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10 Years of Baldur's Gate 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the decade-of-bioware-goodness dept.
RPGVault is running an article commemorating the 10th anniversary of acclaimed RPG Baldur's Gate. They sat down with members of the Dragon Age: Origins team, some of whom worked on Baldur's Gate, to talk about their experiences with the game and what made it so popular. "The other thing I was responsible for was balance testing. It was a constant fight between me and the Interplay testers; they were always trying to make it easier, and I was always pushing back to make it harder. At one point, I got so frustrated with the final battle with Sarevok that I created a 7th level Minsc, gave him some weapons and armor, and then began to spawn in Sarevok's — mowing through them like a hot knife through butter. After I'd killed six or seven of them, I spawned in a final one and took a screenshot, with the fresh one standing among all his slaughtered predecessors. I edited it and put a bubble above Minsc's head that read 'Sigh... another one of those pesky Sarevoks' and then e-mailed it out to the company. Growing up playing D&D with James Ohlen (the Lead Designer on BG, and now on our new MMO), I knew that would piss him off to no end, and suffice to say he was much tougher when I tried to fight him the next day."
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10 Years of Baldur's Gate

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  • BG is still alive! (Score:3, Informative)

    by someone1234 (830754) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @05:51AM (#26229205)

    Well, it seems it is good only as a DAO advertisement. But still, it is good to see it is good for that, at least.

    • by Hahnsoo (976162)
      Jump on my sword while you can, Evil! I won't be as gentle!

      Boo says... WHAT?

      The best Minsc interaction is when you are trying to convince the Pirate Lord that you are insane to get into an asylum. Minsc handily proves this for you. *grin*
    • It's just like the Star Wars movies.

      The guy talks about how they were passionate about creating something awesome under difficult conditions and the result was something everyone loved.

      Then he says: Now we don't have those limitations any more and all of the technical issues that people overlooked because it was a great work of art are solved.
  • I remember replaying this game, over and over and over with different characters....even just playing the beginning segments, and experimenting with things that I could do. And then cheat codes, and playing around with those (e.g. try and build the most munchkin character I could). Simple pleasures, sure, but I *was* maybe 15 when I first played this game...
  • BG (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Epic games series, how we miss Black Isle Studios..

  • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @07:33AM (#26229387)

    I just happened to have picked up Bauldur's Gate I && II recently from Amazon for some entertainment on my laptop. It's a reasonably powerful machine, but it's starting to show its age a bit as a gaming machine. So, having never played these games despite being a huge RPG fan, I picked them both up on the cheap.

    Obviously, the game shows its age in some ways, but its still fantastic fun, and sometimes deeper than more modern games (requiring explicit 3D visualization of everything in the world sometimes has its disadvantages). I'm just starting out, and I'm already having a blast. I can't wait until I get a bit deeper into the story and see what unfolds. The only hangup for me was I had gotten used to the more streamlined D&D v3 rules (never played with 3.5 or 4, at least yet), so dropping back to v2 was sort of strange.

    The stories about "100 hour work week" caught my eye as well. I was working in the game industry since about that time (coming up on 11 years for me), and attitudes by management certainly were a lot different then. Many companies just figured, "that's the way it is" in the industry while routinely exploiting the hell out of their workers. Most developers were young, having fun on the job and willing to work stupidly long hours, especially as one could be fairly easily replaced. Still, make no mistake, 100 hour workweeks are nothing to be proud of by either side. One side is exploiting, and the other is enabling that exploitation.

    I've been through crunches - and not even as bad as others have experienced. There's nothing good that comes out of it except a burning desire to get far away from the company that just finished putting you it (at least for me). Eventually, one comes to the realization that crunches are simply the result of bad scheduling, unrealistic expectations, continually shifting targets, or a combination of this and other issues. In other words, it means your project is a mess. I've seen multiple instances of a team that, quite literally, completely disintegrated at the end of a death march. Is a single project worth destroying a development team?

    Fortunately, attitudes are slowly changing in the industry for the better. Many of those who stuck through it have grown up, married, and have kids. We no longer will put up with demands to sacrifice our lives, and fortunately, occasionally have enough experience and clout to push thing in a saner direction. Some developers put through the wringer years ago are now in leadership positions, and vehemently fight against this sort of nonsense (this describes my current bosses, I'm happy to say). Keeping developers happy, not too surprisingly, is a good recipe for long-term success.

    • by Zarhan (415465) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:32AM (#26229659)

      If you just picked it up, I suggest you get EasyTutu [pocketplane.net], which allows you to play BG1 with BG2's much improved engine. Including higher resolution and all the other improvements.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        If you just picked it up, I suggest you get EasyTutu, which allows you to play BG1 with BG2's much improved engine. Including higher resolution and all the other improvements.

        Thanks for the tip - that's some really cool stuff there. I had no idea there was such an active mod community for these games, especially one capable of doing a total conversion for such a large game.

    • by Nossie (753694)

      I totally appreciate your point of view... but I can hear management right now..

      "That's fine, we still have India"

      70% of Toca 3's cars were outsourced to India....

      The [sad] truth is, no matter how unwilling you are to do something, there will always be someone grateful for it, even if they are getting paid 3x+ less than you.

      I feared this day coming, and the truth is under current laws etc, anything that can be outsourced WILL be outsourced, and what are but a few ones and zeros? :-/

      • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:10PM (#26232623)

        I totally appreciate your point of view... but I can hear management right now..

        "That's fine, we still have India"

        70% of Toca 3's cars were outsourced to India....

        The [sad] truth is, no matter how unwilling you are to do something, there will always be someone grateful for it, even if they are getting paid 3x+ less than you.

        I feared this day coming, and the truth is under current laws etc, anything that can be outsourced WILL be outsourced, and what are but a few ones and zeros? :-/

        Our company outsources some of our artwork to Asia, but it's somewhat limited in scope. Most of the outsourced tasks are isolated in nature and have very clear "blueprints", so to speak (i.e. we need another several variants on this theme of outfit, etc). One could compare it to the difference between key animators and betweeners in traditional cell animation work, I suppose.

        Knowledgeable management understands that outsourcing only works well in particular cases. You mentioned car models were outsourced. This is actually a pretty good example of something that probably does happen to work well for outsourcing. A car, especially a licensed car, is a well-defined and isolated game asset. Assuming there's a standardized starting rig and shaders (which I'd guess the local artists created), it wouldn't be too hard for external houses to crank through them. I've worked on a baseball game before, and the stadium modeling was outsourced.

        None of our programming and none of our "key" art assets are outsourced, because:
        1) In some cases (particularly regarding engineering) it would require handing over too much information to someone we really don't know or trust (we've had damaging PR-related leaks from external partners before).
        2) They would not be able to coordinate with other team members in any way that approached what a local developer could do, especially if they're nowhere near the same timezone. Our working space is optimized for easy communication with each other.
        3) They simply don't have the industry experience that our team has (many have five to fifteen years), and wouldn't be able to deliver the same quality and creativity.

        In our particular situation, both inter and intra-team communication is extremely important. Game development is a highly fluid process, and it's important to be able to change directions quickly when new ideas are thought of, or when an old idea are discovered to be unfun or just unworkable. Management-think like what you described is the same sort of short-sighted thinking that directly led to the demise of many development houses. The same mentality that was used to work people until they became physically ill (yes, I know of this happening) could also be used to keep wages suppressed. We already receive lower-than-industry-average wages due to the nature of the work we do - not complaining, I knew this going in. The threat used to be with replacement by fresh college grads or whiz-kids off the streets. Now it's by outsourcing. It sounds good on paper, but it just doesn't end up working like that.

        I've been hearing this for a decade now, and the threat of cheaper labor has always been there. If your company plans to outsource everything to India or China, you might as well find a new job anyhow. Management who doesn't understand the value of what an experienced developer can do is pretty much guaranteed to run the company in the ground eventually. I mentioned earlier the industry is improving / growing up. Part of this natural evolution is, to put it bluntly, the culling of companies that simply won't ever be successful due various reasons, including short-sighted management.

  • by Nick Ives (317) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @08:04AM (#26229453)

    Check out the mod section on Pocketplane.net [pocketplane.net], there's all sorts of mods. Probably the most popular thing to do is to bring BG1 into the BG2 engine along with the classic BG1 mods like DSotSC, this allows you to play the whole saga+mods as one giant game. I'd reckon about a 400+hr experience!

    I did that about last year, (un)fortunately I managed to screw it up somehow by installing a few other smaller mods as well. I got about 50hrs in and when I attempted the side quest mod in question it caused a crash. My previous good save was more than 10hrs old so I lost interest, thereby saving all my weekends for what would most likely have been all the past year and probably a year ahead too!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by runlevelfour (1329235)
      I have found gibberlings three to be a great Infinity Engine modding site. http://www.gibberlings3.net/ [gibberlings3.net] Damn shame that gaming has become so mainstream. Companies like Black Isle get dismantled while crappy fluff games continue to thrive and make record profits because they have shiny new graphics. Nevermind that they have the same boring repetitive gameplay. *sigh* I get so tired of hearing "yeah but the graphics are dated" out of people when it comes to good games. They are missing the fragging poin
    • I did some of the AI for the new enemies in the Ascention mod, and it was a very interesting experience. David Gaider, senior engineer at Bioware, basically showed up on a Yahoo group one day where we were working on teaching ourselves the scripting system, with the hope of "smartening up" our the standard BG2 enemies.

      We made considerable progress, and Gaider was impressed. Then he unloaded on us something that he had been working on - the "proper" ending for Throne of Baahl that Bioware just didn't have t

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        I never played Ascension as I'd already completed ToB when I'd first heard about it. I actually took what ended up being about a month out of my life to play all of BG1+2 in succession at the age of 18 when I finished 6th form, I had 10-12hr days just playing Baldur's Gate, discovering everything for myself without the help of Gamefaqs.

        Ascension was my goal when I did my BG1+2 mod install last year. Trying to play it again made me realise just how epic those games are, it actually makes me laugh when people

    • by TRex1993 (1135915)

      I'd reckon about a 400+hr experience!

      I played through both games and both expansions on one character and timed the whole experience. 226 hours from start to finish, including (yes, I am admitting this) over five hours of initial dice-rolling for stats. YMMV.

      • by Nick Ives (317)

        You must've just been quicker than me. As I said in my post above, I did it in about a month solid so the plain game+expansions took me closer to 300hrs. The 400 number is a guesstimate from adding in all the mods you can install at Pocketplane.net.

        I only spent about half as long rolling for stats too :)

        • by TRex1993 (1135915)
          I did absolutely as many of the side-quests as possible, but by the end of Tales of the Sword Coast and then Throne of Bhaal my parties were so ridiculously powerful I had to try to find interesting ways to defeat the opponents lest the battles be over too quickly. ;) I wished and hoped for a Baldur's Gate III to continue playing with that character (T-Rexian the Paladin!) but in truth unless I was fighting Jesus and his posse every battle, it would've been too easy of a game and I would've felt somehow ob
  • Epic Adventures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @08:07AM (#26229469) Homepage Journal

    I loved the Baldur's Gate series, and while I rate them among my favorite games of all times (and just bought them again in the D&D collector's edition) they lived in a weird place, where I both wished they were longer and shorter games.

    At a certain point, I enjoyed just wandering to some random place in the world, and having some sort of encounter there. HOLY CRAP, there's a red dragon! And then figuring out how to beat it. But some sequences, especially and unfortunately in the main quests, could really drag. In BG II, once you travel to this island, you're basically on a railroad for the next 20 hours of your life. You end up traveling through three full acts of the game until you're allowed to re-emerge on the world map, travelling through a mage's tower (where you lose one of your party members permanently... which bugs the hell out of me when games do that), then underdark adventurers, then a full city of a drow that you have to navigate through before finally being able to emerge, blinking, on the surface, where there's still a few more adventures on rails before you're allowed to travel back home with the 3000 pounds of loot you've been accumulating the whole time.

    Best bug in BG II - an unsigned short underflow on magic item charges when fighting those monsters which eat magic. A sword with 32k charges of haste? Yes please. Especially since the price of an item is proportional to how many charges are left in it. =)

    I kind of wish that they'd have gone the extra mile and done a BG III instead of devolving into the pit of crap that is Neverwinter Nights and related games and expansions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Simon Brooke (45012)

      I kind of wish that they'd have gone the extra mile and done a BG III instead of devolving into the pit of crap that is Neverwinter Nights and related games and expansions.

      Without wishing to criticise Baldur's Gate, I think Neverwinter Nights and it's successors are among the best games ever. There's no accounting for taste, of course. There are certainly things wrong with NWN, but I think that's mainly the use of the D&D world - from that point of view, The Witcher [thewitcher.com], which is set in a much grittier and more realistic world, is better. But I'm really surprised that anyone into RPGs thinks NWN is 'crap'.

      • Re:Epic Adventures (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hibiki_r (649814) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @10:44AM (#26229879)

        I hated NWN out of the box. The campaign was a turd sandwich, boring as they get. The party size limitation made the game into a mess too: You cannot really have a full party, so no adventures that are challenging and interesting for all classes could be set up in the first place. D&D was designed with groups of 4,5 characters in mind: How can you play with just 2?

        The [arty interactions were also severely limited. Half of the fun in BG was to hear your party bickering. NWN got rid of that too.

        I'd not say it was the worst RPG ever, but it was definitely a step down, and only gets closer to BGII in quality after downloading the very best user generated content.

        • by Hahnsoo (976162)
          NWN, as a single player campaign, was pretty mediocre, although the NPC followers really grow on you and are well written, just like in Baldur's Gate (but you can only have ONE!). NWN, as a multiplayer game, though, is a dream come true. This game as a multiplayer experience sucked away several years of my life, and I loved every minute of it. All that it required was proficiency with the toolset, which was a bit of a hurdle if you aren't a modder or a programmer. The scripting language let you do prett
        • by Nick Ives (317)

          I'd not say it was the worst RPG ever, but it was definitely a step down, and only gets closer to BGII in quality after downloading the very best user generated content.

          Which, to be fair, was what was promised. I'd been hearing about NWN for ages but only really got excited when I heard about how it was all focused on user generated content. On that basis I decided to wait until a couple of months after release and was rewarded with stuff like Penultima (which if awesome if you're into that style of fantasy humour).

          The names of the other great mods escape me but the fact there's a Linux client (no rebooting!) meant I spent ages in NWN.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by discord5 (798235)

        I think Neverwinter Nights and it's successors are among the best games ever.

        The only thing that saved the original Neverwinter Nights in my opinion was the last expansion, Hordes of the Underdark. The rest of the original game got old real soon. Halfway the original campaign I lost interest and started tinkering with the toolset that came with it. Fast forward a few weeks and I was majorly irritated by the numerous amounts of bugs in that.

        It's sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, managed to capture my attention long enough with an actual story. The first expansion for it however was anoth

        • by Nick Ives (317)

          The only thing that saved the original Neverwinter Nights in my opinion was the last expansion, Hordes of the Underdark.

          NWN was always about the user generated content. Even before HotU was released, the best stuff came from the mod scene. HotU only stood out from the OC and SoU because it was basically a plot free awesome dungeon crawl and the writing in the other two campaigns was poor.

          I've played a lot of RPGs since Baldurs Gate, and few of them have been as polished as that title. Maybe that's just my nostalgia goggles talking...

          No, I went on a big BG trip last year (see my other post in this topic) - it really was that good.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Without wishing to criticise Baldur's Gate, I think Neverwinter Nights and it's successors are among the best games ever.

        The story sucked and it was so buggy in multiplayer that I actually snapped my NWN disc in half after owning it for about two weeks.

        My favorite bug was the one where your henchman would turn hostile to you and start running around, hitting you every chance he got. You couldn't attack him back since he was still flagged as an ally, and the damn bug persisted through saves. So basic

    • by chanrobi (944359)

      travelling through a mage's tower (where you lose one of your party members permanently... which bugs the hell out of me

      Thanks man, I was going to play that :/

  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:33AM (#26229663) Homepage

    "Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!"

  • You don't want to make too many custom characters (or you miss out on the great dialogues between the premade characters in BGII), and that means some of your players will have to sit back and watch for the first half hour of gameplay until you've built a full party, but the remaining dozens (hundreds) of hours of the games are possibly the most fun you can have in multiplayer cooperative gaming.

    That's just talking about the basic games, too. I had no idea there were active modding communities until I read

  • A worrying sign (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lida Tang (1296025) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @12:00PM (#26230153) Homepage
    Some of the info given about BG are really interesting. This caught my eye

    Some parts of BG seem simple now, and many perceived character relationships were outright imaginary. The players imposed their own perceptions on those tiny sprites and unrecorded text.

    This engaging the player's imagination is a very powerful tool since it allows each person's experience to be personal. Here is how they describe Dragon Age

    With full quality voice and cinematic visuals, the characters provide a huge array of responses in no uncertain terms.

    I fear the uncanny valley also apply to exposition. The more you anticipate how the relationships between the characters could go, the more artificial it could seem to the players, because it will only reflect what the designers think could happen.

  • As someone who was heavily involved in all aspects of the modding community five years ago, and a CS guy myself, I find the following to be a gem:

    I remember writing a scripting language in three days, including a decompiler. Then again, BGScript is a crime against nature.

    -Mark Darrah

    The crime against nature bit could not be more true. Now, five years later, I know who I have to stab.

    Seriously, introducing myself to modding that game, learning to script in that crap before hitting college... *gripe* *gripe*

  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @02:50PM (#26230979)
    I recently had the opportunity to fly up to Edmonton to visit Bioware and get a peek at the new Dragon Age toolset (I'm in the middle here [ign.com]). While it was interesting to see what the new game engine could do, the most fun was just spending time with the Bioware folks. I do software development for a healthcare organization, so it was a treat to see how thing were run in a gaming company. Many concepts were the same, but there was indeed a big break room full of food and gaming systems. I also was pelted during a Nerf shootout by the toolset developers. Their goal for the day was to see how many visitors they could get in a day.

    The gaming industry has come far with Dragon Age. The technology has improved immensely, along with the effort required to make high-quality games. From what little I've seen, I'm hopeful Dragon Age will indeed be the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate.
    • by Thrikreen (130120)

      If someone had told me when I picked up BG1 that I would end up working for said company, I would never have believed it. But it's certainly an action I don't regret, and it was a hoot meeting you and the others from the NWN community.

      But I should have totally slapped Georg with the trout when I was up there, it would have been a once in a lifetime experience - especially since he probably would have fired me afterwards! ;)

  • "You and me and Boo, hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!"
  • Live by the sword, die by declining revenues.
  • Some friends of mine, a couple, love to play Baulder's Gate together on their PS2.

    They just recently acquired a Wii, and wanted to know if there are any equivalent games for the Wii?

    I tried to do some research for a 2 player simul dungeon crawler but honestly couldn't find anything.

    Anyone got any suggestions?

    Thanks in advance for your time,

    -DavidPFarrell

    • by DeuceTre (785433)
      I don't know of any games like that but you should know that the "Baldur's Gate" your friends play is not the one in TFA. While they have the same name, they're very different.

      The Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance series was produced by BioWare's publisher Black Isle Studios, a division of Interplay Entertainment. Although they take place in the Baldur's Gate rendition of the Forgotten Realms setting, they are not often regarded as a part of the Baldur's Gate series, as the plot is unrelated to previous games, and they were console-exclusive titles. These were not released for Windows and Macintosh platforms and were not created using BioWare's Infinity Engine. Interplay has announced intentions of releasing a third Dark Alliance game as well.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldur's_Gate_series#Baldur.27s_Gate:_Dark_Alliance_.26_Baldur.27s_Gate:_Dark_Alliance_II [wikipedia.org]

  • Along with Fallout II, and simcity, this was the last game that I really enjoyed. The funny thing is that one of the things mentioned in the article is one of the reasons that I stopped playing video games.

    They simply got too hard. I seemed to me that the developers kept trying to impress reviewers and hard core players with new, near impossible, challenges. Somewhere along the way they lost a lot of players. About the only company that I will pay for games from is spiderweb software http://www.spiderwebsof [spiderwebsoftware.com]

    • Along with Fallout II, and simcity, this was the last game that I really enjoyed. The funny thing is that one of the things mentioned in the article is one of the reasons that I stopped playing video games.

      They simply got too hard. I seemed to me that the developers kept trying to impress reviewers and hard core players with new, near impossible, challenges. Somewhere along the way they lost a lot of players. About the only company that I will pay for games from is spiderweb software http://www.spiderwebsoftware.com/ [spiderwebsoftware.com] , the graphics are terrible; but, the games are playable and relaxing.

      The games have gotten too hard. Before you make comments about being a whiner; remember, what I am is a lost costumer.

      Actually the trend has reversed the last years, I have the feeling a lot of games have become easier, down to the point that a game like the recent prince of persia just is an occasional hit on a button from time to time.
      I think while games have become too hard a few years ago, currently some have become too easy. Fortunately most of the games get the balance more or less right nowadays and have difficulty settings to please everyone!

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