Larian Studios has embarked on a monumental task of getting the long dormant Baldur’s Gate series. The project entrusts the team known for Divinity Original Sin, who has been successful in the recent fantasy RPG series, to both revive the 10-year dormant franchise and work on the desktop. Game Dungeons and Dragons into a game for the modern audience.
In the game a week after the Early Access cycle, Larian Studios lead system architect Nick Pechenin talks with Gamasutra about how the early stages of the open development process went, and what is the core of what is D & D-led. The desktop experience of rolling 20 dies like this is more complicated than ever in contexts such as stories and battles.
The following Q & A has been edited for length and clarity.
So the first question is congratulations on Early Access, but what’s the whole thing now? Three days, right?
Pechenin: Yes. Almost exactly 3 days. In fact, it was much bigger than we expected. You may have seen tweets by founder Swen Vinke. It’s amazing. I see a lot of people playing and I see a lot of data coming in. And it’s very interesting to see what the players are doing. It’s very cool to see them spending a lot of time creating characters. We are trying to polish it as much as possible. So it was an explosion. And while our greatest hope, our greatest hope of pulling off something like D & D, was gathered, the worst fears of ours did not appear.
Is there a secret to successful early access? What’s one big piece of advice that every studio trying an Early Access campaign needs to do when it’s done?
My advice is to discard the design documentation for at least some features and be prepared to respect the process. If your studio has early access, you need to understand that this really means that players can provide feedback that doesn’t quite match your design vision. And you need to adjust it. But doing so will actually make the game better for more players.
So my advice is to be flexible, wise in design, and plan your design in a modular way. I think this is a lot better for us for this project. There are plans for systems that are expected to need to be added due to new classes, new features, and things that haven’t been discussed yet. But we’re making it possible to trade them all for something else that players really say is a priority, or change them so they don’t recreate everything from scratch. That’s why I try to keep the system modular. The key here is flexibility.
The size of Baldur’s Gate 3 and its player-based size are already very different from early access with Divinity Original Sin 2. With that in mind, how are the early access processes different between the two games? What lessons have been applied to both?
What I got from previous Early Access was that being as transparent as possible in advance really rewarded the player. It is very important to set the expected value early. So I hope we are trying to make it very clear that this will be Early Access. Problems can occur. We will try to fix it as quickly as possible. But sure, this isn’t the final release yet.
Second, when designing a game, you have a lot of ideas about what you want to put in. But only after listening to many people will you realize that some of those ideas are your loved ones. You need to set it aside. Then there are issues that you didn’t think would be a big deal, but you really should pay more attention. For example, what we are seeing now is that we are beginning to discuss more about the nature of randomness and how to approach it.
And since the audience is so large and they come from such different games, their expectations about how the story is treated are very different. So for a D & D player who is perfectly cool to get three in a row on the D20, they would be like “Yes, this happened to me yesterday, this is perfectly normal”. And some come from titles like XCOM, or more strategic titles where you don’t see really bad streaks in the hope of RNG dampers and stabilization. So we are discussing how to tackle this.
The randomness of the game sometimes has this dishonesty. Behind the scenes, some games lightly lie about percentages, treating numbers above 90% as guaranteed hits and less than 20% as guaranteed mistakes. But for your team, are your dice really a generation of random 1 to 20 numbers, or are they weighted to give you more balance and fairness?
Therefore, what is currently displayed is as random as the computer can output. This is true randomness, it works for some players, and some players want more options and more control over what’s happening.
What we see is that this pure randomness works for some types of roles. If it’s a smaller situation or it’s a very long shot to do this, it doesn’t matter if it’s a really random roll. But if it’s a big choice, or a big chance to change what’s happening at the party, or if you’re the character you’re trying to help, you really say, “This is the dice, that’s the way it goes. . “
From our own experience on the table, we can see that the dice should be purely random and very honest, but DM has screens that have a reason to roll the dice in secret.It’s already in D & D, and I understand that this built-in mechanism for stabilizing randomness and creating a compelling story will take some time, if not perfect. [throwing] With random movements.
Players are good at placing their thumbs on the scale to trick randomness and should be treated with caution. Therefore, we are currently discussing where to start stabilizing RNG. Probably a combat scenario. This is what people have very specific expectations. That’s where they want a lot of control, have a lot of plans, and come up with very interesting tactics and strategies. Too much RNG will ruin it. It develops tactics into something less interesting. But when it’s about the story, we’ll look at which types of roles are fine to keep random and which types need a little more control.
What is Larian’s official stance on saving scumming for better rolls?
Some players want to save the scum! They feel this is the degree of control they have over their experience and they want to exercise that control. My fiancé, she loves to save scum and if the game can’t save scum, let’s hack it. She crashes via ALT + F4 if the game is over and trying to save. Therefore, if the player wants to save the scum, save the scum. And if a significant portion of your audience wants to save scum, why not make it more comfortable for them?
I can’t remember the game name, but I read a recent interview and talked about how randomness is pre-determined. The following three random rolls are now set on the stone. So even if you reload the save, you’ll get exactly the same result, as people wanted to be trapped in the chaos of the universe.
I think Divinity Original Sin 2 actually had a bug where something called a random seed fix was accidentally introduced. Reloading will give the same result. There was a big backlash, even though it wasn’t intended. It was a bug, but in a way, doing it as a developer sent a message that it was destined and that everything was somehow pre-determined, so there was an immediate big backlash. Players react really negatively to it, or at least react enough that we don’t really think about it.
But on the other side of the spectrum, we know that there are players who want a true D & D experience where you lose and roll. When you fail something, you just get over it. They want the game to help them avoid saving the villains. Therefore, if save scumming is too easy, you may need a mode in which save scumming cannot be used by some mechanism. This will allow you to agree to this rule in the game, join the game without save scumming, and do your best to confirm your location. It brings them. So this is also discussing how we can implement it.
How do you balance the ability of a player to fail a check in a conversation or exploration with the ability of a player to advance the story and get meaningful information? Can you tell us a bit about how the team created the system in a way that gives players a flavorful option, despite the chance of failure?
Whatever the flowchart map Larian has, it has to be huge, like a huge amount of skill checks and class / race / background driven dialog options.
When you start playing the dialog tree, the dialog tree becomes absolutely huge. I hope to share screenshots such as post-mortem analysis later. But they are huge. For example, if you look at one, you may not be able to read what is written there without zooming in.
With Challenge and Randomness, we’ve tried to maintain a particular bucket difficulty check number so players can get used to a particular amount of randomness in a particular situation. (Editor’s Note: DC is a difficulty class or difficulty check. It’s the number of desktop slang you need to beat for a successful dice roll.) So, like a simple check, at 5 DC, a regular check If is like a 10-ish DC, players unfamiliar with rolling dice will get an emotional reaction to what a particular DC difficulty check means to them. For them, when they try to play these checks by getting bonuses for that, drinking potions, finding items that give them bonuses, it’s very clear that they’re getting those bonuses. I understand.
But what we also want to do, and when we see people actually interact with these roles, is very clear that we want to change the way they are displayed. That’s why I’m currently trying to use a minimal UI for rolling. You will see a number that is directly comparable to the dice. So, if it says 10, you need to check 10 or more on the dice to pass the check. But this 10 isn’t really a DC. It’s actually the sum of all the bonuses or penalties you may have.
So a lot of things are happening there and we call them “targets” rather than “difficulty checks”. But in reality, a little more about what’s happening there to understand how this number is structured and to start having ideas on how to master this number and how to manipulate opportunities. Favor realized that it needs to be explained.
We keep asking playtesters and looking for players who are trying to manipulate opportunities. There are many ways to do this in the game, but it’s not currently tutoriald. Familiar D & D players know about them and take advantage of them. But of course, we want to teach everyone to do this. And I think clearer UI feedback about the kind of bonuses you can have will help players start getting ideas on how to work.
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