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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Divinity: Original Sin II - Interview with Michael Douse

Default Divinity: Original Sin II - Interview with Michael Douse

July 22nd, 2018, 10:20
Metro interviewed Larian's director of publishing Michael Douse about Divinity: Original Sin II and the marketing angle is explored also.

GC: It is always about the marketing. I’m a big fan of turn-based strategy games, especially XCOM – which your combat has something in common with, and I foolishly imagined it was going to be a big mainstream hit when they got it working so well on consoles. But of course it was a mild hit at best. But it seems with your games they should be much more successful than they are too, much better known…

MD: We’ve done a lot of data crunching, so we know what our market cap is on each console and PC. I think we’re about halfway through our market cap on PC, we can get another one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half million players I think on PC. But it’s true. And these kind of challenges, on how to communicate the game on many, many different levels, and dealing with the fact that people think it’s a CRPG when it’s really a co-op board game. All of these kind of things are a challenge.

And we’re growing, we’re successful, we’re not desperate. So working these things out with this kind of safe level of iteration, and growing as a publishing team and growing as a developer, it’s really a privileged place to be in. Because we’re not scrambling, we’re just listening and we’re watching and sort of growing. So I completely agree.

An interesting point about XCOM compared to CRPGs is we actually have more people who are XCOM players than we do that are Pillars Of Eternity players. So those parallels are really there, the data shows us that those parallels are there. But the most difficult thing, and I’ll tell you this, is trying to explain to publishing people why the game is such a success. It’s not the players.

The players, if you put it in their hands they have a great time, but people who look at this and go, ‘Well, why is this a success?’ They can’t work it out, and they don’t realise that it’s closer to a game like XCOM than it is Pillars and all of these kinds of things. So these are the greatest challenges. It’s more on the business side than it is on the community side.

The community really have our back. It’s really, really fun to work with everyone on that.

[…]
More information.
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July 22nd, 2018, 11:11
Interesting to hear they're 150 people strong. That's 50% more than, for instance, the Skyrim and Fallout 4 development teams.

I would have thought more like 50 people or so.

In fact, it's an interesting and informative interview overall.
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July 22nd, 2018, 15:08
Rumor is they are working on more than one game so if it was 75 for one game then 150 for 2 or 3 games would make sense ?

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Interesting to hear they're 150 people strong. That's 50% more than, for instance, the Skyrim and Fallout 4 development teams.

I would have thought more like 50 people or so.

In fact, it's an interesting and informative interview overall.
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July 22nd, 2018, 16:14
Some good information but they chose an interviewer who never heard of Larian?
GC: I have to admit I don’t really know anything about Larian or who they are. But Wikipedia tells me you’ve got over a hundred staff… and now you say four studios?

MD: We’re actually 150 people, soon to be 160. But we don’t really have a lot of corporate PR. We’re just happy swanning around doing our thing. But yeah, four studios: one in Saint Petersburg; one in Ghent, which is the head office; one in Dublin; and one in Quebec, Canada.
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July 22nd, 2018, 16:17
Originally Posted by you View Post
Rumor is they are working on more than one game so if it was 75 for one game then 150 for 2 or 3 games would make sense ?
Bethsoft tend to work on a few things at the same time, as well.

But I'm just going by what Howard has been saying in multiple interviews. They're deliberately not expanding their team for these games, because they want to maintain a certain level of creative intimacy.

I'm just surprised that Larian have so many people working for them. Even if DOS 2 was such a success, I wouldn't have thought their past financial situation capable of supporting that kind of size, across multiple locations.

So, it was interesting and new to me.
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July 22nd, 2018, 17:35
They don't have an office in California…. While they have a lot of people (maybe too many?) their salary base is much lower than some usa based offices. Btw that's why xile opened an office in new orleans - probably just about the cheapest place to have an office with at least a small talent pool (though most of the native talent is artistic).

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Bethsoft tend to work on a few things at the same time, as well.

But I'm just going by what Howard has been saying in multiple interviews. They're deliberately not expanding their team for these games, because they want to maintain a certain level of creative intimacy.

I'm just surprised that Larian have so many people working for them. Even if DOS 2 was such a success, I wouldn't have thought their past financial situation capable of supporting that kind of size, across multiple locations.

So, it was interesting and new to me.
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July 22nd, 2018, 17:37
Originally Posted by you View Post
They don't have an office in California…. While they have a lot of people (maybe too many?) their salary base is much lower than some usa based offices. Btw that's why xile opened an office in new orleans - probably just about the cheapest place to have an office with at least a small talent pool (though most of the native talent is artistic).
Interesting. What's the salary average across the four Larian offices - and how do they compare to the Bethsoft average?
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July 22nd, 2018, 18:11
Good luck getting that answer but the average salary for a senior software developer is 2x to 3x in california over new orleans. In california it is not unreasonable to see $160K to $220K for a seasoned but non-critical developer.

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Interesting. What's the salary average across the four Larian offices - and how do they compare to the Bethsoft average?
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July 22nd, 2018, 18:18
Originally Posted by you View Post
Good luck getting that answer but the average salary for a senior software developer is 2x to 3x in california over new orleans. In california it is not unreasonable to see $160K to $220K for a seasoned but non-critical developer.
I was curious because you made it seem like you actually knew the average salary for a developer in Larian.

Obviously, you actually don't.

As for your numbers, they seem way, way too high based on my experience.

AFAIK, the overall average salary for a game developer in the US is somewhere between $50K and $130K.

Also, AFAIK, Bethesda is in Maryland - which means the average salary is just above or below @100K according to this:

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/video…lary/maryland/
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July 22nd, 2018, 20:08
I don't know the specific salary that Larian pays but I know the salary range for some of the regions they have offices. I also know what I was paid as a software developer as well as some of my co-workers in california. I'm not going to provide you my salary but I will state that my starting salary was near the top end of your range and that was more than 15 years in the past. I also know what a lot of startups are offering in california and it is significantly higher than the mid point of your range. I'm not sure where those numbers come from but i doubt they reflect the range for a season developer in california (game or otherwise).

Yes salary is a lot less in Maryland than california also I'm not sure how the salary of a designer compares to a developer. Last but least part of the problem in California is that companies like Apple and Google will pay an enormous amount for even non-talented people that it is expensive to hire reasonable talent (again I'm limiting this to developers - i'm sure area designers and similar get paid less).

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
I was curious because you made it seem like you actually knew the average salary for a developer in Larian.

Obviously, you actually don't.

As for your numbers, they seem way, way too high based on my experience.

AFAIK, the overall average salary for a game developer in the US is somewhere between $50K and $130K.

Also, AFAIK, Bethesda is in Maryland - which means the average salary is just above or below @100K according to this:

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/video…lary/maryland/
Last edited by you; July 22nd, 2018 at 20:23.
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July 22nd, 2018, 20:16
Originally Posted by you View Post
I don't know the specific salary that Larian pays but I know the salary range for some of the regions they have offices. I also know what I was paid as a software developer as well as some of my co-workers in california. I'm not going to provide you my salary but I will state that my starting salary was near the top end of your range and that was more than 15 years in the past. I also know what a lot of startups are offering in california and it is significantly higher than the mid point of your range. I'm not sure where those numbers come from but i doubt they reflect the range for a season developer in california (game or otherwise).

Yes salary is a lot less in Maryland than california also I'm not sure how the salary of a designer compares to a developer. Last but least part of the problem in California is that companies like Apple and Google will pay an enourmous amount for even non-talented people that it is expensive to higher reasonable talent (again I'm limiting this to developers - i'm sure area designers and similar get paid less).
I have absolutely no idea why you're talking about California in this case?

Is that relevant in some way?

Anyway, as I said, I was just curious if you could actually back up your claims - and I've gotten my answer.

Thank you.
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July 22nd, 2018, 23:39
Douse said they have 150 people total right now between 4 studios. That's not for one development team, it's for the entire company. He didn't specify how many people worked on D:OS 2, but I highly doubt it was 150 people. I seem to recall reading that it was over 100 though.

I do know having that many people is a recent thing for Larian. I read that they tripled in size immediately prior to developing D:OS 2.
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:07
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Douse said they have 150 people total right now between 4 studios. That's not for one development team, it's for the entire company. He didn't specify how many people worked on D:OS 2, but I highly doubt it was 150 people. I seem to recall reading that it was over 100 though.

I do know having that many people is a recent thing for Larian. I read that they tripled in size immediately prior to developing D:OS 2.
How do you know it's not for one development team, though? Apart from the non-developers, obviously.

I mean, it could easily be for more than one - but the interview makes it sound like they're all working on the same thing, because they've worked to establish a "22/24-hour" cycle where each studio takes over from the next at a certain time.

That makes it sound like what CIG are doing with Star Citizen - only with 500 people.

Not that it's terribly important or interesting.

Just surprising to me. Whether they're 100 or 150 people working on a game, that's still at least twice as much as I would have guessed.

I wonder how many worked on DOS2…. Hmm, anyway - the future seems bright for Larian and that's great.
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:14
Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
I was curious because you made it seem like you actually knew the average salary for a developer in Larian.

Obviously, you actually don't.

As for your numbers, they seem way, way too high based on my experience.

AFAIK, the overall average salary for a game developer in the US is somewhere between $50K and $130K.

Also, AFAIK, Bethesda is in Maryland - which means the average salary is just above or below @100K according to this:

https://www.sokanu.com/careers/video…lary/maryland/
I'm pretty sure that "you" was talking about the avg pay of software engineers in general, not specifically ones in the game industry. His numbers sound about right to me, but I think the point you're getting at is that that doesn't mean much when we're talking about game programmers specifically and also ones who are in Maryland?

There are some sites online like glassdoor and payscale where people report their salaries, and/or give reviews, of where they work. If you're taking what's available online as gospel, then it seems like programmers at Bethesda get paid between $65-100K, and non-programmer "designers" get paid at around the bottom of that, or even below. Doesn't seem to be any data about Larian out there though.
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:23
Originally Posted by Stingray View Post
I'm pretty sure that "you" was talking about the avg pay of software engineers in general, not specifically ones in the game industry. His numbers sound about right to me, but I think the point you're getting at is that that doesn't mean much when we're talking about game programmers specifically and also ones who are in Maryland?

There are some sites online like glassdoor and payscale where people report their salaries, and/or give reviews, of where they work. If you're taking what's available online as gospel, then it seems like programmers at Bethesda get paid between $65-100K, and non-programmer "designers" get paid at around the bottom of that, or even below. Doesn't seem to be any data about Larian out there though.
I'm not talking about game programmers specifically, just game developers in general

But I was actually genuinely curious about the salary differences, because my "gut reaction" based on my experience with game companies and their development team sizes - tells me that 150 people for a company like Larian sounds like it's too many based on their potential target audience. In that interview, it was specifically mentioned that they don't have much in the way of corporate PR - so I assume most of these people are actual developers.

Again, if you look at Bethesda Softworks and games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 - both of those games were made by just around 100 people according to Todd Howard - and they don't EXCLUSIVELY work on those games, AFAIK.

Those games sell around 10-20 million copies - which is a LOT more than even DOS 2 sold.

That said, Bethsoft are keeping themselves deliberately small - so there's that - and I'm sure ZeniMax handles a lot of the peripheral business shit.

However, it still doesn't quite gel, so I'm wondering if it's because I don't know what I'm talking about - or if there's some other explanation, like maybe it's only a very recent large expansion and that salaries are much lower for them.

I mean, it's probably a safe guess that it's some kind of combination, but I would prefer to actually know things - and not just assume.

But, as I said above, it's no big deal. Just my curiousity at play
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:34
I'd have to guess St. Petersburg salaries are a ton lower than Maryland salaries, but no idea about Larian's other 3 locations (Quebec, Ghent, Dublin). I wouldn't imagine they're vastly different?

Anyway, including St Petersburg people in the mix, maybe a really, really rough ballpark avg for Larian is $60K? If you buy that, then they're burning through about $9M a year in salaries, and a game company wouldn't generally have a whole lot of other significant overhead besides salaries and rent.

If you figure in Steam/GOG's 30% cut and figure Larian sold 1.5M copies @ $45, that's $47M of revenue, so if they can put out a game like this every 3 years they're not hurting at all, in fact they're raking in massive profits.

If Bethesda is as low-overhead as you're saying, then the owners of that company are cashing in at a ridiculous level, presumably.
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:39
Originally Posted by Stingray View Post
I'd have to guess St. Petersburg salaries are a ton lower than Maryland salaries, but no idea about Larian's other 3 locations (Quebec, Ghent, Dublin). I wouldn't imagine they're vastly different?

Anyway, including St Petersburg people in the mix, maybe a really, really rough ballpark avg for Larian is $60K? If you buy that, then they're burning through about $9M a year in salaries, and a game company wouldn't generally have a whole lot of other significant overhead besides salaries and rent.

If you figure in Steam/GOG's 30% cut and figure Larian sold 1.5M copies @ $45, that's $47M of revenue, so if they can put out a game like this every 3 years they're not hurting at all, in fact they're raking in massive profits.

If Bethesda is as low-overhead as you're saying, then the owners of that company are cashing in at a ridiculous level, presumably.
Well, in terms of profit - I think that would depend on local tax laws and what not, so I would assume the total profits are significantly lower than that.

However, obviously - it's a trivial matter to come up with numbers that would make it all work

Problem is that we're basing those numbers on relatively uninformed guesses.

Also, we still don't know how many developers actively worked on DOS2 - which would be something that happened BEFORE it became a success, obviously

But we probably can't know this - or it would take a prohibitive amount of digging around to establish - and I don't think we have the stamina for that.

So, I'll just note this as an interesting piece of information
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:54
Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
Well, in terms of profit - I think that would depend on local tax laws and what not, so I would assume the total profits are significantly lower than that.
Depends on your definition of significantly I guess, but corporations are only taxed on profit, not revenue. I'm certainly no expert on how it works in Europe but it looks like the rate over there is something like 30%. So with my hypothetical example, $20M profit for 3 years, they lose around $6M of that in taxes. Whoever owns Larian (presumably Swen + maybe some other investors) is coming away with perhaps $5M a year or so in profits, probably a lot more than that when you consider sales of their back catalog too. Maybe he plows it all back into expanding/improving the company, though. But yeah, like you said, this is all just guesswork, though I think it's somewhat of a rather "educated guess" not a completely random guess.
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July 23rd, 2018, 09:57
Originally Posted by Stingray View Post
Depends on your definition of significantly I guess, but corporations are only taxed on profit, not revenue. I'm certainly no expert on how it works in Europe but it looks like the rate over there is something like 30%. So with my hypothetical example, $20M profit for 3 years, they lose around $6M of that in taxes. Whoever owns Larian (presumably Swen) is coming away with perhaps $5M a year or so in profits, probably a lot more than that when you consider sales of their back catalog too. Maybe he plows it all back into expanding/improving the company, though. But yeah, like you said, this is all just guesswork, though I think it's somewhat of a rather "educated guess" not a completely random guess.
I will admit I'm not exactly a corporate genius, and I honestly have no idea about local tax laws in the relevant countries - I just know that it's not a trivial amount in Denmark, which is why I said significant

That said, we do have some of the most severe non-corporate tax rates in Europe, AFAIK. But that's neither here nor there.

But, yeah, too much work for too little benefit to go out of our way to find out this information.

Thank you for your insights, though
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July 23rd, 2018, 12:53
One thing that always grabbed me was that companies like Bethesda and EA frequently spend as much on advertising as they do on development. I don't have any figures handy but on one recent EA release the marketing budget was released and it was shocking. The same thing is true with many big budget movies. A huge amount is spent on marketing. Historically Larian does not spend nearly as much on marketing (they might have spent more on D:OS-2 not sure) so when you consider the cost to make a game you have to include the marketing cost.

Also consider the console revenue for D:OS. I don't know what sales were like but the 1.5 million that was quoted was just for PC; they also sold a few units on consoles.
According to VGchartz (whatever that is) there were more than 900K physical copies sold for consoles (more if you include digital copies).

Originally Posted by Darth Tagnan View Post
I'm not talking about game programmers specifically, just game developers in general

But I was actually genuinely curious about the salary differences, because my "gut reaction" based on my experience with game companies and their development team sizes - tells me that 150 people for a company like Larian sounds like it's too many based on their potential target audience. In that interview, it was specifically mentioned that they don't have much in the way of corporate PR - so I assume most of these people are actual developers.

Again, if you look at Bethesda Softworks and games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 - both of those games were made by just around 100 people according to Todd Howard - and they don't EXCLUSIVELY work on those games, AFAIK.

Those games sell around 10-20 million copies - which is a LOT more than even DOS 2 sold.

That said, Bethsoft are keeping themselves deliberately small - so there's that - and I'm sure ZeniMax handles a lot of the peripheral business shit.

However, it still doesn't quite gel, so I'm wondering if it's because I don't know what I'm talking about - or if there's some other explanation, like maybe it's only a very recent large expansion and that salaries are much lower for them.

I mean, it's probably a safe guess that it's some kind of combination, but I would prefer to actually know things - and not just assume.

But, as I said above, it's no big deal. Just my curiousity at play
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