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Swen Vincke: Gaming journalists don't get Divinity: Original Sin

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Swen Vincke: Gaming journalists don't get Divinity: Original Sin

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 7 March 2014, 13:17:46

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

In a blog post entitled "Educating Players", Larian's Swen Vincke expresses his worries over how Divinity: Original Sin has been received by the games media. It's not pretty.

We decided on doing another preview tour this late in development (which really is the most inopportune of times) because it became clear that there are still a lot of journalists out there who think of Divinity:Original Sin as a Diablo clone or a Diablo clone with tactical combat. This despite all the videos, walkthroughs, early access content and previews being out there. Better make that, despite the truckload of videos, walkthroughs, early access content and previews out there.

It makes me despair some times and tbh a bit worried too.

The problem seems to be that the game has a top-down perspective and turn-based combat in its first 5 mins of gameplay. This apparently is sufficient to classify the game as just-another-generic-fantasy-rpg-clone not worth spending time on.

Honestly, I didn’t believe it when somebody first told me about this line of reasoning, but by now I do because I’ve heard it repeated so many times.

Because there are so many games coming out, an hour is pretty much the maximum you can hope for when sending out preview code. And apparently that’s already a lot.

A preview is an article in which the reporter tells his audience what the game is about, what he expects of it and if there’s anything cool to get excited over.For a game that doesn’t have Battlefield style gfx, that takes its time building up and that relies on the player trying things out, the one hour thing is bad news.

Reporters relying on their gaming instincts and the first hour of gameplay won’t see what our ambitions are and thus jump to the wrong conclusion. (Off topic but in that context I’d like to advise “Thinking fast and slow”’ as obligatory reading to everybody. This type of approach is an excellent example of how your fast thinking fools you into making the wrong assumptions.)

Anyway, the good thing is that whenever we do manage to grab a reporter and put him or her through the “torture” of a D:OS demo, they do eventually understand that there’s more than meets the eye, and because we usually exceed their expectations, we get some excitement.

But it does leave us with a real problem.

Despite being so long in development and talking so much about it, we still didn’t discover the right way of communicating the game’s unique selling propositions. And we’re running out of time.

I asked one of the reporters who was very vocal about how happy he was that I showed him Divinity:Original Sin’s depth what we were doing wrong. Given his excitement it was clear to me that he was part of our target audience and I was really curious how we managed to miss somebody who was clearly informing himself on what games are coming out (it’s his job after all).

He replied that he wouldn’t have tried half the stuff I showed him because he would’ve assumed that we didn’t support it and instead jump to the conclusion that the game was broken. For him, the kind of presentation I gave him was exactly what was needed in his eyes.

It reminded me strongly of something another journalist had told me. During a demo, I think at the German magazine Gamestar, I was told that we’d probably have to re-educate players because they’re not used to this type of gameplay anymore, conditioned as they seem to be by all the streamlining games go through nowadays.

I thought of this again when I watched this youtuber the other day. I cringed when I saw how he missed out on a couple of key features. I also cringed when I saw how he ended his video, which while typical, is also the reason why so much potential innovation has been stiffled by the gatekeepers at the ruling class of old, i.e. the majority of publishers.

I mentioned I’m getting a bit worried by this because eventually we will need to sell this game. At this point I’m starting to think tutorials everywhere, which is my least favourite part of development, but I do want Divinity:Original Sin to be a success, and that’s not going to happen if everybody thinks it’s yet another ARPG clone. Or wait, perhaps it will?
For fuck's sake.

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