A couple of days ago, an extensive article appeared on buffed.de (a German RPG magazine & website) about Divinity: Original Sin. It was a pretty cool article for us because we showed the game for hours to the journalist and despite all the bugs that were apparent, he considered the presentation to be sufficiently convincing to write “shut up and take my money” in his conclusion.
It’s always cool to get quotes that we can rip totally out of context 🙂
At the same time, Jean-Marie Prival, a French independent journalist who visited Larian for jeuxvideo.com, wrote on his newly launched blog about his press trip to our offices and the words he used in his entry are actually quite flattering for Larian, something we’re obviously grateful for too.
But If both these things made me smile as I drove home, the thing that really made my weekend was getting the message that we were voted runner up for most anticipated RPG of 2013 at RPGWatch, receiving 22% of the votes. Major whistling because this is a site I visit daily to keep up to date on the antics of our fellow RPG developers. Being in their lists makes me feel pretty good, and tbh, even a bit smug because I had been dealing with quite some naysayers in the past about this game.
But because I learnt the hard way that “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” I figured over the weekend that it was important to find a counterbalance and therefore decided to visit another site this morning…(insert doomy music)
Could this be the secret meeting where Larian decided to go to Kickstarter… (Yes, the interface is stub and work in progress for those who’ve been mailing us about this 🙂 )
Chances are that I will not be seeing things so clear anymore during our Christmas party this friday, so I decided to post my New Year’s letter here ahead of time. Remembering what happened the previous years, I’m sure you’ll understand 😉
You know, one thing I love (and occasionally hate) about my job is that I never know what the day is going to bring me. On most days I come to the office with a vague idea of what I need to do, and typically by the time I reach my desk, my todo list has already changed. While this occasionally leads to a bit of chaos, I have to admit that I wouldn’t want it any other way, because all these little surprises combined together keep me sharp and make my life even more interesting.
I mention this because while reflecting upon yet another year of Larian in action, I discovered a few differences between what I expected at the end of 2011 and what actually happened in 2012. From this it could be derived that my expectations for next year are probably going to be wrong again, but you will notice that this time, I’ve tried to keep them fairly realistic 😉
We’re entering our last six months of development on Dragon Commander, meaning that things are getting serious now. Pretty soon we’ll have to prove that our adventures and experiments in the wonderful land of independence and self-publishing were fruitful, and show that we’re capable of launching a game worldwide on our own, both digitally and via retail and preferably with a certain degree of success.
This is an example of the kind of stuff we've been doing trying to boost our reach on Facebook. It has some impact, but we have no idea if we're actually doing the right thing.
That success is far from certain, and there are plenty of cracks in the floor that we’ll need to hop over to break even on this game. This post is about a few very specific issues we’re dealing with, and I wanted to check if there’s anybody here reading this blog who has a couple of bright ideas that might help us forward. Your help will be most appreciated!
Dialogs have always been an important thing in Larian games.
Because text is just text, ever since Divine Divinity we’ve always been trying to bring life to our in-game conversations. I think that so far we managed to do a decent job, but it’s fair to say that there have been some slip-ups. The most memorable of these was of course the voice of the Death Knight in Beyond Divinity. That one was judged to be so bad by our forum community (who are a very vocal bunch) that we had to do a tactical retreat and rerecord the entire thing.
In a previous entry on the joys of making the Divinity Anthology, I mentioned that I was fairly stressed about some re-design work, but to be fair, that was a bit of a euphemism. What I should’ve written was that I was experiencing sheer terror at the thought that we’d made some incredibly big design mistakes with Divinity: Dragon Commander and that there was no way we could still correct them in time.
It became so bad it kept me awake at night (this game is important for Larian), and together with a whole bunch of other shit going on simultaneously, that meant I started to look like the zombie in the boxshot of Divinity II: Flames Of Vengeance.
To understand the problem we were dealing with, I first need to explain a bit about the architecture of Divinity: Dragon Commander.
Dragon Commander: wreaking havoc in the skies. But that is not all…
Where I grew up, the concept of Halloween festivities was completely alien. We had things like All Saints and All Souls days, but those were very serious affairs. That’s clearly changed now, and having 4 kids of which at least 3 remind me regularly that it’s Halloween ensures that I cannot escape the party, but to be honest, I still haven’t figured out why people say Happy Halloween. I tried wikipedia, but tbh, that didn’t really educate me on why it’s a party.
Originally intended as an ingredient in witches brew, pumpkins were recently upgraded to helmets in Divinity: Original Sin, provided you have the right item combination...
I do like the pumpkin thing however – so much that we did this with them in Divinity: Original Sin (edit: for some reason video links aren’t working in WordPress, so I put a link to facebook for the time being) – and now we’re looking for some inspiration as to what special powers this particular item combination will give you. Anybody who comes up with an idea that gets implemented, gets a Larian pumpkin !!!
How can a good thing be a bad thing? And how can a bad thing be a good thing ?
This game should be releasing any moment now on www.gog.com/divinity, and yes it is LMK!
Those are two questions that have been stressing me for the last few days, and if you read my last entry, you already know that I wasn’t exactly in a state of zen to begin with. So what happened this time?
Well, let me start with the easy part, and to be fair, also the part that occupied me the least because it turned out to be a good thing.
I got an email today from a very good creative producer I’ve known for years, commenting on the price point of the Divinity Anthology which we released today.
.”..30 bucks for either digital or boxed?! Are you fucking NUTS? I mean, you/Divinity should receive presents on its birthday, it shouldn’t give away any… I gotta ask what your margin is – and you surely don’t have to answer that. ;)”
The man has a point. But really, it’s been a crazy month, and you’re not going to believe the business logic we’ve been applying… While I don’t know what the end of this story is yet , I can tell you how we got to where we are today and what our hopes and aspirations are. Whether or not these will prove to be vain, we’re about to figure out…
[In which I muse about Steam Greenlight & a game that’s been in development for 10 years ]
A few days ago I received a mail from the friendly bunch behind the recently released Inquisitor, an old school RPG with a lot of heart & depth, but dated visuals & usability. I promised them that I was going to have a look at it, and if I liked it, do what little I can to help them spread the word about their Steam Greenlight campaign. For those who live on a different planet, Steam Greenlight is Valve’s recently released platform where users can vote if a game is worthy of being sold on Steam.
Does it look old school ? Yes it looks old school. Do I like old school ? Yes I like old school.
Other than Inquisitor looking like a neat RPG, there’s two interesting things that picqued my interest about this and got me writing: Inquisitor has been in development for more than 10 years , and it’s one of the first games in its genre to compete in the newly installed survival of the fittest competitition going on the world’s biggest digital platform for PC games.
[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.