Divinity: Original Sin is an isometric role-playing game that pays homage to the fantasy RPGs of old while still offering something new to veterans of the genre. Its turn-based formula with a deep and complex combat system has found success in a genre that is becoming increasingly action-oriented.
But why did developer Larian Studios decide to take the route it did with Original Sin, and what challenges did it face in doing so? I spoke with founder and CEO Swen Vicke to find out.
Although some games in the Divinity series have made it onto console in the past, Original Sin was developed exclusively with the PC and Mac in mind. Vicke said the omission of a console release lifted a lot of restrictions in the development phase and allowed the team to make alterations on the game "until the very last moment," which would not have been possible for a console release.
"It puts a lot of constraints for you as a developer if you work for console. At the end phase of a project deadlines are very rigid, and you need to go through the procedures at Microsoft or Sony with the dreaded [certification] checks." Vincke said, adding that the costs involved in making a console game were "much higher" than that of developing a PC-only game.
That being said, Vincke did not entirely rule out the possibility of an Original Sin console release in the future.
"We always wanted to have a great experience on the TV screen, so we'll definitely explore it," he said. But such experiments rely on how well Original Sin's controls translate on the gamepad, and whether they provide a satisfying co-operative experience on one screen.
"You've got the Steam box coming, you've got the Xbox [One], you've got the PlayStation , and there's players who like playing on the screen with their PC. Obviously with the co-op experience it doesn't take a genius to see that if you manage to make it work well, to share the experience on one screen will be great," he said.
Should such experiments succeed, Vincke says the chance of the game being released on current-generation consoles is "very likely."
Divinity: Original Sin's Kickstarter campaign was met with generous support, amassing $944,282 in funding by the end of its run and allowing Larian Studios to self-publish the game.
Vincke was grateful for the support from the Kickstarter community, but hesitant about utilizing such a model again.
"I hate to think what the game would've been if we didn't have Kickstarter… if you asked me before Original Sin was released I would've said yes… I don't think it would be correct to go and fish in the pool of crowdfunding investment again, I think that there's others that could use that investment," he said. However, he expressed a desire to harness community involvement once again in the development process, dubbing the community which the Kickstarter campaign brought as "invaluable."
"I think that is a very great positive for the gameplay experience that results at the end of the day," he said.
Community involvement in Divinity: Original Sin extends to game mods, with the game including a full set mod tools upon launch. For Vincke, supporting user-generated content was a given.
"It was clear the moment that we were going to ship a version of our multiplayer RPG, that we were going to include the tools that we used to create it…everything we've done in Original Sin was literally made with [these tools]," he said. Larian Studios intends to continue supporting the mod community by regularly updating the tool, and Vincke himself expressed surprise at some of the content that has surfaced online. In particular, he cites a remake of the first Diablo game using the Original Sin toolkit.
"I never expected that was going to be one of the first things to come out of it. But in hindsight, it makes a lot of sense storywise," he said. However, he remains wary that harnessing the potential of the tools requires a degree of dedication.
"You need to commit yourself significantly… you can't make an RPG in a couple of days in the evenings. I hope that from that we will see some guys that get bitten by it and start making some really great RPG content"
Vincke laughs when I ask him about where the Divinity series may be going next, but is coy about revealing finer details. "I can't say. There's nothing yet to announce, it will be very calm on the announcement front for a couple of months, as we're preparing our new things," he said.
His comment refers to the two new companions and new skills on their way to the game and end-game balances for the ranger and warrior classes, of course. In addition to this, Vincke mentions that the studio is working on bringing out a "much better, harder, difficulty level" in which all encounters will be different, as well as fine-tuning the game's inventory management.
Regardless, Vincke promises fans that a breadth of new content is still in the works for Original Sin.
"There's definitely a lot of stuff coming," he said. These updates, coupled with the support of user-generated content, would hopefully mean that we have yet to see some of the best content the game has to offer. And with spin-off game Divinity: Dragon Commander featuring a jetpack-wearing dragon and talking underwear already present in Original Sin, developer Larian Studios shows that no subject is off-limits. For more on the game, check out GameSpot's review.