After launching an incredibly successful Kickstarter back in 2015 that reached its $500,000 goal in less than twelve hours, Larian Studios have their fans eagerly anticipating their latest game – Divinity: Original Sin 2.
With the game’s Early Access release arriving in less than a month from now on Steam, it won’t be long until players get a taste of this massive CRPG. We had the chance to ask David Walgrave, a producer at Larian, some questions about their upcoming title.
GameWatcher: Could you introduce yourself and just give us a brief overview of the game, please?
David Walgrave: My name is David Walgrave, and I’ve been a producer at Larian Studios for over ten years. Original Sin 2 is very much like its predecessor; a top-down, party-based, turn-based RPG that supports multiplayer — but we have improved a lot of elements in the formula, and added many new features. There’s a lot of big changes that you’ll notice: the new player characters’ origin stories, the generic player characters you can create yourself, the races you can select from, the increased reactivity of the world, new combat rules, PvP storylines, adaptive music, and of course, the new engine.
GameWatcher: What is your favourite new feature in Divinity: Original Sin 2?
David Walgrave: Without a doubt the origin stories and how they impact the gameplay — both for how they really make you a part of the world in single player, and set you up against each other in multiplayer. You will always be working together to achieve your common goals, but you can sneak away and do your own personal thing, and we’ve added a lot of new support for that so that you can hide whatever you don’t want your co-player(s) to know. Because we now allow 4 players to play together!
GameWatcher: What difficulties have you encountered in development so far and how did you overcome them?
David Walgrave: We’ve been changing so many things in this engine, and we’ve changed the art direction, so we can barely re-use any of the assets of DOS1. We knew this would happen, but when we were prototyping everything, we obviously started out with what we had. One of the difficulties we have right now, is making sure all the “old stuff” is not in anymore. It’s just work. We try to structure this as best as we can, but there’s always something hiding away somewhere, in fear of the banhammer.
We took the time to make sure that all of us understood what PvP meant in this game. It really took a prototype to prove that it worked and that it was going to be fun. Then we got everyone playing it, so that they really got it — how it worked, and how much potential it had. At first, the theory seemed hard to translate to a system, but eventually everyone saw the light. Then a lot of the internals of the game had to be changed to allow a “neutral” party, to allow personal quests and personal inventories, and that’s just work.
What we’re currently still working on is improving the AI and making sure it can work with the new combat systems, such as the verticality of the battlefield. We needed further insight as to how this would all come together, so we did the following: All the combat designers and QA people designed small levels, and then we had them play these levels together. This allowed us to recognize patterns in how they were thinking. The goal was to capture those thinking patterns and translate them to our AI. The funny thing is, without realising it ourselves at first, all of a sudden, we had an Arena mode!
GameWatcher: You’ve used Kickstarter in the past and decided to use it again for this game. How has Kickstarter impacted development this time round?
David Walgrave: In short, Kickstarter is a good reality check. You get to know your audience, the early adopters, the fans.
For instance, a lot of fans wanted races so we thought about how we would do races — do they have the same weapons? Do they wear the same clothes? How will they react to one another? We took all this into account, then made it part of our proposal during the Kickstarter campaign for DOS2. We approach these matters in the Larian style. This means that choices like race need to matter — it shouldn’t just change the way you look.
We also like to keep our backers up to date, which not only gives us feedback, but it also gives us an audience for our deadlines and sprints. That’s a good goal to have.
GameWatcher: Do you think that it’s likely that you’ll use Kickstarter for your future titles?
David Walgrave: I can´t say for sure. There are some factors that might make that difficult, but normally, yes.
GameWatcher: How accessible would you say this game is for people that didn’t play the first game? Is this a convenient time to jump into the series?
David Walgrave: We always make our games independent from each other story-wise. You will be able to jump into DOS2 and have a complete and rewarding experience. There will be some inside jokes and typical Divinity stuff that you’ll get to know along the way, but we don’t assume you know all the lore and the characters.
GameWatcher: So, there’s co-op and competitive sides to the game and it’s up to the player when they want to work with or attack their friends. Are there any quests that require players to play cooperatively? If so, how does the game ensure that people are in the right place together, at the right time?
David Walgrave: The competitive quests are those that advance your personal story, not the main story. You can try to argue, beg, fight, negotiate, or just go and do them while the other ones are not looking. They are more “along the way”. The main story is the stuff you should do together. As soon as a party member triggers something that will affect your entire party, they will simply get a message that urges them to… “gather their party”… But this will not happen that often in the game and of course, it is always possible to stay together the entire time if you want. At the end of the day, the player decides how to play the game.
GameWatcher: One of the more interesting additions to the first Original Sin game was the RPG editor. Will it be returning in this game?
David Walgrave: Yes, it will return. We are doing everything we can to make it more user-friendly. We also want to see what people want to use it for, so that the most requested features are more intuitive. Because in the end, this is our own editor. It’s a developer’s tool, and a complex one at that, but it’s the right tool for us to create a game as ambitious as this.
GameWatcher: Speaking of the RPG Editor, did you guys ever see some of your fans’ creations? What did you think of their work?
David Walgrave: We are always looking at the efforts of our community. Feedback is really important for us, and we are also interested in the ways how people interact with certain features. We even contacted one of the modders because of his exceptional skills, but unfortunately, he was not able to relocate.
GameWatcher: What do you think makes this game stand out, compared to other games in the genre?
David Walgrave: I’m usually not very into graphics, but I do think our engine (built in-house) is doing extremely well. It’s fully 3D, supports an insane amount of interactive items, and has all sorts of fancy, state-of-the-art things going on. For instance, in our new engine, we use PBR and we have cloth simulation; everything looks so detailed and sharp from up close and any angle. I think our programming team deserves a huge ovation for a change!
Other than that, I love our combat system; it’s easy to understand, but it has so many different possibilities, abilities, skills, and talents. It becomes more complex, chaotic, and fun the deeper into it that you go.
I also think a Divinity game stands out because of our design philosophies: Everything can be moved, used, and destroyed if you like. You can talk to anyone, trade with them, kill them. Systemic reactivity forces us to design the world in such a way that it really comes to life. This world that we’ve created is full of memorable experiences that are really going to get people talking.
Whether you are completely new to the series or a seasoned veteran, you’ll have your chance to explore Rivellon in less than a month from now. The Steam Early Access version of Divinity: Original Sin 2 launches on September 15th.