1. Could you introduce yourself first please? What is your job at Larian?
My name is Swen Vincke and I am the Project Leader of Beyond Divinity.
2. How many people work here at the moment? And how many of them are working on Beyond Divinity?
It varies from day to day. Let me think… at this time it’s around 20 people. We’re busy with two projects other than Beyond Divinity so if there are more people needed for a certain project, someone starts working there and vice versa.
3. A next project? Which is it then?
That’s still “top secret” at this time.
4. If you guys don’t have any inspiration left, does it happen that you go out and drink a pint to loosen up a bit?
The last time that happened turned out “vré slecht” (Dutch dialect for “pretty bad”). I remember that the Lead Story Editor tried to throw himself in front of my car just to stop me of getting anywhere while someone else stole my keys and such. So it does happen yes.
5. If I remember correctly, a number of gamers found the end-part of Divine Divinity somewhat of a lesser quality compared with the rest of the game. Does the end of Beyond Divinity promise to be more exciting and/or more complex? Is it possible to play on after the end of the story?
The end of Divine Divinity totally sucked. We weren’t quite ready actually, so we had to “rush” things very hard in order to get it all done. We were planning to kick out the entire last part of Divinity, the Wastelands, and to keep it for Beyond Divinity so then we could have made it right.
You have a village there and normally there would have been all kinds of stuff to do but we had to cancel all that because time was running out. The publisher on the other hand still wanted us to bring variation into the terrain. That’s the reason why those Wastelands are so terribly boring.
There isn’t anyone here who still played that part after release because we all knew how boring it was. All those houses in the Wastelands were empty and should have been full with monsters and unique items. The intention was that all the previously beaten beasts returned in the last level as some kind of final offensive from monster against man.
So actually the story stopped in Councelor 7 and normally we would have continued it with this title. This time round, we started out by making the end for Beyond Divinity. Naturally, I can’t tell you anything about that yet. Though it will be possible to play further after the end, because you still have the Battlefields.
6. Could you give us an example of a ‘Battlefields’-quest?
Battlefields quests are very simple quests, the most of them will be like “get this for me and I will give you that” or similar. The setup is in fact that if you get a hard time you’ll be able to jump away and regain strength in another universe. In the Battlefields you can also develop your character more (so gain more experience, learn new skills, acquire potions and items etc.) in order to get back to the ‘real world’ and play further. As you may have noticed with the demo, the game has been balanced in that way that there is a relatively hard difficulty-setting. This has been done on purpose because you always have that parallel world where you can go to. I sure find it a cool concept. These Battlefields are also randomly generated in order to make them look different every time.
7. Did you ever consider to get rid of the isometric perspective and to switch to a third person view like in Gothic? Or to a camera system like in Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic? And why (not)?
Yeah, the other project is 3D as is Divinity 2, it is just that we wanted to use the Divinity engine one more time. Divinity could have been a whole lot more than we made of it and we want to make this right with Beyond Divinity.
8. And that other project, will that be an RPG or something else?
Don’t forget Divinity 2 after this, and that ‘other project’ is for later but I am not gonna tell you a single thing about it (smiles).
9. How has the response been to your action with the mini-game Imprunner?
There has been quite some of response already. We have no idea though of how many people are playing it since not everyone fills in his/her highscore but I do know that there have been at least 5 000 people who visited the link.
10. I heard quite some positive reactions about it here at Fragland.
Yeah, it’s cool, it’s a “gimmick” that gets us some media attention again and improves the profile of the game.
11. Will Beyond Divinity perhaps contain some ‘mini-games’ too?
I don’t know what the ‘story chaps’ are putting in the game but they amazed me on several occasions when they showed me some of their exploits. If such games are incorporated in Beyond Divinity, then I am not going to say it because it would ruin the fun.
But I do know there are a lot of so-called ‘easter eggs’ in the game. Like in every game of ours there is definitely an AA Gent (A Belgian football club – premier league) easter egg because we have a fanatic supporter of that soccer team with us. But games like Imprunner? I don’t know actually.
12. When will the demo be out and how big will it be?
Well the demo will be sent to some magazines this friday (20/2/04) and he’ll go online early march. These magazines are two of the biggest around. Perhaps I should point out that this demo is much smaller than the original Divinity-demo, the size is about 163 MB.
13. Will there be story-elements in Beyond Divinity that will have a big impact on the storyline of Divinity 2?
Yes, absolutely! Divinity 2 will be playable independentely of the previous games but the Beyond Divinity-player will definitely recognize elements and characters from the other Divinity games.
14. How far are you with the development of Divinity 2?
Divinity 2 won’t be ready before the 4th quarter of 2005, or perhaps the first quarter of 2006.
15. Do you have time to play other games? What are the normals working hours here?
No, not me. The workhours are sort of like anywhere else: from 10am untill 6pm or from 11am untill 7pm. The last few weeks though we’re working a lot longer than that.
Beyond Divinity will be released in 14 languages so you drop from the one release in the other. I myself have only slept about 6 hours this week (monday till wednesday), so you can see how many overtime hours we’re doing here, I estimate that everybody here now is working about 20 (!!) hours a day. I just became father and I haven’t even had time to hold my little daughter.
16. What games do you play most then if you got the time for it? Does it occur that you do a LAN with the entire crew and then start gaming together?
We used to play Starcraft regularly but everytime it ended in a row, the last time has been some months ago. At this time everyone is so busy that it doesn’t happen anymore.
17. Do you lads get to do other sorts of teambuilding?
Yes, that happens often. In this room there are some Killer Instinct arcade consoles that we play on once in a while with the entire crew. Very cosy. We also clean the office! Or the eternal search for clean coffe mugs… or waiting till someone goes to the sandwichebar so we can give a lot of orders. No, we see each other enough at the office that we don’t have the need to see each other another time again outside of it. (smiles)
18. What do you think of the other competitors in the RPG-genre nowadays? Some people seem to find that no decent singleplayer rpg’s anymore.
That’s right, there are next-to-none. Knights of the Old Republic was a topgame but for the rest? Try to sum up some good RPG’s of the past year. Lionheart, Greyhawk –I am summing up the fantasy games because that’s a bit my terrain, Gothic was really good and Neverwinter Nights too but then we’re already talking about several years back.
Gothic 2 was the only RPG that left a decent impression in the third quartal of last year. The big problem with RPG’s is that they are very difficult to create. That means that they -above all else- are terribly expensive to make and that there is a small market where automatically the profits are lower and the risks are a lot higher. That is the reason why only few developers are willing to make one.
That is also why we as a small gamedeveloper are able to create RPG’s. If we have to rival with companies which employ 40-60 people, then we’ll never make it. But since there isn’t much competition we are able to do something. We released Divinity against Morrowind and Neverwinter Nights but still we were with the best of that year.
We regularly beat those two games in the top 3 in several magazines. And now with Beyond Divinity we will try to confirm that we are really worth this spot.
19. What target audience are you aiming for?
The idea behind Beyond Divinity is that we definitely don’t want to lose our core-audience, which is relatively large at the moment. We want to make sure that they love to play the game.
Untill this day Divine Divinity keeps on being produced and sold quite good, it’s also in Budget series by the way. The reason is that there are still RPG players who discover the qualities of Divine Divinity at this time.
Why they didn’t realise this sooner is purely because of the marketing of the game which was done very badly. First of all there was the incredibly stupid and meaningless name. When I hear it I instantly think about Suske & Wiske (a Belgian comic series) but an Englishman immediately thinks about a porngame and the average world citizen will think it’s a child game.
Beyond Divinity means that you’ll go further than Divinity, and that’s litterally what the game does. We took the Divinity engine, added all kinds of “stuff” that we wanted in. We especially made improvements to the character-balancing & the development-system and made an update to the graphics so we managed to offer a very interesting RPG; or so I hope.
We also learned a lot about how to create an RPG by learning from the mistakes of Divine Divinity. In Divinity you needed a lot of enemies to keep yourself busy, not anymore in Beyond. You had a chance to play the game for yourself and you have to admit: combat isn’t boring right? (we approvingly nod our heads). In Divinity we actually had no clue what we were doing, now we know how better.
But to complete the story, we missed that whole target audience while they love to play the game which was really made for them. It really was an aweful bad marketingcampaign that promoted the game, the PR-company behind it came from the perfume business and such, something like that is a disaster. They managed to scare off a lot of people.
The game was released and everybody said “it is a Diablo clone”. Well gesundheit then, 300.000 words, more than 500 quests and then keep on saying it’s a Diablo clone. The whole world is interactive, it had nothing to do with a Diablo clone. We did put action combat in so everything would progress more but for the rest it was an pureblood RPG.
Many RPG players didn’t see that and even now we receive mails on a daily basis of people who just recently discovered the game. Now we’re trying to make it a bit clear to people like this: look, it’s an RPG but it’s “easy accessible” and thus make everyone anticipate Beyond Divinity!
20. Thank you for this interview and good luck with Beyond Divinity.