It's time to delve into the history of one of the Forgotten Realms' most troubling cities. PC Gamer has published an old article from 188 of Retro Gamer magazine that tells the story of Baldur's Gate, based on conversations with the creators. Due to the recent announcement of Baldur's Gate 3, we decided to translate it.
BioWare Edmonton was founded in 1995 by three physicians Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. Today, Edmonton's employees are some of the most respected video game developers in the world.
Since the founding trio was into gaming and Dungeons & Dragons, making an RPG based on a board game was inevitable. The first BioWare employee to play a key role in the development of Baldur's Gate was designer James Ohlen.
“Me and a group of friends were early adopters of BioWare and we all went to Edmonton for an interview. They told us they were working on a D & D, although they did not yet know what exactly they were creating, ”recalls James.
Meanwhile, BioWare has struck a deal with Interplay Productions to create a fur simulator game called Shattered Steel. Coincidentally, the publisher also acquired the rights to Dungeons & Dragons and approached his new partner with a proposal to create a game based on the brainchild of TSR [first publisher D & D - WorldOfTopics].
BioWare took Battleground Infinity, an RTS from Scott Greig, and used its engine as the basis for their new RPG.
“Scott had his own engine, and we only have ourselves. Ray and Greg were in talks with Interplay about a game based on D & D, and it was originally called Iron Throne. Of course, before Brian Fargo [founder of Interplay] came up with the name Baldur's Gate, we hunted a lot of silly iron throne toilet jokes, ”continues James.
Baldur's Gate became a central theme early in development, as TSR wanted Interplay to create an RPG based on the Forgotten Realms world. At the time, it was the most popular version of D & D, and it also had a ton of material from which BioWare could extract information. But as a drawback, a relatively small area was available to us, on the basis of which we could make a game. Back then, all the project needed was a chief designer at the helm.
"Dungeons & Dragons have been in my life since I was 11. And Baldur's Gate was an opportunity for me to present what I thought would be the best D & D RPG, ”says James.
Apart from James, nearly every BioWare employee has also been a fan of the famous board game. While this passion is clearly visible in the games themselves, none of the team had any programming or design experience at the time. But they knew how to create a memorable story, knew everything about role-playing games, and knew exactly what game they wanted to play. James continues:
“I've always felt that we might go too far in the direction of the story, and too far in the direction of exploration and combat. If we can correctly combine this, we get something that will help to captivate fans of battles - with the plot, and fans of the plot - with combat and tactics. We can make them love all aspects of games. ”
BioWare will later build its reputation on games with a powerful history: Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age - but it all started with Baldur's Gate.
Baldur's Gate is the story of a mage named Gorayon and his young ward, who is controlled by the player. He is an orphan who grew up with childhood friend Imoen in Candlekeep, a monastic fortress located south of the legendary city of Baldur's Gate. The intrigue starts with exactly where we're going to go.
After leaving, the heroes are ambushed, and Grion is killed; the player soon becomes embroiled in political intrigue, investigating iron shortages and trying to figure out who is behind the death of his guardian. It's an intriguing and gripping story full of adorable characters that leads to amazing revelations. However, the deep story wasn't the only thing the first part of the Baldur's Gate series was loved for.
RPGs have tended to be turn-based for years, even Interplay's Fallout had turn-based combat as well. Baldur's Gate is the bridge between turn-based combat and real-time action. A mixture of old and new.
“This is my idea with Ray. Ray was a huge fan of Gold Box turn-based games, and my favorite genre is RTS and I have played Warcraft 2 and StarCraft more than you might imagine. Thus, by combining our passions, we had to create a game that would satisfy fans of both genres. ”
The result was a tactical pause in which the player could pause before and during the battle, distribute weapons, targeted enemies, and even potions to empower their party members. Then you pause and decisions take effect, for better or worse.
“Maybe I shouldn't say this,” James says nervously, “but I've never been a Fallout or Fallout 2 fan. I liked the story and the world, but the fact that it had turn-based combat elements I never liked it. ”
Despite James' convictions, his ideas were not so warmly received by colleagues, but his philosophy paid off. When Baldur's Gate was released, it gained recognition and exceeded Interplay's sales expectations.
While Baldur's Gate sold thousands of copies around the world, dragging gamers into the temporary abyss for tens of hours of playthrough, BioWare was already working on expanding the game.
“We came up with Tales Of The Sword Coast as an add-on to earn even more. Considering that no one had the slightest idea of where to move the story further, the addition turned out to be small. However, Baldur's Gate II was going to be much bigger.
BioWare's original plan for Baldur's Gate was as ambitious as we expected the developer to be. James says:
"From the very beginning, it was planned to create a trilogy, so we wanted the player to be able to create a character not only for the first game, but for the entire trilogy." This is why we had level restrictions. We just couldn't allow the player to max out from the start.
Ray and Greg were smart people - continues James. They were very humble and created a culture at BioWare that was also very humble. This was the basis of cooperation, and we easily came to compromises. Of course, there was heated debate, as always, but we all wanted to create a great Dungeons & Dragons, so we have always focused on one goal. ”
Despite the group's determination, there were minor bugs inside Baldur's Gate. James realized that his characters weren't as evolved as they could have been.
“I spoke with Dermot Clark, who was the middleman between us and Interplay. I was in awe of the success of Baldur's Gate, including our story and characters. But he told me that they are not as well developed as the characters in Final Fantasy VII. ”
Between Baldur's Gate and its sequel, James has purposefully played and studied FF and their characters, from their backstory to romance. Yes, you read that right, BioWare's famous [and sometimes infamous] romance systems began with an attempt to recreate aspects of Final Fantasy.
Baldur's Gate II continues the story and tells the story of one of the descendants of Baal. At the beginning of the game, the spawn of Baal and a handful of other people are trapped in a dark dungeon. The main one is John Irenicus, an evil magician who discovered the nature of the main character and tortures him in a vain attempt to use the power of the God of Murder. The plot unfolds throughout the city, as well as in the lands south of Baldur's Gate and ends in the elven city of Suldanesselar, where the player must fight a magician to save the city and his own soul.
“As soon as we finished Tales Of The Sword Coast we started developing Baldur's Gate II. The sequel also boasts superior screen resolution, improved multiplayer and new pathfinding techniques. Inspired by Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross, the heroes have also improved. ”
“We gave each companion their own storyline, added the possibility of romance and just the opportunity to learn more about the companion. Also, the Forgotten Realms is a huge world, so it was difficult to stick to the area around Baldur's Gate. Expansion Throne Of Bhaal, in fact, became the unofficial third part of Baldur's Gate ", - James recalls
Following the critical acclaim and success of Baldur's Gate II, BioWare, not wanting to move away from the RPG genre, began offering alternative Interplay stories based on the FORGOTTEN REALMS setting using a new game engine. As compelling as Infinity Engine is, its time has clearly come and Neverwinter Nights was the next chapter in the story.
Unfortunately, money problems at Interplay started to make themselves felt and Atari was the publisher of the new game. But it wasn't the end for BG, though not quite for PC players.
However, we will tell more about the continuation of the story of Baldur's Gate in the next part of the story of this series.
The Topic of Article: History of Baldur's Gate. Part One: Tactics and RTS rolled into one.