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Interview Swen Vincke talks about returning to Kickstarter at Eurogamer


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Jan 28, 2011
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Tags: Divinity: Original Sin; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

It doesn't look like there are going to be any Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter updates today. What we do have is this new interview with Swen Vincke over at Eurogamer, courtesy of the indefatigable Richard Cobbett. The topic of the interview is the reasons behind Larian's decision to return to Kickstarter, despite Swen's initial reluctance to do so. Many of you will not be surprised to learn that none other than Brian Fargo was directly responsible for changing his mind. Swen also has a bit to say about the upcoming Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition. Here's an excerpt:

"We have Original Sin 2. It's funded," Vincke states. "There's no doubt about that. Original Sin was a success, and we're putting everything from that into Original Sin 2. We don't need publishers, we don't need investors. But, what defines a great RPG is freedom of choice - and choice means options, and options mean features and features obviously translate into budget. So, what are the options that Kickstarter let us increase? We can increase the number of origin stories. Every one is going to be a lot of work, with a lot of choices to make. We can have more races, each with custom armour models and animations and voice, and since there's no point if characters aren't reacting to that choice, that's a whole lot more writing to be done. Then we have skills. We already have a lot in there, but there's a lot of skill trees people would like to see and we just can't do all of them. Same goes for systems. There's a lot of systems we could add... If people give us the room to do all this extra stuff, then we'll happily do all that, because we like our RPGs! We're also offering people the game at a lower price, and with Kickstarter, if you back it, you know that your money is going into the game rather than just into someone's coffers. We're not doing this to grab money. It's all going into the game."

Despite this, Larian wasn't always going to return to Kickstarter. Last year, Vincke's opinion was that while it had worked well, and the company wanted to harness its community again in future games, Kickstarter specifically was a one-time thing. "Yeah. For a long time, it was a much debated issue. Originally I wasn't a big fan of the idea, but then I had a big argument with Brian Fargo, of all people, who convinced me. My argument was that Kickstarter is there to start something, not to continue something. He said that wasn't true. He pointed out that big Kickstarters are necessary in the current ecosystem, and he's right." As just one example of that, "When we do an update on Kickstarter, people see that immediately and then they get involved." Also, "A large project on Kickstarter is not necessarily a negative for the others on there."

It's not going to be an ongoing Kickstarter though, as some companies run. "I think that the Kickstarter will have its own specific rewards, and after that we'll go to Early Access. Part of the success of Original Sin was the early feedback and how systems like combat and crafting worked - that wasn't the case originally! There was a shitload of feedback on skills and traits and balance. At some points we were changing things every week and seeing who was right, and we gained a much better system out of that. The amount of little things where we saw people weren't getting something... that cost a lot of effort, but we got so much positive feedback. It really motivated the developers seeing that the players were into it, and knowing we had to do it for them."

Enhanced Edition is a free update for Divinity: Original Sin owners, coming later this year. Along with the new features, much of it has been about improving the flow and narrative of the game and letting Larian see where it went wrong. "We had two Western Gates in the first town," Vincke points out, sighing. "So when we said to players, 'go out of the Western Gate...'"

Suffice to say, the results could be pretty painful for a new player. The changes here aren't about dumbing down the game though, with Larian still not providing quest objective markers and the like, but it does promise to be a lot easier to get into. "We have a character called Ahu, who is now present more to tell you the things you need to know - the cat shapeshifter. In the past, he'd just have one word or one phrase. Now he gets a whole paragraph to explain. At other times, it'll be something like moving a door a little so that you see it... just matters of lack of time, not enough iteration, not enough QA people to see things. We're fixing those. But we're not handholding, and we can't handhold. We don't have quests, we just have things you can do, and there's so many ways you can do them that we just can't put them into a quest log like other games do. You can smash a door, lockpick a door, find the key for the door... if you start writing out all these permutations then it's just impossible. We'll never be able to handhold like that. But also, it's not something we believe in doing. I hate it like hell, having my exploration just taken away."
See the full interview for details on Larian's ambitions, their situation before Original Sin's success, and more. If you'd like more Swen, you can also check out this PAX Prime interview with him over at New Gamer Nation.

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