Larian Studios has spoken about the lore and inspiration behind its upcoming title Baldur’s Gate III.
On the GameSpot stage at E3, Swen Vincke of Larian Studios and Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons creative director Mike Mearls spoke about how the two companies are working together.
“I didn’t realise that it was a thing that you wouldn’t know Baldur’s Gate!” said Swen Vincke, as he enthused about the previous games, and revealed that some of the younger staff at Larian Studios were too young to be familiar with Baldur’s Gate at the start of development.
Speaking about working with Larian Studios, Mike Mearls said: “Their talent is being able to take the table-top experience and bring it into a video game. When you run into an obstacle, it’s up to the player how to resolve it, that’s what makes it special.”
Times have moved on since those days, and while Baldur’s Gate in its original form was based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, the new game is planned to be based on the current version of D&D, which has long-since ditched the ‘Advanced’ moniker, and is now on fifth Edition.
“One of the cool thing about D&D 5th Edition is how accessible it is, and that’s one of the pillars we’re taking into Baldur’s Gate 3,” said Vincke. D&D 5th Edition has been praised by fans for keeping the core of the game intact, while ditching or retooling some of the more impenetrable aspects of the tabletop game of the past. Long-gone is the old ‘THAC0’ system that players might remember from the old Baldur’s Gate, for example, replaced in 3rd edition with a far simpler and more intuitive system.
During the interview, Vincke and Mearls spoke about how D&D has seen a significant resurgence in recent years. Big TV shows such as Stranger Things have featured the tabletop game, and online series featuring D&D games like Critical Role has been a massive success. “I think role-playing games are getting more and more accessible, and games like Baldur’s Gate are an opportunity to grow the audience even more,” Mearls said.
Vincke spoke of how difficult he found accurately reflecting the vast number of choices available in the tabletop game: “We go through the entire Player Handbook,” Vincke said, “and we decide what we’re going to port in. When you go through the player handbook there’s some pretty crazy s*** in there! Then you think that if we allow this, we also need to allow this and this. That means we need to construct all the systems to allow that.”
Asked about how the teams at Wizards of the Coast and Larian Studios work together: “The role my team plays is not the ‘lore police’,” said Mearls. “We want to collaborate. If the team at Larian comes to us and says ‘we want to do this’ then we’ll suggest a character that might be involved in that, or a type of villain or monster who might be responsible. It’s a lot like working with a Dungeon Master, only on a massive scale.”
“The lore is there to inspire stories, its a jumping-off point,” Mearls continued before providing an intriguing example. “Orcs are generally seen a marauding warriors, but you can still find an Orc who is a wizard. This gives you the avenues to explore in terms of story.”
The setting for Baldur’s Gate III is set roughly 100 years after the end of Baldur’s Gate II. This time jump does sadly mean that beloved characters like Minsc and his ‘miniature giant space hamster’ are probably long dead. Mearls and Vincke were both cagey about exactly what the story of Baldur’s Gate III would be about, but Vincke did provide some tantalising hints.
“We’re telling a story that starts outside the city, and involves the city, but is mainly about your party,” said Vincke. Its something that will eventually go beyond the city.”
Asked about how he believes the audience will respond to this new iteration of Baldur’s Gate, Vincke said: “The biggest and the hardest problem is always getting people to try it out. In general, once people get it, and realise they can play with their buddy, that often converts into a sale. With Baldur’s Gate III, we’ve taken what we learned from Divinity: Original Sin and converted it into something that’s easy to understand for people who are new to D&D and cRPGs.”