Icewind Dale/Icewind Dale II Interview

Icewind Dale was released on June 29th, 2000 (the same day as Diablo II), making it nearly seven years old at the time of this writing. Black Isle Studios followed it up with the Heart of Winter expansion pack on February 19th, 2001, the Trials of the Luremaster add-on on July 5th, 2001, and a full sequel on September 4th, 2002.  To pay tribute to yet another amazing Infinity Engine series, we fired over a set of questions to three of the key Icewind Dale developers - Josh Sawyer (designer on Icewind Dale and Heart of Winter, lead designer on Icewind Dale II), Chris Parker (producer on Icewind Dale, designer on Icewind Dale II), and Scott Everts (technical designer on Icewind Dale, Heart of Winter, and Icewind Dale II). Next in line is Chris Parker:

GB: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role during the development of Icewind Dale, Heart of Winter, and Icewind Dale II.

Chris: On Icewind Dale, I was the producer on the project. I was assisted by Darren Monahan. At Black Isle, the producer is responsible for guiding the project as a whole and managing the team. On Icewind Dale, for some reason Feargus and I decided there wouldn't be any leads, just the producers. That worked so well we decided to never try it again.

I didn't work on Heart of Winter at all. After Icewind Dale, I moved off the IWD team to start up what would become the ill-fated FR6/Black Hound/Jefferson/Fallout 3/Van Buren team.

On Icewind Dale II I actually did the core design for one of the areas - the Horde Fortress. I didn't actually finish the design though, I handed it off to somebody else and rather expected the entire area to be redone. I was pretty surprised when I found out it shipped in a fashion very similar to how I left it.

GB: What was it like to be a part of the development team for each of these projects? Any fond memories you can share with us?

Chris: There were a lot of late nights on Icewind Dale. The team was really small for the first six months because we were waiting to get devs from the Torment team - and Torment had slipped a bit. By the time the team was up to full speed, we were only a few months from our soon-to-be-missed target ship date. I just remember a lot of nights hanging out with the guys, playing Tony Hawk, trying to understand mysteries of the Infinity Engine, and grinding through implementation.

Sometimes when we needed a decision we'd "take it to the warlords". Which meant, quite literally, that we'd plug in my Atari 2600 and decide by playing Warlords in my office. For the record, this was only done on decisions where the outcome didn't really matter. :)

GB: Which CRPGs would you say inspired you and/or provided the most influence during the development of Icewind Dale and its sequel?

Chris: I use experience from pretty much any CRPG I've played, but the one that probably factored a lot into IWD would be The Bard's Tale - if you think about it, that's basically what it was.

I had finished Baldur's Gate and TSC with Bioware just a few months before we kicked off IWD, so I had a lot of ideas and thoughts born out of that development. For example, I often wished I could make my own characters instead of using the companions in BG, so that became a direction for IWD.

GB: How familiar were you with the Icewind Dale region of the Forgotten Realms before working on the series? Did you end up having to do a lot of research for either game?

Chris: I'm a D&D geek and played for many years with my buddies but I've never actually read D&D novels. So I knew there was a place in the Realms called Icewind Dale, and some dark elf named Drizzt emerged from there, but that was about it.

I never did read the books, although I did read the "cliff notes" so to speak.