Baldur's Gate Retrospective Interview

BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk haven't totally forgotten about their popular Baldur's Gate franchise, as demonstrated by a new restrospective interview on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The interview is well worth a read, if only to shake some nostalgia cobwebs loose:
Ray: We ended up sending out our first game Shattered Steel to ten publishers. Of those publishers, only one is still in business- EA. We originally called Baldur's game Battleground Infinity; it was going to be an MMO [about a pantheon of different mythologies]

Greg there really hadn't been any kind of MMO then. Even then we were too ambitious. Looking back at the documentation, the cover art was done by the lead programmer. It would have been interesting because Bioware's first game would have been an MMO.

Ray: Interplay had the Dungeons and Dragons license through TSR so what they provided was converting the engine to Dungeons and Dragons instead. We thought that would be a good license to develop in.

Greg: what we always wanted to make was the experience of that top-down experience. That top-down world exploration of Ultima was a really big inspiration for us. One thing that's important to realise was we started it back in the mid-90s, and that was when RPGs were dead in North America. People would kind of scoff when you said you were making one.

Ray: A lot of publishers were saying RPGs were not the place to be and there was not a future for them. We disagreed, we wanted to go back to our favourite games of the 80s and early 90s. All these amazing games that provide these rich experiences. We wanted to create something to capture that magic.


Ray It was huge. There was like a 100 screens by 100 screens, so like 10,000 screens of art at 640×480.

Greg The biggest mistake we ever made was not making Throne of Bhaal BG3, because it kind of was.


Ray one of the things after we launched BG and saw the sales reports and it was going to be one of the top five games of the year, I remember just waking up in a cold sweat, just scared. What if this is the best thing we ever do, what if this was all Bioware was ever known for? It was paralysing to me. We wanted to evolve our craft, we see videogames as an art. Every game we release we try and add something new, take some creative risk in the hope that it'll be a better game for our fans.

Greg [On whether they might create special editions of their old games] We don't actually control that [rerelease of old games] but the business of the game is really intertwined between a whole bunch of different companies. Somehow you have to get agreements from an enormous number of groups. That'd be incredibly challenging. Obviously that'd be something we'd love to support that, make it higher definition, ressed up, but there's all these independent needs. It's tricky.
I'd love to see the release of a proper compilation pack with better widescreen/high resolution support. It's a shame that the companies that do have control over such things don't see the value in doing it.

UPDATE: As it turns out, this was a GDC Europe panel discussion, as IGN has similar coverage of the exchange:
Zeschuk and Muzyka were expressing regret over not calling Throne of Baal, the expansion to Baldur's Gate 2, Baldur's Gate 3 because it was filled with so much content. It was a result of over delivering on promises considering how gigantic the Baldur's Gate games were. Perhaps that's why we've seen with the release of Dragon Age: Origins, another huge role-playing game from BioWare, so much downloadable content come out following release, in addition to the more substantial Awakening expansion.

Since they were developing the first Baldur's Gate for what started out as Windows 3.1, they actually wound up converting a DirectX demo of Asteroids into a demo of Baldur's Gate / Battleground Infinity. All that code was later thrown out, but it served as a base of knowledge to help the team along as they worked in an era where a lot of development tools and aids available today didn't exist.