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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!

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