Swen Vincke Interview

The folks at Larian Studios invited a representative from RPG Codex to their Dublin headquarters where he had an opportunity to chat with Swen Vincke, and a few other Larian devs. Apart from the interview, the Codex representative also got a chance to check out Divinity: Original Sin II and its D&D-themed Gamemaster Mode. Those other parts are still being transcribed, so for now we just have the interview.

As is often the case with RPG Codex, the interview is quite long but informative. It covers a variety of topics that range from the current state of Original Sin II's development, to the fate of the infamous Cheese Vendor from the first Original Sin. And since the Gamemaster Mode is an intriguing oddity, quite a few questions touch on its intricacies. Here's an excerpt:

All right, let’s start. JasonNH asks: how do you plan to improve support for the modding community compared to Divinity OS1?

Ah, that’s a really good question. First of all, the tool has become much more expansive, we’ve been working another three years on it and there’s a whole bunch of things you can do extra. But we’ve also installed a kind of a wizard; the wizard allows you to say, for example, I wanna make a mod for gamemaster mode, and it sets everything up for you. If you focus on making the gamemaster level and publish it, the gamemaster mode picks it right up and you have the level in there. Likewise, a bunch of other things have been simplified – but, I have to say in the same breath, if you want to make a campaign which has scripts in there like we’re doing… we’ve spent almost three years making the OS2 campaign with 12 scripters on it and around 8 writers, and the campaign is going to be about 100 hours, so that gives you an idea of how much work it is to make a full campaign. But the GM assets, that’s something that’s easier. If all you want to make is some levels like the ones we’ve been playing, that can be done fairly rapidly with the new tool.

I’ve got a follow-up question to that myself: does the new Gamemaster system also work into the editor? As in, do you use the simple and user-friendly creation tools of the GM system to make the creation of single-player campaigns easier, too?

No. The GM mode has nothing to do with singleplayer, it’s purely for multiplayer. In Gamemaster mode, when you see the backend, there’s no scripting in it whatsoever. It is really something that has been made to allow the GM to modify the world in real time while you play the session. He can control characters, he can create items, he can create surfaces, he can change the weather, change the ambient music, etc. He can tell you a story through the vignettes, he can tell a story through overview maps. He can make vignettes on the fly, he can import art from the internet on the fly, all while the campaign is running – well no, that last feature isn’t a hundred percent working, but you can prepare artwork which you downloaded from the internet, you can’t directly import it on the fly yet.


Well then. The next question is from Wild Slop: Are there circumstances where XP earned isn’t shared across the party, perhaps when members are at war with another or if they’re leaving the group to complete personal quests?

Is this question regarding the main campaign or the gamemaster modes? In the GM mode, it’s the GM who decides and he can decide individually who gets the XP. If you split the party – and I think that’s already possible in the Early Access – you just count as separate parties and then the XP you gain is different. That leads to all kinds of problems, but hey, you can do it.

Ivan wants to know: what’s the release date?

Everybody wants to know, including ourselves. I think we said it a few times already, we’re heading towards release so that means we’re finishing, but it’s a really big game. We don’t entirely know ourselves when everything will be done enough for a release, so we’re working on finishing things, we’re closing most of the contents up now – we have a lot of content – and soon most of the work will be QA. And QA is QA, right?

Sure. Now, Crooked Bee wants to know: are you spending all of your money on this game?

(laughing) Well, we’re fortunate that the game is selling in EA, so it’s essentially financing itself to a certain extent, but we’re spending quite a lot of money on this game, yes. I don’t know what the budgets of the other isometric RPGs were, but for us this is definitely the biggest project we’ve invested in yet.


From Projas and Jinn I should ask if the itemization has been changed, or if you’re still using the Diabloesque item drops. Personally, I’d also like to know your reasons behind this system – in Original Sin 1 most things were hand-placed. The locations were hand-made, the encounters were hand-placed, only the items are randomized. Why do you do that and why would you say this is a good design decision?

(laughs uncomfortably) I read the Codex, so I know very well what you guys think about it, but there’s a practical point to it. We change our balancing a lot, and all of our balancing is relative, so all those stats change automatically when we change something in the base systems. That’s the first part of it. The second part is that people do replay our games, and when you replay them, you will find different things. Third point is, we do place quite a few items that are hand-placed actually, and they’re set in stone, but often we give our items only one or two fixed abilities and have the rest of the stats be flexible. So you could have a dark sword that is always there and always gives you a certain ability, but its other stats will be randomized. It’s a mix of things. When I play it, I kind of like it that way. I don’t think I’d want to have it so that I get the same item every time, because that way I could always min-max one hundred percent, knowing which items are where, and I don’t think that’s a lot of fun actually.

But, theoretically, if you use the editor and make a fan campaign, you could make everything hand-placed if you wanted?

You can fix all our mistakes, yes.

Great! So, our user Efe wants to know: will there be an option to increase animation speed?

No, it’s not on the feature list. I know there’s been some people asking for it, but it’s not on the list. I’m not sure it would be easy to implement, either.

He also wants to know what’s the single most important aspect of the game that would never be up for negotiation?

(takes a long time to think about this before he answers) I think that’s the pen-and-paper-like freedom that we’re trying to give you. Yeah, that’s probably the one. You know, back in the days, in the evil dark publisher days, I say that with a smile on my face because I know what it looks like on paper. A lot of things back then were sacrificed in the name of production, and that would’ve been the first thing to be sacrificed, but now that’s the thing where we say ‘You can’t touch that’, if we have to we’ll just take more time to develop it, and I think it shows in the game, it’s very important.


HoboForEternity wants to know if there’s a plan to license your engine to other developers, because the engine is a work of art and he’d like to see it used more often.

I don’t think we’re the studio to do that because it requires you to set up an engine support team, and that’s not really our model. We are a game studio trying to make games. Engine is a part of the things we have to do to be able to make games, just like pretty much through our entire history we did whatever was necessary to be able to make a game. So we keep on doing that – tools and engine development are made to make our type of game. If we were to license out our engine, well…whenever we change something in it, and we do change our minds rapidly, we would ruin their development process and I wouldn’t wanna be doing that.


lukaszek wants to know what happened to the cheese vendor from the previous game. Why was he changed? Any chance we’ll see him back in OS2?

That guy started out as a bug (laughs). I actually had this question this morning, somebody asked me here, what about the cheese vendor? There is currently no cheese vendor that I’m aware of, but I have to say it’s a very big game, so it might be the designers placed him somewhere I’m not aware of, but I haven’t encountered him yet.