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The making of Baldur’s Gate – the game that “single-handedly reinvigorated the western RPG”

While 1996’s Diablo appealed to action junkies who didn’t respect their mice, fans of more traditional computer RPGs experienced a severe drought of classic fantasy fare for most of the decade. Thankfully, Fallout was released in late 1997, proving that PCs are not only a great system for role-playing, but that the stat-loving, virtual dice-rolling public is ready for the next RPG saga. Despite its popularity and what it did to reinvigorate PC role-playing, post-nuclear wasn’t everyone’s irradiated cup of tea, and gamers were clamoring for a return to Dungeons & Dragons. Just then, a new Canadian developer called BioWare was launching a project that would answer the call.

The company had its first title in 1996; A mechanical warfare sim called Shattered Steel aimed to move into real-time strategy for its next game. now leads the development of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. “It was going to be a game about all the old gods at war. The story never evolved much, as the original goal was to prototype hacked technology from the Direct Draw sample application. A rough demo has been created showing the main features (16 bit color and all single area images). The Battleground Infinity demo was sent to most major publishers at the time, and not all of them were interested. Someone from Feargus Urquhart, our producer at Interplay at Shattered Steel, heard about the demo and wanted to watch it.”

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(Image credit: BioWare)

It received critical acclaim, sold millions of copies, and won global RPG and Game of the Year awards – not bad for BioWare’s first role-playing game and its second title in its lineup. story. This is even more impressive considering that most of the team members have never released a video game before. “As the team finished the product, I think everyone knew it would be a hit,” Chris recalls. “It generated a huge amount of buzz in the press and on the forums, and everywhere we showed it people said they were looking forward to playing the game. I don’t think anyone at BioWare or Black Isle Studios understand how successful the game will be, personally I was hoping the game would go over half a million units, which would have been a huge hit for a PC game at the time, but it quadrupled in the first year and continues to sell today. I attribute this success to an incredibly dedicated and hardworking team who wanted to create a very deep game with high quality content that was easy to play and fun to play. Even though it was probably the hardest product I’ve ever had to complete, it was one of the most rewarding.”

Baldur’s Gate’s undeniable quality, enduring appeal and devoted fanbase have seen it enter the elite group of games immortalized by a large number of online fans who regularly release mods, content packs, resolution fixes and other base game changes. It’s been 14 years since it was first released, and people are still talking about it, replaying different character builds, and showing enough interest to warrant Trent and his team producing a remake of the Enhanced Edition at Overhaul Games. (see box).

“I think Baldur’s Gate still resonates with people because it single-handedly reinvigorated western RPGs,” he says. “At a time when most publishers refuse to fund an RPG game, believing the genre to be dead, BioWare was able to take the time to lovingly create a great game in a beloved environment. The combination of technology, the love for the rules system and deep lore has allowed the team to create something awesome Since then I feel like we’ve been a bit blinded by technology as an industry and that we’ve lost the appreciation for good storytelling.”


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The making of Baldur’s Gate – the game that “single-handedly reinvigorated the western RPG”

While 1996’s Diablo appealed to action junkies with no respect for their mice, fans of more traditional computer RPGs experienced a severe drought of classic fantasy fare for much of the decade. Thankfully, Fallout came along late in 1997 ad proved that not only were PCs a great system for roleplaying, but the stat-loving, virtual-dice-rolling public was more than ready for its next RPG epic. Despite its popularity and what it did to reinvigorate role-playing on home computers, post-nuclear was not everyone’s cup of irradiated tea, and gamers were clamouring for a return to Dungeons and Dragons. Right then, a fledgeling Canadian developer named BioWare was kicking off a project that would answer the call.
The company had released its first title in 1996; a mech combat sim called Shattered Steel, and was aiming to go real-time strategy for its next game. “Battleground Infinity was going to be about Ragnarok, the Norse end of days,” says Trent Oster, who worked as a modeller on the original Baldur’s Gate and is now heading up development of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. “It was to be a game about all the ancient deities at war. The storyline never really got much development as the early focus was on building a technology prototype, which was hacked together out of a Direct Draw sample app. A rough demo was built showing off the big features (16-bit colour and all unique area art). The Battleground Infinity demo was sent around to many of the major publishers of the day and they all were not interested. Our producer at Interplay on Shattered Steel, one Feargus Urquhart heard about the demo and asked to see it.”
Subscribe to Retro Gamer
From RTS to RPG

Total immersion

Roll for critical hit!

(Image credit: BioWare)
It garnered rave reviews, sold millions of copies and won RPG and Game of the Year awards around the world – not bad for BioWare’s first role-playing game and second ever title. Even more impressive when you consider that many of the team had never published a videogame before.  “As the team was finishing up the product I think everybody knew it was going to be successful,” recalls Chris. “It was generating an immense amount of press and forum buzz and wherever we showed it people told us they couldn’t wait to play the game. I don’t think anybody at BioWare or Black Isle Studios understood the extent to which the game would be successful. Personally, I was hoping the game would exceed a half million units, which would be hugely successful for a PC game at that time, but it did something like four times that in its first year and continues to sell today. I attribute that success to an unbelievably devoted, hard-working team that wanted to make a game with a huge depth of high-quality content that was easy and fun to play. Although it was probably the most difficult product I’ve had to finish, it has been among the most rewarding.”
Baldur’s Gate’s undeniable quality, lasting appeal and dedicated fanbase has seen it enter into that elite group of games that have been immortalised by a massive online following who regularly release mods, content packs, resolution patches and other tweaks to the core game. It is now 14 years since it was first released and people are still talking about it, replaying different character builds, and showing enough interest to justify Trent and his team at Overhaul Games to produce an Enhanced Edition remake (see box-out).
“I think Baldur’s Gate still resonates with people because it single-handedly re-invigorated the western RPG,” he says. “At a time when most publishers refused to fund any RPG games, believing the genre dead, BioWare was able to take the time to lovingly craft a great game in a loved setting. The combination of technology, love of the rules system and a deep knowledge of the lore allowed the team to create something fantastic. I feel since then as an industry we’ve been a little blinded by technology and lost some appreciation of the telling of a wonderful story.”

#making #Baldurs #Gate #game #singlehandedly #reinvigorated #western #RPG

The making of Baldur’s Gate – the game that “single-handedly reinvigorated the western RPG”

While 1996’s Diablo appealed to action junkies with no respect for their mice, fans of more traditional computer RPGs experienced a severe drought of classic fantasy fare for much of the decade. Thankfully, Fallout came along late in 1997 ad proved that not only were PCs a great system for roleplaying, but the stat-loving, virtual-dice-rolling public was more than ready for its next RPG epic. Despite its popularity and what it did to reinvigorate role-playing on home computers, post-nuclear was not everyone’s cup of irradiated tea, and gamers were clamouring for a return to Dungeons and Dragons. Right then, a fledgeling Canadian developer named BioWare was kicking off a project that would answer the call.
The company had released its first title in 1996; a mech combat sim called Shattered Steel, and was aiming to go real-time strategy for its next game. “Battleground Infinity was going to be about Ragnarok, the Norse end of days,” says Trent Oster, who worked as a modeller on the original Baldur’s Gate and is now heading up development of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. “It was to be a game about all the ancient deities at war. The storyline never really got much development as the early focus was on building a technology prototype, which was hacked together out of a Direct Draw sample app. A rough demo was built showing off the big features (16-bit colour and all unique area art). The Battleground Infinity demo was sent around to many of the major publishers of the day and they all were not interested. Our producer at Interplay on Shattered Steel, one Feargus Urquhart heard about the demo and asked to see it.”
Subscribe to Retro Gamer
From RTS to RPG

Total immersion

Roll for critical hit!

(Image credit: BioWare)
It garnered rave reviews, sold millions of copies and won RPG and Game of the Year awards around the world – not bad for BioWare’s first role-playing game and second ever title. Even more impressive when you consider that many of the team had never published a videogame before.  “As the team was finishing up the product I think everybody knew it was going to be successful,” recalls Chris. “It was generating an immense amount of press and forum buzz and wherever we showed it people told us they couldn’t wait to play the game. I don’t think anybody at BioWare or Black Isle Studios understood the extent to which the game would be successful. Personally, I was hoping the game would exceed a half million units, which would be hugely successful for a PC game at that time, but it did something like four times that in its first year and continues to sell today. I attribute that success to an unbelievably devoted, hard-working team that wanted to make a game with a huge depth of high-quality content that was easy and fun to play. Although it was probably the most difficult product I’ve had to finish, it has been among the most rewarding.”
Baldur’s Gate’s undeniable quality, lasting appeal and dedicated fanbase has seen it enter into that elite group of games that have been immortalised by a massive online following who regularly release mods, content packs, resolution patches and other tweaks to the core game. It is now 14 years since it was first released and people are still talking about it, replaying different character builds, and showing enough interest to justify Trent and his team at Overhaul Games to produce an Enhanced Edition remake (see box-out).
“I think Baldur’s Gate still resonates with people because it single-handedly re-invigorated the western RPG,” he says. “At a time when most publishers refused to fund any RPG games, believing the genre dead, BioWare was able to take the time to lovingly craft a great game in a loved setting. The combination of technology, love of the rules system and a deep knowledge of the lore allowed the team to create something fantastic. I feel since then as an industry we’ve been a little blinded by technology and lost some appreciation of the telling of a wonderful story.”

#making #Baldurs #Gate #game #singlehandedly #reinvigorated #western #RPG


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