The folks over at The Penny Arcade Report have whipped up an article summarizing the Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition project, with added commentary from Beamdog founder Trent Oster about his feelings toward the current console landscape, the uphill challenges they faced to make the project a reality, the lofty goals they have for tweaking the game's presentation and interface, the price point they're targeting, and more. Read on, fellow Bhaalspawn:
Let's break down Baldur's Gate, for those of us who might be unaware of how tricky the issues around older games can become: Bioware owns the rights to the Infinity Engine, which is the tech that runs the game. Wizards of the Coast owns the intellectual property, and Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast. Atari owns the electronic publishing rights. EA owns Bioware. (There was a lot of detangling,) Oster said. Everyone had to be happy with what they were getting in return for the use of the game, including Beamdog itself. (We feel pretty good [about the deal.] I think in terms of being able to work on Baldur's Gate, it's a good deal. If it hits anywhere near where we hope, we'll do well. Or else we wouldn't have gone to war for a year to make it happen.)
After the financial and legal wrangling, the game had to be rebuilt for modern systems and sensibilities. (The biggest problem we had was the nature of how Baldur's Gate was built,) Oster said. He claimed the team was made primarily of early Windows developers, and the original code base was structured in a very (Windows 3.1, Windows 95) manner. The Beamdog team (went in with a machete) and hacked up the code to get it to work and make it more efficient. (By essentially porting the engine we were forced to go through: clean everything up, and make it a better engine,) he explained.
All this work was done on the Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal engine, the latest code that Bioware had. (For the user interface, it's hardcoded for 640 by 480. For Baldur's Gate 2 all they did was add in another resolution: 800 by 600, and then they slapped these borders all the way around it. It's just unacceptable. If I pay for a big monitor I want to use that big monitor! I want that resolution.) Making sure everything worked at much higher resolutions required a complete rebuild of the user interface.
This is where you're going to be able to see the most impressive results of all that hard work. The artwork and interface are designed for a target resolution of 2058 by 1536 the native resolution of the iPad 3 so the game will look stunning on even the largest displays. Aspect ratios ranging from 16 by 8 to 16 by 11 will be supported. (On the iPad 3, it's going to be awesome,) Oster said. He's right, but it won't look too shabby on an HDTV or a large monitor either.
A project this extensive doesn't come cheap, and the app store is a hard place to launch games priced higher than 99 cents. Oster is confident they can buck the trend. (Baldur's Gate on iPad? We're going at $10. That's premium pricing in App Store land, but go anywhere on the planet and try to find 80 hours of gameplay for $10. I think it's a pretty awesome deal. Then our plan for iOS is to build more content and allow people to purchase that as well,) he said. The original game took up five CDs, and the full install was around 2.7GB. By taking advantage of the iPad's ability to decompress sound and art assets on the fly they should be able to get the install to around 1.1GB.