Baldur's Gate and the Innovation of the Infinity Engine

Baldur's Gate celebrated its 20th anniversary back in December, and back then we got a chance to read plenty of articles dedicated to BioWare's outstanding Dungeons & Dragons-themed RPG. And now, this PC Gamer article picks up where those earlier ones left off and tells us a bit about the Infinity Engine and its complex and somewhat capricious nature.

Here's something to get you started:

Baldur’s Gate is powered by the Infinity engine, a bespoke technology created by BioWare specifically for the game. Simple in its exterior, Infinity makes the complexity of advanced Dungeons & Dragons playable with just a mouse, and makes use of a visual style that boils down to a bunch of animated sprites walking on top of some beautiful paintings.

Looks can be deceiving. Beneath those simple backdrops was a deep and complicated engine made up of many different tools and technologies. It was hugely advanced and also hugely idiosyncratic, while getting it to work in the way BioWare wanted was, frankly, a nightmare.

While BioWare itself was not a new studio, the Baldur’s Gate team was almost entirely new to the games industry, with many of its designers coming straight from university. “It was just a bunch of crazy kids going, ‘Let’s just do this thing! How hard can it be?’” explains Trent Oster, formerly senior artist on Baldur’s Gate, and one of the founders of BioWare. “The answer is it’s really hard, [and] really easy to do things in a bad way that makes things slow and makes things horrible.”