Icewind Dale/Icewind Dale II Interview

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GB: Are you pleased with how well the Icewind Dale games have sold and been received over the years? Are there any specific factors that you think helped or hindered their sales?

Scott: Icewind 1 and its expansions did very well and I'm both happy and proud to have worked on them. The original concept was to make a dungeon crawl instead of a more scripted adventure like the Baldur's Gate series. So you started out with your full party that you created yourself instead of picking up as you adventure. I think that's why the Icewind series did well since we didn't try to just duplicate BG but instead took it a different direction. It gave our fanbase another experience and complimented the BG series quite well.

As for Icewind 2, though we did a tremendous amount of changes it was still considered an Infinity game so felt dated. I think our fanbase was finally tired of the engine. We had an idea at the time to do an Infinity 2.0 system. Increase the resolution to 1024x768 base and increase the avatars substantially in size so it would all look more detailed. There was even a few tests we did (also one done for an early proposed Fallout 3!) But the added development time didn't seem worth it and we stuck with using our revamped original Infinity engine. One of the main stumbling blocks was redoing all those character avatars. It was a huge art job which was a main reason we didn't do it.

GB: How has game development changed between your time at Black Isle Studios and Obsidian Entertainment? Do you think a party-based isometric RPG similar to the Icewind Dale games would still be a viable pursuit in today's market?

Scott: Well the big difference is going totally 3D. At the time of the Icewind series those beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds were much better then what 3D graphics could do. Now you can get close to photo realistic environments and very detailed characters. So graphics expectations are certainly higher. Also console games have become huge and with it more simplistic RPG's. Seems what passes for RPG's these days are pretty light compared to those old D&D games. Not to say that deep RPG's won't be made but publishers are a little leery since development time and QA time is much longer on deep RPG's compared to the lighter fare.

As for a party-based isometric game being made now I think it will be more like what we did with NWN2. Smaller parties and a flexible camera that you can play either isometric or over the shoulder. I personally like over the shoulder since it makes the world more immersive. Seeing vast expanses of ground can get kind of dull. Pulling the camera down allows you to have much more impressive environments. And since graphics are such a huge deal in today's market I think you'll see fewer and fewer isometric only games.

GB: Hypothetically speaking, if you were given the chance to work on another Icewind Dale title, where would you personally like to take the franchise?

Scott: Well from a development end I'd reduce the party size abit and go with a NWN2 camera system. Maybe go down to 4 characters and allow you to play over the shoulder or isometric. As for story, not being a writer I'd be happy with whatever story the design team came up with! Though I'd take it out of the snowy areas for a large chunk of the game. The Forgotten Realms has such varied environments so it would be nice to see some of those other areas.

Thanks Scott!