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RPGamer Feature - Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Interview with Trent Oster
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
Platform:
Developer: Overhaul Games
Release Date: 11.28.2012










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With its release imminent, we were able to talk with Trent Oster, Creative Director at Overhaul Games, about Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. Here's a brief chat with the man behind the enhanced version of this classic RPG.


Michael A. Cunningham (RPGamer): Baldur's Gate is far from a new game, but could you give us a brief overview for gamers who might not be familiar with the original?
Trent Oster (Creative Director, Overhaul Games): Baldur's Gate is a top-down, party-based role-playing game based upon the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Rules set. Baldur's Gate was one of the major titles behind the resurgence of Western RPGs and recognized as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, with a Metacritic rating of 91%. The key features of the game were a cast of memorable and slightly off-beat characters and an epic and involving storyline. An amazing score of music and beautiful, unique art also helped in the success of the game.

MAC: What are some of the key features being added to the Enhanced Edition? How has it been modernized? Are there differences between the multiple versions of the game?
TO: The key features in the Enhanced Edition are many. We've taken a great game, fixed performance and compatibility issues and improved the look and feel of the game. We've streamlined user interface elements, fixed hundreds of bugs, and added a ton of new content. There are basically two versions of the game, Desktop and Tablet, with the Tablet version (iPad and Android) selling for $9.99 and including the new character Rasaad, the new Black Pits Dungeon and the new movie content. The Desktop version (PC and Mac) includes all the tablet content, plus Dorn and Neera NPCs, the Jason Manley Portrait pack, and the new voice sets for player characters. Tablet users will be able to purchase the new content though an in-app store.

MAC: There are three new characters added in. How do these blend with the original cast? How do party mechanics work?
TO: The new characters blend in well with the original cast; in some cases we have a bunch of new dialogue for the old characters to interact with the new party members. When there is a large alignment issue, the characters do not play nice, at all. Dorn, for example, is evil and not hiding it in any way. The good-aligned players will express dissatisfaction with Dorn and will leave the party if the player goes too far to the evil side.

MAC: This release is not just designed for longtime fans, but will also be a first experience for many gamers. What has been done to make this friendly for newcomers?
TO: We've done a ton of work to make the game more accessible. From adding a new in-depth tutorial to adding a number of new hint buttons to the main UI to revising the entire user-interface flow. We've added extra information to the character screen and inventory to "show the math" behind the rules systems and the calculations involved. Our goal has always been to keep the game we love, but polish up the rough edges.

MAC: Could you share with us how multiplayer works in Baldur's Gate? How has it changed in the Enhanced Edition? How does crossplay work?
TO: Mutliplayer is cross-platform by nature. There is no difference between connecting a PC or a tablet device. Mutliplayer is limited to direct connections for ship, so you will need to get your IP address to connect up for a game. We're hard at work on our multiplayer connection service, but it is going to take a while after launch for us to polish it up to where we need it to be.

MAC: It seems as if the iPad version will have two characters as DLC. How else will DLC be implemented? Future expansions?
TO: Yes, we have future DLC plans, but we're going to play it by ear at the moment and see what the fans prefer. Larger expansions are in our long-term plans, but we don't have anything to announce at this time.

MAC: Has any content been cut or edited from the original release?
TO: In replacing the in-game movies, we found a few we felt didn't really add to the game. To do a better job with the major movies, we cut the lesser-import movies and put the effort into the more important movies. Other than that, no content has been removed.

MAC: In an interview with Shacknews you stated that talks were underway with Sony for a PS3 but the talks fell through. Is there hope for future versions of BGEE on other systems? What would it take to get one of the console trio back to the table?
TO: In order for us to do a console version we would need to put together a comprehensive plan and allocate our senior team for at least half a year, likely more to redesign the entire user interface. The cost to our company would be very high, effectively stalling all other development. As such, we would need a budget to offset the cost and support us through the development period.

MAC: What have been some of the biggest challenges to reviving a classic like Baldur's Gate? What were some of the most rewarding moments?
TO: By far the biggest challenges were dealing with legacy code and the hard-coded nature of the original game to the Windows platform. The user interface in particular was exceptionally hard to work with and brought a very specific (and error-prone) workflow along for the ride. My most rewarding moments were getting the build running on the iPad and seeing the new user interface in the game for the first time. I was so happy the first time I could actually see the new UI content in the game. After a few weeks of bashing on art without a chance to review, the relief of seeing the new UI scheme looking great in-game was huge.

MAC: How did the deal to work on an Enhanced Edition of Baldur's Gate even come about in the first place?
TO: War, Bloody war. We talked about making an HD version of BG and I went to work, digging through the ownership and spending the next 14 months getting a contract together. Late in the negotiations, we got a drop of all the BG content and we couldn't find the art source. After a number of trips to BioWare HQ, we came to the understanding all the art source was lost and we would have to back down on the HD plans. This sidelined the deal for a while, while we re-thought and came up with some ways to use technology to use art we had and make the game look great. In the end I think we've made the game look great and we've got plans to improve it even further in the future.

MAC: So what's next? Jumping right into Baldur's Gate 2 Enhanced Edition? Any other PC classics being considered?
TO: Our plan is to ship BG:EE, and work on the next few updates, fixing any outstanding bugs and adding some new feature to the game. In the new year, we'll bring the BG2:EE project up in the studio. While the content team works on the new BG2 content, the technical team will continue to develop features for BG:EE and BG2:EE in concert. As for other games to Overhaul, we still have our list and we have a few contacts in the industry, so we're always looking for the best project for our team and our followers.

MAC: What's the final price point for all the different versions of BGEE? How much will the DLC with extra characters cost for iPad owners?
TO: BG:EE iPad and Android will be $9.99
  • Dorn the new character is $2.99
  • Neera the new character is $2.99
  • The Jason Manley portrait pack is $1.99
  • The new voice over pack is $1.99
You get all this content on the PC and Mac versions for the $19.99 price.

Our goal was to drive the costs as low as possible on the tablets, while still providing great value on the PC and Mac.

MAC: Any else you'd like to share with our readers?
TO: We're really excited to bring the game to market, and I encourage everyone to get out there and have a look. We're very proud of what we've delivered, and when you compare it to the game that shipped 12 years ago the improvements are stunning.


We would like to thank Trent for his time and the crew at Evolve PR for helping with this interview. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition is out on Nov. 28 for PC, Mac, and iPad. Android will be available soon afterward.



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