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

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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.
 
Self-Ejected

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Maybe some alpha keys would help to inform people about this game.
 

Rahdulan

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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.

Wasn't that the exact same problem that happened with Divine Divinity? People just dismissed it as a Diablo clone.

In any case, only way to get the point across is some hard-line marketing because that's the only way you'll hammer anything into the head of your average mouthbreather these days. Abandon any lofty dreams of re-educating the general population.
 
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Kz3r0

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The golden solution is a dorito solution, much faster and cost effective that re-educate the players.
 

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I sympathize with Swen, as gaming journalists' stupidity is deeper and deeper with every passing weeks, it seems.

On a completely unrelated note, in a certain Polish printed gaming mag, I saw a note about D:OS being released on 7th of March 2014 on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.
:negative:
 

Tribal Sarah

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Larian should get YouTubers involved in a big way. The gaming "press" are fucking useless, if not blatantly corrupt. I think good coverage and word of mouth from YouTubers like TB would do more for the game than any shit IGN will come up with
 

Xenich

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Swen,

Attention spans being what they are and the problem with people making extremely quick surface judgments about anything these days, my advice is to market understanding that behavior.

So, sell your key points in extremely quick advertisements. Make "commercials" that catch attention, highlight a key feature and excite the audience.

Your style of game design is unique, focus on it, but do so with a "Hollywood" marketing mentality that knows that the market tends to be generally dumb animals that move in a herd. You have to be blunt with them when you show them features. You have to hit them over the head with a hammer or they will miss your point. I know it is sad, but this is what years of commercialized marketing has produced. You have to use gimmicks and hooks to grab peoples attention or they will lose interest and then make ignorant assumptions.

I would say that you should make small video commercials on these features and release them to the media and youtube. Make it a marketing campaign type gimmick with a series of releases on the key features of your game "21 days of Divinity: Original Sin" or something along those lines and don't just make it game play footage, actually make "commercials" with the game footage. Use your editors to be able to get movie style shots of a given examples of features, make them funny and witty, but focused on very quick examples of the games features.

I think that might get your point across to people that this game has a lot more features and isn't some Diablo clone.
 

V_K

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Wasn't that the exact same problem that happened with Divine Divinity? People just dismissed it as a Diablo clone.
Well, it was a Diablo clone at its core, some nice quirks notwithstanding. Playing it as a traditional RPG just wasn't a viable strategy in the long run.
 

ghostdog

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He showld accompany review copies with a pamphlet with suggestions for the reviewer. He should use simple language and small sentences.

"try this and see what happens"
"in that situation you can use the following solutions"
"be sure to read the text since voice actIng is only partial"
"try to actually play the game before writing the review"
"if you get hungry eat some of the doritos included in the package"
etc.

Simple, friendly suggestions like these will go a long way.
 
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Outlander

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Divinity: Original Sin Wasteland 2 Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
4c3.gif
 

dnf

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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.
First impression matters. I don't follow this game development, but from what i see, it does scream generic or tryhard at it's theme and the setting is being worked to death already. And i have yet to see a good game from them after Divine Divinity. Was Dragon Commander good?
 

Xenich

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Wasn't that the exact same problem that happened with Divine Divinity? People just dismissed it as a Diablo clone.
Well, it was a Diablo clone at its core, some nice quirks notwithstanding. Playing it as a traditional RPG just wasn't a viable strategy in the long run.

Could you elaborate?

Other than the combat system/development and the loot being similar, they were completely different in focus. Diablo was purely a hack and slash loot whoring game. Its story was a side note and the rest was simply doing repetitive tasks.

Divinity had piles of secrets through quests, item and environment interaction. It contained a main theme story and numerous sub stories throughout with interesting interactions. Now you can certainly see similarities at times to diabol, but much in the same way that you can say all cars are the same.

If the game were just a Diablo clone, I would never had touched it as I think Diablo is extremely shallow and boring.
 

DraQ

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I'd say that the way to go is giving player a healthy shove towards some of the unexpected features early in game.
Unfortunately given little information regarding what features got overlooked I can't really offer anything more constructive.
 

Xenich

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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.
First impression matters. I don't follow this game development, but from what i see, it does scream generic or tryhard at it's theme and the setting is being worked to death already. And i have yet to see a good game from them after Divine Divinity. Was Dragon Commander good?

Perception is a problem and impressions suffer from such illogical evaluation. Problem is, when you have a lazy and dense base, it is difficult to sell to them as they always make ignorant assumptions.
 

V_K

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Wasn't that the exact same problem that happened with Divine Divinity? People just dismissed it as a Diablo clone.
Well, it was a Diablo clone at its core, some nice quirks notwithstanding. Playing it as a traditional RPG just wasn't a viable strategy in the long run.

Could you elaborate?

Other than the combat system/development and the loot being similar, they were completely different in focus. Diablo was purely a hack and slash loot whoring game. Its story was a side note and the rest was simply doing repetitive tasks.

Divinity had piles of secrets through quests, item and environment interaction. It contained a main theme story and numerous sub stories throughout with interesting interactions. Now you can certainly see similarities at times to diabol, but much in the same way that you can say all cars are the same.

If the game were just a Diablo clone, I would never had touched it as I think Diablo is extremely shallow and boring.
I mean that the only way to survive the later stages of the game was to make a completely combat-focused character, thus giving up on most of those interesting interactions as long as they involve skill use. It's kinda like Bloodlines in that regards.
 

Gord

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I'd put in some more pop-ups (that can be deactivated) into the early parts of the game, that give players some hints about how to approach the game.
E.g. during the murder quest:
Hint: There are numerous ways to acquire helpful information and items, often it helps to carefully look around people's houses. Make sure not to be caught stealing, though!
Hint: with the right talent, your hero can talk with animals. The dog might have something to say about the situation.
Or maybe you should better take a closer look at some of the suspects?

By the way, while I wouldn't introduce quest markers either, it might help to put signs in front of some of the buildings in Cyseal. Why wouldn't some people announce their business?
It has already been decided to put up some map markers, after all.
 
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Mangoose

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Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity
This just makes me want to write some good previews for the game.

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.
First impression matters. I don't follow this game development, but from what i see, it does scream generic or tryhard at it's theme and the setting is being worked to death already. And i have yet to see a good game from them after Divine Divinity. Was Dragon Commander good?
Flames of Vengeance
 
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felipepepe

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Sadly, the answer is a hand-holding tutorial quest. And a short one, most people he describe will have given up before reaching the city and putting of the fire by casting a rain spell... while I adore that the game simply starts and you're already free, popamoles can't cope with that.

Also, fuck this world. How I wish that selling just 100k copies would make this game profitable and guarantee a sequel, like in teh olden days... no need to force random players to understand how great D:OS is...
 

Mangoose

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Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity
Some thoughts on the journalism part...

ForkTong I'd drop game reference buzzwords. Refer to "XCOM" in order to provide a first impression of the gameplay. As for non-combat, you could say that the object/world interactivity is better than Skyrim's. Not sure what I'd say for the quests and character interaction, perhaps refer to it being like Fallout 3 or Dragon Age?

The graphics do look "generic fantasy" on first impression (I like it though, and I understand that it's intentional). Perhaps you could whip up some quick shaders/filters to add contrast/HDR/whatever just to please the journalists? Several games do this, and there are free shader packages like SweetFX and ENB.
 
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Mangoose

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Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity
Sadly, the answer is a hand-holding tutorial quest. And a short one, most people he describe will have given up before reaching the city and putting of the fire by casting a rain spell... while I adore that the game simply starts and you're already free, popamoles can't cope with that.
Yeah I think journalist demos need a bit of direction, especially given how expansive DOS is. What I mean is, a player playing blind will not know there's turn based combat on first impression, because on first impression you are walking around in real time. It's not a big deal for a regular gamer, but for a journalist perhaps it's better to hook them in immediately with a battle. Or a tutorial quest, as felipepepe described. Giving the (typical) journalist choice and exploration in the first minute might not be a good idea. Just force feed him the interesting mechanics.
 

NotAGolfer

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Divinity: Original Sin 2
I still have a hard time to believe that anyone, even the dumbest, most ignorant shitbrain, could miss the points that make D:OS stand out of the crowd.
I mean just look at the many different interplays between spells and weapons. That stuff is extremely entertaining and fun and really new. I remember the journos getting excited about similar stuff in Dragon Age back in the day but compared to D:OS it's really underdeveloped there.
And what about the coop play? Can't think of any game that comes even close to how D:OS does it, they are literally inventing a new genre here.

Maybe a lot of journos really didn't give the game more than an hour and therefore missed just how unique it is but I still have confidence that most of them will invest more time before judging the game and then it will finally click.
 
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Mangoose

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Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity
I still have a hard time to believe that anyone, even the dumbest, most ignorant shitbrain, could miss the points that make D:OS stand out of the crowd.
I mean just look at the many different interplays between spells and weapons. That stuff is extremely entertaining and fun and really new. I remember the journos getting excited about similar stuff in Dragon Age back in the day but compared to D:OS it's really underdeveloped there.
I think the EA marketing team had as much to do with it as the journalists did. They probably told the journalists "LOOK WE HAVE SPELL INTERACTIONS" and/or even showed a direct demo, and then paid $$/doritos/mountaindew. Larian really just needs to drag these journalists by the ear/nose/throat.

Maybe a lot of journos really didn't give the game more than an hour and therefore missed just how unique this game is but I still have confidence that most of them will invest more time before judging the game and then it will finally click.
Doubt the majority will care. They did their job, they got paid, moving on to the next game. That's why you need to smack them with a hand-holded direct demo of combat or of a quest or whatever.
 

Gragt

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Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin
Heh, that's why I mentionned in my preview that the game has some immediate superficial similarities to Diablo but it thankfully stops there and is instead more complex than that. Anyone who played the game for 15 minutes can see that it isn't the same and with more time and a bit of knowledge about video games it's clear that it's closer to the Ultima side of Divine Divinity than Diablo.
 

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