Inside Scoop with Swen Vincke, Larian Studios’ Founder – Level Up Biz 2019

During Level Up Biz 2019 that happened on the 6th to 8th of November, we had the pleasure of interviewing Larian Studios’ founder, Swen Vincke. During the event, Swen announced the opening of Larian Studios Malaysia. So, we discussed about Larian’s decision coming to Malaysia and about their upcoming game Baldur’s Gate III.

If you want to check out the full interview, watch our exclusive video:

The following interview may be edited for reading clarity.

Q: What was your target for Larian Studios in Malaysia, how did it come into fruition?

Larian has 4 studios around the world: Russia, Belgium, Ireland and Canada. We try to pass on work from one studio to another to avoid really long days. That has been successful and we’re getting better and better at it. So, we’re just missing a studio in the East to complete the 24 hours cycle.

For example, if a QA (Quality Assurance) tester were to test our game, it would take them about a month to complete it, but with the 24 hours cycle, they can complete it within a week since save games can be passed on and it accelerates our game development. We tried this model on Original Sin 2 which only took 2 years to develop. For Baldur’s Gate III which is huge, we would need this model to help on the development of the game.

Baldur’s Gate III will be the next instalment of the iconic Role Playing Game franchise

We scouted around and decided Malaysia to be perfect due to the 6-7 hours difference from our other studios. An importance is that Malaysians speak English, there’s a lot of talent with a very active art industry, and your programmers are up and coming as well. It helps that there’s a lot of RPG (Role Playing Game) fans here and of course the government is very supportive. You’re lucky to have a team like MDEC, to be honest.

Q: How has it been so far for you and the team in handling the Baldur’s Gate IP and creating the 3rd installment in the series?

Everyone in the team is a fan of Baldur’s Gate of course, especially Dungeons & Dragons. We also have our own way of making our RPGs, so we’re trying to blend those two together to make our own version of Baldur’s Gate III where fans can say that this is what Dungeons & Dragons would be like if it were a video game.

We are our own worst enemies when it comes to releasing it because the expectations from ourselves are very high. But it’s really shaping up to be a really cool game; unfortunately it’s not ready yet.

Q: What’s your most memorable moment as a game developer at Larian Studios?

Our biggest highlight moment was definitely the kickstarter for the Original Sin franchise. Another highlight definitely was when I shipped my first game, L.E.D. Wars which was a very obscure RTS (Real Time Strategy).

I remembered sitting on the floor, dead tired since I was the only programmer on it and I was looking at the box like “This is it. What do I do next?” Back then, there was no feedback and when the game was shipped you couldn’t feel what your players felt.

Our lowlight moment was when we had the first Divinity which was not finished and we had to downscale heavily.

Q: Would you consider creating a lootbox system for future RPG games to generate monetization or are you not in favor of such tactics?

I’m a very old-school developer in that I believe in a story that has a beginning and an end. I’m not big on the monetization model, I prefer to buy a game and have it all. I know the world has changed, but if you ask me, I would pay for the product and have the entire product completely without having mechanics in there for doing stuff that are not focused on the gameplay itself.

I also understand why game developers do it because when you spend a hundred million dollars in a game, you would want to get that revenue back and I can imagine you’re looking for all sorts of mechanics to be able to do it.

Q: Ever since the reveal of Google Stadia, what are your stances towards it compared to other gaming livestreaming platforms?

Google Stadia, Google’s streaming platform for video games (Image source: Android Pit)

I think Stadia as a technology is fantastic, we’ve been fooling around with it and we’re observing how it’s going to roll out. Not quite sure how it will look like across the globe.

It enables you to do a lot of things and the thing that really attracted me to Stadia is that I have a game that people are afraid of initially and then after they start playing it, they might say “Damn, I never realized that I liked turn-based RPG.”

I make games that have a bit of depth and that might be scary to some but something like Stadia will get people to easily try it and make it even easier to invite their friends to try it with them. We know from experience because we do it in conventions that if we put players in front of the game, most people are sold.

So, we just got to get them to try it and technologies like Stadia will help increase the accessibility for our type of gameplay and I think it’s something you will see in a lot of developers.

It was such a pleasure to interview Swen and we are excited to see how much Larian Studios Malaysia will grow and raise the gaming industry in Malaysia.

Larian Studios Malaysia is also looking to hire people for their studio here! Be sure to check their website for more information and how to apply for a position.

For the full interview, check out our interview video here.

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