gothic series from Pirahna Bites, il recreate it with your editor :D

  • Endre

    Hi Swen, I just read your new notice and was a bit puzzled, because the situation reminds me of the decisions in Dragon commander:
    I didn’t have many time to play with it yet (because I work full time and study), but I got a clear idea about the decisions (as lease in the beginning) of the game. At the end it doesn’t matter, what you do, you always get back the negative feedback, not the positive. This is it! The other thing is that you never know 100% sure if your decision is good, just after some time. Developing and releasing a game is not simple, so it is impossible that all your decisions are the best.

  • Андрей

    Hello, Swen.

    I’m a big fun of your games, and creator of fun site about DD http://divine-divinity.ru/

    I want to create Tower Defense simple game for Android based on DD universe and using sprites from original game.

    Can i do it? Or what should i do to make it? )

  • Adrian Pedersen

    Dear Swen.
    Happy Yuletide from Norway. Congratulations, you and your team deserve every award you get. I’ve played CRPGs since Eye of The Beholder, and D:OS will probably be remembered as one of the classics 20 years from now. I find your integrity and devotion to your players astonishing, but that is of course why your game has set a standard that all future efforts in the genre will have to live up to. I’m proud to have Kickstarted it, and proud to say that when it came out I had no sense of an unfinished game, like I’ve sadly had with so many others over the last 10 years. The fact that you keep on tweaking it is amazing, when so many devs just dump a game out there and move on.

    Keep on being excellent, and take a much-deserved holiday break. You’ve earned it.

  • Tobias Brennvik

    Looking forward to try this game, me and my buddy just bought it because of your December video where it was made clear all you had to do to finish the Linux version was compiling, when do you think the game will finish compiling?

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  • JohnBruggCross

    Can you tell me how to get Adventure Rock working again?
    I want to play it locally since the BBC servers shut down. :(
    I miss this childhood game. :’(

  • Tetsu Fierro

    Dear Mr. Vincke. I send you a fanmail not knowing where to send it at best. Until I realised I could maybe ask you here how to contact you with fanmail. I don’t know when or if you will read this comment or my already send fanmail. I just wanted to give it a try. How to contact you at best (except twitter or facebook)?