My Love for Larian Community

Larian Community

– Premise –

For the last 35 days I’ve worked on the Larian Studios 2nd kickstarter as some kind of community manager. It was for Divinity: Original Sin 2.

I learned a lot during these 35 days and I wanted to write a few lines about it.

– Why? –

A few years ago, when I was still working at Ubisoft. I created, with other people, the online collecting card game Might & Magic : Duel of Champions. This was my first professional experience with community back then. Not because I was interacting with them but because I was ready every one of their feedback all over the Internet. This created a sparkle in me that wanted to push me toward community management.  Long story short, this never happened (there was no opening).

A few years later, working for Larian, I discover how incredible our community is. I went from a world where the loudest people were  99.9% negative about the work you do to a world where the loudest people are 95% positive and constructive about what you do.

In short, I really wanted to do something to work with all of them.

– How? –

How did I managed to end up as Jeff – High Commander of the Brotherhood of norD?
Well, all thanks to Swen, Larian CEO, he just allowed me to do so!
You know, when I started working at Larian I also started reading almost anything I could find about the company and I just kept doing the same when the Kickstarter launched. I was reading everything on our forum, on reddit, on the Kickstarter comment section and all around the Internet where I was able to find data or people talking about it.

At some point I just asked Swen if I could be part of the small team who were working on the Kickstarter and he just said yes without hesitation. The fact that I was in different time zone than all the others also helped a lot.

– The magic –

Something happened on the Kickstarter comment section when I arrived. You know, all the people who were taking care of the Kickstarter except Swen were Writers. As you may know, I’m a Level Designer.
I learned that the community was following the Devins. A cult they created around the Writers. (Devin is a writer).

Since I’m a Level Designer, I created a paradox in that Devin universe and some of the people on Kickstarter started to follow me instead. I’ve no idea why though… I then created The Brotherhood of norD (norD is my nickname).

Really fast, I went from a no-name to someone people were eager to talk to.

I started to be really present on the Kickstarter comment section, I also started posting a lot on our forum as myself, Jeff, the Larian Level Designer.

Lots of crazy stuff also happened during that 35 days, people created things about me, about the furry hat I was wearing and all. Crazy I must say!

– Watch out on what you say –

Writing in the name of the company you work for is something fun and stressful. You need to think twice (and more) about everything that you say/write.

Fans will mostly take everything that you say for granted and/or they will interpret it on their own. Then they will post that somewhere and then, you’re done.

I made a mistake and even if, in the end, it turned out pretty well, I felt really bad about it.

You know, I speak French 99% of the time. My English is far from perfect. So sometimes I want to say something but I don’t use the right word because my vocabulary is kind of limited. This was part of my mistake.

Basically, two RPG communities that have a pretty nice rivalry were doing a fundraiser for our Kickstarter. One day, people were talking about it on the comment section and I decided to have a look at both. They were mostly at $4000 each. They both wanted to rise to $10000.

I said on the comment: “They should merge together so they will be closer to $10000.”

This was the mistake.

The word merge was the mistake.

I didn’t knew, but it was mostly like if I would have asked North and South Korea to merge together. Not that I’m comparing both community to South and North Korea but it felt like it.

Since, like I said, English is not perfect for me. The thing that I really wanted to say was: “They should both merge their funding so there would get closer to $10000.

Why was it a mistake?

Well, people of the community were also on the comment section obviously and they saw that. So they quoted me on their forum and I really looked like an idiot I guess.

I really learned something there.

I can say to you that I was thinking twice before posting anything after that.

I felt so bad about it that I even stopped all interaction with the community for a whole day.

– I hate hearing myself –

Swen needed to travel to San Francisco for TwitchCon. So since it was going to the United-States, he decided to do a stop in our studio in Quebec. That was the first time he was able to come visit us for months.

One of the cool idea he had was to do a Kickstarter update showing Larian Quebec team. Since I had some kind of reputation now and also because I’m a veteran (he really like to say that) I had to speak about Level Design and also myself on a camera.

You know, us, Québécois, are not the best English speakers normally. Especially when you learn English all by yourself like me.

I hate my English accent so much!

Doing that video was a great experience though. That was cool to see how they were doing that from the inside instead of just seeing the finished product.

I think we had to redo my part ten times!

When the update went live, I watched it and obviously, I heard myself speaking.

GOSH….

– And now it’s over –

These 35 days flew really fast. It feels like I posted for the first time on Kickstarter yesterday. I must say that it was probably the most exhausting 35 days (especially the last 2) of my career.

For something like 30 days, I was doing community stuff ~16 hours a day. (Not that anyone asked me to do it but because I wanted to do it). I was also answering questions and speaking with people when I was home. Even on my cell phone when I was not able to be close to a computer! Kickstarter, reddit, twitch, forum and other stuff all open at the same time.

I know now how to manage a Kickstarter campaign and deal with people of the community for sure!

I’m exhausted and happy!

But I’m also sad.

Now, the Kickstarter is over. I won’t have these awesome interaction with the people out there anymore.

It’s over.

The last two days were incredibly fun. I  was on stream for ~32 hours in two days. That was the best part of all this for sure.

– End notes –

I’ve said that countless time in the last few days but I’ll say it again.

Thank you to every single one of our ~45000 backers.

They helped us reach more than 2 million dollars but mostly because they are so supportive!

I learned a lot because of you people.

I’m already looking forward for the next one.

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22 thoughts on “My Love for Larian Community

  1. It was great getting to talk to you and get to know you throughout the campaign. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone engage with the community with such dedication and sincerity. It honestly was one of the more impressive things of the whole time. You absolutely were everywhere and seemed to never sleep.

    However, one thing I would like to say, the interaction with us isn’t really over! There may be times where it is slow, but every new bit of news will bring people back, and of course the die hard fans will still be there posting away. Good community management and engagement is always a wonderful and needed thing! Thank you soo much for all the hard work and dedication you put in.

    Now seriously.. SLEEEP!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kerrida.
      I know that it’s not exactly over but like I wrote, I was basically spending 16 hours a day with you guys. It turned into a habit in the last month ^__^.
      I’ll still hang around for sure!

      Like

  2. Glad that you enjoyed the experience, Jeff. It was sad to hear that you took the codex/watch comment that hard for a time, but I’m glad you got something positive out of it. The Larian community has thankfully been mostly positive and free of too many trolls.

    Larian have always been very open with the community. It’s something I really appreciate, and I hope in turn that the community continues to act responsibly with that level of trust. It’s a lot more fun when we travel down this road together respecting and encouraging each other. Looking forward to seeing and hearing more from you in the coming weeks and months of development!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All that you wrote down is most of the reason why I plegded.
    Larian have a bunch of people with their heart and mind on the right place.
    And do the greatest to your nice beautiful hat.
    Greetings,
    Dark Flemish

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would have to concur DarkFlemish. Like most Kickstarters for video games, I was happily just watching and not intending to pledge. I was going to simply wait for the game to release since I’d not played any other Divinity game, and still hadn’t played the DOS1 copy I was given for my birthday earlier in the year.

      However, due to the work put in by Jeff and the rest of the KS crew at Larian, I ended up sucked in and pledged as soon as I got paid on 9/15. Their enthusiasm and willingness to engage with the community really drew me in. I would see Swen, Devins, and Jeff posting at all hours of the day, often well past when they swore they were going to bed. It’s honestly the first time I’d seen a KS campaign being done by people that were just that hungry and eager to engage with the community. I was impressed and had to be a part of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As you may know now, I’m French. Which means, I come with at least one of the traits that the whole world knows us French people for : grouchiness! What we call the spirit of contradiction is very, very strong with me, which is something that sparked a few run-ins with some of my fellow backers on topics such as Chris Avellone’s participation or the fundamental importance of the GM mode.

    Now to the heart of things : at first I was annoyed by Igal’s constant spam on getting the Devins in-game as NPCs. I felt it was uncalled for, too much, a bit invasive.
    I said it : grouchy.
    But overtime I started to see it as what it was : a way to thank the team for what they were doing, as well as create a small ongoing community event during the KS campaign.

    When you hopped in the comment section, my strong spirit of contradiction, rebellious mind suddenly awoke : let’s follow this guy ! Let’s go head-to-head, toe-to-toe with the recently-self-called DOoD clergy! I love myself a good [friendly] confrontation. I always saw debates, discussions, confrontations, as the better way to interact, as it stirs our brains, makes us think, bring our true selves to the front. We talk, share opinions. It’s more interesting than regular, mundane conversations : we are really ourselves then.
    So yeah I digress : bottom line, I jumped right into the norD side of things because my most basic instincts told me to, because, deep down, I felt it would start a very nice dynamic. The whole norD vs DOoD really gave LIFE to the comment section ( not that it was lacking in the first place ), with people choosing sides, staying neutral, inventing stories ( ah, those long theological, pure RP conversations with Igal ! ). I tend to think it may even have motivated people into pledging, seeing how cool the whole DOS2 community was!

    In the end, even grumpy me ended up having a lot of fun. So it was win-win, heh ?

    And obviously, the shout-outs. You said the loudest people are 99.9% negative about your work when you’re in a big corp’ like Ubisoft. The opposite is also very true : for players, 99.9% of the big gaming corporations are not giving a shit about their player base. No interactions, or cold, sanitized interactions. There is no link, no feeling of closeness.
    Obviously you, and the Devins of course, proved that we mattered. And not only as “backers” or “clients” ( which involves a strong money-based kind of relation ) but also as “players” and “people”. That first shoutout and printed text was proof, after all. And while I was very pleased and positively surprised, I couldn’t help also thinking “Yes. We actually exist for these guys!”
    Later, a little round of shoutouts in the second-to-last KS update ( 16th! ) to a few of your backers. And obviously the last round during the 24h stream, vandalizing the forests with your hand written messages on paper ;).
    [I counted 3 just for me! Yay! Did I set-up a new record? :p]

    Phew, look at that long Wall of Text. Nobody will ever read it for sure =)
    Anyway, thanks for your participation. Yours, but also the Devins’. Swen’s decision of letting you guys manage the comments section really was a bright idea : he could focus on promoting the game in conventions and streams while you were entertaining us, giving us answers, and all. This resulted in an even more organic and intimate KS campaign than the first. And well I pledged more, as I believe a lot of other people did.
    Win-win, again :p

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That was a long text but it was fun to read!
    I’ve made a lot of shoutout to you because you spent a lot of time to create random stuff for the Brotherhood of norD. It was the least I could do!
    Thanks again man. We’ll see each other in the future for sure ^__^

    Like

  6. Heh I may not have worked in the game industry but I was doing alpha (or was it pre-alpha? ) testing for some game. Most of the staff were from Ubisoft, Lucasarts, Microsoft, etc. There was even a lawyer and NDA I’d to sign.

    Game never got off board and soon, I dropped off playing games.

    You’ll never guess who I am.

    You’ll never guess who I am.

    Like

      1. Damn, Lala, and some of the KS comments… You understand that we have more than 20k comments right? haha.
        I don’t remember any nickname with “la” in it except Kindulas O.o

        Like

  7. K, I’m not “him/her”. Fine, another hint: I PMed you really recently. There were 3 posts in my PM: 2 from me and 1 from you.

    Btw, if you know who I am, pls don’t reveal it in this place. 😛

    Like

  8. Anyways, yeah, like some of the posters here, I wasn’t even gonna pledge for the project. I was gonna buy OS EE to see how much I liked the gameplay. A pity that went south quickly ‘cos I was reading some of the comments + updates and got really pumped up.

    Now, I don’t think I can buy anymore games for a while.

    Like

    1. Everyone has a different budget you know! We can’t pledge on all the cool project, there are so many. I also backed 3 projects during our kickstarter and I had to stop because I would have backed them all.
      My wallet would have been pretty sad.

      Like

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