Larian Studios - All News
Larian Studios - Swen Vincke to receive first Belgian Lifetime Achievement Award
Swen Vincke to receive first Belgian Lifetime Achievement Award
Even though there’s still over a month to go before the Belgian Game Awards 2020 take place as part of 1UP 2020, we’re already happy to announce that Swen Vincke will receive the very first Belgian Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony. The award is a celebration of the career and achievements of a game developer who has made an everlasting impact on the #BelgianGamesIndustry, and this man fits the bill perfectly.
As the only soul crazy enough to start a game studio in Belgium during the mid nineties, the sole founder of Larian Studios is effectively the founding father of the #BelgianGamesIndustry. And while he currently runs an internationally renowned studio with 200 employees spread out over three continents, and is creating the sequel to one of the most treasured RPG franchises ever, his road to fame and fortune wasn’t without hardships.
Inspired by the freedom of Richard Garriott’s Ultima series, Larian Studios was founded to create world class role-playing games, yet no publisher believed this new kid on the block would be able to pull that off. While this contributed to the demise of their first RPG project LMK, they struck back with the action RPG’s Divine Divinity (2002) and Beyond Divinity (2004).
Unfortunately, publisher trouble would become a constant in Larian’s history. Divinity II, which had great design ideas like mind reading and the ability to roam the world as a dragon, was pushed out of the door massively undercooked, and got a very poor reception, almost driving the studio out of business. It wasn’t until Vincke unshackled himself from publisher control and turned to crowdfunding, self-publishing, and the community that Larian’s wildest design ideas could blossom into world class RPG’s.
He also pushed his company to the brink of extinction in the process. Going all-in on the development of Divinity: Original Sin was a risky move, but one that ultimately set up the studio for international success and expansion. Upon release, follow-up Divinity: Original Sin 2 was named one of the best RPG’s of all time, an accolade that surely helped Vincke in his quest to obtain the keys to the legendary city of Baldur’s Gate.
Larian Studios - Swen Vincke Interview
An interview with Swen Vincke from November talks about the Malaysian studio and Baldur's Gate 3.
Larian Games, the studio behind RPG classic Baldur's Gate, is opening their doors to Malaysia! We had the chance to speak to CEO Swen Vincke about starting a studio here, working on Baldur's Gate III, and his experience from over 20 years in the gaming industry.
Follow us for more content like this on our...
Larian Studios - New Malaysian Studio & BG3 Complexity
IGN interviewed Larian Studios about its new Malaysian Studio and asked about Baldur's Gate 3.
Have you asked the previous developers BioWare and Interplay about making Baldur's Gate 3?
Swen: Well, the team who made previous Baldur's Gate games have spread around but we talked to a whole lot of them. We chatted with them about how to do it. We also talked to the people of Wizards of the Coast obviously since they're the owner of Dungeons & Dragons. So we came up with something that I think it's good. We'll see.
I'm fascinated by how you're able to translate tabletop gameplay to video games. Tabletop games are quite complex already. Will Baldur's Gate 3 has the gameplay mechanics similar to Divinity: Original Sin?
Swen: No, it's not the same as Divinity: Original Sin. It's very different at its core. For me, the biggest difference is probably the class-based gameplay. The similarity, however, is that both Divinity: Original Sin and Baldur's Gate 3 will try to give you a lot of player agency. You decide to do something. The Dungeon Master thinks and says, "Sure, roll D20". They just check and we'll see if it goes or not. That's the fun of it.
We're trying to do the same but in a video game, the game itself becomes the Dungeon Master. So we have to figure out upfront on what you're going to be doing, for example, in terms of stupidity and have the game world reacts to you. That's what we want to try. I think we have cool stuff in there.
Larian Studios - Swen Vincke Talks The Long Road Of Larian Studios
GameInformer interviewed Swen Vincke about the long road of Larian Studios.
How were you even surviving at this point?
Work-for-hire allowed us to survive to the point to look for a publishing deal, but we hated it. We really didn’t like it because we were making really stupid things. Such as these things go, it’s a vicious spiral. We started doing work-for-hire again, and we were lucky. We convinced a major broadcaster in Belgium to give us a lot of money for what the broadcaster thought was going to be a website, but was actually going to be an online game for kids. It had a unique format, sort of like an American Idol for kids. Kids could make movies, animations, cartoons, and dances in the 3D world, send it to the broadcaster, and then the broadcaster showed it on TV. It was innovative back in the day, and we won awards for it, sold it to the BBC, and sold it to several other broadcasters.
We said, “Why don’t we do a big RPG, but this time we fund it ourselves or as much as we can so that we retain control of the IP?” We didn’t have enough money to do all of it. We needed a publisher. We entered into what is known as a cool publishing deal, except I was still naïve back then. We tried to make a game about a dragon that could fly anywhere and land anywhere. We struggled through that and we found another publisher to help us publish this game. We signed it in 2007. It was supposed to come out in 2008. And then the [financial] crisis hits. This publisher suddenly found itself in incredible financial stress, because they had to make all of their money with games like My Little Pony. All that stuff didn’t sell so they were taking tremendous financial hits. They did what a publisher does in those circumstances; they release a game too early. When [Divinity II: Ego Draconis] came to market it wasn’t ready. It got s--- reviews. Almost killed us. Really dark period for the studio.
Larian Studios - Website Tease
Larian Studios - Love Players Breaking the Game
In an interview with PCGamesN Larian talk about how they love players to break their Divinity: Original Sin games.
“We factor in some amount of exploitation on the player’s part into the core balancing formulas,” Pechenin says. It’s almost as if they expect us to try and break the game. Many people manage to, of course, one infamous instance of which is the Divinity: Original Sin speedrunning technique which involves filling a chest with items and then lobbing it at the final boss for an insta-kill. This discovery shocked the team at Larian as much as it did the game’s community.
Larian Studios - Interview @Sinitar Gaming
Sinitar Gaming interviewed David Walgrave about the Divinity Series, Larian, and future plans.
Welcome to GameInView (and, ModInView respectively) series! Here you can meet the people behind your favourite projects - both great mods and games. Watch a live conversation and learn about teams history, their members, history of the mods and games, and of course, fun moments and fresh news about them. In this special episode, we're opening the series with David Walgrave, executive producer at Larian Studios, a team behind Divinity series and the award winning, Divinity: Original Sin 2 - one of the best RPGs released during last decade. We'll talk about history of Larian studios, discuss the details behind the development, learn about Larian team "special juice", as well as team plans for future. Enjoy!
Larian Studios - How Divinity Almost Didn't Happen
Gamespot interviewed Swen Vincke about how the Divinity games almost didn't happen.
Leading up to the release of Divinity Original Sin 2: Definitive Edition, we visited Larian Studios to speak to CEO and designer Swen Vincke about the rough start the series had, their brushes with bankruptcy, and the risks the studio had to take to release Divinity Original Sin.
Larian Studios - Interview @Invision Community
Invision Community has an exclusive interview with Larian Studios Kieron Kelly, product manager at Larian Studios and Edouard, Senior game designer.
On a personal level, I love Divinity: Original Sin 1 / 2, I also love Divinity 2, I played it loads and loved the action-packed game and story, will you ever come back to that genre? Or it too much of a risk?
We’re glad you loved it! I wouldn’t say its too much of a risk, but we’re enjoying making these types of rpgs right now. And the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 is just showing more and more people that they like this type of game too. SO while we won’t rule anything out for the future, we think its fair to say that this type of RPG is growing its audience, and we’re not done with it yet.
Larian - Skirting Bankruptcy & Making D:OS2
Founder Swen Vincke picks 1997 as the year when Larian started, and an RTS called LED Wars as the studio’s first game, though there had been some experiments and projects before that. Indeed, one of them, The Lady, the Mage and the Knight, had many of the hallmarks of today’s Original Sin series, 20 years before it made its debut.
“It was an RPG where you controlled three characters and could play in multiplayer,” Vincke explains. “It had all of the values of Ultima VII, which you can recognise today in Original Sin. But we were having a hard time signing it with a publisher, so we decided to make an RTS because everyone was making them and everyone was looking for them. It seemed to be an easy way to make some money.”
Once the Enhanced Edition was finished, work on Original Sin 2 began in earnest, and Larian quickly tripled in size. "Original Sin 2 was the first time where we had sufficient resources to do everything well, and even then we had to scramble," recalls Swen Vincke, Larian’s founder. "We had some growing pains. We grew in one year from 40 people to 130, so that was quite a challenge to manage. We went from one studio in Belgium to four international studios working on the same game."
A lot of the new members of the team hadn't made a game before, including several writers. Vincke wanted to bring in screenwriters from outside Larian to help with dialogue, but they had to learn an entirely new way of doing things.
Larian Studios - Interview with Swen @PCGamer
PCGamer took an opportunity to conduct an audio interview with Swen Vincke during GDC.
Larian's founder Swen Vincke never stops moving towards the next RPG on the horizon. We convinced him to sit still for a few minutes and talk about the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 and what went right and wrong during development. We also talked about the problem of crunch in game development and how to avoid it, and the loads of RPGs coming out in 2018.
Larian Studios - People of the Year
GamesIndustry call Larian Studios its people of the year in this interview with Swen Vincke about the success of Divinity: Original Sin II.
Ultimately, that chapter of Larian's story ended well. Divinity: Original Sin was a hit, selling 500,000 units in less than three months, with the studio collecting a larger share of the revenue than with any previous entry in the series. With Divinity: Original Sin II, though, in its 20th year as a studio, Larian achieved an entirely different level of commercial success, hitting that same 500,000 unit milestone in just four days after it launched in September, and passing 1 million sold just over a week ago.
"We had a bumpy ride in our history, and you need to have a bit of luck," Vincke says, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz about the company's selection for People of the Year 2017. "We had a bit with Original Sin, and we had a bit with Original Sin II also.
"Original Sin was a hit, and Original Sin II has sold a lot faster than the first one. But you never know what your competitors are doing. There could have been somebody that came out with the same genre of game, the same type of mechanics, but executed a lot better. You never know about that."
Larian Studios - Advent Calendar
Larian Studios - RPG Player Survey Results
The results of the Larian Studios RPG player survey are in. It is a PDF that can be found on Google Docs.
One of the things that I noticed in it was that the majority of responders don't think co-op is that important in a game (it is listed twice, so not sure what to make of that) and that there is a preference for story-rich games with a focus on character progression and tactical combat. So, that would be Original Sin without co-op?
Larian Studios - RPG Player Survey
Larian is doing an RPG player survey.
Larian Studios - Swen In Search of Women
On his blog, Swen Vincke mentioned he discovered that the statistics from Kickstarter and Facebook show that only a very small portion of their visitors are women, which doesn't compute with his own experience. That experience is derived from his home situation and the women he meets on gameshows, which made him feel that at least a quarter or a third of the players are female.
One of the blind assumptions I’ve always made about Divinity: Original Sin is that many women play it. I never had any doubts about this because I saw my partner play D:OS for many hours. She’s quite picky about her games and likes RPGs, so I figured that if the game would be unappealing to her (or womanhood in general for that matter), she would’ve told me right away.
My feeling that many women play D:OS is further reinforced by the people I meet at trade-shows. For every two or three male fans, there’s always at least one woman. Based on that, my lazy mind concluded that at least 25% to 33% of our audience is female, if not more (given that trade-shows are not exactly gender balanced).
I never really questioned this number because it fit with the split I saw for events like PAX. According to this report for instance, 35% of PAX visitors is female, and I think of PAX players as players who would typically enjoy D:OS.
But then this morning, I saw a number that didn’t compute at all. According to the Google analytics page for our Kickstarter campaign, only 4,19% of the page’s visitors is female versus 95.81% male! WTF?
Larian Studios - Kirill Pokrovsky RIP
The latest Original Sin Kickstarter update brings us the sad news that Kirill Pokrovsky, the composer for all Divinity games up to now has passed away yesterday.
A great man, a fantastic composer and a good friend passed away yesterday. Rest in peace Kirill Pokrovsky – we will miss you.
And thank you for all the gifts you’ve given us. We each have our own Kirill story and many of us have Kirill presents on their desks. All of them demonstrate how rich a person you were.
We’ve all hummed your music and we have marvelled at how far your virtuosity went. You were truly somebody unique, a true artist, and we were very lucky to have you as a colleague.
Your greatest gift to us of course was your music that you shared with us on many occasions. The following concert in particular was really special for us, in the midst of a chaotic Kickstarter campaign, you brought us a moment of peace and joy.
Larian Studios - Interview with Swen
9Lives talk to SwenVincke about Larian Studios, that they risked the entire company during the development of Divinity Original Sin, which they also did during the development of Divinity 2 and about the plans to release a major RPG every year.
The interview is in Dutch, which isn't a problem for me, but for those who don't master this language, there is always Google Translate.
The following is made with Myrthos Translate ©:
Meanwhile Larian works, in its three offices, on new games. The nine people who Vincke recruited at present in Quebec City are working on a brand new RPG. "In the longer term we want to create a model in which we develop several games at the same time," said Vincke. "Launching a major RPG every year: That's what we are aiming at. That is also the reason why we have started those new offices. The talent that is needed to do that is there. In Quebec we have a very cool team, with four former leads of very big games. They are going to work together with the teams in Ghent and Russia, to make beautiful things. It could go wrong, but we're on the right track."
Larian Studios - The why of Our Third Secret Project
Larian Studios' Swen Vincke also updated his blog with some background information regarding Divinity Original Sin: Enhanced Edition and why they choose Focus as a publisher.
Finally, the last big reason I didn’t mention yet about the why of the Enhanced Edition is the strategic one.
We’re putting a lot of effort in getting the Enhanced Edition to run really well on Xbox One & PS4 with controller support, with multiplayer and with split-screen support because from now on those features will be basic features of our engine.
That means that if we decide to go multi-platform in the future, we’ll be able to. This without–dumbing down- or –simplifying- things because a lot of the hard work will already have been done. It makes us a lot stronger as a company and will allow us to do much bigger things in the future. I’m quite excited by that prospect.
So, there you have it. In addition to having two big RPGs in production, we decided we needed some occupation therapy and added a third project to our roster. It’s a big thing for us, the step to consoles, and I think we’ll do a lot better this time around than last time we tried.It remains complex business, though bringing 80+ hours of complex content to different platforms, both on the engineering and on the business side. But it’s another step of growth for us and another step in the direction of that very big RPG that will dwarf them all. That’s certainly worth all the stress
Larian Studios - Interview @ GamesIndustry.biz
GamesIndustry.biz published a candid interview with Swen Vincke from GDC 2015 who reflects on the success of Divinity: Original Sin, his mistakes, and Kickstarter backers.
Not everyone has fun at GDC. With so many of the industry's key players concentrated in one relatively small area, there is no better time to forge alliances and seek out new opportunities. For many independent business owners a good week at GDC can mean a good year overall, but the opposite is also true. Making the most of that opportunity is a unique burden; a draining mix of excitement, anxiety and stress.
Swen Vincke, CEO of the Belgian developer Larian Studios, has shouldered that burden before, but this year has been markedly, refreshingly different. "It's the first time I've actually been relaxed. Actually, I've never been so relaxed at GDC. Normally I'd be fighting to be able to earn extra budget to be able to continue our game productions. Now, we're more confident. That's a nice feeling."
Larian Studios - Making Time to Develop
I have to fight to find time to breathe these days.
Things are moving so fast now and we’re doing so many things simultaneously that my previous concerns over our growth scaring the hell out of me can now be considered to be a big understatement. Still, I’m having lots of fun and I’m damn proud of what we’re achieving here at Larian. We finally figured out when we’ll start announcing some of our new stuff (around E3) and if things continue to progress as they are, I think we’ll be showing a lot between then and the end of the year.
I’m just back from lovely Quebec City where we’ve been interviewing candidates to join our new team there and I’m quite excited about the talents that’ll be joining us. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a candy store when the person in front of me turns out to be exceptionally gifted in his or her craft and indicates he or she’s willing to work for us. The complementing of our team with extra capacity & talent together with having a cool RPG engine to build our future work on is empowering us and I’m anxious to see all the little building blocks come together. Obviously, since we’re in the business of making RPGs, I’ll have to exert some patience, but from where I’m sitting it’s already clear that this will become something special.
Because we’ve picked E3 as the period to announce our next big thing, I can’t say too much right now (otherwise we won’t get the press coverage we’re hoping for etc…) so for today’s long overdue entry, I figured I might tell you a bit about something that’s been bothering me.
Larian Studios - GDC Postmortem Panel
Another video was released on the GDC Vault today. This time we have Swen Vincke of Larian Studios giving a Postmortem Panel about the lessons he has learned.
In this talk Swen will focus on Larian's experience of successfully turning into independent and self-publishing company after 15 years of working with different publishers. Structured into into 10 simple advises to both aspiring and experienced developers, this lecture will prove that setting up your own PR, marketing, localization and even distribution is well worth the effort.
Larian Studios - Post-Mortem @ Gamasutra
Gamasutra has a sample of a new Post-Mortem presentation from GDC 2015 where Swen Vincke revealed that Divinty Ego Draconis almost destroyed the developer.
Divinity: Original Sin, the second self-published release from Larian Studios, has become the Belgian company’s “most successful title to date,” according to Swen Vincke, the studio’s founder and creative director. The co-operative role-playing game, which launched in June 2014, was the sixth release in the series, and, according to Vincke, helped re-establish Divinity’s reputation after the preceding title, 2009’s Divinity: Ego Draconis, “our worst title to date.”
In a postmortem talk delivered at GDC 2015, Vincke revealed that Divinty Ego Draconis left the studio saddled with debt and considering whether or not the company was viable. “We started to doubt the future of our studio,” he said. “We needed to look at what we were doing wrong and examine what we had to do to turn things around.”
Larian Studios - Updating D:OS & New RPGs
According to a new blog post, Larian Studios has ambitious plans for 2015. While they are celebrating Divinity: Original Sin's critical and financial success, they are not resting on their laurels:
Progress can only be made if you’re aware of your faults and intend to do something about it, so explaining our plans starts with explaining what I think sucked about D:OS and more importantly, why those sucky things made it to the final game....
Anyway, can you guess what is keeping us busy for the moment?
Yep, we’re fixing parts of the story, improving the UIs, revisiting the encounters, rebalancing the loot, rewriting certain dialogs, adding extra feedback, looking at what we can do to fix character progression, improving the companions etc…
Of course, this is only the beginning, as Larian is expanding their team size and even starting a new office in Quebec City. Why all of this expansion?
Fixing things is not all we’re doing however, far from it. We’re not hiring all those people just to transform D:OS in a better experience, no, obviously we’re also working on our new RPGs.
Notice the ‘s’. It’s intentional and while I’d love to tell you more about them, I need to refrain for fear of losing whatever press momentum we’ll be able to muster when we’ll announce them. But there’s one I thing I can already tell you, and it fits well with the second big thing we’re doing to improve the quality of our future offerings – both RPGs are being built on top of the D:OS engine.
So new RPGs are incoming from Larian! Sadly, more information will have to wait.
Larian Studios - A Larian T-Shirt Campaign
Larian Studios are using RedditMade to run a campaign for selling Larian Studios T-Shirts. The cost of a shirt is $20, unless you are a very big boy or girl, in which case the extra fabric will cost you. Sales of the shirts isn't going fast at the moment apparently, still if you want a Larian shirt or support Larian in some way, this is your opportunity.
Larian Studios - New RPG Tease
Swen Vincke of Larian Studios posted a short message on Twitter about a new RPG.
So excited about what we just came up with - if we pull it off, our next RPG is going to be too cool. Can't wait to play!
So speculate away. WHAT do you think their next RPG will be?
Larian Studios - The Halo Effect
Larian Studios Swen Vincke has a post on his blog where he talks about the decline of kickstarter, and mentions he is open to the idea to doing crow-funding once again.
Not so long ago, in fact, just a few weeks ago when I posted my last blog entry, I said that Kickstarter might not be the right route for our future projects. I argued that it’s a limited pool and that it would be wrong for us to fish in it if our games are earning sufficient money for us to invest in our future projects.
I immediately received a few strong reactions, both publicly but also privately about how I got it all wrong, and that in fact I should steer Larian back to Kickstarter. The reasoning is that successful crowdfunding projects send more people to the crowdfunding scene and that benefits the smaller projects. This is referred to as the “halo effect” and one particular bright person compared it to “a restaurant sitting alone or on a block with many others. They all do better with more traffic”.
And he ends his post with the following quote.
Crowd funding is a wonderful invention and something that has changed the lives of many independent developers. It has rekindled innovation in an over-consolidated market where the traditional powers now have you pay extra to fight the coolest bosses. It should be cherished and protected at all costs and gamers would do well to prefer buying their games via crowd funding lest they find themselves playing games designed by whoever talks best at some marketing meeting.
So, if it indeed is the case that a return to crowd funding by past success stories helps boost the scene then I’m all pro. Only fools and dead men don’t change their minds.
I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts about this, especially if you’re somebody who crowd funded before. Is it ok for a company who’s enjoyed a certain level of success thanks to a crowd funding to return to crowd funding? Is it something that should be encouraged so that more people discover crowd funding? Or is something that should be discouraged because the pool of crowd funding is limited?
Larian Studios - What Comes Next
Larian Studios Swen Vincke has a post on his blog after the last one a few months back, and he talks about the developers plan now that Original Sin is released.
Ok, let’s do this thing. Lots of people have been asking me for numbers and thoughts on the release of Divinity: Original Sin, so here are a few.
Divinity:Original Sin did pretty well. At the time of this writing its Metacritic critic rating is at 87%, it’s user rating at 89% and it’s been at the top of the Steam charts for most of the summer, occupying the nr. 1 spot for around a month.
It has sold well over half a million units by now– mostly from Steam, with 10% from retail. ”Break even” has been reached, our debts have been paid and we are now in the profitable zone. While not all of the money is for us as we had private investors on board, the game did sufficiently well for us to envision funding our next endeavors with it, meaning we’re pretty happy about its performance.
And here is his conclusion of the post for the TLDR crowd.
In conclusion, developing D:OS was a very rich experience and I think our entire team matured a lot in the process of making it. We do this job because we enjoy entertaining other people with our imaginations, and when it’s successful, it makes us feel all good inside. We’re very grateful for the many thank you messages we received from our players :it’s these shows of appreciation that fuel us when the night is dark and the task list long, and it’s what makes this job so incredibly cool.
Larian Studios - Educating Players
Larian Studios Swen Vincke has posted a new update on his blog with his opinion on how to educate players of his game. I found it to be a good read once again.
Here is a part of the post so make sure to read the link for the rest it.
I’m doing the press tour thing again, spending some time in the US, France, Poland and Russia, demoing the game to several media outlets. You can watch some of the output here, here or here. There’s also a big interview with me here in case you want to know about what’s driving us, where we’re hoping to go and where I think RPGs went wrong. More is coming but it’s essentially the same presentation in various incarnations.
I need to admit that I did pretty much everything I could think of to avoid this particular tour. I really didn’t want to go because I was loath to leave my family behind. They already don’t see me much these days and I cherish every moment I have with them. But our young PR manager can be a tyrant and he put a lot of pressure on me to show up at these media outlets.
“Game Informer will never write about us” I told him and he replied “Yep, if the PR manager shows up, that’s for sure, but maybe if you show your face that may make a difference”
I have to commend him because it turns out he was right.
While I still don’t know if Game Informer will write about us in their magazine, I do know that if we hadn’t made the trip to bitter-cold Minneapolis, the reporters over there wouldn’t have paid a lot of attention to Divinity:Original Sin, if at all. Now at least they’ve been sufficiently tickled to give the game a shot and play it together in cooperative multiplayer.
It seems to be a repeating pattern.
Larian Studios - What’s Wrong with Early Access?
Larian Studios Swen Vincke has posted a new update on his blog with his opinion on Steam Early Access.
A thread started on our forums that I thought might be of interest because it touches on the topic of Steam Early Access, something I guess pretty much every developer is thinking of nowadays.
A player named Kamatsu argued against Divinity:Original Sin going on Steam Early Access based on the bad treatment Wasteland 2 was getting. The reason for starting the thread was a Eurogamer preview about Divinity:Original Sin in which it slipped that Larian might be planning to release Divinity:Original Sin on Steam Early Access.
I didn’t actually check how Wasteland 2 was doing but from watching a couple of let’s plays and reading some previews, my impression was that it was actually doing well. And its position in the Steam charts indicated to me that they were making quite some revenue too which I assume will in turn allow InXile to make their game even better.
He or she said that basically every new thread in the Wasteland 2 forums for the past weeks has been a complaint about it being a beta, about it being a so expensive for a beta, about people being sure that it’ll never get finished, that it should be free & that Steam Early Access is an invention of the devil. The others in the thread seemed to agree and concluded that Larian was never going to be so crazy as to contemplate Early Access.
He ends with a question I sure many of us ask ourselves.
So I must be overlooking something given the amount of noise the internet is making about Early Access, but I don’t see it. If Kickstarter is ok, why isn’t Early Access ok? I would be grateful if somebody could point that out for me.
Larian Studios - FUME!
Well it's a weird title but it's the topic of a new blog post from Swen Vincke were he gives his opinions on the game industry.
FUME, in short, is my method for measuring the quality of character development a game is going to give me, character development being the feature I care the most about in a RPG. The higher the FUME score, the more I love it and the lower the FUME score, the less likely it is to remain on my hard drive (or even be installed if I judge the FUME potential to be low)
The F in FUME stands for the Freedom of character development available.
Can you make the avatar you want to play? Or are you forced into a particular stereotype conjured by the designers of the game, who for sure will not have thought of your particular fantasy. It’s an important question, because it directly affects how immersed I will be in the game.
Freedom also reflects the degree of linearity present - you can’t have a very high Freedom value in a linear game. It also stands for the liberty that is given to you to make decisions that have some in-game consequences. If I don’t get to make at least a few decisions that affect at least a few things in your gameworld, chances are you’ll score very low on my Freedom scale with your RPG.
The original Fallouts scored quite high on my Freedom scale whereas (perhaps surprisingly) most Bioware games actually scored quite low for me, even if I did enjoy the Baldur’s Gates & Icewind Dales a lot. Sadly, most RPGs are a far cry from what I’d want to see, but there have been steps in the right direction, so I remain hopeful.
Next up is the U, whichstands for the Universe in which you develop your character.
Is it interesting? Is it diverse? Is it original? Can you have cool and fun adventures in it? Is there sufficient depth? Do you care about the game world? Is it consistent with itself? Is it the type of universe that is interesting to play in as a starting character, but also as a well-developed hero? And also, is it a place that reflects your actions? Does it change as a result of your heroic deeds? Do you make an impact? If the answer to all or most of these questions is yes, I might be tempted to play the game even if it sucks at all the other levels. I like to explore new universes. They are a projection of the complex mix of cultures that make up a game development team, and there’s often something to be learnt from them.
The M then stands for the Motivation that is given to you to develop your character.
This doesn’t always have to be the main story: Diablo for instance was a game that got its Motivation from item fever and a few cutscenes, rather than from its complex storyline. However, it’s clear that having a good storyline can be instrumental in increasing your desire to explore a game’s universe. When the Universe falls flat (as it often does), it’s very possible that I’ll continue playing if my motivation to discover what comes next is strong enough. In general I find that if both Universe and Motivation score too low, I’m not going to be interested in a game.
An interesting case here is World of Warcraft. I had 2 level 70 characters, a number which is far from impressive for a lot people, but by my standards, considering the amount of free time I have, that’s a number that’s insane. Now, I didn’t play World of Warcraft because I thought it had a good story, or because I was impressed by its universe – I only played it because I was motivated by … the other people playing it. So, anything that motivates you to keep on playing goes I guess, though my personal holy grail will remain a strong storyline that will emotionally impact me.
Finally, E stands for the quality of the Enemies against which you can develop your character.
You can interpret this very broadly. The E would probably better be replaced by an A, as what I really mean is the Antagonist(s) against which develop your character, but FUMA doesn’t sound as sexy.
Larian Studios - An Important Lesson
Larian Studios Swen Vincke has posted a new update on his blog going over what he learned with Kickstater, Dragon Commander, and Original Sin.
I have these little notebooks in which I write down my thoughts. Every day I fill a couple of pages with new observations, questions and decisions. Whenever a notebook is full, I put it in a drawer, there to stay until the drawer is full at which point I empty the drawer, and put the notebooks in a box. I really don’t know why I bother with it, because I rarely read what I wrote, but I guess it helps me organise my thoughts. It also makes it look like I’m paying attention in meetings I’m not particularly interested in
If you’d take the notebook that says January 2013, you’d see that I listed as major tasks for 2013, the organising Divinity: Original Sin’s kickstarter, releasing Dragon Commander and releasing Divinity: Original Sin. At that time, I only had hopes and aspirations and I really didn’t have a clue whether or not my plans were going to work.
Taking risks is of course part of the metier of running a game development studio, and there’s only that much that you can do to cover your bets. You know certain things will go wrong, you hope more things will go right. So last night, I started thinking about how we were doing compared to what I hoped for at the start of 2013…
Larian Studios - New Blog Post From Swen
Swen Vincke posted on his blog a few days ago that slipped under my radar. The topic was about Dragon Commander which we already know was released.
I want to thank everybody who made this possible, starting with the team who dedicated so much of their time these last months to make it something we could be proud of, all the people who kept on believing in us, even when the going was tough , and of course all the gamers out there who supported us. I’m relieved to see that our initial press scores are positive, most of them being between 8 & 9, and obviously I hope it’ll stay that way. I really wasn’t sure how Dragon Commander was going to be received because it’s one of those cases where you have to look at the whole of the thing rather than individual components. I want to explicitly thank those reviewers who gave the game a second shot when they realised something was broken and contacted us, querying if what they saw was normal. Thanks to them we could fix what would otherwise have been quite a disaster
It’s going to be a busy day today for us so I’m not going to linger here too much, but have fun playing Dragon Commander & spread the word. I’ll be back with a longer retrospective on my experiences developing and publishing Dragon Commander at a later date.
Larian Studios - Crunch Time Thoughts
Swen has a new blog update with various thoughts on the last two months, and the future of his company. Just a warning it's a wall of text but worth the read.
One of my best friends told me that I really should update my blog. I explained to him that I’m literally working from six in the morning until midnight trying to get Dragon Commander out of the door and that the last thing I want to do in my current schedule is spend what little free or sleeping time I have left writing about work. He shrugged, repeated three times that I should update my blog, and then proceeded on another topic.
Net result: I’m updating my blog. He can be convincing.
So, we’re in crunch. Not because we’re in panic mode or because a publisher is threatening us with whatever legal nonsense, but because we still have a ton of small things we want to finish before the game goes live *and * because we selected a release date we swore we wouldn’t miss (August 6th 2013 for those interested)
The current situation is that there’s still some stuff on our task list and there’s a whole bunch of stuff on our bug/suggested features list, but most of it still all feels possible.
To put that last statement in perspective – of course, the lists are getting longer now that we launched the beta, and of course, we find ourselves forced to be selective, and of course we’d prefer to put everything in that still makes sense, and of course realization is dawning that we won’t manage to do it all. Still, morale remains high, because we think that what’ll be in will be sufficient to please a significiant large enough part of our audience and I hope wholeheartedly that that indeed becomes the case.
Thanks go to Drithius for finding the news.
Larian Studios - To Listen or Not to Listen
Larian Studio's head honcho Swen Vincke has updated his blog discussing one of the big pros of being self-funding and self-publishing, which is the ability to make the choices they could not make before.
We received feedback today from a group of journalists about what they thought of a hands-on session with a beta-version of the game. Specifically, they were asked to name three things they liked and three things they disliked. From that list a few issues got flagged, and the question now is whether or not we’ll address those issues.
We are dangerously close to release, so anything we change now is bound to have a significant impact. But of course, not intervening means that for sure those issues will pop up in reviews, and if they’re bothering the journalists, they’ll probably also bother our players. Naturally, if we continue fixing things that pop up, we’ll never release because there’s no such thing as a perfect game. So, when is enough enough ? And should we listen to the feedback we received?
Had this been one of our previous games where we were paid via milestones, the decision would already have been taken, and no changes would be made, definitely not at this stage in development. But it’s not somebody else’s decision to make this time. It’s ours, and I am happy that we get to make this type of decision.
To make it concrete, the issue at hand has to do with the difficulty, pacing and tempo of the RTS part of Dragon Commander. Several journalists think it’s too fast and too hard. That would be a simple enough thing to solve if it weren’t for that other group who thinks it’s too easy. Go figure
Unfortunately it’s not something we can easily fix by introducing a gamespeed slider or balancing multiplier, so we’re either going have to make a real choice for who our primary audience is or introduce completely different sets of balancing data from which players can choose.
That obviously will impact development, because suddenly we’ll have doubled our balancing work, so it’s not a trivial thing because it means not only extra design work, but also a shitload of extra QA work.
For the purpose of my blog and my arguments pro self-publishing, whatever our choice in this is doesn’t really matter. The cool thing is that we actually can choose and that we know things like this prior to release, so we have a chance to do something about it. If we didn’t self-publish and wouldn’t have been that closely in touch with the journalists, we would never even have had this opportunity.
For the purpose of the success of my game, it of course matters a lot.
Larian Studios - Being Selective
Larian Studios' Swen Vincke has penned down a new article, which this time is about the press attention (or lack thereof) in their Kickstarter campaign, the effort it took them and the quality of (p)reviews in general, concluding that it is better to be selective in where you devote your attention to.
Anyway, it was observations like the above one that lead me to conclude that we should start screening who we show the game to, and review the quality of their articles, prior to actually demonstrating the game to them. In the past I abstained from doing that, even when I wanted to know, but now I think it’s good practice. We’ve been perhaps too eager for attention past, and happy to show our creative babies to anybody who passed by. That delivered us some good but also quite a lot ofbad results, the most memorable one being PC Gamer UK giving Divine Divinity 56% wheras their US sister magazine gave it 84% and later put it in their top 100 games of all times. The irony
Perhaps there’s another more focussed approach that might yield more benefits. I remain intrigued by the click-through numbers in our Kickstarter campaign and the link between article appearing/pledge counter increasing. It was clear who had what impact, and the results were very counter-intuitive, at least to my traditional view of games media.
To give you an example – There exists no such thing as IGN, the person. There’s only Joe, John and Daisy working at IGN reviewing and previewing games. If there’s a John who like turn-based fantasy RPG’s and played several of them, it makes sense to show him Divinity: Original Sin, if his editor will let him.
But if Joe, John and Daisy think the world ends with Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield, then perhaps we should not send a version to them, because nothing good can come from it. You wouldn’t offer mushroom-only dishes to a gourmet critique who hates mushrooms and is the editor of “fabulous cooks that don’t use mushrooms monthly” either.
Larian Studios - Lessons From The Preview Tour
Swen "Lar" Vincke has written a new blog on his personal site about the lessons he has learned from their ongoing preview tour for Dragon Commander and Original Sin.
Finally, the third issue was that we were showing alpha code in an unfinished state and were letting the media play these builds code hands-on, in multiplayer, on 4 machines , with only three of us there to guide them, in situations where sometimes there were 8 journalists present. Because we couldn’t deal with everybody simultanously, inevitably the message of what is final in the game and what isn’t final was lost in translation. This undoubtedly will lead to inaccurate reporting but the only way we could’ve solved this would have been by either a) limiting the area where the journalists could play or b) ensuring that we never had more journalists than we had Larian team members present or c) not do a hands-on.
Since a) limiting the area in a RPG is a pretty bad idea, b) having more Larian members present would mean that nobody would be working on the game anymore and c) not doing a hands-on is a sure way of not getting the journalists to come to our events, I’m not sure how we could’ve solved this, so I’m definitely open to suggestions. I guess part of the problem is that for us, being developers, it’s pretty obvious what still needs to be done and what not, but that’s not always the case for the reporters – especially the younger and thus more inexperienced ones. I think that in the future we’ll literally mark the assets in the game that are stub with the text “stub” – this will probably avoid some confusion.
Larian Studios - Deadlines with Dragon Commander and Original Sin
Swen Vincke has made a posting on how things went with the hand-on sessions of Dragon Commander and Original Sin that are taking place these days.
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.
But not without a lot of pointed and detailed criticism.
The gist of the above list is, there’s not enough feedback on what’s happening to the player in Dragon Commander (as in, you die but you don’t necessarily know why) – please fix it.
The list was compiled over the weekend so it was ready before my first presentation and lo and behold, what did the journalist tell me after playing … “I liked it, the only dark spot was that I didn’t know what was killing my dragon and why I died – you really need to do something about that”.
Here is a video of that LAN party:
And on the Divinity: Original Sin demo:
Of course (of course!), having had some success with the Dragon Commander presentation, things needed to balance themselves out, so the Divinity: Original Sin presentation turned out to be probably the worst we’d ever given (I say we because it was shown in multiplayer) We started out strong, even if we had one crash, but then ran into a situation I certainly didn’t expect us to have at this stage in our collective careers.
In short, it was a catastrophe.
To my relief, this particular journalist had some experience and so he told me I didn’t have to worry too much because what he had seen had convinced him already, but I can only imagine what his impression would have been had he seen all the stuff he was meant to see. He would have become a convert (or at least, there would’ve been some hope of that happening).
Concluding with this:
Therefore, a note to my (really tired) self : Like it or not, deadlines are part of your business and even if you can say that development is a marathon and not a sprint, and that you can only finish a marathon if you dose yourself, you still have to accelerate from time to time if you want to win the bloody marathon, and you still need to be able to run after that acceleration.
Or, you can settle for less. But that really shouldn’t be an option.
Larian Studios - Might Increase Divinity: Original Sin's Funding via Kickstarter
Swen Vincke has penned a rather long blog post about how Larian Studios might use Kickstarter to add additional funding to their game: Divinity: Original Sin and thus increase the budget for the game. The reason they might go use Kickstarter to do this is here:
If we indeed go to Kickstarter, it'll be because the game deserves to get the maximum funding we can find, even if financially that's not necessarily in our best interest........Which may bring the question why we're actually interested in increasing the budget at all ?
In short, it's because it'll allow us to put more things in, prevent us from having to take shortcuts because of some development mistakes we made, and in general give us a better chance of making that great RPG we know we can make if we can marshal the resources. It'll also allow us to accommodate for some of the suggestions we received during development, not only from people who saw the game live but also from our fans. And it'll allow us to put more stuff in the editor, which we expect great things of. How long has it been since somebody released a decent commercial level single- and multi-player RPG editor anyway?
Larian Studios - Interview @ Gamers.de
Larian's Swen Vincke has been interviewed at Gamers.de . It's a general conversation about past projects and Swen's background, though he reveals Larian may try a Kickstarter at some point:
G: In regards to LMK, Guido Henkel, who was one of the founders of Attic, your former publisher at that time, worked on a Kickstarter-campaign not too long ago. Unfortunately, it failed. But how is your opinion about crowd funding-campaigns? Do you, as an indie-developer, see a chance for the industry there?
Swen: I actually never worked with Guido when working with Attic – he’d already left then, but I was sorry to see his campaign fail. In general, I think Kickstarter is a fantastic platform, but given that there’s more and more competition on it, as a developer you’ll need to start thinking of it as any other distribution platform i.e. you need to figure out how to attract attention, how to present your message well and how you can help players imagine what you’re trying to make. That’s not that easy. I think Larian is going to give it a shot eventually, but I’m not sure if we’ll manage given how fast the platform is maturing and the types of investments that are being made in the pitches. But we’ll try.
Larian Studios - Looking back to 2012 and Forward to 2013
Head of Larian Studios Swen Vincke has created an open letter to his team where he looks back to what happened in 2012 and looks forward to what is going (or is likely) to happen in 2013 with their games. Like this on Dragon Commander, which teaches us the current estimated release date:
The first obvious slip-up is that back In December 2011, I expected Dragon Commander to ship in 2012 whereas now it turns out that it’s going to ship only in may or june 2013. Once again Larian’s ability to plan well in advance was put to shame, proving our complete lack of professionalism! But tbh, I’m afraid this lack of professionalism tag is going to stay with us for a long time because I don’t think we’ll ever learn to ship a game before we’re happy about it, and I actually also don’t think that we really want to be that “professional”. I am pretty sure that In Dragon Commander’s case, I’ll pick the game we’ll ship in 2013 any time above the game we would’ve shipped in 2012 , so even if we’re off schedule, I’ll maintain that delaying it and changing the gameplay were the right decisions.
And then there is this:
Larian Studios - Divinity 2 and Divinity Anthology Now Available on Steam
Larian Studios has released Divinity 2: Developer's Cut and Divinity Anthology on Steam.
Fork Tong from Larian Studios created a thread on their forums with this thread.
We're happy to announce that Divinity 2: Developer's Cut and the Divinity Anthology are now available on Steam.
Anyone who ever got Ego Draconis or The Dragon Knight Saga on Steam will get Divinity 2: Developer's Cut added to their Steam games list for free. If you're one of our Larian Vault customers, and you've bought The Dragon Knight Saga or Flames Of Vengeance through our own webshop, log in and check out your games list, we've added Divinity 2: Developer's Cut to it as well, free of charge.
Larian Studios - Divinity Anthology - the good, the bad, the unexpected
Before we get into this, Melvil notes the Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity versions on GOG have been updated to the new Anthology versions.
Lar has posted a new blog entry talking about releasing the Divinity Anothology and their pay-what-you-want compaign -- and how a generous fan undid their plans. As a side note, if you've been interested in this campaign but the average price was to high for your taste, try checking again.
When the PWYW was conceived, we thought that we’d have a lot of sales at the absolute minimum, which basically is 1 cent, and this assumption was actually never challenged. The idea of the PWYW campaign was to on the one hand celebrate 10 years of Divinity and offer Divinity virtually for free (1 cent really is low), thus increasing the installed base of Divinity fans, but on the other hand also to put the Developer’s Cut in the spotlight.
The Developer’s Cut (and Beyond Divinity) were made part of the campaign as a kind of bonus and to not completely ruin ourselves, we introduced the rule that to access the Developer’s Cut, you needed to be in the top 10% of customers. Whether or not that was a sound strategy is a different matter and open for debate, but that was the idea.
What happened however is that for some reason, people started looking at this like some sort of Kickstarter (this was the very first time something like this was done on GOG), and in the very first hours of the campaign, we saw the average pricing go to heights we never expected. Somebody even paid a 1000US$ for one of the games!!! (Thanks again Alquist for ruining our plans btw )
Larian Studios - Divinity Anthology Collector's Edition Released
Larian Studios celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Divinity® RPG series with a limited release of the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition – and a digital version is planned too!
Ten years ago Larian Studios released Divine Divinity, an RPG that grew to become one of PC GAMER’s “Top 100 Games of All Time”. Ever since then, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II have followed, continuing the legacy of ‘the RPG series with an ironic twist’. Today, the Belgian indie studio remembers the good old times with the release of a limited run of the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition: a unique compilation of all 3 games for which no costs were spared to produce many thrilling extras!
For more information, visit http://www.DivinityAnthology.com
UPDATE: For completeness, here is the official press release:
Larian Studios celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Divinity® RPG series with a limited release of the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition – and a digital version is planned too!
October 9th, 2012
GHENT, BELGIUM - Ten years ago Larian Studios released Divine Divinity, an RPG that grew to become one of PC GAMER’s “Top 100 Games of All Time”. Ever since then, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II have followed, continuing the legacy of ‘the RPG series with an ironic twist’. Today, the Belgian indie studio remembers the good old times with the release of a limited run of the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition: a unique compilation of all 3 games for which no costs were spared to produce many thrilling extras!
Farhang Namdar, game designer at Larian Studios, explains it all in this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA9QggTdsdg
For the record, the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition includes: both DRM-free and Steam multi-lingual versions of Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II: Developer’s Cut; two soundtracks featuring the best works of Kirill Pokrovsky, Divinity’s famous composer, as well as outtakes and rare pieces that never made it into the games; a 130 page Developer’s Journal that tells the story of Larian’s last 15 years in the games business accompanied by many pieces of unreleased art; an old-school sticker set offering skulls, dragons and princesses to customize your phone or notebook; two double-sided posters for your bedroom or office; and two codes for unique ingame items for Divinity: Dragon Commander and Divinity: Original Sin, both of which are expected to be released in 2013.
Only 25.000 copies of this rare package have been produced, and these are now on their way to retail stores in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, South Africa and the United Kingdom, where recommended retail prices are set at around €29.99 (so we don’t really expect the stock to linger). A small run of the Divinity Anthology Collector’s Edition is also available for order directly from https://www.LarianVault.com, with every box signed personally by the development team.
Finally, the Divinity Anthology will also become available digitally – with Steam and Larian Vault releases in the works, e.t.a. later this month. GOG.com will be offering Divinty II: Developer’s Cut.
For more information, visit http://www.DivinityAnthology.com.
Larian Studios - Of Kickstarter and Green Steamlight
Swen Vincke from Larian Studios updated his blog. This time he talks about Inquisitor - a game that is also on Steam Greenlight. He thinks Steam Greenlight might become the new Kickstarter. Here's a a relevant quote about this:
Imagine that a to be developed game is both featured on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, with the funding of each channel contributing to the development of the game, and the services working together to promote the game to their communities. It would be a very significant boost for game development. Through the Steam account you could even come up with a kind of micro-investment scheme in which players get to invest money, and actually get their investment back once the game ships and sells on Steam (with perhaps a small margin). That might lead to even bigger budgets becoming available through crowd funding.
Source: RPG Codex
Larian Studios - Early builds of Original Sin and Dragon Commander stolen
At Gamescom two PCs with early builds of Original Sin and Dragon Commander were stolen from Larian Studios. A reward of $5000 was offered for the tip leading to the retrieval of the PCs.
The presentations at Gamescom are not in danger, they are presented now from backup PCs.
Larian Studios - Seeking the Golden Path
Lar has penned another blog entry about Larian, this time musing on the future of the studio as they seek to find a place in the competitive ad changing games market:
But what the journalist meant was of course how we were going to deal with the technology angle. He looks at those trailers and demos, sees visual delight, then looks at the games of smaller developers, and decides they are no match for what the big boys are showing.
Yet, there’s nothing I’ve seen technology wise in those videos that my team couldn’t pull off, provided they’d have access to the same budget. What’s impressive about those videos is how much work went into the content of those games. It’s really a matter of the amount of people the developers of said games put to the task, and in the cases quoted, its apparent there were a lot of people working on thisy. But, given the same budgets, it’s possible (and in my humble opinion even probable) that we could even do better that what’s on display. After all, there’s a lot of persistent rumors that there’s a lot of waste going on with those Canadian tax dollars.
So what our journalist then really meant was – what are you doing making games without having the same budgets these guys have?
Larian Studios - Of Kickstarter and Journalists
Lar has penned a new blog entry about Kickstarter and the importance of developers selling direct - not RPG-related as such but, as usual, a good read for fans - especially with a bit of history thrown in:
What happened is that I listened to a song I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was the startup music of The Lady, The Mage and The Knight (LMK), Larian’s first really big RPG that was never released. I was the lead programmer on that game, and probably listened to that particular song 10000 times over. Hearing Kirill’s composition again made me reflect on LMK’s development, and how the game eventually came to be cancelled.
I still remember vividly the day I had to tell the team that it was all over, despite some very heroic efforts on their part. The situation was that our publisher ran out of cash and owed us over several milestones. This in turn meant that we were up to our neck in debts, and in the end I had no choice other than abandoning development. Because the aftermath of said publisher’s demise was extremely messy, there was also no hope of salvaging the game, and we actually had to be careful that they didn’t drag us down with them completely.
Larian Studios - Million Units Manual - on why games are expensive to make
Swen Wincke from Larian Studios has updated his blog with a post,
this time about some of the difficulties theyre trying to overcome when creating the rpg that will dwarf them all.
PS: I apologize for the links shown as real link not as embbed within the text but for some reason, the link button doesn't work for me...
A quote then
If you have a 40 man team, and the employer cost is say 6K€, then one year of development will cost you 2,88M€. Given that most games take a few years to make, this means you rapidly end up with a need of over 5M€ to fund one game. That means that if you want to fund your own game with work for hire, and your game needs 40 people for 2 years at 6K€/month, you need to earn 5M€ before you can afford to spend 2 years on your own game. So, if you do work for hire for 2 years for somebody else with your 40 man team, you need to earn 10M€ to actually earn the freedom needed to develop your own thing. In the current market, that’s actually a tough proposition and rare are the jobs in the games industry where you are paid double the employee rate, so the reality is that you probable need to do even more work for hire.
Larian Studios - Post E3
Lar writes about Larian's trip to E3 and their reasons for going in the first place in a blog post:
The road to LA started about 2 months ago for us, and when we began this particular journey, it looked like it was going to be smooth sailing. That didn’t last very long with the first crack in the plan appearing when we realized that in order to be featured in magazines at the time of the Divinity – Original Sin announcement, we’d need to show the demos we wanted to show at E3, one month before the actual show.
You’d think that after having been 15 years in this industry I could’ve predicted that one, but for some reason, the thought never occured to me, and the result of course was that we needed quite a few heroic development efforts to save the day.
Larian Studios - E3 Behind the Scenes
Larian has kicked up a blog post and video as they set up for E3 to show off Original Sin and Dragon Commander:
After two months of preparations and I don’t know how many late nights, the moment of truth has finally arrived – Larian is in LA, ready to present its new games to a crowd of opinion makers, industry veterans, expert gamers and occasionally of course also a couple of idiots
Larian Studios - The Inspiration behind Project E
Swen 'Lar' Vincke is teasing Divi Project E ahead of the upcoming reveal with a new blog post that explains his motivation. As fans will know, Lar is a huge fan of Ultima VII and Divine Divinity was inspired by Origin's classic - he goes on to explain Larian made mistakes both Beyond Divinity and Divinity II that moved them away from that inspiration that he regrets and Project E will attempt to address that. There's also a teaser video showing journalists being shown the new title at Larian's offices - though nothing is actually revealed.
Ever since I started making RPG’s, I’ve been looking to recreate for other people the same experience I had with Ultima VII – it really is my drive. Now, in my mind I never succeeded in this but if I can believe the reviews and the fanmails, apparently Divine Divinity somehow struck the same chord for a lot of people. Which was quite motivating of course. The knowledge that even a subset of the original ambitions managed to satisfy players implied that if ever we succeeded in realizing the vision behind those ambitions, we might very well have a very big hit on our hands.
But as it happened, after the first Divinity, I lost track a bit – Beyond Divinity definitely wasn’t as good as Divine Divinity, and I always regretted making that one, even if it got ok reviews. Then the second mistake was made – the joys of console development steered Divinity II far away from the original idea, and so many compromises were made in that game that what shipped was but a shadow of what I had envisioned it to be.
While some of that was rectified it with the release of Divinity II: Dragon Knight Saga, in truth there are only a few gameplay moments in there that come close to the reason I set up this company.
So I explained to the journalists that with project E, I wanted to rectify that. When I’ll be playing the final version of project E, I hope that I’m going to get my Ultima VII vibe back, the method being recreating all of the values present in these masterpieces, and then taking it one step further.
Larian Studios - The side journalists never see
Swen Vincke writes another fascinating blog about the stress of preparing for press events. There's no detail about the games but for those interested in the human or business side of gaming, it's a great read:
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.
We’ve been ambitious in what we wanted to put in this demonstration, an now we’re paying the price.
Larian Studios - The caveman who discovered fire
Swen Vincke has posted a new blog entry, discussing his reaction to their ~$45k E3 budget and how the marketing people convinced him it was a good deal. There's no insight into their games but those interested in the business side will find this a good read, as always:
Because we are showing two games, we figured it’d be a good idea to have a wall in the middle of the booth so that we actually have two booths for the price of 1. Yes sir, we are clever little devils at Larian !
Because we also want to make it a bit cosy, we figured that instead of the ugly grey these standard closed booths come in, it’d be cool if we’d have our walls in black with a red carpet, just to set us apart a bit.
Cost – 7607US$
Well, clearly we’re not going to pay that much black walls and a red carpet, so we figured we might as well bring our own paint and carpet.
Unfortunately, it turns out you can’t because only union workers are allowed to do anything on the show-floor, and I really mean anything. Needless to say that with such a monopoly, the prices of these workers aren’t exactly competitive.
Larian Studios - Thoughts on Game Journalism
Scoring is an issue in itself. As an editor, personally, I hate scoring. For awhile we didn't score our games; we brought it in eventually. I understand the need of it, and why it's useful, but it causes so many problems, with readers and PR. Idealistically I would like to eliminate scoring but that's not happening.
It's insane it can have such an impact. I was comparing numbers for Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga and Dragon Age II, because it had the same Metacritic rating (82). I went to look at the user scores for both games, and Dragon Age II had 73% user score on GameSpot, 70 on Amazon, and 42 on Metacritic, over thousands of votes. In our case it was much higher; our Metacritic fits more with our user score: 85 on GameSpot, 84 on Metacritic, 90 on Amazon. I know it's because it's purely PR machine work.
And if you look at the trends you see the initial Dragon Age II reviews were very high, and as you go over time...
Larian Studios - Organic Development
Lar has penned a new blog entry titled Organic development - how random ideas became strategy and looking back at the inception of Dragon Commander and Project E. Returning back from visiting some publishers, Lar scribbled some thoughts about game pitches. My comment: Lar, make the vampire game as well!
Summarized the pitch boiled down to
“Victorian Vampire is a new mature-audience steam-punk RPG set in 1861 in which you take on the role of a young brilliant archaeologist who becomes a vampire against his/her will, and travel the world of the American civil war, Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin and Louis Pasteur in a mad race against somebody who should not have been woken.”
Larian Studios - Choice and Consequence
In a decent RPG choices should have consequences or at the very least give you the feeling your choices matter and something in the world is changing because of them. Swen "Lar" Vincke talks about how choice and consequece is being implemented in Dragon Commander and also in Project E. Besides that he also promises more new stuff from Dragon Commander to be released this month.
Our idea is to market Dragon Commander as a game that gives you over 300 choice & consequence situations, with plenty of examples that clearly differentiate it from the rest of the pack. Of course we’re cheating a bit, because we’ve created the entire gameplay around this choice & consequence mechanic, but nonetheless, I’ll consider it quite a feat when we succeed in this.
In Dragon Commander the entire concept is built around a bunch of possible protagonists/antagonists, each having their own story trees that impact the story trees of the the other main characters, with the player being the one that decides in which direction the plot navigates by making a series of decisions. Several of these decisions affect relationship parameters, and once these go over a certain value, the story branches.
Larian Studios - Should Indies Go Retail?
Swen "Lar" Vincke discusses why indie developers should think about retail releases more often compared to only going for digital publishing on his personal blog.
Larian’s distribution strategy can be summarized as follows, sorted by how we prefer a sale to be made.
- 1. Direct Sales – Via Larian Vault & forums. Full control, largest margin, allows direct contact with our players.
- 2. Steam – Reliable, report on time, pay on time and regularly, are very developer friendly
- 3. Other digital sales – Easier than retail, monthly payments, you occasionally ned to yell a bit to get your money.
- 4. Retail in key markets – It’s possible to work with civilized companies that are ok, even if they are stressing for the moment.
- 5. Retail sales in non-key markets – Need to work with either finished goods deals, so sales/messaging can be controlled – be damned sure about who you are dealing with.
Larian Studios - The Marketing Budget
Swen "Lar" Vincke continues his articles on publishers with a short one about why developers should be carefull in discussing the marketing budget with examples of how that budget is sometimes spent.
It’s extremely hard to argue whether or not marketing costs are allowed. So make sure that they are capped, that there is a detailed plan that’s updated continuously (which requires your approval) and work with continuous reports, preferably monthly. If it sounds too much to ask, it’s not. It’s what publishers put in their contracts when dealing with one another, because they know how things work.
Otherwise you’ll encounter situations like - ”Sure I went to a casino, but it was with the editor in chief of magazine X. We want to be in magazine X, right ? And the guy indeed likes strippers. But you got the article right ? Nobody wanted to write about your game otherwise” might be one of the arguments you hear.
All I ever got was dinner and a sandwich (not at the same time)...
Larian Studios - Quality over Quantity
Swen 'Lar' Vincke writes about the "quality over quantity" debate and his own internal battle with the subject. He also mentions Project E in passing and although fans will know this is a full RPG, he confirms it saying "project E is very much what people expect from us, a big RPG with all the stuff that goes with it". He also discusses the data that suggests polish is better than game length at the end of the day:
Enthousiastically the designer told me – yeah cool, it’s going to be really epic, really really epic. Sadly this was quickly followed by him being disappointed because I told him –we should cut. This didn’t go down well and he argued quite strongly and well against it, but in my mind the decision was already taken – every single alarm bell ringing very loud inside of me. Looking at that very long and high wall, I knew that without intervention this game was going to be way over budget and really late.
So I told him, cut about one third, rewrite the story in such a way that we can still add the one third (for the unlikely event that we’ll be ready with it ahead of time) and then we’ll see.
I broke his heart, and I also broke mine, because the small boy in me actually wanted the world to even be larger. But the big boy said, you can’t do this. Probably one third isn’t even enough, you might have to cut half.
Larian Studios - The Route to the Very Big RPG
Once again, Swen Vincke has blogged about Larian's plans to make "the very big RPG that will dwarf them all", with more interesting insight into the business side. On the cost of making Dragon Knight Saga:
Here’s a break-down of what it cost us to make the Dragon Knight Saga
- 4M € employees
- 900K€ freelancers
- 270K€ outsourcing of artwork
- 200K€ hardware
- 700K€ software licenses
- 400K€ localisation
for a total of 6,5M€. That’s a lot of money and as the Dragon Knight Saga was released via co-publishing deals , it also meant that we needed to take care of the majority of this investment ourselves, since the publishers only contributed partially to the funding.
Larian Studios - The Revenues of a Game
Lar has made another update to his blog where he briefly explains the revenues of a game with the promise to explain more about this at a later stage.
On a 39,95 game in Germany, this is a typical breakdown found in royalty reports (numbers rounded)
- The state (VAT 19%): -7,5€
- Retail: -10€
- Inflated publisher costs: -5€ (Logistics, sales and payment conditions)
- Cost of goods: -1,5€
- Net revenue: 15,95€So if you sell 100K units in Germany, your net revenue in theory is about 1,6M€. For the record, most games do not sell 100K units in Germany.
Larian Studios - How Larian Became Self Funding
Lar writes in his column today what moved him to make Larian Studios self funding. In it he writes about what publishing tasks can be done by Larian and that for getting boxed copies of the game in shops a publisher would still be needed.
So after having sat through several of those defining first-impression moments where I saw the marketing guys pick up their blackberries after seeing a couple of minutes of footage of the games we were working on, I came to the conclusion that if the game wouldn’t look and move like a first person shooter at the same stage of development, and didn’t feature a big hook that could be communicated in one phrase, it would never work. The only thing that would work would be if I showed a powerpoint where I say – dude, the previous game sold 3 million units – so even if you don’t get it, there’s a market.
Somewhere in between one of those meetings I made the decision that the only way we could break through would be by doing it ourselves, without the involvement of a large publisher. Given an environment in which record sales require massive polish which in turn requires massive investments, I needed to find a way to get access to that investment, without the shortcut of getting it from a publisher.
So I asked myself, why do you need these people anyway ? Seriously ?
Larian Studios - On Pirating Games and Cloud Streaming
Lar has updated his blog with an article on DRM, why he used to pirate games, bought them and what he sees as the future.
But secondly, I think the entire DRM argument is part of a dying model, at least in its current form. Traditionally we expect people to pay for the entire experience present in the box, even if the game doesn’t turn out to be as expected. Even a demo can be misleading, a lot of them are even made to be misleading. I have an entire collection of games that I bought but only spent a couple of hours with. If you have limited disposable income (as I did when I pirated), at the price games go, paying full price for only a couple of hours of entertainment is quite expensive. It’s also unfair, especially if 90% of the game doesn’t match what’s on the back of the box. Of those thousands of pirated games I played, there were only a few that I played through, with most of the games in my collection only receiving 5 minutes of my attention.
I did pay for the few games that I played over and over (some of them I even bought multiple times because I lost the activation codes ). But in some cases, I paid for crap, and then I felt cheated, because when I bought it, the box told me the game wasn’t crap.
Larian Studios - Adios 2011, Bonjour 2012
Lar has a final blog post for 2011, wishing the community the best for the holiday season and summarising Larian's 2011. Lar confirms Dragon Commander for 2012 and covers off their ridiculously busy year - 5x kids games, an iPhone game, Dragon Commander, Project E and possibly a Facebook game. On his hopes for 2012:
With a bit of luck we’ll have had a good release for Dragon Commander and there’ll actually be a market for our crazy genre-buster, the latter being a term I picked up from the press because I had no clue you called a game like that a genre-buster. I love that game and I cross my fingers that I’m not going to be the only one
Project E will have been announced, and I expect there’ll be some interesting reactions (read hateful flaming mixed with some hopefully ardent support) for what we’re doing with that one, but I learnt a long time ago that you can’t please everybody.
Larian Studios - Lar's World
Larian's Swen 'Lar' Swencke has launched a new blog that will hold his Larian "Status Updates" from now on. Lar hasn't penned a proper update yet bu there are some stories about publishers and royalties that might interest anyone that watches the business aspect of the games industry.
Larian Studios - Status Update
Lar has posted a short and slightly silly status update as they get ready for GamesCom next week - he seems in high spirits but the key part is the revelation that Project D might get revealed this week:
Don't forget - Badges, Keys to the truck, announce D - update site, put trailer online - thursday this week ?, make a decision about the chicken.
Larian Studios - Status Update Continued
Lar has posted about his presentation of Project D to the media the other day:
So I think it went well. He didn't run out screaming out of the office yelling "madmen, I'm surrounded by madmen !!!!", and actually asked quite some intelligent questions - I guess we got lucky
There was some surprise, he was not expecting something that deviated, at least at first sight, so much from what we usually do, but when he got the complete picture, I think he liked it. We'll only know when the article runs of course, but I think we should be ok.
It was in any case an excellent trial run for GC, as we could see what parts of our presentation communicated the ideas clearly, and what parts didn't work at all, the latter evidenced by the fact that those were the parts he had the most questions about, just trying to exactly understand how it works. Those were of course the parts we already take for granted given our previous work, but clearly, we need to make sure that when we announce the game, we don't forget to mention them.
...but it's not clear what sort of game this is:
Reading the above paragraph again I realize that it must read like complete nonsense given that you have no idea what I'm talking about. I'd really like to tell you what the game is, as well as what project E is, but I need to give the scoop to the press so that hopefully they'll be willing to write about us. They should btw. It's a cool game.
At least I can tell you what it's not, at the risk of ruining some expectations. In case I hadn't mentioned it before, Project D is not Divinity 3 - I've been reading some posts from people who think it is, but it's not. it's even a different style of game, though for sure you'll recognize many things that we put in our previous games.
It's not some casual game either, on the contrary, some would say it's pretty hard-core. It features several things I've always wanted to do, and I'm glad that given our past success (yes, there are a quite a lot of Divinities out there) we now finally have the chance to do them, because it's not something I could ever have convinced a publisher of funding.
Heck, probably the best thing about it, from a geeky developer point of view, was that our journalist couldn't figure out what genre it was
The origin of Project D is a simple mechanic, stumbled upon almost by accident, but one that works so well and has so much depth that it deserved a full-blown game to be built around it. It could become our biggest success ever or our biggest failure, but each day I'm getting more convinced that if we don't ruin it, I'll have tremendous fun with this one once it's done. Time will tell and am extremely curious as to what the reactions here will be. If you'll all hate it, at least I know most of you'll still like E
Larian Studios - Status Update
Looks like Larian is about to show Project D to the media, which hopefully means a reveal is close:
I'm pretty nervous - tomorrow we're showing project D to a journalist for the very first time, and I have absolutely no idea how it will go. If this were E, I wouldn't be stressed, because that one hits all the right notes (I think), but D, well, it's different. At this point, I'm full of doubts, and constantly need remind myself that ever since I saw the first prototype, my thoughts about D have been "you think it's fun - someone else will also think it's fun - you just need to be able to communicate clearly about it." But at this point, I'm already going to be happy if he tells me "looks interesting". What I don't have any doubts about is that he'll say it's ambitious
Anyway, it said small status update, so that means really short
Events of interest -
-We're getting our first distribution deals in place
-We're having a big steam number one party this week at an undisclosed location
-We know what our booth at GC is going to look like and what we'll be showing
-Working with David Freeman is a blessing and a curse because it caused a lot of extra work (but for a good cause)
-Farhang, our lead designer, is going to give an excellent presentation tomorrow Go Farhang !
-We're all going on a holiday (well almost all) real soon
Larian Studios - New Status Update
Lar has made a new status update available on their forums with information on their new projects D and E:
So what’s up at Larian these days? Well, as those who come here regularly know, we’re preparing for Gamescom and the announcement of Project D.
Now I read on http://www.rpgwatch.com, one of the two sites I check in the morning to see what the competition does (the other being the madness that is rpgcodex) that Moriendor (whose opinions ring a personal note as he visited our studio in the early days to help us out with testing the first Divinity) thinks we’re going to make:
a) A Real sequel to ED full price game to be released on all major platforms
b) An Isometric low budget spin-off to possibly only be distributed digitally
c) A Browser game of some sort
d) And finally a multiplayer-focused title, either an MMO (seems unlikely that they would invest in a full scale MMO but maybe a browser MMO) or something with an emphasis on cooperative gameplay
He concludes with “that would cover all of the bases as far as the current trends in gaming are concerned”.
So to respond - Project D is none of these and project E, which I think I already mentioned has a top-down camera, can hardly be called low-budget. On the contrary, it makes us bleed, but we have high hopes for it
Speaking of E, I’m very happy to announce that we managed to convince David Freeman ( http://www.beyondstructure.com ) to help us out with the script. He arrived yesterday in Gent with a surprisingly low dose of jet lag, and will be working together with us over the next couple of weeks with fine-tuning the storyline for E. I’m pretty curious what he’ll come up with, especially considering the ambitions we have for E’s storyline and how you’ll interact with it.
David wrote a book “Creation Emotion in Games” and also teaches the biggest screenwriting class in Los Angeles & London. If you have an interest in stories in games, get a copy (
http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Emotion-Games-Craft-Emotioneering/dp/1592730078 ) and you won’t be disappointed, but better yet, if you ever have a chance, participate in his class, you won’t regret it (and it puts the ideas of the book completely in perspective, which might otherwise be hard to get completely) Get on his mailing list so you can figure out when he’s in the neighbourhood, those things are usually packed but who knows, you might manage.
Now, I’m mentioning all of this because his book contains a chapter which talks about “meaningful non linear response” or MNLR for short, and it’s one of the things we’re trying to do & get right in E. If you get the book, you’ll get why this could something really cool. If not, ask David, maybe he’ll send you a chapter. If you can’t guess, I’m pretty hyped about having Jan, who wrote all the dialogue in DKS and David work together, and am very hopeful that the outcome will make for a fantastic new Divinity story.
Larian Studios - Design your own game
Ever had an idea about a new iPhone game, but not the knowledge to realize it? Larian Studios is now running a contest in which they offer to realize the game with a maximum budget of 20KEuro (or 30K$). And you will get royalties on the sale of the game....That is, if you win the contest.
Imagine - you have a great idea for a super fun mobile game, but you don't know how to turn that idea into reality.
This is your chance! Larian Studios and Gameland are organising the Design your Own Game competition through which you get the chance to make your ideas reality: to make them become a fully fledged game.
The purpose of this competition is to suggest an innovative game-idea for an iPhone game that has a good chance of being successful.
A panel of experts will review all submissions and select the best idea.
The winner will be announced at Gameland, a unique event that takes place on September 10 and 11 in theme park Bobbejaanland, where gamers can go to learn about the latest games and the latest technology in the games world.
Other than submitting your idea, nothing else is required. Larian Studios will invest up to 20,000 Euros in the development and commercialization of the best game idea, and the winner will share in the profits through royalties.
Larian Studios - New Status Update
Swen 'Lar' Vincke has written a new status update on the Larian forums as they prepare for GamesCom in Germany - where Project D will be announced. A sample:
Once again, this status update comes later than I had hoped for but as Joram surmised in another thread, yes, it’s been busy. We’re going to be announcing one of our new games, project D, at GamesCom in Cologone, this August, and so the pressure right now is to make sure that we have something to show, as well as figuring out how we’re going to show it. Turns out we have very little experience with the latter as in the past these things were always done by a publisher. But now that we’re self-funding all of our games, we have to take care of that part too, and it clearly requires a different set of skills, skills we don’t necessarily have in-house, though we’re working on that.
Our main task at GameCom will be that for the next games we don’t want any more WOW, how come thi game doesn't get more attention? threads, even if we are flattered by all the things you all write in there. I spent quite some time speaking to people “in-the-know” over the past couple of months about how to profile ourselves and our games better, and in the process had to take quite some flak about how we’ve been presenting ourselves to our audiences in the past, but I guess they do have a point. Summarized it boils down to “your website is a mess, you’re not using the social thing like you should, your messaging is a wreck and what the #### is up with your logo ? It looks like washing powder. Oh, and btw, do you call that a presentation ? My Italian designer label toilet paper looks better than that !”
Thanks Zohaib and Alrik!
Larian Studios - Status Update Continued
I forgot to post the continuation of Lar's Larian update last week. This one goes into reminiscing mode as he delves into the old Divine Divinity code. Here's a snip, carrying on from the discovery they'd lost the changes to the updated GOG version:
Ironically, the list of all the changes that were done was on the disc, as were indeed the binary masters, but it was the wrong source code. It was an accident for sure, and given the circumstances in which we were working then (i.e. continuous crunch and no cash) perfectly understandable, but still, quite unsettling.
Given that putting all the changes back in was more work than anticipated (we intended to just fix whatever problems were still reported), and all our programmers were busy on projects A,D, E & M, I figured I’d take the code myself and have a look at what I could do. I very much miss the programming part in my current role at Larian, so I actually even looked forward to it and thought it was a pretty good excuse to put the excel files on the side.
Opening up the code of Divine Divinity brought back plenty of memories, and as I was browsing through it, I suddenly saw a comment –
//Change 30-05-02 – Lar – It’s my birthday and guess what I’m doing again (see painpoint.h for more on this ☹)
and sure enough, I go to painpoint.h and it says
//Change 30-05-01 – Lar –It’s my birthday and guess what I’m doing – Pain points are objects that don’t appear on screen but if a npc bumps into a sphere around the painpoint, he gets hurt
The message implict in this one was that the crunch on Divine Divinity lasted more than a year because I was writing those in the middle of the night. So I started looking for some more quotes in comments – here are my favorite ones (I actually did a search on a number of curses)
//Quite some work to get this – I’m constantly amazed that all of this @@@@ still works [...]
Larian Studios - Status Update
Lar has posted a new status update on the Larian forums. Lar talks about a number of projects including their educational stuff and an iOS game. It's fairly long, so here's a partial snip:
Too young to be able to blame it on age (I hope), I figured it must have something to do with our workload, but to be honest, we’ve experienced far worse in the past, so that can’t be it either – as matter of fact, it’s actually quite a lot of fun for the moment to work at Larian with pressure lower than usual, and things apparently going well for our studio. DKS is doing well, the new games are looking cool, and contrary to many an independent studio, we’re in good shape with the warm feeling of true independance doing miracles for my blood pressure i.e. we don’t need to deal with the whims of any third party, and can pretty much do as we want. (Well, there are some constraints, but compared to the shackles of the past, these are almost irrelevant)
The root cause for the my time tracking problem is probably that there’s a lot of things going on at the same time, and the continuous focus shifting gives me less of a frame of reference to establish when what happened where. Project D, project E, project M, project A, they’re all fighting for attention and they’re all very different from one another, so each time you deal with one of them you need to put yourself in another mode.
Larian Studios - Status Update - Funding Secured for Two Projects
Lar writes a status update from the GDC in San Francisco to say he has secured funding for both Project D and E, which is fantastic news. It's a lengthy piece so I'll post two partial quotes and you can head over to the Larian forums for the full piece. On securing the future of D & E:
I'm jet-lagged in San Francisco and that gives me the opportunity to give you another update . I'm here for the Game Developers Conference, though truth be said, I haven't seen anything from the show yet nor have I participated in a single seminar. Instead, I spent most of my time in hotel rooms showing off project D & E. I've got D running on an X360 dev-kit I brought (which due to the transformer I've had to bring is horribly heavy) and for E I've got a video on my brand new Ipad (which I curse about now having seen the IPad 2, I should've waited err.. anybody want to buy a brand new Ipad ?).
Over the last couple of days I've been showing both games to a variety of distributors/publishers, trying to make sure that when either one releases, it'll be available worldwide on day 1, and while they all understand the success of Divinity II, it's still stunning to see how few publishers understand RPG's and the RPG market in general. Don't read that as there's no interest in E & D, on the contrary, I can actually confirm that both games have secured funding so they'll be happening, but it just struck me as strange how many of the larger publishers approach the RPG genre as something alien.
Lar then writes that, having been successful with those two, he though he'd pitch his dream Very Big RPG That Will Dwarf All Other RPGs, which shows something of the current market (although it's hard to complain with two projects signed, I would imagine):
I'm afraid that I have to report that it's not working out that well, and that our next two games won't be the Very Big RPG That Will Dwarf All Other RPGs, but I did want to mention that I tried The feedback I got was "we don't do RPGs", "we did an RPG once and all involved got fired", "it's a very hardcore thing, an RPG. We're not into hardcore that much anymore","we're just not active in that space" etc... Now in some cases you need to read that feedback as "well, we just don't have cash and we're looking for developers we don't have to pay" or "we've got cash and we'd like to keep it so the last thing we'll do is spend it on a RPG" to "it hasn't got the words social, free to play and micro-transactions in it, so it's bound to be a failure, what the hell is he thinking", but in other cases it's really a case of not getting it, which is a pity.
There's a strong tendency not to make RPGs among the publishers that haven't made X-loads of money with a RPG in the past, and a strong tendency to stick to the IP's they have among the publishers that did make money with RPGs, meaning that there's very little chance some independent developer will get the opportunity to make something big and new in the RPG space. Given that observation i.e. it's not going to come from publisher interest, I guess somehow we'll have to find a way to make the Very Big RPG That Will Dwarf All Other RPGs ourselves (after which I'm sure there'll be plenty of publisher interest )
Larian Studios - Next Projects Update
Lar has penned an update at the Larian forums discussing their next projects - or at least, they are in planning and pre-production and presumably waiting for a publisher green-light or similar. Lar says he needs to be cryptic at this very early stage but, to be honest, it's fairly transparent all things considered:
Some months ago, in one of the status updates, I promised I wanted to be more open about the development of our next games. I'd like to start doing that, but out of necessity still need to be cryptic about certain things.
So currently we have 2 Divinity projects in pre-production - The first one, code named project E features a top-down camera whereas the other one, code named project D, has a camera similar to DKS but obviously with certain improvements.
They are both in pre-production meaning that would ordinarily mean that it's unsure that they'll make it to market, but I think there'll be an announcement in the next couple of weeks that guarantees at least one of the two will make it to production, and I'd actually be surprised if the second one doesn't make it either. I'm the most biased person on the planet when it comes to Divinity games, but I am under the impression that they're both uber-cool games and that I'd like to play them both. If past experience is anything to go by, that means that somehow we'll manage to get them made.
Talking about project E, the top-down thing has disadvantages when it comes to immersion, but it makes up in terms of some of the content things we can pull off with it. You can think of E as the original Divinity in a modern jacket augmented with many of the insights we gained over the course of they years and some new things we'd like to try out (with the caveat that those sometimes work, and sometimes don't). It certainly looks nice, and many of the ideas in there fit with what you've all been writing of things you want in our forums. Some don't however; ) I'd really like to show you some early screenshots, but since that would be a first announcement, it'd make it all over the web, and it might cause mis-interpretation which would take a long time to set right, so we'll refrain from that for the moment.
D, well, that one does *one* thing which I expect several in this industry will tell us is insane, for probably good reasons, but I can't help but thinking that it'll make for really cool gameplay so we'll try it out nonetheless - I'm being a bit cryptic about it because D's development has two roads it can follow, and I don't know which one it'll be yet. I do know which one I'd prefer, but that's the one that'll cost tons of cash and we still need to figure out if we can get someone crazy enough to share our belief that that's a game that should be made. To be fair, we haven't shown it to anybody yet, so I have no clue if it actually requires craziness, or instead people will jump on it, but the plan is to start showing it around at GDC, so we'll see what that gives.
What I can tell you about D is that it *should* take care of one of the frustrations I personally still had with DKS i.e. getting the dragon thing really right. Given the scope of DKS we never could focus sufficient development resources on that, and to avoid that from happening with D we started pre-production by focussing completely on the dragon thing. In my mind, there still hasn't been a game that got the feeling of being a powerful beast of destruction right (and fun), and that's going to be one of the core ambitions with D. Should it turn out that it doesn't work, it won't be for lack of trying
While I'm writing, I also wanted to thank you all for the feedback we're getting in here - I'm often amazed by how crystal accurate some of the analysis is, and for us it's like mana from heaven in terms of getting our design focused. Even Kein's continuous frontal assaults are a great source of inspiration
Larian Studios - New RPG, Shop and More
Lar posted another lengthy update a week back that we missed and, surprisingly, noone pointed it out at the time because Swen talks about their next RPG project, launching their own online shop (called the Larian Vault) and a host of Dragon Knight Saga / FoV updates. It's too long to post, so here's a snip and head over for the latest on DKS and the rest:
Now in case you're wondering, despite the crazy list of releases we have this month, the stuff that keeps me the most busy for the moment is our next RPG (on which work has started) and a speech I have to give in a month or so. More about the speech in a second as I could use some input, but first a little bit about the next RPG coming from Larian. No third parties are involved yet so I can pretty much say whatever I want about it, but the concepts are still converging, so I won't give too many details yet. What I can say is that it's quite different from our previous work, should still feel very familiar to Divinity fans and contains an idea I'm pretty fond of, so I hope it'll work out well (read, I don't think it's been done by anybody else yet)
Undoubtedly I'll talk about it in more detail later on and actually I'm hoping that we can make the development of this one very open so you can see what's happening as we develop it, and take a more active role in making suggestions, a bit like when we made the first Divinity. I'll keep you posted if we find a way of making that work without having to throw our unique selling points into the open too soon, but I've seen so many intelligent things written down in these forums, that I think it'd be stupid as a developer not to take take more advantage of it (that probably came out wrong, but I hope you get what I mean).
Our ability to do that will be pretty much dependent on the level of publisher involvement, and that'll depend on how good this vault thing works (shameless pitch intended ), the better it works, the less involvement there'll be. Personally, I much preferred developing on Divinity 1, where we were lucky enough that the publisher didn't really bother about what we were doing, and I could just react with changes in the game immediately on what I saw happening in this forum (yes for those new here, it's been around for quite some time and it's a pity that it crashed once and we lost all the old posts - if you see a white cat in Divinity games, he was born in these forums - as a matter of fact, many of the features in the original Divinity were born in this forum )
Larian Studios - Website Update
Thanks to Alrik for letting us know that Larian Studios has made a face lifting to their homepage:
As you can see, we've updated our site. This is in preparation for an important announcement in which we'll reveal what we've been working on all this time. Stay tuned for more info very very soon!
Larian Studios - Now Hiring
Larian is hiring a game designer and the requirements include a "profound understanding of RPGs". The position is in Belgium, naturally.
Larian Studios - Christmas Card
Ironically, the last Larian newsbit in our database was last year's Christmas card...as is their tradition, they've released a quirky piece of Christmas art to celebrate the season.
Larian Studios - Xmas Wallpaper
Larian has released a quirky desktop Christmas wallpaper for their fans.
Larian Studios - Licenses Kynapse AI
Larian Studios has announced they have licenced Kynapse AI for their upcoming "next gen" RPG:
Larian chooses Kynapse for next generation role playing gameParis/France, Oudenaarde/Belgium – December 21, 2006 – Kynogon, market leader in AI middleware solutions for the gaming and simulation industries, and Larian Studios, creators of the Divinity series of video games, announced today that Kynapse would be used as the AI solution for their new role-playing game.
“It’s a next-generation game that demands cutting-edge technology. We are relying on multiple top-notch middleware solutions and Kynapse was smoothly integrated with all the other external technologies we are using. In addition, our requirements for AI in the game are very challenging. We have thousands of characters running on very large and extremely dynamic terrains. Kynapse was the natural choice for our AI needs.” Swen Vincke, Managing Director at Larian Studios, declared.
Larian Studios - Signs with ISM
Larian Studios has announced they have signed up with management services company ISM. While this in itself may not be interesting to readers, the press release confirms the platforms for their next title:
RPG developer joins business management specialist
Role-playing specialist Larian Studios has become the latest client to sign up with management company ISM.
The award-winning development studio has previously worked on Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity, and is currently working on a next-generation RPG for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
"Role-playing games are the second most popular genre on PCs and the third most popular on console platforms," said Francois Masciopinto, ISM's senior agent for Europe.
"We are convinced that Larian is poised to provide consumers with incredible game experiences, and publishers with the opportunity to leverage their unique talent," he added.
"We believe ISM provides us with the business and negotiation skills necessary to compete in today's interactive market," commented Swen Vincke, president of Larian.
"They understand our business and challenges, and we strongly believe this new partnership will position our company for dramatic growth and expansion throughout the world," said Vincke.
Information aboutLarian Studios