Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Game Dev Quote(s) of the Week: So Much For Common Wisdom Edition

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 12, 2014

DOS_0006For today, here’s a super-fresh quote from Swen Vincke or Larian Studios, which strikes near and dear to my heart. After hitting a home run, selling more than a half-million units, paying all the debts and investors and being able to fund the next game with the proceeds, Vincke snarks:

“So much for turn-based fantasy RPGs not selling, crowdfunding not working and a developer like us not being capable of bringing a game to market without the help of seasoned publishers.”

This is from today’s post, “Thoughts after releasing Divinity: Original Sin and what comes next.” I recommend reading the whole thing, if you are either a fan of Divinity: Original Sin, or a game dev, or just interested in game development. The whole article is awesome, combining some temporary business-related thoughts as well as nuggets of wisdom about building games in the modern era. Here is one nugget of wisdom I couldn’t help but quote:

“If content is the king, polish is the queen. The best content in the world will get low ratings if you have a poor UI and no gloss, or if players don’t understand your systems. These are easy things to say, but they are very hard to put in practice and sometimes you find that you may have to backtrack a lot. Don’t hesitate about this, just do it.”

I could comment on both, but as usual, I feel like I’m only a poor follow-up to an expert. But I do remember being told by one the executives at Infogrammes (now Atari) after they acquired us around early 1999 that they did not believe there was a market any longer for role-playing games. He told me this when I could look at the chart of the best-selling games of the previous year, and I remember seeing something like six of the top 20 games being RPGs. Or maybe I’m combining console and PC game sales in my mind. But I remember Diablo was getting long in the tooth and cloned, that Baldur’s Gate had been a big hit, and Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation had rocked the world pretty thoroughly. His information was about five years out-of-date, and hadn’t really been true even then. Of course, when they finally realized RPGs really were selling, it was because “the market changed.” No, they were never wrong, the market simply changed around them.

Pesky market.

There’s a lot of factors involved in what sells or doesn’t. Content and polish, as Vincke says. The marketplace. The competition. The mass appeal. Sheer luck. Who would have thought that a game with giant block environments and characters that looked like 8-bit game characters rendered in 3D blocks would become a mega-hit? Nobody. Not even Notch.

And as for polish – well, as he says, easier said than done. It can be hard to see when you are really close to it, and it’s hard to know when enough is enough. Great companies have fallen because they couldn’t settle for “good enough.” Many more have fallen because what they thought was good enough… wasn’t.

Either way, though, I’m thrilled by the success of Divinity: Original Sin. Not only is it a great game (from as much as I’ve played, which isn’t nearly enough), but it “sticks it to the man” (and to “common wisdom”) in all the right ways.

Filed Under: Quote of the Week - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Anon said,

    You are right: Marketing people are *never* wrong! It’s always the market!
    The same applies for managers: It’s always their stinking underlings who can’t understand or realize their advanced concepts.
    But of course if something is successful those suckers are the first in line to grab the accolades.

    But the more antics I read about those analysts and marketing specialists I wonder: Who are those guys, anyway?

    How old are they? Mid-twenties to Mid-thirties? What makes them think that they actually have “experience”?

    Have they actually been dedicated gamers in the past?
    Or did they have the obligatory NES or SNES as their only console and they never had time for gaming on the PC because they were so busy getting their “degree in kidding people”?

    I guess most of those clowns are simply dazzlers, “more hype than substance”-type of guys.

  • The Old Farmer said,

    Well it’s about time Larian got a break and I hope they have great success with D-OS and go on to make more great RPG’s. May Be the biggest break they got was getting out from under a publisher’s thumb. Some of the horror stories Swen has told in the past about how they were nearly ruined by the actions of past publishers and how their games suffered because of this. It makes me glad that we have moved in to an age of digital distribution where the the little guy can get his product out there and not be strong armed by the faceless greedy mega corps.

    I am having a blast with D-OS and it is great to see the effects of kickstarter at letting this kind of project happen. Now to find the time to play all the great games coming out as well as getting by back log of old ones under control.