Cooperative Competitive Cannibalism: Divinity Original Sin 2’s Systemic Design

Divinity: Original Sin [official site] is an incredibly complex game. It’s a very silly game, which might lead some people to think it isn’t all that clever, but even though it wears a comedy tie to the RPG Christmas party, it’s still the smartest game in the room. That’s because it’s built on intelligent, simulated systems that overlap and feed into one another to make both interesting narrative choices and dynamic situations in both combat and roleplay.

The sequel takes all of the complexities of the first and adds competitive multiplayer for up to four players. At Rezzed, Larian’s creative director and founder, Swen Vincke, explained how it all works.

In an attempt to emulate the social aspects of pen and paper roleplaying, Larian are allowing as much experimentation as possible within their world. To do that, they rely on a series of robust systems to carry much of the weight, but all of the dialogue and situations that those systems sit on top of require a great deal of work as well. One of my favourite things about this game doesn’t involve the game itself – it involves imagining the faces of programmers and writers as the design becomes increasingly intricate.

“It’s very important that any NPC in the game can die without preventing progress.”

“So…if the player…”

“Players. There are four of them now.”

“Oh. Right. So if one of the four players decides to kill a quest-giver, they should still be able to do the quest?”

“Yes. And let’s have it so that they might intentionally kill a specific NPC to screw over their ‘friends’.”

“So they’re not on the same team?”

“That’s up to them.”

“Oh. But going back to this dead NPC…”

“Well, there could be a letter containing the necessary info hidden somewhere. The body contains a clue. Or they could talk to the ghost of the NPC to find a clue.”

“Ah, the ghosts…”

“Yes, every NPC has a ghost. Even the animals. MAKE MORE GHOST DOGS”

Lovely stuff.

If you looked at the Sunless Sea post earlier today, you might have noticed that I make an appearance on stage before Failbetter’s talk. And here I am again! At some point, I will post some interesting Rezzed talks that I wasn’t on the periphery of, but I picked these two because I know the games well. That’s why I was involved with the Q&A and presentations. I’m not just trying to make everyone look at my confused little face. But do look at how ridiculous my wristband looks in this one. What a skinny-armed fool I am!


  1. jasta85 says:

    Big fan of the original Divinity original sin although I did get a little tired of the trap puzzles, I’d always tried to get through them quickly which usually resulted in me dying horribly.

    Looking forward to this, although sadly I doubt I’ll be able to get someone to play this game with me the whole way through in co-op, if its anything as long as the first game.

    • mouton says:

      Pfah trap puzzles.

      *levitating invisible rogue goes as far as he or she can and throws the little pyramid thingie.

  2. GWOP says:

    I cut my eyes just looking at the header image.

  3. Vandelay says:

    You forgot to ask whether the ghost dog requires the ability to talk to ghosts AND pet pal!

    I’m still uncertain about how the competitive multiplayer mode will exactly work in the long run. I can see it being fine for a separate mode where games last a couple of hours, but how is this supposed to work in a 60+ hour game? If you start a multiplayer game with 3 other people, will you be stuck with them throughout or will you be able to switch them around once someone has decided to compete against you?

    I guess you could end up playing away from everyone else, but will you still have to coordinate when you actually sit down and play to carry on, even if decide to take different paths?

    All sounds very odd.

  4. TheAngriestHobo says:

    After only lukewarm feelings towards its predecessor, I haven’t really kept up with the news on this one. I seem to recall that it was going to be local multiplayer only, though. Is that still the case?

  5. Person of Interest says:

    Dunno what you’re going on about, Adam. Throw on a collared shirt and I could mistake you for Edward Snowden.

  6. Chillicothe says:


    Swen needs to wear this on a T-shirt in the next video.