Chris Avellone Divinity: Original Sin 2 As Writer

Chris Avellone is going to be a writer on Divinity 2: Original Sin [official site]. His involvement was confirmed at the 11th hour of Larian Studio’s already successful Kickstarter project – though not as a stretch goal, for once.

Chris Avellone, it seems, is stretchy. He made a guest appearance as a Stretch Goal on the Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter trail in 2013, and popped up again for the same placement in The Bard’s Tale IV project, after leaving Obsidian earlier this year.

For Divinity 2: Original Sin, the writer, ahem, writing was on the wall when developers Larian asked the community what they’d like to see during the crowd funding campaign. Look, see:

Larian explains how the deal went down via a Kickstarter update: “Before we launched our Kickstarter campaign, we asked the community what sort of reward and ideas they had in mind for our campaign. You guys came up with some interesting stuff, and one of the highest-voted ideas was getting Chris Avellone on board as a writer.

“Plenty of folks on the Larian team are fans of Chris’ work, but we hadn’t yet considered bringing him on for D:OS2. Intrigued, Swen sent him an innocent Tweet, and the two met up at PAX.”

At the time of writing, the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter sits at $1.7 million, over three times its original ask, with three days to go.

40 Comments

  1. ScarNage says:

    It seems Chris Avellone is going to be the writer in every RPG game of kickstarter for the next years. That way we’ll never see an entire game by Chris Avellone, but we’ll see a lot of little pieces of games by Chris Avellone. I don’t know what’s best…

    • Lakshmi says:

      He’s taking some time to write fiction too, (which is great), so I think overall it’s a win.

    • dabuthegreat says:

      I’d prefer a game where he’s a lead designer, but I guess it’s ok too.

  2. csbear says:

    Excited for this. With Chris on board, hopefully with more freedom to write compared to PoE, I see great things from D2:OS.

    • Monggerel says:

      Chris Avellone is so Chris Avellone he couldn’t hide it if he tried (and he generally doesn’t; it’s one of his strengths).

      The two companions he wrote in Pillars of Eternity?
      Durance and Grieving Mother. What a pair of precious fucking snowflakes. They are so apart from every other character in the game that Durance is actively hated by everybody else and Grieving Mother’s presence is literally not noticed by any character besides the PC.
      The both of them still make for probably the most interesting and novel (and disturbing) stuff in PoE.

      All I meant to say was, I think there’s good reason people hang on to Chris Avellone as a figurehead of “good” writing in videogames (admittedly, with standards being as low as they are, this might not require too much skill). And why Planescape: Torment is a cult classic of sorts (where Avellone was lead dev).

      • csbear says:

        OK, so he did do Durance. I was wondering why Durance’s character was so distinct compared to the others. Now I know!

      • Ringwraith says:

        This is after they had to rewrite them slightly as they didn’t fit.
        Don’t think I want to know what they were like originally.

    • caff says:

      Me too. He’s a great writer and will benefit this project hugely.

  3. Sakkura says:

    So I can’t buy a Chris Avellone this time? That makes me sad. :(

    Luckily, getting Chris Avellone on a project I already backed makes me happy again. :)

  4. Big Murray says:

    Meh, the game missed the mark badly for me. Rather see Chris working on other projects.

    • csbear says:

      Other than D:OS, did you like Pillars, Shadowrun, or Wasteland2?

      • Big Murray says:

        Pillars was much more the kind of game that clicked with me. Shadowrun and Wasteland 2 are on the list of games I haven’t got round to yet (I was put off Shadowrun by some initial reviews, but Dragonfall allegedly fixes many of those things so I need to get hold of it sometime and give it a go).

        D:OS always just felt like I was playing a game designed for two-players in single player mode.

        • csbear says:

          I felt the same way. Pillars was more to my liking actually. I am worried about D2:OS having a more multiplayer focus.

          Currently waiting for the big Wasteland 2 update in Oct(?) before starting a new game. I did enjoy Shadowrun: Returns quite a bit, even with its flaws, so I have a feeling Dragonfall will be one of my favorite RPGs I play this year.

          I’m also thinking about starting up Serpent in the Staglands soon.

          • trashmyego says:

            The Shadowrun followups are just them getting better at doing their thing, while also slowly expanding the scope and game play. When it comes to storytelling and character work, they’re some of my favorite games of the past few years. One of the best things about it that’s usually overlooked, they’re slowly building a huge catalog of assets for their editor – which was half of the intention of the series.

      • Sinjun says:

        I feel like I’m the only person who thinks this, but I’ve found the Shadowrun games to be downright terrible. I played through all of DMS and Dragonfall, I don’t know why. I kept waiting for Dragonfall to unveil this amazing writing it’s been praised for, and that never happened – even D:OS had better dialogue. The Shadowrun universe seems to be complete nonsense, mixing high fantasy with bad cyberpunk and none of it works for me. The characters are so cliche riddled and uninteresting as well.

        Pillars was great, though. Maybe not as daring as Obsidian’s other work but the writing is just such a breath of fresh air after working through Dragonfall. I never finished Divinity OS because nothing about the plot grabbed me, but I’ll probably revisit it once the EE comes out. Same with Wasteland 2, which again with the Shadowrun comparison seemed dramatically better written in the time I had with it, but I decided to shelve it when I heard the DC is coming.

  5. Turkey says:

    Does that mean he’ll have to write around all the lame attempts at british sketch comedy, or will he have full control?

    • Ringwraith says:

      Writing one of the origin stories last I read.

    • trashmyego says:

      The horrendous writing of Original Sin always confused me. Such a wonderful game servicing a continuous string of face plants and tone deafness. Not funny, not intriguing not anything. For so much of the quest structure being built around dialogue queues and investigation at the start… it was a huge turn off and turned what should have been bliss into a trudge through muck.

      I’m curious how big of a rewrite the free ‘Enhanced Edition’ update will be. They seem to be agree to some point that the writing didn’t live up in anyway to the game play. They’re also heavily underlining the writing and world building for the sequel, here’s hoping they follow through.

      • MaXimillion says:

        Apparently they’re trying to go for a more consistent and grounded writing style this time:

        • MaXimillion says:

          Apparently the comment section embeds youtube links and disregards timestamps, relevant answer is at 4:20

  6. malkav11 says:

    I really appreciate Avellone’s writing, but I don’t feel like writing some small piece of any given RPG is a good way to use him. The man’s work shines when he’s in charge of the whole picture. If you just have him write a few encounters or one NPC or a quest or something, I mean, yeah, that quest or NPC or whatever will be cool. But I’m not buying the game for that one thing, and depending on the quality of your other writers it may actually clash with the rest of the game.

  7. Bagpuss says:

    Talk about cult of personality.

    Planscape: Torment was a fluke and KotOR was halfassed. Everything that’s been done since then has been crap, just look at the fucking drivel that was PoE, his repuatation at this point is simply a mass sheep thing.. the idiots who think they know something say something and the morons who know nothing want to be a part of the ‘intelligent’ club so they agree, and the media pump it up because they’re worse than the morons who know nothing.

    Avellone’s reputation is built up of hotair and fairytales.

    ‘Baaaaaaa’ to all of you.

    • Guy Montag says:

      Because Molyneux forbid we all have different tastes.

    • csbear says:

      Well, video games are in a somewhat nascent stage compared to other forms of ‘established’ entertainment, so good writing is not that common. Curious to what you think are well written cRPGs?

      • Myrdinn says:

        He’s probably in the camp of ‘if you want good writing, read a book’, which I can somewhat relate to. But in videogame-writing terms, he’s surely one of the better ones in terms of overall imagination and writing believable characters.

        • trashmyego says:

          Even the pick up the book argument is kind of silly after referring to Planescape: Torment as a fluke. There are novels worth of text in that game and its consistency is anything but an accident.

    • Drowed says:

      We’ll just have to agree to disagree here.

      Fallot 2 is amazing. Planscape: Torment was great. KotOR was unfinished, but what existed there, it was still very good. Mask of the Betrayer was, in some ways, greater than Planescape (although in the sum of its parts, it’s still slightly below). Alpha Protocol was fun, but nothing amazing, true. But New Vegas was great, and Old World Blues was outstanding. Pillars wasn’t entirely good, but the two NPCs written by him (Durance and Grieving Mother) were, by far, the best things of the game.

      So, yeah. I don’t get what you’re saying – you just sounds a bit pretentious and contemptuous for no reason. But carry on.

      • newc0253 says:

        I stand second to none in admiration for his work in PS:T and Fallout 2.

        But Mask of the Betrayer? To this day, I remain at a loss to explain the love that that expansion gets. It had an interesting mechanic but I remember it as being both dour and dull.

        Whereas by the time we get to Pillars of Eternity, it seems as though Avellone has become a self-parody routine: is it any coincidence that the two characters he wrote – Durance and the Grieving Mother – are each insufferable in different ways and utterly overwrought?

        Don’t get me wrong: I’m pleased that we care about the quality of writing in CRPGs and Avellone’s work on PS:T remains probably the best exemplar of what can be achieved. But this whole cult of personality thing surely does him no favours.

    • tnzk says:

      I think Planescape was the only project of his which came together completely. Everything else (especially Troika and Obsidian) seemed to fall apart in production towards the end.

      And you may be attributing wrong games to him (Pillars of Eternity is not entirely him. Incidentally, it’s completely bland). In any case, he’s really good… for a video game writer. He knows how to deliver a story interactively.

      But yeah, video game stories don’t do it for me in general. Only a couple of them I could imagine unashamedly being treated into premium level book or film/tv show without looking like D-grade entertainment.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Hrm, I didn’t find PoE bland. It certainly has problems with some of its systems and its pacing. If anything is wrong with the writing it’s that it’s saturated with just too much of it. Planescape was a remarkably linear game with a very focused story that was just the right length. PoE has far too much padding, could have done without the whole Twin Elms area.

  8. manio22 says:

    If i am not mistaken he wrote something for Faster Than Light (FTL) too?

    • ScarNage says:

      Yes, he wrote some events for the free “expansion” (FTL: Advanced Edition).

  9. Rizlar says:

    Well I have to post this here since I seem to be in the minority of vocal internet residents, but I loved the themes, story and dialogue of D:OS. Also love Avellone’s work and he should be fantastic writing one of the origin stories (something that runs throughout the entire game for that character).

    D:OS felt like a breath of fresh air in a fairly stagnant genre. It was a story about relationships, emotions, humour and humanity. It was lighthearted. It seems like a lot of people are turned off because they don’t want this in their games, expecting laboured angst and punchy plot twists. D:OS felt more real and alive in spirit than any RPG I can remember, although this only really came to the fore in the final segment of the game. Here’s hoping D:OS2 is even better!

    • csbear says:

      “D:OS felt more real and alive in spirit than any RPG I can remember, although this only really came to the fore in the final segment of the game.”

      I agree with this. It really is a lively game and Larian did an excellent job overall. Maybe some might feel it is not the rpg for them, but the game itself exudes quality I feel.

      • trashmyego says:

        It exuded quality in everything but the writing for me, especially for the first half. The beginning of the game, almost everything in Cyseal is slowed and lessened because of the writing. It felt like there were no attempts made to make me interested in doing anything, no characterization to give life to the world or NPCs. There was always a web of cliche, poor attempts at humor, and one dimensional characters constantly impeding and interrupting my access to such wonderfully designed gameplay.

  10. ssh83 says:

    He said he’s done with talking heads… but talking heads are not done with him. :D

  11. IaIaFhtagn says:

    Looks like it could be good, although I may be in the minority when I say I enjoyed the writing of the last one?

    Either way, I’m also hugely excited by another, similar event; Blind Guardian, a favourite band of mine, have contacted the developers running the Kickstarter for The Dwarves game – based on a series of German fantasy books – and offered their services because they’re such fans of the work. Nice to see things like this happening outside of stretch goals.

  12. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Good move for them, should get plenty of people who are into good RPGs to buy into this rubbish, with the minimum amount of effort required all-round.

  13. Orphansmith says:

    I’m going to be brutally honest, D:OS was awfully written, hands down. The only reason anyone cares about the series now is because D:OS had solid gameplay. Gameplay so good it made up for the fact that the narrative is up there in the halls of the worst examples of writing in gaming history.

    This feels like a tricky-dick way for Larian to hoodwink people into assuming the story for the next game won’t be absolute garbage. And I don’t care if they believe they can write a good story just by closing their eyes and wishing really hard to suddenly grow talent, they’ll have to deliver the moon to make up for how terrible D:OS is.

    Having said that, the gameplay will probably be better than last time, so there’s that. Just don’t expect good storytelling.

    When Pokemon tells a more compelling narrative than your RPG you know you’re in trouble.

    • trashmyego says:

      Eh, I don’t think this is conscious hoodwinking. They already talked about how they’ve doubled their employ of writers. And they’re touting an extensive rewrite of D:OS in the coming free Enhanced Edition. If anything, I’d say they’re being quite sincere in their attempt to improve the writing and that this addition is only trying to help them reach that goal.