David Walgrave, Producer at Larian Studios talked about the “Larian Way” and managing the studio in a way that still reflected its values. He gave this talk as part of the Baldur’s Gate 3: Out with the Old panel at Level Up KL 2020.
He says that while many things in the game’s development can change, it’s important to stick to the studio’s roots. To this end, he espouses “The Larian Way”. According to David, these are Flexibility, Efficiency and No Limitations.
Be Willing To Change
For flexibility, he says the idea is to be open to the idea of changing the way you do things.
“Change when things don’t work out,” he says. “Change the rules, change the dialogue, until everything works out”.
He says this is especially important in the game industry, where pipelines can have a big effect on development.
“Do not force the pipeline,” David says. “Adapt your pipeline to fit into your desired dream”.
Larian’s commitment to flexibility shows in its games, too. In Divinity: Original Sin, for example, NPCs can be easily killed regardless of their story significance. He says he had to rethink the studio’s approach to “quests” as a result.
“We don’t think of quests like other people do” he says. “We think of them like situations”. He goes on to say that as such, they had to design these situations in such a way that you have to consider they might not happen, since their NPC could easily be offed.
Efficient As You Go
Of course, to do this, you need to make sure you’re running a tight ship. This is why David says the next step of the Larian Way is efficiency.
“You always have to be on the lookout for the most efficient system” he says.
He talked about this while describing how they would do localization in Baldur’s Gate 3. Under the old architecture used for Divinity: Original Sin, the current pipeline wouldn’t allow for quick changes without costing valuable work time for the rest of the team. Instead, he says Larian opted for a real-time translation system that allowed more flexible working, thus maximizing everyone’s work efficiency.
“I didn’t want to fix the problem by patching it up,” he says. “I wanted to start it from scratch”.
As a result, he says, Larian completely abandoned their old localisation pipeline in favor of the new one.
Finally, the last step of “The Larian Way” is the inability to accept limitations.
“If someone says it cannot be done, we say ‘challenge accepted’ ” he says proudly.
He says this principle was particularly relevant for Divinty: Dragon Commander. The game featured third person flying as a dragon, as well as a complex system of political networking and player choice. Despite the difficulties of developing a game with such free movement, Larian Studios pressed ahead anyways.
Baldur’s Gate 3 recently released on Steam Early Access.