Divinity: Original Sin 2 Interview
After the presentation and demo of Original Sin 2, we talked with game writers Sarah Baylus (who wrote the RPGWatch and RPGCodex story line) and Kieron Kelly and were given the opportunity to find out more about the game. Next to RPGWatch, representatives from RPGCodex, 9Lives and PC Gameplay were present and asking questions.
With the loads of extra writing that will be needed for Original Sin 2 it was good to hear that Larian Studios now have a total of seven writers working on the game. Five of them in the Dublin Studio and 2 in Ghent.
Before we went into the interview, Char mentioned that they have been working on creating a lore book, which connects all the Divinity games together, thus creating a Divinity universe that makes sense and where everything fits together. This is used as one of the sources in creating background stories they are working on and to make sure things will fit in the timeline and lore.
Next to the office in Dublin, there are also offices in Russia and Canada. On top of that there are some free-lancers working on their games. There are some 90 people working for Larian Studios and communication between the studios is a challenge giving the time differences, which they solve with an internal chat system that appears to be working quite well.
In Ghent, it has been mostly Sarah and Jan van Dosselaer (Lead Writer) who were working on the prototype, with the rest working on the Enhanced Edition. While in Canada they are all working on the prototype together with the Russian office, of whom some are also working on the Enhanced Edition.
On the topic of writing, they mentioned they don't like filler lore books that much. The contents of the book should be relevant to the player. Either to the story or provide a hint or something. They will also use the books to provide more depth to the various plot arcs, each of the characters will have. But, it is too early to become to specific on this. Sarah also likes writing the indirect dialogues in the game. It is a different way to write and allows them to write from the perspective of the player characters. It increases their output and gives it a bit of flavour, but still lets the player role-play the characters as they see fit. In Original Sin the player characters had to be more neutral at times, which made it more difficult to characterize them. In Original Sin 2 they will not have this issue.
As writers their work has increased a lot, but there is always another solution to a problem. That's Swen's thing and drives them crazy sometimes. They have this good working quest and when Swen sees it, he often asks why he can't do it in this and that way. When they have added it, they come to the conclusion it is indeed a great solution. It is good that Swen is always striving to make a good experience by adding as many options as possible to solve quests.
I've mentioned that playing with four people and everybody going off to play their own game and only occasionally meet because it is needed, is something that is a concern to me. Kieron replied that the set-up of the prototype is such that it is designed to give you a feeling of what it is like to play as four individuals. The actual end game will have individual tasks and goals and personal drives for each character, but there will be a common goal and there will be points in the game where you will have to work together as some of the puzzles or combat will be next to impossible to solve by yourself, controlling only one character.
It is now pushed, especially for the prototype, in the direction of getting the feeling of having a co-op where you are separately playing with each other, just to see the PvP elements. The prototype is also constructed in such a way that you cannot get all four people to succeed in leaving the island.
What they are really aiming for in the final game is that the party will move together, but there will be this feeling that you will not entirely trust the others. If someone talks to a NPC and you're doing something else, how do you know what the other character said? Can you trust the other one? The motivations of the characters will differ, but you still need to work together to reach your goal. The game simply can't be completed on your own. The story will help as it will be written in such a way that the plot will bring the characters together in a way that feels natural for them to move forward.
If you play the game in a normal way and your character motivations differ from another character in the game. That will not stop you to work together as a party. It may happen that there are certain points in the game where one character might want to do something slightly different and you might have an argument about it, but the game can definitely be played more cooperative and less competitive.
In case you do end up in an argument, it is not sure if, the rock, paper, scissor interaction will still be in the game. With four players it would require a more complex system to solve an argument. There are some ideas about how to make that work, but nothing concrete to share at the moment.
In a single player game the ambition is that when you pick four characters, these four will feel as a group and not just four characters tossed together. You can play each of those as a single player, but each character will have its own drive. There is a main plot and each character will have its personal plot that will wrap around the main plot. Say you have a dwarven character an you role-play him. He will have certain reactions to the world. However if you have four characters and you play one of the characters and bring the dwarf along, then the AI of the dwarf will role-play based on what he would do normally in a given situation, given his background. They want the characters to be more a driving force than a reactionary force. This also means that in single player, the experience you get from the game will very much depend on the characters you have selected in your party.
There are plans to add romance options in the game. It is not clear what it will exactly look like, but the idea is to have a relationship system in there.
The reason they are going to add a relationship system is to increase the role-playing element. You want to have as many options as possible to live out the story that you want to build. Romances might not be a required part of it, but it depends on what kind of character you want to play. If you want to romance you can. If you don't, there might be non-romantic options in the system, but it is not clear what they might be. They are thinking about providing feedback in the dialog options to make clear that by selecting a dialog option you will start a romance or not.
They certainly don't want a childish quest based relationship progress, with some sort of robotic progression towards a romance. As writers they want to flesh out the characters such that when they are interacting and something is potentially blossoming in their characters plot wise, it makes sense that flirtations are going somewhere. They want the player to be able to explore that in a role playing context.
At the moment everything on this aspect is still on the table, same-sex relations, marriages, romances between party characters only, or also with NPCs. They are still working on the backgrounds of the characters and they don't know if it will be possible that two of the characters will have already a history together or are a married couple, where their relationship could grow or decline. They are talking now about a system that implements romances from the beginning, so that it feels very organic from the backstories that they have.
They are at the moment figuring out how many backgrounds they can have in the game. At the moment there are four. For the character you create, you can select from all of the available backgrounds or you can pick a neutral background if you want to role-play your character yourself.
Some things might be dictated by the background you select, like your race or gender. Each background is unique, so the background you select will not be available for a potential party member in the game. The idea is that everybody would be able to create the party they want, which would require enough available options to accomplish this.
On the question if female writers add a different perspective, Sarah answered that if this was the case, it should be visible in Original Sin already as she and Jan were working on that together. Compared to the earlier games there is something of her touch in the characters and the gender balance is a bit more balanced, but she is also reading some of the female characters written by the male writers and she finds them very cool and fleshed people, fully realized and not caricatures. The women in the game are not all prostitutes and men aren't all drunken boors. Ultimately she feels it is a matter of the skill of the writer to place themselves in the shoes of somebody else and less if they are male or female. They are also spreading the genders quite evenly over the NPCs and also take effort to make them diverse, not only in gender, but also in looks, so that everybody can be realistically represented in the game.
One of the complaints of Original Sin was that the writing in the first game was too silly. They are aware of this feedback and for Original Sin 2, they want the main story to be elevated, as the main story in Original Sin got a bit lost. It was a bit too high fantasy and not connecting to people very well. They have a high attention to not let things get out of hand with respect to this, while still maintaining that Divinity wink and lightheartedness. With a larger writing team they feel that there are more checks in place to prevent things getting out of hand. Also Swen has a big hand in determining if things are too silly or not for Original Sin 2.
The writers feel that their brainstorm sessions and cooperation are such that everybody could join in on them. They especially would love to see Chris Avellone join them as part of a Kickstarter stretch goal. If he would join he would be welcomed with open arms
Sarah feels that the length of Original Sin was fine, but the third act was not. The Enhanced Edition fixes this, amongst others. For Original Sin 2, Swen is talking about a lot of regions. Variety is important, so the game will have more unique locations than there were in Original Sin.
Sarah also feels that with the experience of Original Sin allows them to not make the same mistakes again that led to the third act being not so good as it should. They also have gained experience in making the prototype and learned how much time it takes to make it. Given this, they can extrapolate from that to get a better feeling on what this will mean for the entire game,
The events of Original Sin can still be felt in the world of Original Sin 2. Source has tremendous power and is something that is innate to some people all over Rivellon. The way it manifests itself, dark or light, is up to the player. However, if there is a way to gather source points without committing an evil act is not clear yet. Both roads would lead to tremendous power.
Original Sin 2 is likely to have gating like in Original Sin. You can still go wherever you want, like in Original Sin, even if you have not completed the main quest for that part yet, although the monsters will probably be too strong for you. Kieron mentioned that they build quite big levels and the engine simply can't run all the maps as one map. For that reason Original Sin 2 will also have story based reasons to move to the next map.
Sarah takes a lot of her inspiration from literature, poetry and imagistic writing. Writing that conveys a lot in a few words is important to her. She and other writers look at other games as well to prevent including something that has been done already. She feels that as a writer, Pillars of Eternity was an enjoyable experience. The story was told in a different manner and she enjoyed reading it and was taking notes while she was playing. It's not something that can be done in Original Sin 2 though, because of the open world and not having a lot of cutscenes, but she did learn from it. She also thinks that most of the Irish people are Terry Pratchett people and get their inspiration from that. Kieron agreed that some are indeed, but not so much for him. Char told us earlier that she is writing a fantasy novel, next to her work on the game and has read a lot of fantasy as well. And Jan appears to like Mr. Shakespeare.
One other thing I've learned is that in Divinity Original Sin, there is a whale out of the cost of Cyceal. It isn't doing anything, there is no quest for it, it is also not related to anything, it just hangs there in the water. Apparently also nobody knows who put it there. Perhaps somebody can utilize it in a mod in the future.
That concludes the articles for Original Sin 2. I wish to thank Larian Studios and Swen for organizing this event and especially Char, Sarah and Kieron for answering all of our questions so openly.
Information aboutDivinity: Original Sin II
Developer: Larian Studios
SP/MP: Single + MP
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-09-14
· Publisher: Larian Studios