Don't let anyone tell you modders don't add value to a video game.
Image courtesy of Chris Bradwell
The world of Divinity: Original Sin 2 is filled with colorful characters, but when 25-year-old modder Chris Bradel played through the latest RPG from Larian Studios, he realized it was missing a certain something—a certain someone. There was no one selling jars! Bradel recognized this gross oversight—how did the game review so well?—and began work on his mod, The Jar Salesman, which debuted in September.
Original Sin 2 started in Early Access, but transitioned into a “final” release recently. But one could argue the game wasn’t really finished until The Jar Salesman showed up, selling everything from a “Jar of Hearts” to a “Jar of Darts” to, of course, a “Jar of Farts.”
Don't believe me? Well, maybe you'll believe YouTube commenter Brotato Chan.
Bradel told me he’s been working on games, modding and otherwise, since he was 12. For years, Bradel has plucked away at his own game, a parkour platformer called Suh Burb, and hopes to be a full-time developer someday. For the moment, however, he’s a programmer for the AI division of the US Naval Research Lab. Not bad?
There are a lot of mods for Original Sin 2, but I couldn’t stop laughing at the name “The Jar Salesman.” It’s not just a generic descriptor to help the mod stand out in Steam. Though Bradel has a fleshed out backstory and branching dialogue for the NPC, his name is “The Jar Salesman” because Bradel thought it was much funnier. He’s right.
To learn more about Bradel (and The Jar Salesman), I sent him some questions. More than anything, it’s made me feel bad for not playing Original Sin 2 yet. 2017!
Waypoint: What prompted you to make a character who sells jars? It is uniquely heartwarming. [Fartwarming? -Ed.]
Chris Bradel: Thank you! Funnily enough, he started as a classic case of "feature creep!" (That being adding more extra features to a game or program than originally planned.) At first, it all just started with the "Jar of Hearts," just to see if I could add a simple custom potion to the game. Once that worked, I made the "Jar of Smarts" and realized I had a fun rhyming scheme on my hands.
The natural next question, of course, was: "Where would the player find these jars?" And to that, a jar salesman just seemed right! As I started to write some basic dialogue for him, I found myself getting very attached to him as a character. Now he's the star of the show with a rich backstory and several quest-lines!
What's your experience making mods, and what drew you to Original Sin 2 ?
Bradel: I've always been the kind of person that loved taking things apart and putting them back together, be it household electronics or video games, just to see how they work. Besides cosmetic things like texture or model replacements, I would occasionally make quality-of-life improvement mods for very specific things in games that I wished were just a little bit different, or if a game had everything I wanted except for a certain small feature. Despite that, I've never really released anything publicly before this. Divinity: Original Sin 1 was one of the most unique RPGs I had played in recent memory and the complex ways that things could interact seemed to be begging for mods and expansions!
Unfortunately, the only set of tools for it were very, very rough internal toolkits that were prone to frequent crashes, assuming you could get them to start up at all. I struggled through some very hard to find tutorials and eventually learned how to make some relatively basic scenes and objects. When I heard that Divinity: Original Sin 2 was getting a proper release of mod tools as well as the extremely convenient Steam Workshop support, I was very excited to finally take a real crack at one of my favorite game worlds!
It sounds like you've been working on developing this jar man's backstory. What is his backstory?
Bradel: Our friend, "The Jar Salesman," has always been a people person, but he hasn't always been a salesman! In his hometown, he took over his father's role as the manager of the town square. During the summer seasons, he would help vendors from around the world set up booths where they could sell their various goods. He would also set up day-long events with square-wide sales and games for kids and families. As the leader of the festivities, everyone in town knew who he was. One summer, a woman who specialized in making and selling containers made an impact on him, opening his eyes to the beauty of hand-made jars... and love! When she suddenly disappeared without any sort of goodbye, he decided that he should go on a quest to both spread the beauty of jars around the world and maybe, just maybe, find her. Why did she leave? I guess he (or you, the player!) will need to locate her to find out!
How much of mod development, especially one who acts as a sales NPC, is based on feedback from fans? How have they influenced his development?
Bradel: Feedback is the best part of developing things like this! Even just hearing that people think it's funny or weird is a huge inspiration to keep working on this (or any) project. The benefit of it being based around someone like a new shopkeeper is that everyone can easily chip in new item ideas, and I have already gotten several fun suggestions! I'm strongly considering having a special fan suggestion set of jars added in for a later update! I also sometimes bounce the backstories and new dialogue off my friends before releasing it to the public. My girlfriend starting tearing up and squeaking at the sad, dramatic part of The Jar Salesman's dialogue so I knew I was doing something right, haha!
Have you thought about how this dude makes his jars? What's his secret? Does someone go to school to make magic jars?
Bradel: While the world of Divinity is filled with all sorts of powerful and amazing magic, The Jar Salesman's jars are mostly only made with a lot of free time, careful crafting, and a little bit of love! Over their summer together, the container saleswoman would go on and on about her hand-made blown-glass jars, and he eventually went on to master her techniques in her honor.
What's up with his sweet aesthetic? This is a very fashionable jars salesman.
Bradel: As a man of the people, The Jar Salesman always had a sense for looking cool. When he would host events for the town, he had to look as styling as possible and his travelling outfit is an adaptation of that sense of style!
In the screen shots, there's some real color variety to the jars. Are they wholly related to the spells they contain, or are the colors to try and draw customers in?
Bradel: Here's a secret that I'm not sure he'd appreciate me revealing: Many of the concoctions brewed up to make the contents of the jars naturally end up a neutral brownish color as the ingredients are blended together. A little food dye goes a long way both for eye-catching and knowing which to chug in the midst of a fast-paced battle!
Compared to other games, how tough is it for someone to mod Original Sin 2? Is it the kind of game you'd recommend to someone who doesn't have that much experience?
Bradel: Divinity: Original Sin 2's mod tools are great, with a little practice! The best thing about them is that they're basically the actual tools used to develop the game itself. Because of that, you can edit or duplicate nearly any asset in the entire existing game. That means that if you want to learn how something works, you can just open it up in the editor and see for yourself!
Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.