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If you still remember the old BioWare, the BioWare that delivered us such role-playing classics like Baldur's Gate and Knights of the Old Republic, you will probably appreciate this Eurogamer article that looks back at the studio's origins and shares a heap of Baldur's Gate-related stories. We get some old photos, plenty of quotes from the people who worked on the game, and even a confirmation that the hamster-wielding Ranger Minsc was indeed named after the city.
A few paragraphs to get you started:
Baldur's Gate began life as Battlegrounds: Infinity, a tech demo of an engine devised by Scott Greig, one of BioWare's first employees. Around the same time, the developer's publisher, Interplay, secured the Dungeons & Dragons licence from TSR, and were keen to publish a video game that emulated the famous world.
"My first week [at BioWare] was the Shattered Steel launch party," says Luke Kristjanson, writer and narrative designer on BioWare's breakthrough hit. "It had started as a pitch/demo for an original fantasy IP game. As I heard it, they took the pitch to Interplay and said, 'we like D&D, so it's similar to that'." That Battleground Infinity demo became the basis of the famous Infinity engine, and when Interplay suggested BioWare utilise its D&D licence, the pieces fell into place.
Today, James Ohlen is known for his design and creative involvement in a number of best-selling BioWare series. In 1995, he was a fresh-faced Dungeons & Dragons fan, just starting out in the industry. "There were these three doctors who had started a video games company and were looking for people to work for them, for, I'd like to say, peanuts!" he laughs. "Scott had his engine, and there were six of us joining, a group of friends from Grand Prairie. I think we kinda doubled the company." In a common theme with the Baldur's Gate team, neither Ohlen nor his friends had any development experience; they did, however, share a common love for the famous tabletop role-playing game. "D&D has been part of my life since I was 11 years old. So Baldur's Gate was the chance for me to present what I thought would be a great D&D-style RPG."
Joining BioWare at this time was artist and designer Dean Andersen, also a fan of the TSR classic, although on a more aesthetic level. "When I was about ten years old, I started collecting all the different D&D modules, maps and books," he remembers. "I didn't have a firm grasp of how to play the game, I just loved the art and fantasy of the reference books." The chance to combine this with another of his passions, video games, was quite something for Andersen. "Oh man. To say that I was very excited to work on a D&D video game would be a drastic understatement. The opportunity to marry my two favourite passions into one focused endeavour...and get paid for it?!"