I saw the new (and better) Skyrim at Gamescom 2012

[In which I discuss the development dangers of cities in RPGS and reflect on Gamescom 2012]

I started writing this entry as I was booting up for the last day of Gamescom 2012. This edition is one I’ll remember for the thievery going on at our booth and the quality time I spent in a hospital where I learnt that that bacteria don’t care about you being on a deadline (that’s what resulted in the impressively bandaged finger in the pictures of me @ Gamescom)

For the rest, I had a big a deja vu feeling.

This entry is not about Gamescom 2012 though I couldn't resist the temptation to mention that we got some awards

If somebody would’ve told me that I was at E3 instead of Gamescom, I would’ve believed them. In one sentence, my life at this show boiled down to spending almost all of my time at the Larian booth, not seeing anything from the show, drinking too much in the evenings and sleeping so little I felt as if my IQ dropped below zero.

I’m not going to complain though, because we won best RPG of the show with Divinity: Original Sin on JeuxVideo.com and were nominated best strategy game with Divinity Dragon Commander by Destructoid. For a small studio like us, that’s tangible success. That said, I don’t want to talk about trade show life again  because I’ve done that already here and instead wanted to share some afterthoughts on a conversation I had at the show with a fellow RPG developer regarding making Skyrim like RPGs.

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Dragon Commander at E3

[In which I discuss that I’m happy about how the press is reacting to the showing of Dragon Commander at E3]

As promised, here’s an update about our adventures at E3.

Today I’ll focus on Divinity – Dragon Commander & tomorrow I’ll hopefully get a chance to do Divinity – Original Sin. After that I’ll shut up about our games for a bit and talk about other games industry stuff again, because pretty soon you’ll start thinking that this blog is only here to promote our new games (which of course it is, but it’s supposed to be done in a sneaky way 😉 )

Anyway, if you don’t feel like reading, just watch this.

But if you want some context, read on!

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The side journalists never see

[In which I discuss that preparing to present a game can be a very tough affair ]

Three sicks guys sitting in front of a TV screen in the middle of the night – one has a splitting headache, the other a bad case of chinese food poisoning and the third, being myself, has a high fever.

What are we doing ? Preparing for a horde of journalists invading our offices to check out our new games.

It’s not going well – Dragon Commander has been crashing randomly throughout the rehearsal presentations, and one of main features of project E game doesn’t seem to be doing what it should be doing.

I'm going to fire the cleaning crew - really, I am. that's what this blog entry is about 🙂

We’ve been ambitious in what we wanted to put in this demonstration, an now we’re paying the price.

One of the youngsters in the office asks me – are we going to make it? I smile reassuringly, and treat him to one of my warstories from past PR events. He walks away, slightly confused. Not sure I was that inspirational.

Speakers scream – “Project E – Yet another succesful build”.  We look up, hopefully, maybe this will be the one that miraculously fixes the problems.

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The caveman who discovered fire

[In which I discuss my doubts about going to E3]

I’m a caveman when it comes to publishing.

Today I learnt why I shouldn’t blush when spending ten of thousands of US$ when it comes to E3.

What happened was that I was checking our budget, and went slightly white at the expenses we were making for the announcement of project E.  Bluntly put, I was looking at numbers that made me think the company was hemorrhaging cash in an uncontrolled manner.

What frightened me the most was probably the sheer amount of transactions going on, and what they added up to.

Yep, it' that's time of the year again - Larian will show project E at E3 and it turns out setting up a booth there is an interesting financial adventure

You see, when you’re a developer, and you spend 10000KUS$ on something, you usually know what you pay for. More than likely when you make an expense, you debate if there is any way of doing it cheaper, and think sufficiently long and hard about it.

Not so much in the publishing world. In addition to your regular expenses, there’s a veritable shitload of little expenses that are made ad hoc, and when you add them up, they make for scary numbers. Especially if you didn’t plan for them, but find yourself confronted with them out of necessity.

It’s something I need to get used to it, or I’ll have serious cardiovascular problems by the time these games come out.

Anyway, here’s the story.

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Cost of dialogs – part 2 (With Video !!!)

In December, I wrote an entry here about the cost of dialogues in games, promising that I was going to write a follow up once we figured out how exactly we were going to tackle this in Dragon Commander.

The problem we needed a solution for was that because Dragon Commander features tons of choices & consequences, it also features a veritable avalanche of dialogue that somehow needs to be presented to our players.

In our dream scenario, all of this dialogue is fully animated and voiced, but because we’re dealing with several hours of dialogue in multiple languages, the cost of doing this is quite high and it’d actually be insane to animate it all.

So after long discussions and deliberations, we decided to do the insane thing.

Was this really such a wise idea?

Here’s a video of something that transpired in the Larian offices a month ago. I suggest you have a look at it and then read on…

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Adios 2011, Bonjour 2012

Every year around this time we get an onslaught of X-mas cards in our mailbox, and realize that it’d be impolite not to return fire. Artists duck as I search for a volunteer and lead artists come tell me exactly how their schedule will be affected if I dare draft someone for  X-mas card duty,  yet each year I manage to find a new victim. This year, surprisingly, it was a Larian veteran who managed to get the job – you would think he’d know all the evasive maneuvers by now – but somehow he got cornered and was offered two options – do it or do it. Being a veteran, he did it quite fast however, and so well that I think he’ll be allowed a second term next year 😉

This is going to be my last post for the year as I’m off for a holiday together with my family, but before going, here’s a bit of musings about how 2011 treated my studio & me.

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The cost of dialogue in games

I’m sitting with an egg. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, but it’s a popular Flemish expression for ‘something’s bothering me’. We say – “ik zet met een ei”

The egg of it is that we’ve been making some fuzz about all the choices and consequences in Dragon Commander.  Right now however, all these choices & consequences only exist as text. And now we need to find a cost-effective way of translating all that text into animated dialogue.

Obviously, we also want whatever dialogue animation we put in the game to be as good as possible, so everybody’s saying – have you seen LA Noire ? And I say, yeah I’ve seen it.

Then I think of Divinity II -the Ego Draconis part, remembering that the voice recordings, lip-synchronization and associated dialogue animations required an intense piece of work, so I ask Benoit, the producer who was responsible for that , exactly how much voice did we have ?

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Politics and games – worth the risk?

 

For quite some time, the team @ Larian has been showing remarkable constraint in the content they put in our games. Years of working with external producers telling them that you can’t say this, you can’t do that, be careful no to offend this group etc… have conditioned them to be … nice. Which is strange, as that’s actually quite counterintuitive for them 🙂

Now don’t get me wrong, they are a nice bunch, but occasionally you will hear comments that are inflammatory enough to ignite the fires of indignation in a  broad part of society. The funny thing is that it’s just their sense of humor, and they don’t mean anything bad by it, but as we’ve learnt over the course of the years, humor is very relative and you need to be careful if you’re releasing your games worldwide. At least, that’s the common doctrine.

So now we’re making Dragon Commander, and one of the things we’re trying to do with that  game is putting recognizable real world situations in a fantasy context. The game contains a RPG part that’s all about choice and consequence, and the idea is that you have to decide as a ruler how you want to organize the societies in the lands you’ve captured. That means you need to make political decisions, so we figured it’d be cool if we filled the game with situations that are very similar to the things we read in our newspapers every day.

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My friday

People sometimes ask me what I do on a day – well, here’s a snapshot. I can guarantee you that if I’ll do the same on monday, it’ll be very different which is what I love about my job.

Today was very educational, literally – this morning started with our minister of innovation Ingrid Lieten announcing the G@S project to the press which stands for Gaming At School. At the same time, all parties active in the project (for which I’m acting as a project lead) were having the kick off meeting. The aim of G@S is to democratize educational games – what that means in practice you’ll see when G@S is finished but we have ambitious goals – after all, a couple of million US$ are being pumped into the project, so it might as well be ambitious.

There was an awkward moment during the G@S meeting were I burst out laughing when one of the project partners inadvertently managed to mix the words “I work on Gas” and “I work for a certain mr Balloon” in the same conversation, very seriously and completely unaware of the effect it was going to have on me. I couldn’t stop laughing and I hope I didn’t offend both him and mister Balloon. Just writing it makes me smile, and I know it’s bad of me. Mr Balloon must be sick and tired of all the jokes around his name, but in my defense, I’m a game developer, so it doesn’t take a lot to get my imagination going.

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