J.E. Sawyer on Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound

13 Sep 2012

Obsidian's lead designer/project director J.E. Sawyer, who looks to be involved in Obsidian's super-secret "Project X", has penned a blog post on the canceled Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound, which wasn't meant to be a direct continuation of the story but rather a whole new one. Here's a snip:
When I came to Black Isle, the majority of the studio was working on Planescape: Torment. I was the webmaster for that project, but I desperately wanted to work in development as a designer. I had spent a huge amount of personal time in the 90s playing 2nd Edition AD&D in the Forgotten Realms. Working on Icewind Dale was a dream come true. Yeah, the game had a smaller story focus, and yeah, it didn't have companions, and yeah, and was linear and dungeon-focused, but I was making a real AD&D video game in the Forgotten Realms.

Icewind Dale II is the first game I was credited as lead designer on, but I was the lead designer on TBH first. I felt that the Dalelands, bordering on the Moonsea, presented a cool subsection of the Realms and a crossroads of cultures that would be interesting to explore. We could build a personal story, focused on how you fatefully intersected the life of someone hell-bent on doing something crazy. Like many Realms adventures, this wasn't a world-shattering event, but something locally catastrophic, like Moander appearing near a town and devouring a huge swath of the landscape. It's just one of those crazy Realms stories where bands of adventurers and the Cult of the Dragon start throwing fireballs and leveling villages while the townsfolk run for cover.

Some people have suggested that I hate high fantasy or want to subvert high fantasy. Neither of these are really true. I just don't like how most stories handle high fantasy: both too seriously and not seriously enough. Too seriously in the sense that a lot of fantasy conventions are considered so sacred that you can't touch them (or even question them). Not seriously enough in the sense that the scenarios and the characters don't feel like they tackle the obvious questions raised by the settings they're placed in.

...

I've been rambling here a bit but let me get back to the main point: The Black Hound wasn't really *~ sUbVeRsIvE ~* "this ain't your daddy's RPG!" fantasy. It had elven ruins and fire genasi and Ilmaterian paladins and Maztican sorcerers and crypts full of undead -- all the stuff that made the Forgotten Realms the crazy blend of hardass adventurer-heavy, gods-mess-with-things, cults-and-dracoliches-under-this-rock D&D fantasy it always has been. I, and I think we all, just tried to approach the world with open eyes, asking, "Okay, so let's suppose all of this stuff about the Realms is true. What does that really mean for how the people in it live their lives?" It made the world more dark and grim, and sometimes that consideration wound up bucking convention, be we didn't set out to invert fantasy conventions just for the sake of doing it.