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The 1980s were a great era for liars in court, yet they were not disappointed by the internet’s power of fact-checking. Some have claimed to have an uncle in Nintendo; Swen Vincke’s friend created a computer game where you can do anything. He spun a story about a D&D-style adventure in which he meets an AI character who can not only talk, but answer questions. “He was flirting with me, but I believed him,” Fink recalls.
Even once the deception was revealed, Finky couldn’t give up the game that was planted in his head, like the brain tadpoles in Baldur’s Gate III. He clung to the dream for years, until he discovered the Seventh Altima.
“There was a lot of freedom,” says Fink. “It was non-linear, and you had to question the characters to find out what you had to do. You had a party that responded to what you were doing. That was just right what my friend told me many years ago.”
This discovery defined Fink’s tastes and set his expectations for future games. As the 1990s approached, Ultima VII turned into an evolutionary dead end. “The interaction of the environment, its use to solve puzzles, and how it is all mixed with the illusion of wandering in a world,” says Fink. “It’s something that didn’t go forward. If I take the Baldur Gate, there was a lot of dialogue interaction, but the world was very steady.”
Fink made his career goal to carry the Ultima VII wand. It was set to be a difficult rally. Larian set up shop at a time when RPG was still a slave to Diablo, and this influence was evident in the studio’s first Divinity game, which brought its interactive world to the fringes. “The only thing you could sell was an RPG,” Fink says.
The road became more difficult as the RPGs moved into three dimensions. Regulations governing the behavior of physical objects were prone to misbehavior, and did not fit the requirements of the new type of polish.
“There were dynamic things in Divinity II: Ego Draconis, but they were very limited,” Fink recalls. “We didn’t have the full arsenal of tools we needed. It was a completely different direction than where all the engines were going back in the day. There was always that fight.”
Since the launch of Divinity: Original Sin, however, Larian has built and expanded its own engine, enhancing its systemic capabilities with each new game. By making Ultima VII an indicative light, the studio found critical acclaim and commercial success without compromise.
Satisfaction is still far from Fink, though – who believes that Larian’s games have yet to match his absolute freedom of inspiration. Even now, with Baldur’s Gate III, the studio is still squeezing features from Ultima VII – such as stackable chests that can be climbed between different levels, like clumsy stairs.
“My imagination might be exaggerating it now, but I remember scouring every screen [of Ultima VII] Trying to find clues, often they are. “Players should always be rewarded for their exploration: it’s a lesson we teach today’s designers.” Fink sometimes sees these designers play Ultima VII – a younger generation trying to understand their boss never stops working. He says, “I bother the programmers.” “Well, you can do that in Ultima VII, I don’t understand why you can’t do that with your team today.” ”
However, box stairs aside, Fink is not looking to recreate Ultima VII’s mechanics – but rather the Platonic idealism associated with it. He admits, “The Altima VII did a whole bunch of things badly.” “I only remember the things I did really well. We are shooting more for the feeling. This feeling of entering a world in which everything is possible is limited only by my own creativity. This strong drive to do things because there is a story that propels me forward, and that agency to influence all Residing in that world. “
When Fink puts it this way, it feels less like a VII Ultima, and even more like the kind of perfect game a friend on the court might make.