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Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 #590274
29/09/16 07:26 PM
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PC Gamer did an interview with Larian's Swen Vincke about Divinity Original Sin 2. They asked him what plans they have for the early access version, how they get feedback, how they decide which feedback to actually follow and how they plan to balance and tweak the game until release.

Please read the full interview on PC Gamer in order to support the original creators: Interview with Swen Vincke wink

The most important bits:

How Larian collects feedback

Quote
PC Gamer: Let’s start with things that you already had in mind that might need to change, and the feedback that’s influencing you in one direction or another.

Vincke: There’s two parts to the question: What feedback are we looking at, and what do we do with it?

We obviously have the channels like forums and Twitter that we’re reading. Everybody’s reading a lot of it. We’re filtering things that we think are useful out of that. On one side that’s bug reports. Things are going wrong, there’s so much you can do in the game. On the other side there’s opinions and suggestions. Lots of good suggestions. Those go in a database and we go through it and say, ‘that makes sense, that’s actually better than we were planning.’

At the same time we’re also doing qualitative analysis. We have a little tool that’s shipping with the game, so people that want to can send data back to us. The data contains, ‘Where did you go in the game, what skills did you pick, what tags did you select, which dialogue options did you do?’ So it gives us more analytical data about what people are doing in the game away from the subjectivity of an opinion. That is dominantly being used for balancing, so we can see that if nobody’s managing a certain fight, then we probably overdid it on that fight. But also, if nobody is using a certain skill, it means we probably should do something about that skill.


Tweaking game balance

Quote
Are there any specific changes to the combat system that you already have in mind to balance from the data you’ve collected so far?

Vincke: I’m actually waiting for the full [qualitative analysis] report, so I’m very curious. From what I’ve seen in the customer reviews, I think it’s already pretty on point. We get a lot of people complaining that it’s too hard, so that’s a good thing. [Laughs] Some fights are too hard, I know. The thing that’s still going to evolve tremendously over the next couple of months is the AI. We have a lot of plans for improving the AI, so that’ll be interesting to see, how that’s going to affect what people think of combat, if it’s too hard or too easy.

We want to make it challenging, so we changed systems so that it would stay challenging throughout the entire game, something we didn’t really succeed with [in Divinity: Original Sin]. This is actually one of our big ambitions. So that once you think you’ve mastered it, something new kicks in and you think, ‘Shit, now what am I going to do?’ So if you have that sentiment continuously, you’ll have that sense of character growth going on continuously, so that’s really a big ambition of Original Sin 2. We’re going to be experimenting with tweaks and doing things, but overall, from what I’m seeing so far, it looks like it’s being picked up and enjoyable for players. But I haven’t seen the data, so everyone could be rage quitting after two hours, you never know.


Choosing who to listen to

Quote
How do you balance the minority voice against the majority of responses?

Vincke: It’s not a democracy. There’s still direction going on. In this particular case, I’m the director of the game. I will do as I feel makes the most sense. Obviously I’ll let my choices be influenced by seeing people having fun, which is a thing that interests me. Even if I may agree with a one percent opinion, I’m not necessarily going to change it if I think it will change other things or be wrong for the production. You can’t ever have everything perfect in one game, so you’ll just take something to the next game.

Sometimes you do read posts of people that are going against the majority, but are actually right, and if you did it the game would be better, but you just can’t do it anymore. You know as a game developer that if you do that, even if 98 percent say ‘no, it’s a bad idea,’ once they see it they would say ‘oh my god, this is a really good idea.’ That’s how innovation happens.

Another rule you have when dealing with feedback from players: if they’re making a lot of noise about a certain thing, they’re not necessarily going to offer you the right solution to it. It might be a symptom of something else that is wrong, potentially in a completely other system, and they don’t see what the connection is. If you start trying to test every single idea against what the audience is thinking, you’re not going to make anything anymore. That’s why choice has to be made.


Changes throughout Early Access

Quote
Are you going to be adding whole acts eventually over time until you hit the final game, or is Divinity: Original Sin 2 in Early Access a testbed, and you’ll drop the full game when it’s done?

Vincke: We’re going to be adding in features for sure. Extra skill trees are going to be added in. The super-secret Game Master mode is going to hit in Early Access also. That’s a very new thing, so we need to do a lot of testing with it. We’re really trying things there. But content-wise, we’re going to keep it on act one. I’m pretty sure we’ll add some things on top of act one. There’s this tutorial opening section that’s missing right now, just before you arrive on the island. We don’t want to spoil it too much for people that are participating in Early Access, so we want to give them sufficient content—the large majority of content, actually—on release.

We have people that are going to be participating in closed betas also for the latter parts, so what you’re going to be seeing is Game Master mode, new skill trees, lots of extra permutations on systems, probably some surprises that I don’t even know myself yet. New things that we’re trying in the arena mode also, because that seems to be picking up quite well. We’ll see what we do with that. That will probably take us close to release.

What you’re going to be seeing in the foreseeable future is permutations on the character system we have. We’re not afraid—we did that in Original Sin 1 also, by putting system A in one week and system B in the next week, and see what works best for players—that’s how we’ll try to converge to a better system than what we’ve concocted while we were working in isolation. This is the cool part about Early Access, you can do these kinds of things. It takes some effort, but it’s rewarding for the players that are not participating in Early Access, or just try it out a little bit and will be playing it later, they’ll get a lot of benefit from this phase of experimentation.


A/B testing systems

Quote
You mentioned putting in one version of a system, see how it works, then swap it out for something else. Can you talk more about that?

Vincke: There are a couple stats and abilities we’re experimenting with. Memory is a very big experiment. We’re getting lots of opinions on Memory, so you’ll probably see Memory in different forms inside the game, to see what works better. The same with how skill abilities affect the skills, there’s going to be things we change there. When we did the original game, if we didn’t change it 20 times, I don’t know. We changed it a lot as we were experimenting.

But it’s good, because there’s players out there that play so many games, and the feedback you get from them is sometimes really good ideas. We gave them a couple new mechanics, so they’re fooling around with that now, they’re starting to learn them, form their opinion of them, so based on that feedback we’ll see what happens when we put it in there.

There’s no objective quantitative measure of fun, but when you do this job for quite some time you can see if players are having more fun or less fun. The goal essentially is to create more fun. It can be something as stupid as increasing the drop rate of treasure by 1 percent or decreasing it, even, that can create more fun. How do you balance loot? It’s essentially a bunch of numbers in an Excel file. You see people complaining they’re not finding enough, then you give them more and people say the loot is so boring. You just iterate.

There’s a fine balance to be found. Even the version that’s out there right now, there’s two tests going on. One is at the very opening you almost get nothing, so you have to scavenge, and then afterwards you get quite a lot, so we’ll see what it does to players.

One real good measure, and this one we can measure objectively, is: do people put points in their stats? The moment that they stop putting points in them, it means they don’t need them anymore. That means we have to change something. The moment I stop caring about putting a point in an ability, something’s wrong with the balance. I should always be looking forward, ‘I need that point, I need that.’ The moment people stop bartering, something’s wrong, we’re giving too much. That we are measuring.


The most surprising feedback

Quote
What’s surprised you, so far? Anything specific you can call to?

Vincke: There were some people that didn’t like the physical and magic armor, and that surprised me. I thought it was a major improvement to the game. But they had a particular tactic that they had in the previous game they can’t anymore, now. What also surprised me, I thought what we did with the skill abilities made a lot of sense, and that the previous system was very confusing, but a lot of people apparently were very attached to the previous system. I thought that was going to be universally liked, but apparently it’s not the case. Goes to show.

There’s a lot of VO work being evaluated right now. The success in Early Access, together with the almost universal demand for VO, is definitely making us look at VO in a more extensive way than we originally planned. We always planned to have some of it, but I guess we spoiled them with Enhanced Edition, and didn’t realize that spoiling them with Enhanced, now we’re bound to do the same stunt with Original Sin 2. We’re looking at it. We didn’t plan on it, but it’s a complicated option.

Here’s another bit of surprising feedback, by the way. The third-person [view] that we’re using in the dialogues, it fits well with roleplaying and the origin system we’re doing. We’re getting resistance to that from certain corners. I’m interested to see if that is universal resistance or just a couple people who don’t like it. When we were running tests and playing it, some people thought it was strange but after five minutes decided they liked it more because there’s more expressivity, more stuff you can do in the dialogues. Now when you start talking about voiceovers, life gets really interesting with a system like that. So we’ll have to see.

This is the hard part with analyzing Early Access data. A lot of people are forcing themselves to quit after two hours because they don’t to spoil themselves for the full game. But I think we have sufficient people finishing it to at least be able to draw our first conclusions.


This interview should answer at least some of the questions people asked here on the forums. Personally, I can't wait to see what Larian has in store for us in the future. smile


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Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590285
29/09/16 08:32 PM
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That's a really informative interview, nice find! And thanks for bringing it to my attention! I can't wait to try out the game master mode! laugh

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: SlamPow] #590287
29/09/16 08:49 PM
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The last quote seems to be filling in the blanks incorrectly. It seems he's actually talking about the *third person dialogue*, not the camera perspective.

But all interesting.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Ayvah] #590296
29/09/16 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Ayvah
The last quote seems to be filling in the blanks incorrectly. It seems he's actually talking about the *third person dialogue*, not the camera perspective.

Yep, he is talking about the dialog options.

Swen still seems to be reluctant on changing it, which is disappointing. I seriously don't want to play the entire game with this awkward, annoying and remarkably inferior dialog system. Ugh. ouch

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: dlux] #590316
29/09/16 10:16 PM
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I can't speak for Swen, but I'm guessing he doesn't want to change the dialogues because it allows for most roleplaying, while also saving a bit of time for writers. The former seems kinda important for RPGs, especially when you have to deal with wildly different origins.

And yeah, great interview. Very interested in seeing what'll they do with the character systems over time.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590317
29/09/16 10:19 PM
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Surprised the backlash on the stat system wasnt mentioned. Glad he took note of feedback on abilities and the new armor system

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590319
29/09/16 10:30 PM
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LordCrash Offline OP

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They take note of everything, don't worry. That doesn't necessarily mean that they agree and want to change something though. wink

I think we people should be more aware of the fact that Larian is actively testing certain systems during the alpha which doesn't mean that they will necessarily be that way in the final game. I'm pretty curious with what alternative memory system they will possibly come up, if only for testing purposes.


Last edited by LordCrash; 29/09/16 10:30 PM.

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Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: dlux] #590321
29/09/16 10:36 PM
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I couldn't disagree more with the idea that the new system is inferior. Every time the direct dialogue came up during companion conversations I was annoyed by the options available.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Klavi] #590326
29/09/16 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Klavi
I'm guessing he doesn't want to change the dialogues because it allows for most roleplaying

Except that is not true. It is just a different style of writing that only disconnects the player from his PC. It actually reduces roleplaying.

And to suggest that practically every single (very beloved) RPG before D:OS 2 had less roleplaying, simply because they had the "wrong" dialog system, is just completely and utterly absurd.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: dlux] #590327
29/09/16 11:08 PM
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I'm not saying that every single (very beloved) RPG before Div: OS2 had the "wrong" dialogue system, especially because there's no "perfect" system.
I will say that a lot of times in those RPGs, I'd find myself looking at a selection of 2-3 lines that don't suit my character at all. Or the wording would conflict with how I've played thus far. This system can help avoid those moments, and so far it's been pretty great, in my experience.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Klavi] #590333
29/09/16 11:58 PM
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Maybe it feels different to you, but as some of us have pointed out, many of the third person options play out as:

*say you like cheese*
where it's functionally identical to
"I like cheese."

The difference to me is that the former is more passive, and so feels less interesting. This is the same reason it's better to write, "He ate the cheese" instead of "The cheese was eaten by him"

More importantly, the overuse of asterisks is annoying.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Ayvah] #590341
30/09/16 12:30 AM
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I can see that, but a lot of the third-person lines also involve actions or gestures, rather than just being *tell such and such*.
Is there room for improvement? Always. Does that make the current system a mistake? I disagree.

We can definitely agree on the asterisks though, they look genuinely jarring. That's been bothering me as well, more than the system itself.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Klavi] #590348
30/09/16 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Klavi
I can see that, but a lot of the third-person lines also involve actions or gestures, rather than just being *tell such and such*.
Is there room for improvement? Always. Does that make the current system a mistake? I disagree.

We can definitely agree on the asterisks though, they look genuinely jarring. That's been bothering me as well, more than the system itself.


They can include narration of actions and gestures and still have (perish the thought) actual writing for what a character will say.

When I play a CRPG, I don't want to have to write my own dialogue. As a writer, I play games to ESCAPE that responsibility.

I absolutely understand and empathize with "well this line is a little out-of-character." But the solution of offloading the responsibility of crafting the line onto the player actually creates a bigger problem, which is that the game no longer has any way to react to the specific tone or language employed. With actual written lines, the responses are able to take those lines into account to create a more natural flow of conversation.

I think I'd be okay writing my own lines if I could type them in and have the other party to the conversation react in a reasonable manner to the specific thing I've written, but that level of dynamic interaction would require science-fiction level AI. Without that, the ability to "imagine whatever I want my character to say" has one slight benefit (nothing I say will be out-of-character) and a HUGE cost (nothing I say will matter).

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590352
30/09/16 01:10 AM
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I personally find the dialogue system to be fine. I am used to the asterisks from playing games like Planescape: Torment, and I prefer the third person dialogue to having weird, out of character lines. It lets me use my imagination a little more, which I very much enjoy. The options as they are seem to be fine, though I would prefer a little more stab and a little less gab.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: mesmerizedish] #590356
30/09/16 01:24 AM
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Originally Posted by mesmerizedish
But the solution of offloading the responsibility of crafting the line onto the player actually creates a bigger problem, which is that the game no longer has any way to react to the specific tone or language employed. With actual written lines, the responses are able to take those lines into account to create a more natural flow of conversation.

True, I hadn't thought of that, even some of the better RPGs rarely have meaningful reactions to your tone or specific wording. For those cases, we still have actual written lines, which, so far, seem to be reserved mainly for origin responses. I can only hope there'll be more of them and Larian will use those lines wisely.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: dlux] #590365
30/09/16 01:53 AM
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Originally Posted by dlux
Originally Posted by Klavi
I'm guessing he doesn't want to change the dialogues because it allows for most roleplaying

Except that is not true. It is just a different style of writing that only disconnects the player from his PC. It actually reduces roleplaying.


The first game had that problem by virtue of awarding game bonuses for certain responses, often non-intutively (what, giving this cold and calculated answer somehow makes me a worse rogue? ). It wasn't long before you figured out it would be better to answer in ways that would best support your character concept, rather than they things you'd actually like to say.

This game doesnt seem to have that same problem, but the dialogue system is definitely a hot mess. An ambitious hot mess, but a mess all the same.

The problem as I see it, is that they keep designing the dialogue system around the idea of multiplayer, but that is simply not how most people are going to experience the game. Is it controversial at all to say that? I don't think so, but I welcome differing opinions. Certainly the game is fun when played co op, but it's too complex (a good thing!) to play MP for long (waiting for someone else who just wants to get some crafting done or go on a pickpocket spree is intolerable), and most players beat games like this as a single player experience.

In a single player experience, I dont want to constantly have imaginary arguments with myself, as novel as that may seem initially. From a practical standpoint, it becomes exhausting rapidly. I frequently find myself getting confused as to which character is actually speaking, and from what point of view. The fact that quest dialogue trees seem independent of the party and trigger on a per character basis is also really confusing, and makes me tread the same ground frequently.

Obviously this would be more work for the devs, but if they insist on maintaining their ambitious ideas for co-op, there needs to be some sort of way to separate that experience from the single player one.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590377
30/09/16 02:42 AM
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Interesting read. I have a major concern about the fact he says people complained some fights being too hard. I personally think it is rather too easy. And I hope the difficulty will be drastically more challenging in the tactical mode.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: Nyanko] #590405
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Originally Posted by Nyanko
Interesting read. I have a major concern about the fact he says people complained some fights being too hard. I personally think it is rather too easy. And I hope the difficulty will be drastically more challenging in the tactical mode.


I dunno. I've run through 4 player, 4 character, 2 character, and 2 players versus each other, and so far I've had the most trouble on my 4 player run. To be fair, it's just one specific fight that all my games have gotten hung up on at some point; on some games, I didn't even finish it, I just beat the game. It's taken me 100 hours to finally figure it out;
the blue dude fight, the Voidwoken Deep-dweller, wrecks everyone I play with. I've finally mastered it, and it's gotten to a point where I usually pop in and do it solo, because I know that if another player joins me, it's instantly lost. The boss hits for around 300 damage, without his oath of desecration, without his rage, and he uses both liberally. I don't see how anyone can call it easy when he can just phoenix dive and one shot anyone he wants, with AP to spare on a critical Void Bolt. It's almost absurd.
Aside from that one specific fight, I agree, the game is easy. High Judge Orivand and the last boss could be called challenging, but I think they're still fair and doable with just about any reasonable party comp.

Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590469
30/09/16 06:22 PM
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Very nice interview.
The best info for me was, that there will be a tutorial before the part we see.
I played D:OS1, so I know some basics, but some importent things have changed.
Completely new players might have lots of problems.
I really liked the tutorial dungeon in the first game, especially when I played it for the first time.
It is good to learn things like how element work (use water to put out fire, use fire to ugnite oil, . . .) and some ways to solve puzzles (throw objects on switches, . . .)


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Re: Interview with Swen Vincke on DOS 2 [Re: LordCrash] #590542
01/10/16 04:03 AM
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I massacred the judge fight with both warriors having huge 2 handed weapons. Dropped him in like, 3-4 hits

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