Video Game Community Management Review – Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin is brand spanking new and is making a colossal first impression. It was released on June 30th of this year and has already managed to snag GameSpot’s Game of the Month for July. Within four days of launching it sold 160,000 copies, quickly becoming Larian Studio’s fastest selling game (at the time of writing, the Collector’s Edition is still sold out on the Larian Vault). It’s easy to get pulled into the new game glow. On Original Sin’s website it describes the game as “a 3D RPG with old school roots” which is enough to make me feel tingly. Many others liken it to Baldur’s Gate, Skyrim and, personally, it reminded me of NWN – especially because of the inter-player relationships and “henchie” aspect. This nostalgia factor is something that modern gaming culture has been craving.

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The only thing that may be holding D:OS back is the difficult learning curve. There is a huge advantage for players who start the game with certain character builds, and because of this, many players who’re accustomed to a particular playing style might feel backed into a corner. Most notably, I’m referring to the fact that certain spellcasters will have an easier time progressing – which puts anyone who prefers melee fighting at a disadvantage. Anyone playing the game solo with a close combat character might find themselves frustrated, but group play may lessen this effect.

I have to say that the most provocative idea about D:OS is that it’s not trying to rival modern games – it’s trying to evoke the best parts of the past – and this idea makes it a more unique game in the present. Maybe everyone is just a little bit sick of traditional MMOs and App games and wants something that takes them back to the days of pen and paper RPGs – Original Sin has delivered. The graphics are stunning, the immersion is brilliant, and it clearly shows that the developers wanted to push the limits of what they could dream up and then, in turn, create. Divinity: Original Sin not only intimidates you because of its sheer size and depth, but elates you because you want to get all over that. That’s how video games should be. So much buzz and excitement over this game makes one want to just gobble it up, but with a 40 euro price tag on Steam let’s take a step back and look at the video game community management to see exactly what else we’re getting.

CREATING BUZZ

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Being such a new game the buzz is pretty easy to stay caught up on, but there’s a lot of it. The forums are not stagnant places – the activity there is constant and the attitude is positive. A player can post a question or issue and get a response within a few hours and the problem is usually resolved in a couple of posts. Players are so genuinely grateful and happy for the help they receive that it further drives the community relationships. People are talking nonstop about updates, achievements, and what they’ve seen and accomplished in the game so far – and there’s only more good to come.

Larian Studios does a great job showcasing their game. Although there’s not a multitude of social media pages for D:OS specifically, it’s kind of refreshing not to be overwhelmed with it – that frees up more time for playing, right? Larian does have an official Twitter, Facebook, YouTube channel and, very pleasingly, a Twitch channel that shows the company’s CEO, Swen, showing off the game itself and even co-oping with a player from Eurogamer. Which is quite a nice personal touch and a good way for the company to improve their social media presence and brand image.

Personally, I love seeing video game companies encourage their players to upload their game content – it creates a sense of community, can provide humor, friendly competition, and forges relationships between players that won’t happen with a mere tweet. Which brings me to their YouTube channel, which offers trailers and also tutorials for the Divinity Engine Toolkit – one of the most talked about features of the game. Developers have included the tools so that players can essentially create their own adventures and share them online. Currently there are 14 in-depth videos covering how to use the toolkit: from creating terrain and atmospheres to scripting dialogue. Larian went there – they set gamers free with the right tools and taught them how to use them, making even the game development a community effort.

Additionally, I was surprised to find a Reddit community that was gaining a lot of positive ground – over 8k readers and at least 100 people online at a time. Even on the official forums the Reddit community was getting bumps and boosts as a bonus community. This highlights one of the best things about the D:OS communities – they don’t detract from each other, overlap, or compete – they supplement each other to create the ultimate gaming community.

At the time of writing, Larian Studios has just returned from vacation, but prior to that their social media channels are proof of the vibrant, lively community. Larian even admitted on their Facebook page that they’re withholding the temptation to bombard their page with review reposts and that they’re genuinely taken aback by the outpouring of attention their game is receiving. There’s a serious amount of love here between developers, CMs and players – this is what video game communities should be.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

If I haven’t gushed enough about the warm fuzzy feelings revolving around Divinity: Original Sin then listen up. The Player/Player interactions on the forums are the best I’ve seen. There’s a great mix of noobs and veterans and neither group is holding each other back or talking over the other’s heads – it’s one of the most perfectly balanced communities that I’ve seen in a while. Not to mention the CMs and Mods that glue these groups together; their efforts have truly shown.

I hope that this great mood continues. Having only been on the market for a little over a month means that some of this buzz and vibe could be due to the afterglow of the launch – but I don’t want to see it end. Hopefully these post-release relationships and habits will create the foundation for a community that will still be thriving for years to come.

I covered why Divinity: Original Sin is what video games should be – with the depth and excitement of the game – and also how they are what a video game community should be. I kept finding myself excited that the developers created a dream game that shows that they continue to pour love into it, and also that the reception of their game leaves them truly humbled. The relationship between the devs and the players is an amazing thing to witness and I hope to continue to watch it grow.

LISTENING

The primary points of activity are the official forums and the Steam community. I was completely blown away by the community managers on the official forum – they are on the ball. Questions are answered within hours and resolved within a couple of posts. I even saw a community manager that was willing to help a player with a computer issue created by a different game that was affecting D:OS – just wow.

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All of this could be a perk of being a smaller operation. The interactions between Larian Studios and players on their social media channels and forums feel like talking with another person on your friend’s list. The CMs and Mods aren’t just commenting on bug reporting forums either – they’re helping out on the ‘tips & tricks’ forums, creating dialogue on the general forum, and some of them even discuss their own game suggestions – D:OS deserves all five stars for listening to their players.

SUPPORT

My biggest issue with Divinity: Original Sin’s support was that it was so hard to find. I thought that it would obviously be on the D:OS official site, but instead it’s on Larian’s official site. From there, it involves navigating through their site to find the support email address or to be directed back to the D:OS forums, but this system seems to be effective since we do not see complaints about it on the forums. Overall, the support appears to be working for them – I just wish it was easier to find. There’s also game discussion on their Steam pages, but the official forums appear to be more active and timely.

As far as purchasing the game goes, there’s separate support on the Larian Vault site, which is where players can purchase any of Larian’s games, so it’s nice to see that they keep game support and purchase support differentiated.

Finally, people are excited about “epically” long patch notes. Any time a giant list of patch notes is posted on the forums people get really excited, and understandably so. Larian is taking a large amount of time to get their game done right and to get any issues and bugs ironed out within the first few months after launch. All of these bug fixes are done in giant chunks and show that they take note of what players are reporting.div4

LOCALIZATION

Video game translation and localization can be lengthy and challenging. Not to mention the consideration of what languages you should make your support and social media available in. Currently the game is offered in English, French, German, Polish and Russian (Larian stated on their Kickstarter site that “additional languages may be added”[i]). They have stated that they chose these languages because they have distribution deals in these language areas – so when distribution expands we can expect to see more languages. For their official site they have it in English, German, French, Polish and Russian. Larian Studios, being a Belgian company, have entered into the market with a great language lineup and made sure that the languages the game is offered in also match up with the languages their site is in. A great, simple move that will leave all players happy. Also, the Larian Vault (where games can be purchased) is in Dutch, English and German. It’s safe to say that Larian has a good starting base. I was personally a little surprised that the game itself is not offered in Dutch – one of Belgium’s official languages – but it’s still early in the game’s life so I believe that we can expect to see more in the future.

Perhaps because Larian is a smaller operation and because of their distribution range, I could only find social media pages in English and German. As with the rest of their video game localization, I’m sure that as the game continues to grow on the market the fanbase will increase and we will see more languages pop up on social media. Especially since their other games have official forums offered in German, Dutch and French – Divinity: Original Sin is still in its infancy as far video game translation goes and it has a bright future.

CM Scorecard:

Creating Buzz: *****

Making Connections: ****

Listening: *****

Support: ****

Localization: ****

Divinity: Original Sin delivers what it promises – it has the best of the old school world swirled in with modern perks. As a game, it’s fantastic and its strong community backing further encourages the feel good vibes you want with a new game. I’m excited to see their progress and hope that we see more groundbreaking developments from them in the future.

MO Group International provides video game community management, translation and customer support at a price that fits with your budget. We offer our services in over 40 languages and can custom tailor our video game localization services for your projects. Don’t hesitate to contact us about any of our services – feel free to take advantage of our free quote and get the ball rolling on your video game project.


[i] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/larianstudios/divinity-original-sin/posts/441579

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