Interview w/ Phillip Daigle
[size=5]Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition Interview[/size]
Posted on August 21, 2012 by Adam Ames
The head of Beamdog, Phillip Daigle, spoke to TPG about their upcoming classic remastering, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. Philip discusses the technical difficulties behind getting the game to run on newer systems, why Beamdog will be the only place to get your hands on a copy at launch, the use of hamsters as a marketing tactic and much more.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.
I’m Phillip Daigle, and I’m the Producer for Beamdog and Overhaul Games. I’ve been in the game development world for almost seven years, and I’ve been at Beamdog for two years. My work on Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition has been largely production scheduling, design, writing, and a little bit of voice work that will never see the light of day.
What was the motivation behind releasing Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition?
*Baldur’s Gate deserved better. It’s such a fantastic series, and yet it’s largely inaccessible to modern audiences.
The version you can currently buy requires loads of workarounds and mods to get running at an acceptable level, and that’s just not a good experience to our mind. We wanted to bring a classic game to a whole new audience with as little hassle as possible. Combine that with our familiarity with Baldur’s Gate, and it seemed like the obvious choice for our next project.
Our end goal with this project is to leave the Baldur’s Gate community better off than when we arrived. We’re definitely going to do that.*
Walk us through the development process of creating the new characters and stories in Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.
*We took a look at the existing game, what we were going to be adding, and started to see what was missing. There were classes and kits that were never used for party members, and we wanted to fill those gaps and tell and interesting story while doing so. Using Baldur’s Gate 2 NPCs as our guide, we started to explore what interesting stories these new NPCs could tell.
In the case of Dorn, we wanted a character that would be unapologetically evil, without any remorse for his actions. His tale is quite different from most NPC villains; most of the evil characters have some redeeming feature, or they were forced into their path. Dorn is simply a bad man who knows full well the depths of his evil and does not regret it.*
Are you nervous as to what the fan reaction will be given that Baldur’s Gate is a such a beloved series?
*I’m terrified beyond belief. Baldur’s Gate is a sacred icon for many gamers, and any meddling could be considered heresy. We’re doing our best to remain true to the original spirit of the game while at the same time adding new and interesting content, but I know you can’t please everyone.
I wrote most of the story outlines for the new content, and then our lead writer Dave Gross went in and drastically improved upon them. If someone hates the new stuff, they can hold me personally liable for their emotional distress.*
Talk about your decision to stay with 2nd Edition AD&D rules for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.
Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2, and Baldur’s Gate 2: The Throne of Bhaal all use 2nd Edition AD&D rules. Rather than rip all of that out and implement 3.5 or 4th Edition, we decided to keep the original game mechanics. Implementing a new edition of the rules would have been a massive undertaking resulting in a different game.
Discuss the challenges you faced in ensuring Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition would run on modern PC system configurations?
*Lots and lots. The Infinity Engine, which is what the entire Baldur’s Gate saga runs on, was built in the late 90s. This was a time of strife, with Titanic terrorizing theatres and Pathfinder crushing a tiny Martian civilization as it landed. These trying times were reflected in the now 15-year-old code, with terrifying Windows-95-isms scattered all over the place.
There were a lot of nasty things lurking in the code, like the assumptions the original team made about how multi-threading was going to work in the future. To be fair to the original team, they did a stand-up job. Taking any game and converting it for use across multiple platforms would result in a similar mess.*
Do you plan on releasing a Linux version?
I can’t comment on that at this time, but wouldn’t that be SO COOL?
Will Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition support proper widescreen and multi-monitor resolutions?
Widescreen yes, multi-monitor… that depends. It won’t span across multiple monitors automatically, if that’s what you mean. But you should be able to have it full screen in one monitor while you browse Reddit in the other.
Talk about developing the multiplayer portion of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and which modes will be available at launch.
The entire Baldur’s Gate campaign, along with the new adventure ‘The Black Pits,’ will be playable in cooperative multiplayer, without having to futz around with Netsock and IPX. Up to six people can play cooperatively, and all from different platforms. Do you dare draw the ire of the charred god by having an iPad play with an Android Tablet?
Will old saves from the original games be compatible with Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition?
I don’t believe so. We’re making some structural changes to the engine that prevent this from happening.
What type of DRM will be used for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition?
On the PC side, Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition will initially be available through Beamdog, or as a stand-alone download. In both cases, the game will have a launcher that performs a check when you first install the game to make sure you own it, and after that you can play offline as much as you want.
Talk about your relationship with Overhaul Games and the work they have done on Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.
*Overhaul Games is a division of Beamdog, and so there’s obviously a lot of crossover. In my case, I run a bunch of Beamdog stuff in addition to my Overhaul Games duties.
We were able to work on Baldur’s Gate largely through our tenacious attitude. It took over a year of contract negotiations to get the rights and data needed before we could work on the project. Hasbro, Atari, and EA were all involved in making this project a reality. Bioware was gracious enough to let us go spelunking for a few days in the server room for the old Baldur’s Gate source code, and we appreciate that.*
Did you have any difficulty acquiring proper licenses to begin developing Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition?
As I mentioned, it was a rough, year-long ride to get everything sorted out on the legal side. And of course there are still restrictions regarding what we can and cannot do, but that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with a licensed intellectual property.
Will Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition be made available on any other digital distribution platform other than Beamdog?
*Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is launching exclusive to Beamdog, but does not require the Beamdog client. It can be downloaded as a stand-alone application for those that don’t want to use another game store client.
The reason for making it an exclusive to Beamdog, at least at first, was one that largely related to funding and trying to promote our own store. We’re not blind, we fully realize that Steam or GOG have more customers and could theoretically result in more sales, but the percentages on those sales would be drastically different for us as a developer. Our goal is to keep producing games, both overhauls of existing games and entirely new ones, and directly selling BG:EE will help us accomplish that goal.*
Does the likelihood of Baldur’s Gate 3 solely depend on the financial success of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition?
Just so everyone is clear: We haven’t been awarded a contract to create a Baldur’s Gate 3. But if Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition do well financially and we’re able to demonstrate that we can make good original content, I believe we would have a strong chance of making it happen.
How did you come to the $19.99 price point?
*Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition will be $19.99 on PC and Mac at launch, and on iPad and Android they’ll be $9.99. The PC version can be pre-purchased on Beamdog right now for $17.99.
The reason for the price difference is because the PC and Mac version have all of the new content we’ve created included in the price, whereas the iPad and Android versions have some of the new content held back as in-app purchases. The different pricing structures are based on consumer expectation.
We felt that $19.99 on PC and Mac was a reasonable price point due to the number of features we’re adding, and for the size of the game. We realize that there are people who already own the previous version of the game and may not see the allure of spending $20 for some new features, but there’s a vast sea of people out there who will be getting an entirely new (to them), epic 50 hour adventure for only $19.99 (OR $17.99 IF YOU PRE-PURCHASE, BUY NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW).*
Will there be a demo of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition available on or before launch?
Probably not. We’re working like Canadian beavers up here to get the game ready for release on September 18th, and creating a demo is a significant undertaking. It would be great to have a demo ready to roll, but I don’t see it happening.
Have you given any thought to releasing Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition in retail stores?
*We would absolutely love to have a boxed collector’s edition. We’re currently in talks to make it happen, but talk have stalled out and it isn’t looking like they will be easy to restart.
If it were to happen, every single copy would come with a real live hamster. Each box will have enough air, water, and food for the hamster to survive for two weeks. After that, it’s up to you. If we don’t sell out inside of 14 days, the blood of countless hamsters will be on your hands.*
Do you have any plans to release post-launch DLC?
Yes. I can’t comment on when or what, though.
Will modding tools be released for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition? Will current mods work?
Many existing mod tools will continue to work, but some older mods might require some effort to convert for use with the various versions of the game.
We would like to thank Phillip for taking time away from development to answer our questions. You can pre-order Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for 17.99 via Beamdog.