Swen Vincke Interview

A new interview with Larian Studios' Swen Vincke has popped up on PC Gamer. It goes over the higher-than-expected sales of Larian's latest RPG Divinity: Original Sin II, the burgeoning modding scene and speedrunning community for that game, and Larian's plans for the near future that include lots of Original Sin II patching and some surprises they're not at liberty to discuss at the moment. An excerpt:

According to SteamSpy, you sold somewhere in the region of 700,000 sales in less than three weeks.

I think we're over 700,000 now.

That's not bad going.

No, it's not. We could definitely do worse. I mean, we had the early access players before that too. Lifetime total units: 748,000 on Steam, and then you have to add the pre-release ones on there. Wow, that's higher than I thought, that's really good.

Ahead of launch you must have had forecasts. Where were you expecting to be at this stage, or before Christmas—I guess you've surpassed those numbers now?

Yeah, we have. I was hoping for 500k before Christmas, so we're way above that right now which is really good.

Did you have any forecasts in the first month?

No, not really. I figured that if we hit the 500k before Christmas then we were going to be okay. This has been a nice bonus.

Is there ever a point during the development and testing of such a big game where you realise: Hang on, this is really good, this might do better than we expect?

I think any developer will tell you that, first of all, you fall in love with your game. But then the relationship lasts so long that you start focussing on all the negatives. A very classic phenomena means that by the time you're ready to release, the only thing that you're aware of is everything that's still wrong with it.

Then somebody reminds you of how much good stuff is in there. We're busy focusing on: We need to fix this, we need to fix that, this is not good, man we need time to sort this, we need more resources to do that', and that basically dominated the conversation over the course of the last six months. But then there are moments where you're playing and you forget you're hunting for bugs and realise: Actually, this is a lot of fun.

With Divinity: Original Sin 2, this was particularly true. I don't know how many times we redid the beginning of this game. Every time we presented it it was different, and every single time I enjoyed myself. Luckily for us, this seems to have rubbed off on the general gaming audience.


Through your Kickstarter and Early Access phase you've had a pretty open development cycle—would be players got regular feedback throughout. With the first Divinity being received so well, did this make dealing with expectation easier or harder?

That's a really good question. Because it puts a lot of pressure on you, that's for sure. But you also can't make diamonds without pressure, right? I think that it's both. It is harder because the moment that the community figures out that they want it and you've said you're going to do it, it's very hard to change course—even if you later discover what you're doing won't work. We did actually change course a few times, but if you explain exactly why you're doing it, most people will listen. You're always going to have some people who don't, but that's just the way it is.

At the same time, things become easier because you instantly know what's wrong. You put it out there and you don't even have to wait a day, you know right away what's wrong. This type of feedback can be very hard to get, unless you have a large community playing. Another thing that's easier with a large community is that there's a large amount of them and can in turn let statistics speak for you.

You may have a very vocal minority screaming how badly something is done, but then you have 95 percent actually enjoy what you've done, so you say: Well, we can certainly say that that feature is okay because so many players are having fun with it. If you didn't do that, and that vocal minority were represented by, say, a couple of developers inside your company, you may wind up going in the completely wrong direction. That's where and why I really like the early access model.


What have you enjoyed seeing players messing around with most? Fane's face-ripping is great fun, for example.

For sure, there's a streamer called CohhCarnage who's one of the bigger Twitchers, he played the entire game for 12 or 13 days or so, eight hours a day. And it was amazing to see—how they were figuring things out, things that they were trying to do, the things they were talking about in the chat, it was pretty much on everybody's screens over here.

That's very rewarding, which I think is the cool thing about Twitch whereby people watching can help contribute to how the streamer is playing.

You've mentioned the patch, however what does Larian have planned in the long run for Divinity: Original Sin 2?

We have a couple of things that are in the works but we'll only announce them when we're ready. There's stuff coming, for sure.

To that end: It's early days yet, but I assume the success of number two means we're in line for a Divinity: Original Sin 3, 4 and 5?

[Laughs] We have a couple of surprises planned. But we're going to work on the patch just now, then we're going to work in silence for a little bit so that we can get our shit together and then… yeah, I'm pretty sure there will be at least one big surprise in there.