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Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Interview at Rock Paper Shotgun
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 18 July 2015, 00:59:42Tags: Amber Scott; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog; Cameron Tofer; Phillip Daigle; Trent Oster
Rock Paper Shotgun have published a two-page interview with the developers of Beamdog's upcoming Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear expansion. Namely, with co-founders Trent Oster and Cameron Tofer, writer Amber Scott, and a couple others. The first page of the interview is concerned mostly with the efforts that are going into the expansion's writing, but from a Codexian perspective, it's the second page that provides the juiciest quotes:
“What’s hilarious is how much of the [Infinity] Engine is really left. When we started, we deleted about three hundred thousand lines of code and replaced them,” he says. “A lot of it was written around Windows 95, a lot of hacks and workarounds that would allow it to work well on Windows 95. Computing has changed a lot since Windows 95! Baldur’s Gate was built around the idea of having a lot of hard drive space that was huge and slow, as well as very limited real-time memory.” Part of the Beamdog’s re-write was performed in order to get the game functioning on devices like the iPad, but Oster says it has also mades for a slimmer, more efficient game, even if it took a little while to get there (and Oster is no stranger to radically rebuilding things to try and get them to run better, as his racing blog testifies).
“When we have a fan saying they’re never going to buy the Enhanced Edition, they’re going to mod their version, I think, well… Okay, I’m going to read through their feedback.” he continues. “And I’m going to get the old version of Baldur’s Gate. I’ll put all those mods on and I’ll play it and then I’ll still be like ‘You can’t be serious!’ It’s so clunky. It’s so clunky compared to what we have now, which is really slick. We’ve learned our lesson, we’ve made updates and fixes, and with Siege of Dragonspear we’ll have a whole new user interface. We’ve torn it down to the ground and rebuilt it.”
What may not be so apparent to many of those Baldur’s Gate purists is that half of the team now working for Beamdog are modders themselves, people who have known the ins and outs (and imperfections) of the Infinity Engine for many years and who initially took it upon themselves to make what they did out of their love for the games. Furthermore, Beamdog are hoping that, after Siege of Dragonspear is released, some players might try modding it themselves. Their plan is to make some of the development tools they’ve been using available for everyone else to tinker with.
Perhaps most important is the time that Beamdog have invested, because Siege of Dragonspear is certainly not a new idea. It’s been gestating, in one form or another, for nearly four years. “We started talking about it as we were working on the first Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and we actually started working on it before [the Enhanced Edition of] Baldur’s Gate II shipped,” says Oster. “Then we were going to try and ship it before we shipped Baldur’s Gate II, but Atari really started ratcheting up the pressure on us they and were exceptionally firm on the release date, so we just had to put it aside.”
And here we return to that idea of compromise, or at least of obligation. One of the things Oster and his team are happiest about now is being free and independent, not being compelled to hit a release date by an inflexible publisher nor, he adds, having to argue the value of a property with them. Their sales figures, he says, tell that story, and he’s clearly endured frustrations with pushy publishers in the past. While Oster hopes that Siege of Dragonspear will see release some time this year, he says there’s no need to rush and is adamant that “A game that ships on time and is not great is not remembered. A great game that ships late is still a great game.”
Time has given Beamdog the chance to thoroughly digest their ideas and, Oster says, “really get to grips with the story we want to tell. It’s great to come back to something and say, ‘Yes, I still really like these aspects of this,’ but also see what you thought was a really good idea at the time and be able to say ‘In retrospect, I don’t think so.’” Speaking just after the reveal, Tofer described the team as having a particular sense of confidence. “We’ve established ourselves now,” he says. “We’re free to plan our own schedules. The company is financially stable. We’re independent. Now, we can choose our own destiny.”
According to Trent, Siege of Dragonspear will be larger than Tales of the Sword Coast and Throne of Bhaal combined, and its script has about three hundred thousand words. The UI improvements they're introducing in it will also be ported to Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, along with some unspecified additional tweaks to account for the player's higher level upon importing a character. Beamdog's not fucking around, it seems. And if they've really sold "millions of copies", I guess they can afford it.