One week to go!

Man, time goes fast! It seems like yesterday that I packed my suitcase to go on a press-tour to prep our Divinity: Original Sin Kickstarter campaign. I can’t believe it’s almost over.

This morning David, Divinity: Original Sin’s most excellent producer, told me that the first thing he did when waking up was checking the Kickstarter counter. He followed up with an “of course, that’s not really the first thing…”,  but then saw that I didn’t buy it and sheepishly admitted, “yeah, ok, it’s the first thing I did.”

I frowned at him, giving him my “what kind of life do you have”-look, but then grinned, in an equally sheepish manner and admitted ”yeah, me too…”

For the last three weeks, life has been – “what are they writing, what update is needed, how can we be covered there, can we get this translated, somebody call that guy, how can we get the counter up, can we do this, are we really sure we can do this, ok, let’s do it, what is the Engagor thing telling us, what does the Codex think, what does the Watch think…” and so forth.

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Spread too thin at 444444$

Yesterday was a good day. Our Kickstarter campaign went through the roof and as I write this, we’re at 441K whereas our goal was 400K. With 15 days left to go, the future looks bright for Divinity:Original Sin! I have so much to say but so little time that this will probably be my smallest post ever, but I for sure gathered enough material to fill quite a lot of blogposts in the future. So much stuff learnt.

This image is now part of Larian's history. There was much rejoicing in the office and too much champagne!

Our main problem now – time.

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Kickstarter campaign – day 7 – 6666 backers – about learning things

One week – 6666 backers on our Kickstarter –  a nice number to post another update on.
I am learning so much about our audience by seeing the comments in different channels. The reactions posted are a veritable goldmine of info on who we’re making this for (well at least, the vocal part) and I think it’s safe to say that the ideas we picked up from those posts are already good for quite a few improvements to Divinity:Original Sin. I’m happy with several of the articles that were posted today, especially the ones we didn’t ask for like the one from Eurogamer or this little gem of an interview (in German). Makes all the PR effort feel like it was worth it.
I’m also starting to get the feeling that our entire Kickstarter campaign is going to be good for sales of the final game too as I see awareness is building. That’s bound to help in the end. I learnt a lot about what media matters for these type of things as well as who to avoid in the future. Some people and Larian will never click, fact of life. (Don’t worry Roguey, I didn’t give up on you yet, even if I think the odds are not in my favour)
It’s also been a good test of how our PR/Marketing partnerships in the different territories work. Because we have several approaches for different territories we can make direct comparisons between what works and what doesn’t. Interesting stuff. If I were to do it all again, I’d definitely change my approach – I’ll write about that in a later update when I have more time and once I saw the entire roll-out. But there’s no denying that in making mistakes we learn, and sometimes it’s better to make the mistakes so you can avoid bigger disasters in the future.
I’m also learning stuff about my team. For instance, I have two guys, my lead animator and lead writer, who’ve been camping in London for the last four weeks, recording the voices of AAA actors for Dragon Commander(they call them AAA probably because they can charge us more that way, but admittedly, the actors are good). During the day they direct the actors, record their voices and capture their facial expressions, at night they spend long hours writing additional texts and reviewing existing texts. That’s dedication mixed with talent right there, of a level rarely seen. And they’ve been doing that for a month!
I’m feeling very proud about what they’re doing for the moment, and I can only imagine what the result of their work is going to be. I’m expecting it to be really good because the little I’ve seen/read/heard really is top notch. On top of that, back home, some artists have taken it upon themselves to improve the environments in which all that acting is going to take place. It’s going to be stunning. And in such dedication I recognize people who care about what they’re making. It’s important to care. I don’t like people who don’t care.
Anyway, you’ll see the output of all that hard work soon enough, but right now, I’m going to head back to my Kickstarter campaign. Got to answer some messages, check the facebook pages, perhaps try again to figure out how twitter really works and check out if Torment will hit its 4M€. Lots to learn from Brian Fargo. He even got Roguey to increase his/her pledge. He might even get 66666 backers. Really well done.
Here are the stats btw:

There's a trend there but it's still a bit shaky

Does anybody see IGN?

 

Kickstarter campaign – day 5

Update – stats from when we reached 2/3rds of our funding goal( 266K):

I took this after being on IGN for 9 hours - doesn't look like it was worth the effort for our campaign

Original post

This going to be a very short post because I need some sleep, but I just wanted to mention how motivating it is to see all these shows of support and how helpful all our fans and backers have been. I’m exhausted but reaching 63% of our funding goal (252K at present) in 5 days is just amazing and it’s very easy to find energy amidst so much support.  And the feedback we’ve received is worth gold – that alone is a reason to do a campaign like this – now I understand what Brian Fargo & the guys at Obsidian were shouting about all the time. It’s one thing to be reading about it, it’s a completely different thing to be in the middle of it. Anyway, that’s it – I actually just wanted to share a few stats from our campaign:

The average pledge amount so far is $44.23 (really high imho so we have generous backers). We’ve had 30118 video views and of those 17,78% finished the video, both numbers low imho so we need to do something there. We are now at a conversion rate of 18,9% so that’s dropped but it’s still pretty high.

Kickstarter itself turns out to be pretty important as well as RPS, the Watch & the Codex.

Tomorrow we’re going to launch an update that is going to change our approach a little bit, focussing less on the features of what we’re doing and telling more of the story & world that we’ve been creating. We’ll also modify our rewards as much as we can & introduce a few new things. And, we’ll emphasise single player a bit more – it’s true that we didn’t do that enough whereas it’s actually the most important bit.

And with a bit of luck, there’s also be Dragon Commander news, because obviously, that team hasn’t been sitting idle!

 

 

 

Kickstarter campaign – 3 days in

Almost 3 days into our Kickstarter and we’re at 48% of our goal. For a funding round, that’s pretty good. If we’d make 60K/day every day our studio would be making the most fantastic RPGs you can imagine 😉

But to be fair, everybody, myself included, had hoped that it would’ve gone faster and I’m getting some flak for the timing of the campaign, and how with better messaging/positioning/timing this thing could’ve been flying through the roof. I don’t know, I guess it’s always easier to sail the boat when you’re actually on land (or whatever the saying is), but it’s still early days and I’m a born optimist.

Personally, I think we can still have a campaign that can go way beyond our funding goal, though admittedly, we will need to fix a few obvious things (well, they’re obvious now 😉 ) like the rewards, part of the story we tell (less features, more who and why), and what happens if we fail in this Kickstarter.  Thank you to DarkUnderlord,Robcat and the rest of the gang for helping us get these insights btw.

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Larian on Kickstarter–An improvised start

Everbody’s asking me – are you mad ?

Launching your Kickstarter campaign in the middle of Torment’s campaign ?  (In case you didn’t know yet, Larian launched a Kickstarter campaign for Divinity: Original Sin today)

Well…

And you are doing this without any notable PR ? Are you bananas ?

Well…

And you’re doing this during the week of GDC and PAX ?

Well…

it’s a long story…

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Three lessons from Larian’s winter 2013 preview tour

I’m writing this on day 15 of our mad PR tour. Flying back from Los Angeles to Brussels to spend the weekend with my family. Then, on monday we’re off to Paris where  27 journalists await us at a press event organized by Focus, our local partner. In the end, we’re aiming to show Divinity: Dragon Commander and Divinity: Original Sin to almost 100 media spread over Europe and the US, and by the time we’ll finish this tour, we’ll have been presenting for over 5 weeks.

That’s quite long and by now I’m sick of seeing hotel rooms, unpacking and repacking PC’s at airport security checks and trying to organize TV screens that do the games justice. I’ll be quit happy when it’s over. My personal highlight on this tour was snatching one hour of free time in Santa Monica so I could go for a run on the beach. Other than that, it’s been one big rush and I’m starting to collect quite a lot of bad karma in the email department because I simply gave up answering. I have some vague hope that I’ll drink a special potion over the weekend and manage to answer all those urgent requests, but past experience tells me that’s not going to happen so I’ll need to figure out something different.

Dragon Commander presentation in San Francisco - there's quite a lot of stuff that needs to be organised for doing these types of things, like getting a place to show the games in the first place

What complicated this tour more than others was that we wanted to show the games in multiplayer, with the journalists joining in. This meant that wherever we went, we needed to ensure there were sufficient screens in place, that we could set up a network, that we had sufficient room and that we had sufficient people to explain the game in addition to the usual stuff. It’s a small miracle that that all worked out, but it did which does say something about the people involved in organising this i.e. they’re good at what they do 😉

Obviously we’ve constantly been googling for our stuff and as articles started trickling through (Rpgwatch,onrpgco-optimiusgamesradarrock paper shotgun or strategy informer), there were these moments of elation when we saw something positive being said about our creations and likewise, there were moments of frustration when criticism surfaced. Even after all these years, I still haven’t managed to reach the state where I can say that I’m indifferent to what’s written about my games and seeing the reactions of my co-demo-tour participants, they clearly care too. That’s a good thing btw in my book..

I’m told by our PR agency that the coverage we’re managing to put together is impressive for an independent studio, and come to think of it, I don’t think any of the previous Divinities actually ever had so many previews in the works, despite the publisher backing. At least on that front our little self-publishing outfit is scoring well, even if we have had our problems.

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Self-Censorship

Day 9 of press tour for Dragon Commander. Typing this up from a small hotel room somewhere in Hamburg. Getting increasingly tired but not managing to sleep as there is too much noise from the cars driving by.

We released the trailer yesterday as well as the revamped website. The reactions so far seem to be positive though it’s clear that a lot of people need to try to the game before they’ll fully understand exactly what it is that we’v made.  Hope the output of the tour is going to help with that.

Didn’t see any articles pop up yet, but I guess they’ll appear shortly. Nervous about those, as they are all based on hand-on play. It looks like most people playing it are having a blast and we even had several guys actually rearranging their schedule to be able to play the game more. Never had that happen to one of our games before.

Still, it wouldn’t be the first time that an apparently good reception at a press event somehow transforms itself in a smiting once you see the article. There’s still a bucketload of bugs and missing UI elements and missing effects and missing etceteras, and I’m not sure if they can all see past that. We’ll see.

One thing that worries me a bit in particular is the discussion I’ve had with several journalists about the the political and satirical topics in the game. They were all pretty interested in that part of the game and since they are journalists after all, I can see how that’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with.

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Note to self about deadlines

Woke up real early today (baby boy), like 4:00 am. Day two of what I now refer to as the hands-on-PR-tour.

First contact with the enemy yesterday after a little warm-up exercise at a Fragomatic  during the weekend.  Surprisingly or rather, reassuringly, the feedback we received from a journalist yesterday corresponded exactly with the feedback we gathered at the LAN party …

You expect me to say it was good.

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The End Game (part 1)

About 3 meters from me, staring at two screens filled with funky windows full of debug data, one of my two favorite producers is violating at least three laws. I reflect on this talent that allows him to stitch together sexist, discriminatory and racist phrases while head-banging a keyboard and wonder which particular stimuli in his upbringing, environment or genetic constitution lie at the origin of such a prosaic ability.

Does this look like there's still a lot of work left ? Yes, we're ready to finish Dragon Commander - finally 🙂

In the end I decide it’s probably not the right moment to tell him that it could be that the plan changed, and that the presentations we’re preparing will be hands-on (i.e. the journalists get to play). My empathic thinking tells me that he first needs to assimilate his itinerary for the coming weeks, which he also just learnt about (for the simple reason that I just learnt about it myself, as did the publications we’ll be visiting ;)).

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