We had a chance to talk to Swen Vincke, the founder and CEO of Larian Studios. Hands-on for the journalists was a perfect opportunity to ask questions about some details concerning Divinity: Original Sin 2, which has just been announced. Will the sequel be simplified? What about the console versions of the game? How much the developers rely on the success of their Kickstarter campaign?
NOTE: Check out our hands-on impressions from Divinity: Original Sin 2
Kirill, your PR and community manager, mentioned couple of days ago, that you are going for the crowdfunding not because of the money (game is basically funded), but to involve your fans in the process of creating the game. Could you elaborate on that?
Yeah, about that. To be honest there is couple of reasons to do so, but the really core, basic reason is that we want to put more stuff into the game. Game is indeed funded, after all we made a big commercial success with Original Sin, but there is always more that you can put on top of it. With first Original Sin it was really the community that turned this from a good RPG into a really, really good RPG, so we want to give them opportunity to get on board as soon as possible… mostly because there was a demand for that. People actually were asking us for it...
But aren’t you a little bit afraid that their vision of the game is way too different from yours? That they will be demanding implementation of things that are in total opposition to your plans?
It was the same thing with the first game, wasn’t it? The pitch will be in the Kickstarter video, so hopefully our vision will be as crystal as possible and if not – we, together with the media, will be trying to explain in what direction exactly we are heading to. At the end, people are not going to be in illusion of what we are trying to create, but most importantly – we are not going for the Kickstarter campaign to change the core of the game. It’s rather about things like “shall we put more origin stories?”, “do you want more playable races?” or “do you think those skills and spells are cool enough?”. When you are doing these type of RPGs, the most important aspect is freedom, and freedom means options. The more options you have in game, the more freedom you can experience during your adventure. During Kickstarter, we want players to decide about the amount and type of those options. If we fail during the campaign – hopefully that won’t happen – it means that we are doing something wrong and people actually don’t want this type of freedom in their game. You never know how it is going to end, maybe people are already sick of the gameplay that we saw in the first Original Sin?
Probably not, but we will know for sure in a couple of days… Original Sin was a quite hardcore game, wasn’t it? No quest marks, no directions, no hints – and personally I loved it, but it’s not a secret that casual players didn’t handle this very well. Are you trying to lower a bar a bit this time to gain a little more audience?
Absolutely not! There are lots of RPG fans out there that want to be treated with reasonable manner, not like they are complete idiots. So we are making the game for them essentially. With the sequel, it’s going to be the same as before, but on the other hand – it’s not like the so called “casual players” cannot have fun with our game. After the release of the first one, we have heard a lot of positive feedback from people who never played this type of game – when they were playing with their more experienced friends in co-op, they had really good time! Learning phase may be a bit longer than usual, but they appreciate that there is depth, complexity, multiple layers, and the fact that they are getting rewarded for exploration.
In other words – you are not even considering adding things like optional quest marks, etc.?
No. The way we developed our game, quests and adventures – we simply cannot do that even if we wanted to. There are some improvements over the original system – people will see it for the first time in the Enhanced Edition. Some things are going to be a little bit more clear to the players. There won’t be any quest marks, but solving the puzzles will be more obvious if you look around carefully enough. We are “helping” players more, but it’s still up to them to find every single solution. You do that not because it’s easy to find, but because you are exploring the environment and options that are given to you by our RPG system. We don’t want you to feel like “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to do” – by fooling around with objects you are eventually going to solve the quest.
Yeah, in the first Original Sin the frustration was quite, well, popular. I remember this one quest – note that when I was reviewing the game there wasn’t even a single guide yet so I had to figure out everything by myself – where you had to put some objects on a platform. If the weight was right, you were opening the next gate… I finally made it and was extremely proud of myself, but…
And that was our goal. We didn’t change this quest in the Enhanced Edition, it’s still up there. But we implemented some small hints that will make the whole process more obvious, plus the interface is going to be a much better, so placing objects with specific weight will be easier. No one will tell you what to do, but finding a solution shouldn’t be as hard as it was. We are investing a lot of money in aspects like that – in improving interface, so the players can explore their options more easily.
Ok, that sounds promising. Looking at all those artworks in your office for the Original Sin 2, it seems that the sequel is going to be much darker, mysterious and serious. Am I getting the right impression?
Yes, you are right. It’s still going to be humorous from time to time, though. There’s a lot of extra effort being put in the narrative. In the first one it was more like “well, we need to place something here to fill the plot-whole, let’s just invent something”. But now, several of our writers are working on a lorebook – explaining every detail of the lore, our world, creatures, history, background, etc. – to make everything reasonable, connected and as comprehensive as possible. In game, you will never see it in so much details, unless you are going to read the lorebook, but…
Are you planning to release it somehow?
Yeah, we will probably release it, it’s a wonderful piece of work actually. And if you read it and then play the game – everything that you encounter will make perfect sense. It just makes a game so much better – knowing the fact that every detail, like behavior of the dwarves and their political situation, is extensively explained, absolutely changes the experience during the gameplay. It was mostly possible thanks to tripling out our narrative team – we took the new guys from completely different backgrounds. Some of them are experienced Dungeon Masters, but there are also screenwriters who worked on fictional stories all their life. Writing and pacing the story is a very complex matter and now we are capable of handling it even better than before.
And what about companions? In the Original Sin we had like four of them… There was Madora, Jahan, Wolfragg, Bairdotr and a bunch of random guys recruitable in your „safehouse”…
Well, they were not random! They were designed and created by our backers from the first Kickstarter campaign… But yeah, they’ve felt totally random, it’s true (laughs).
They definitely did! But my question is – will we have more characters capable of joining our team this time?
This time it will be a little bit different. Every companion is going to be a potential player character. Each one of them will have specific origin story. So you pick one, your own character, and the characters that you didn’t pick are all going to be present in the open world – when you encounter them, you have to choose which one will be joining you. That works really well, especially in multiplayer – you can take or drop off fully developed characters every time and have meaningful adventure with them. [The look, name and characters are up to the player, the only fixed thing is the origin story (Ed.)].
Talking about multiplayer. Is the co-op going to be different this time?
It definitely will. Instead of two people, now four of them can play simultaneously. We couldn’t implement this before due to technological limits of our engine. But with version 3.0 it won’t be a problem anymore. With engine 2.0, which will be present in Divinity: Original Sin - Enhanced Edition, there is also going to be option to play split screen. A lot of couples are playing at the same machine, so we wanted to set up the environment for mutual entertainment. When they face another couple playing the game in the same way – well, it’s going to be extremely exciting for both of them.
Let’s get back to the plot for a second. Will Original Sin 2 somehow continue the story from the previous game? How is it placed on the timeline of Divinity series?
The story is definitely connected. The action takes place much, much later though. The first game was about eradicating the Source and its adepts essentially. Now, we are back in the situation where the entire Source is being hunted down – but this time, we are playing as a Sourcer, so it’s a different side of the coin. I think the story for the first time is really going to make sense in terms of the whole universe. Chronologically, Original Sin 2 is set up between the events of Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity. The story that we are creating will show the rising corruption of the Divine Order, but also the events from the perspective of two other big factions like Lizard Empire - The Black Ring.
And talking about lizards. They are coming back as a playable race, aren’t they? There are also going to be humans, elves, dwarves… are you planning to expand this roster somehow?
We are hoping that with the Kickstarter we will be able to add more. Creating new race with specific origin story, interactions, animations, weaponry and dialogues needs a lot of complex work and is simply expensive. We have this one, very cool race that we will present during the Kickstarter campaign at some point… and hopefully we will raise enough money to implement it, because it’s bringing a completely new perspective to the game.
Sounds exciting, but so does the combat. In the first Original Sin the complexity of battles and strategy was probably one the most beloved things. Are you going to expand the system? Will we see new elemental interactions and combinations?
It’s not ready yet, but we will definitely add some new things. In the office we have this huge flow chart showing off all potential combinations, but the number of them that will make it to the final games is also based on how well Kickstarter goes. The core is staying the same, but we are trying to expand on it – there is going to be more objects that can be used as a cover, we have Source points mechanic and a lot, lot more.
And what about platforms? Will Original Sin 2 be released for consoles or is it going to be a PC exclusive? You already have fantastic controller support in the demo that you showed us, so…?
For now, we are completely focusing on the PC version. Different platforms like Mac, Linux or consoles are still a mystery, since we don’t know how well they will handle engines based on DirectX 12 (engine of Original Sin 2 will use it a lot). The system requirements for PC players are going to be higher than previously, but we cannot speak of the details yet. The game is still in the early prototype phase so a lot of things will change before the release.
Which will happen…
About two years from the day we're talking.
Slowly getting to the end of our conversation, there is still one more thing I need to ask. The title of the game. Why did you decide to choose Original Sin 2? Don’t you think, that making it sound like „Second Original Sin” is a bit weird direction? I mean, it makes absolutely no sense, since words like „original” and „two” are basically opposites.
Well, it’s pretty known that we suck with game titles (laughs). Obviously, there is a lot of recognizability of the game, but we have chosen Original Sin not only because of marketing reasons. It also makes a lot of sense in terms of our story, but I cannot speak more of it for now.
Thank you Swen for taking your time and best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign.
Luc | Gamepressure.com