Swen’s 2013 New Year’s letter

Dear Team,

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 😉

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The good, the bad and the unexpected

Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

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.

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Hatching the Anthology

The Divinity Anthology in all its glory!

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…

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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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Seeking the Golden Path

[In which I wonder what strategy Larian should follow when the next generation of gaming platforms arrives]

Something is bothering me.

Yesterday I received a request for doing an interview, the subject being “Why are you still active when there is such competition as Watch Dogs or Farcry 3

Now ordinarily, I’d shrug such suggestiveness off as yet another misplaced opinion from somebody uninformed trying to be interesting, but since this was the third time I received a question of this type, it actually got me thinking.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible that I’m not actually dealing with a trend – in each of those three cases it might have been the same journalist asking me the same question in a different flavor. I don’t know, my name/face memory really is that bad. But even if it would be the same guy, my inability to immediately refute his statement and give him 10 reasons why he’d better go and study the lifecycle of leishmania, instead of bothering me with such stupidities, well, that inability disturbs me.

Thinking about the future of Larian always brings out the serious in me

You see, I should’ve had an answer ready right away. That I hadn’t, meant I hadn’t thought the matter through sufficiently, and I think I should have. It’s part of my job after all, doing all this vision and strategy thing. To make matters worse, not so long ago  I was making the exact same type of comments  to other developers who weren’t adapting to the new state of the art, warning them that they were heading for the graveyard.

Since I was right about several of these developers, it therefore followed that I’d better start worrying when a few guys (or one guy, we’ll never know) state(s) that Larian looks like one of those archers in a time of intercontinental ballistic warfare in a game of Civilization

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Should independent developers go to E3 ?

[In which I discuss that independent developers of a certain size need to be at E3, especially nowadays]

As promised, now that the dust has settled, it’s time to find out if our recent little outing to E3 was worth the effort. Specifically, is it something that I’d recommend to other developers like us ? The short of it is a definite yes, but there’s quite a few caveats that you need to be aware of.

Larian at E3 - proof that "no sweat, no glory" has its merits - it was hard work but it gave us good results

Traditionally, E3 is an industry-only show and its raison d’être is showing off upcoming games to retailers. The general idea is that you get them excited enough to place large day 1 orders and thus ensure a succesful launch.  To do that, you need to convince them that yours is a big game, and demonstrating some muscle is believed to be a tried-and-true method of achieving just that. Hence the extravagant booths with occasionally outrageous budgets.

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