In Conversation with Sarah Baylus, Lead Writer at Larian Studios
Warning: Story spoilers for Divinity Original Sin 2 lie ahead…
As we walked into The Fumbally Café in Dublin City on April 20th, the face of writer Sarah Baylus lit up with excitement. A Lauren Hill song was playing on the radio, leading to an enthusiastic discussion about the American singer-songwriter between Sarah Baylus and the barista serving us.
“It’s this album that’s over twenty years old, and it’s one of my favourite albums,” Ms. Baylus told me later, sitting down in a corner of the busy café. Lauren Hill is playing in America this summer, but unfortunately she won’t be able to make it out.
Sarah Baylus was a story writer on Divinity: Original Sin and the lead writer on the sequel Divinity Original Sin 2. These expansive and detailed RPGs were both released to unanimous critical acclaim, with Ms. Baylus recently accepting a Gaming BAFTA Award for Multiplayer on behalf of Larian Studios for Original Sin 2.
A passion for music links Sarah Baylus with one of the origin characters that she created for Original Sin 2, the musician and enchanter Lohse.
Speaking about writing the character, Sarah Baylus said “At the time I wasn’t intending… it as coming from my personal preferences, but of course that’s silly because everything you do is tied in with your own personal preferences.”
“I have a playlist for a lot of the characters that I write, where I put things that get me in the mood of what I think the character is about, and I find that that has a very big impact on how I’m writing them” Ms. Baylus said.
As an example, the character Malady was partly inspired by Sylvia Plath’s spoken word poetry and the mannerisms of the character Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey.
“It’s not a direct, y’know, one-on-one ‘I’m modelling this character after those people’ but there’s something about the cadence of how they speak… that gets into your head.”
Fittingly, her highlight of Original Sin 2, the climax of Lohse’s personal storyline, is musical.
“There comes a moment where she solves her problem in the game, and she’s able to actually sing this song that she’s been trying to sing.”
“It’s such a cathartic moment for her and for me, that she, y’know, she gets rid of this thing that’s been plaguing her and she breaks out into song, and it’s supported by these really beautiful visual effects and this really amazing song that our composer Borislav Slavov wrote.”
“It’s just, when I watch it, I just have a meltdown, I love it so much. I’m very proud of that.”
Check out the interview for more of our conversation, where we discuss her path into games writing, her work at Larian studios, her involvement with the Repeal Game Jam and much more.